New Netherland's Legacy

The Legacy of Language

The arrival in 1764 of Dominie Archibald Laidlie in response to the New York City Dutch Reformed church's call for a minister who could preach in English as well as in Dutch is cited as an indicator of the decline of the Dutch language in the Middle Colonies.[1] It would not be until 1787, however, that the Long Island Reformed consistory called a minister who could preach in English, while church services continued in Dutch in Midwood, Long Island until 1824, and the last Dutch service in Tappan, New York was in 1835.[2] The Reformed church's use of Dutch reinforced it as a primary language in private affairs. While spoken Dutch in New York and New Jersey was by 1689 "as different as from the Dutch of 1614" and rapidly evolving into its own language de Taal (the language), with regional Albany and Jersey dialects. Dutch newspapers (courants), news magazines (mercuriuses), and almanacs circulated in the region well into the eighteenth century.[3] As late as 1866, the wife of the Dutch Consul-General to New York City noted, "it is a fact that one out of ten people [in the city] will be able to understand you although it is not our civilized Dutch that they speak."[4]

The influence of the Dutch language on the mid-Atlantic dialect is still found in the distinctive New York and New Jersey accents, such as the pronunciation of Long Island.[5] Words and phrases peculiar to the region include cranky, kil (for creek), stoop, hook (a point of land), scow, hay-barrack, a corruption of hooiberg, and the Hudson River Valley designation of country people as "bush-whackers," all of Dutch derivation. Other words such as caboose, cruller, coleslaw, cookie, pancake, pit (as in peach-pit), waffle, boss, and Santa Claus, have made their way into standard American English.[6]

1. Michael Kammen, Colonial New York A History (New York, 1975), 237; Alexander J. Wall, "The Controversy in the Dutch Church in New York Concerning Preaching in English, 1754-1768," New-York Historical Society Quarterly, 12 (July 1928), 38-58.

2. Gerald de Jong, The Dutch in America 1690-1974 (Boston, 1974), 105-106. Firth Haring Fabend, Zion on the Hudson, Dutch New York and New Jersey in the Age of Revivals (New Brunswick, N.J.), 71-72, 213,214.

3. Hendrik Edelman, Dutch-American Bibliography 1693-1794: A descriptive Catalog of Dutch-language Books, Pamphlets and Almanacs printed in America (Nieuwkoop, Neth., 1974), 39.

See, for example, Jacob Melyn to Abraham Gouverneur, October 1691, Melyn Letter Book, n.p., American Antiquarian Society, Worcester,Mass.

4. De Jong, 106.

5. Edelman, 12.

6. William H. Carpenter, "Dutch Contributions to the Vocabulary of English in America: Dutch Remainders in New York State," Modern Philology 6, No. 1 (July, 1908), 53-68, H. L. Mencken, The American Language; An Inquiry into the Development of English in the United States (New York City: Alfred A. Knopf, 1919), 54.

About the New Netherland Institute

For over three decades, NNI has helped cast light on America's Dutch roots. In 2010, it partnered with the New York State Office of Cultural Education to establish the New Netherland Research Center, with matching funds from the State of the Netherlands. NNI is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. More

The New Netherland Research Center

Housed in the New York State Library, the NNRC offers students, educators, scholars and researchers a vast collection of early documents and reference works on America's Dutch era. More


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