Origins and characteristics
The approximate extent of Germanic languages in the early 10th century.:
Before the advent of Old Dutch or any of the Germanic languages, Germanic dialects were mutually intelligible. The North Sea Germanic dialects were spoken in the whole of the coastal parts of the Netherlands and Belgium. Old Frisian was one of these dialects, and elements of it survived through the Frisian language, spoken in the province of Friesland in the North of the Netherlands. In the rest of the coastal region, these dialects were mostly displaced following the withdrawal to England of the migrating Angles, Saxons and Jutes, who gave rise to Old English.
It was largely replaced by Weser-Rhine Germanic dialects, spoken by the Salian Franks. It spread from northern Belgium and the southern Netherlands to the coast and evolved into Old Low Franconian or Old Dutch. It has, however, a North sea Germanic substrate, which is why some philologists put the language in that branch. Linguists typically date this transition to around the 5th century.
Relation with other West Germanic languages
Central Franconian and Old High German
Old Dutch is divided into Old West Low Franconian and Old East Low Franconian (Limburgian), however, these varieties are very closely related. The divergence being that the latter shares more traits with neighboring historical forms of Central Franconian dialects such as Ripuarian and Moselle Franconian. While both forms of Low Franconian were instrumental to the framing of Middle Dutch, Old East Low Franconian did not contribute much to Standard Dutch, which is based on the consolidated dialects of Holland and Brabant.
During the Merovingian period, the Central Franconian dialects were influenced by Old Low Franconian (Old Dutch), resulting in certain linguistic loans which yielded a slight overlap of vocabulary, most of which relates to warfare. In addition is the subsumption of the High German consonant shift, a set of phonological changes beginning around the 5th or 6th century that partially influenced Old Dutch, and extensively influenced Central Franconian and other Old High German dialects.
Old Saxon, Old English and Old Frisian
Old English, Old Frisian and (to a lesser degree) Old Saxon share the application of the Ingvaeonic nasal spirant law. Old Dutch was considerably less affected than the other three languages, but a dialect continuum formed or existed between both Old Dutch and Old Saxon, as well as Old Dutch and Old Frisian. Despite sharing some particular features, a number of disparities separate Old Saxon, Old English, and Old Dutch; one such difference is the Old Dutch use of -a as its plural a-stem noun ending, while Old Saxon and Old English employ -as or -os. Much of the grammatical variation between Old Dutch and Old Saxon is similar to that between Old Dutch and Old High German.
Relation to Middle Dutch
Old Dutch naturally evolved into Middle Dutch with some distinctions that approximate those found in most medieval West Germanic languages. The year 1150 is often cited as the time of the discontinuity, but it actually marks a time of profuse Dutch writing whose language is patently different from Old Dutch.
The most notable difference between Old and Middle Dutch is in a feature of speech known as vowel reduction. Round vowels in word-final syllables are rather frequent in Old Dutch, but in Middle Dutch, they are reduced to a schwa:
|daga / dago
||written (past participle)
The following is a translation of Psalm 55:18, taken from the Wachtendonck Psalms; it shows the evolution of Dutch, from the original Old Dutch, written c. 900, to modern Dutch, but so accurately copies the Latin word order of the original that there is little information that can be garnered on Old Dutch syntax. In Modern Dutch, recasting is necessary to form a coherent sentence.
||Irlōsin sal an frithe sēla mīna fan thēn thia ginācont mi, wanda under managon he was mit mi.
||Erlosen sal hi in vrede siele mine van dien die genaken mi, want onder menegen hi was met mi.
|Modern Dutch (with old word order)
||Verlossen zal hij in vrede ziel mijn van zij die genaken mij, want onder menigen hij was met mij.
|Modern Dutch (with new word order)
||Hij zal mijn ziel verlossen in vrede van hen die mij genaken, want onder menigen was hij met mij.
||He will deliver my soul in peace from those who attack me, for, amongst many, he was with me.