Native speakers: 23 million; Total speakers: 28 million (2018). It is the third most widely spoken Germanic language, after its close relatives English and German. Dutch is a West Germanic language. It's spoken by the majority of people in the Netherlands, where it is the sole official language and it's also spoken in Belgium, where it is one of three official national languages.
Outside the Low Countries, it is the native language of the majority of the population of Suriname where it also holds an official status, as it does in Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten, which are constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands located in the Caribbean. Historical linguistic minorities on the verge of extinction remain in parts of France and Germany, and in Indonesia, while up to half a million native speakers may reside in the United States, Canada and Australia combined. The Cape Dutch dialects of Southern Africa have evolved into Afrikaans, a mutually intelligible daughter language which is spoken to some degree by at least 16 million people, mainly in South Africa and Namibia.
Dutch is one of the closest relatives of both German and English and is colloquially said to be "roughly in between" them. Dutch, like English, has not undergone the High German consonant shift, does not use Germanic umlaut as a grammatical marker, has largely abandoned the use of the subjunctive, and has leveled much of its morphology, including most of its case system. Features shared with German include the survival of two to three grammatical genders—albeit with few grammatical consequences—as well as the use of modal particles, and a similar word order. Dutch vocabulary is mostly Germanic and incorporates slightly more Romance loans than German but far fewer than English. As with German, the vocabulary of Dutch also has strong similarities with the continental Scandinavian languages, but is not mutually intelligible in text or speech with any of the three.
Background: The Dutch United Provinces declared their independence from Spain in 1579;during the 17th century, they became a leading seafaring and commercial power, with settlements and colonies around the world. After a 20-year French occupation, a Kingdom of the Netherlands was formed in 1815. In 1830 Belgium seceded and formed a separate kingdom. The Netherlands remained neutral in World War I, but suffered invasion and occupation by Germany in World War II. A modern, industrialized nation, the Netherlands is also a large exporter of agricultural products. The country was a founding member of NATO and the EEC (now the EU) and participated in the introduction of the euro in 1999. In October 2010, the former Netherlands Antilles was dissolved and the three smallest islands—Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba—became special municipalities in the Netherlands administrative structure. The larger islands of Saint Maarten and Curacao joined the Netherlands and Aruba as constituent countries forming the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Population: 16,877,351 (July 2014 est.)
Country population comparison to the world: 66
0-14 years: 16.9% (male 1,460,234/female 1,393,766)
15-24 years: 12.2% (male 1,046,323/female 1,006,114)
25-54 years: 40.4% (male 3,423,777/female 3,399,378)
55-64 years: 17.6% (male 1,088,860/female 1,094,574)
65 years and over: 17.1% (male 1,331,258/female 1,633,067) (2014 est.)
Broadcast media: more than 90% of households are connected to cable or satellite TV systems that provide a wide range of domestic and foreign channels; public service broadcast system includes multiple broadcasters, 3 with a national reach and the remainder operating in regional and local markets; 2 major nationwide commercial television companies, each with 3 or more stations,and many commercial TV stations in regional and local markets; nearly 600 radio stations with a mix of public and private stations providing national or regional coverage.
Refugees and internally displaced persons:
Refugees (country of origin): 18,255 (Iraq); 15,715 (Somalia); 5,697 (Afghanistan) (2012) stateless persons: 2,005 (2012).
Illicit drugs: major European producer of synthetic drugs, including ecstasy, and cannabis cultivator; important gateway for cocaine, heroin, and hashish entering Europe; major source of US-bound ecstasy; large financial sector vulnerable to money laundering; significant consumer of ecstasy.
(End of CIA Fact Book text.)
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