Native toNetherlands[1]
RegionNortheast Overijssel[1]
Native speakers
340,000 (2003)[citation needed]
Official status
Official language in
The Netherlands (as part of Low Saxon)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3twd
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For a guide to IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Tweants (Tweants pronunciation: [tʋɛːnts]; Dutch: Twents, pronounced [tʋɛnts]) is a Dutch Low Saxon group of dialects, descending from Old Saxon. It is spoken daily by approximately 62%[3] of the population of Twente, a region in the Dutch province of Overijssel bordering on Germany. Its speakers also refer to Twents as plat or use the name of their local variant. A widespread misconception is the assumption that it is a variety of Dutch. It is, however, a variety of Dutch Low Saxon, recognised by the Dutch government as a regional language according to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. As such, it enjoys some loose stimulation from the part of the government.

Due to heavy stigmatisation, the use of the language declined in the decades following the Second World War, as it was deemed an inappropriate way of speaking and thought to hinder children's language learning abilities. Due to a general rise in regional pride, however, which has also found its way to the Twente region, interests in preserving and promoting the language have risen, resulting in dialect writing competitions, teaching material, festivals, and other culturally engaging projects.

Pronunciation and characteristics[]

Tweants does not have a standardised pronunciation or spelling; all towns and villages in Twente have their own local variety, which, although they are mutually intelligible and similar, makes it hard to be tagged as a single dialect. Due to this fragmentation, and the lack of a standard variety, many speakers of Tweants mostly do not refer to their language as "Tweants" or "Dutch Low Saxon". They rather call it by the locality their variety is from (e.g. a person from Almelo would say they speak "Almeloos" rather than "Tweants"). Another possibility would be that speakers combine these two possibilities: a speaker from Rijssen could say they speak "Riesns Tweants". There are, however, a number of characteristics that are shared across all varieties.

Phonetic details[]

The following paragraphs contain IPA symbols.


Monophthong phonemes
Front Central Back
unrounded rounded unrounded rounded
short long short long short long short long
Close i y u
Close-mid ɪ ʏ øː ə
Open-mid ɛ ɛː œ œː ɔ ɔː
Open a
Diphthong phonemes
Starting point Ending point
Front Back
Close ɪi
Mid ɛi ɔu
Example words for vowels
Short Long
Phoneme IPA Orthography Meaning Phoneme IPA Orthography Meaning
/i/ /i/ ie 'you' /iː/ /ˈriːʝə/ riege 'impale'
/y/ [example needed] /yː/ /byːl/ buul 'bag'
/u/ /hus/ hoes 'house' /uː/ /uːl/ oel 'owl'
/ɪ/ /vɪs/ vis 'fish' /eː/ /keːnt/ keend 'child'
/ʏ/ /ˈbrʏməl/ brummel 'blackberries' /øː/ /løː/ leu 'people'
/oː/ /bloːm/ bloom 'flower'
/ɛ/ /bɛk/ bek 'mouth' /ɛː/ /kɛːrk/ keark 'church'
/œ/ /lœs/ lös 'loose' /œː/ /ˈeːnlœːstɪx/ éénlöastig
/ə/ /ˈbrʏməl/ brummel 'blackberries'
/ɔ/ /kɔp/ kop 'cup' /ɔː/ /skɔːp/ skoap 'sheep'
/a/ /tak/ tak 'branch' /aː/ /aːp/ aap 'monkey'
/ɪi/ /nɪi/ nij 'new'
/ɛi/ /vlɛis/ vleis 'meat'
/ɔu/ /slɔu/ slouw

Similarly to German and Danish, /r/ in syllable coda is vocalized to [ə], [ɒ] or [ɐ].[is the sequence /ər/ also vocalized?]

This survey of vowels includes only the most general vowels present in (nearly) all varieties, and does by no means give an all-encompassing overview of all varieties, as pronunciation differs per village and town, and may differ even within a town. A striking example of this may be found in the town of Rijssen, where two pronunciation forms of the past tense verb form of go are commonly accepted: gung /ɣʏŋ/ and gong /ɣɔŋ/. As there is no standard variety of Tweants, and there is little or no education in the language, speakers may select their pronunciation based on personal preferences.

A number of varieties feature an additional set of vowels that need a trained ear to be distinguished from each other, although they may sound totally different to the speakers of these varieties.


[ɣ] – as in the Dutch word gaan, e.g. goan [ɣɔːn] (go)
[ʝ] – as in the Dutch word ja but with more friction, Southern Dutch g, e.g. rieg [riːʝ] (impale)
[j] – as in the English word yes, e.g. rieg [riːj] (impale) (local pronunciations may vary).
[ŋ] – as in the English word ring, e.g. hangen [haŋː] (hang).
[x] – as in the Dutch word lachen, e.g. lachn [ˈlaxn̩] (laugh).
[r] – as an alveolar, tapped r, e.g. road [rɔːt] (council).
[j] – as in the English word yes, e.g. striedn [ˈstriːjn] (fight, battle)
[w] – as in the English word well, in intervocalic position, e.g. oaver [ˈɔːwə] (about, over)
[ʋ] - as in the Dutch word "wat", in word- or syllable-initial position, e.g. "wear" [ʋɛə] (weather). [m] – as in the English word man, e.g. moat [mɔːt] (mate).

Tweants shares many features with multiple varieties of British English.


Tweants follows a number of general Low Saxon rules in verb inflection, including the singular pluralis; plural verb forms receive the same inflection as the second person singular. In present tense, this means that a -t is attached to the verb stem, whereas in past tense, an -n is attached.

Tweants, like many other Germanic languages, distinguishes between strong and weak verbs. Strong verbs receive an umlaut in present tense third person singular and all persons in past tense. In weak verbs, the third person singular is formed like the second person singular in present tense, and in past tense is formed by adding a -te to the verb stem.

Present tense[]

Tweants English
Ik lope I walk
Iej loopt You walk
Hee / zee löp He / she walks
Wie loopt We walk
ieleu loopt You walk (plural)
Zee loopt They walk

Past tense[]

Tweants English
Ik leupe I walked
Iej leupn You walked
Hee / Zee leup He / She walked
Wieleu leupn We walked
Ieleu leupn You walked (plural)
Zee leupn They walked


Plural nouns are formed depending on the gender of the word. Tweants has three word genders, namely masculine, feminine and neuter


Plurals for masculine are generally formed by adding umlaut and word-final -e to the noun

Tweants English
eenn hoond one dog
twee heunde Two dogs


Plurals for feminine nouns are generally formed by adding word-final -n to the noun

Tweants English
ene komme one bowl
twee komn Two bowls


Plurals for neuter nouns are generally formed by adding word-final -er to the noun.

Tweants English
een keend one child
twee keender Two children

If the neuter noun has a back vowel, it also receives an umlaut and -er.

Tweants English
een book one book
twee beuker Two books

Diminutives and plurals[]

Tweants English
een kumke one little bowl
twee kumkes two little bowls


Native speakers have a distinct accent when speaking Dutch, and are hence easily recognised. Particularly the distinct pronunciation of the 'O' and 'E' is renowned, and is similar to the Hiberno-English pronunciation of the 'O' and the 'A'. Another striking feature of Tweants Dutch (and therefore a sign of L1-interference) is the use of a syllabic consonant, which in popular Dutch language is often referred to as "swallowing final -en".

On a syntactical level, people from Twente may at times literally translate phrases into Dutch, thus forming Twentisms. Due to the fact that Tweants and Standard Dutch are varieties of the West Germanic languages, they have many similarities, which may lead speakers of Tweants to believe that a "Dutchified" pronunciation of a Tweants expression is correct and valid:

In English: I have a flat tyre
In Tweants: Ik hebbe n baand plat
In Tweants-influenced Dutch (Twentism): *Ik heb de band plat (lit. I have the tyre flat)
In correct Standard Dutch: Ik heb een lekke band (lit. I have a leaky tire)

On an idiomatic level, Tweants is known for its wealth of proverbs, of which the following are only a fraction:

Speakers of Tweants generally tend to be a little more indirect than speakers of Dutch. For instance, when speakers of Tweants say: "t Is hier redelik doo" (It's reasonably thaw in here), they usually mean that they find the temperature unpleasantly high in the room.

Tweants in present-day Twente[]

Tweants is neither used nor taught mandatorily in schools, a circumstance that may be ascribed to the traditionally prevalent belief that Tweants – like other dialects spoken in the Netherlands – is supposedly a boorish speech variety the use of which bespeaks little intelligence or sophistication. As currently, however, the status of Tweants is improving, school boards may opt for a lesson series Tweants Kwarteerken (loosely translated as 15 minutes of Tweants) designed for implication in nursery and primary schools.

Tweants was, and still is, also believed to impede the proper acquisition by children of Standard Dutch. Parents generally acquiesced in this attitude and tried to teach their children to speak Dutch. Those parents, however, were used to speaking Tweants, which influenced especially their pronunciation of Dutch, and to a lesser extent their syntax and choice of vocabulary.

Dutch is still the prevailing and most prestigious language in Twente. This is why a majority of parents up until recently neglected to teach their children about their heritage, although there has lately been a resurgence of interest in the local language.

Because Twente is an attractive place for investment, many companies establish themselves in Twente and attract people from other parts of the country who do not speak Tweants. This aggravates the decline of the Tweants language. In the countryside, however, many people still speak it or at least understand it.

Recently, Tweants has enjoyed a resurgence because of an increasing tolerance for and pride in local culture, including local language. The resurgence enjoys the opinion of linguists who believe that children who are brought up bilingually (In this case with Dutch and Tweants) are more receptive to other languages. The increasing interest in Tweants is expressed by writers, musicians and local television and radio, and people have been inspired to start speaking and teaching Tweants again. This renewed interest, mirrored by other local languages in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe, is referred to as the dialect renaissance. An important stimulant for trend was the start of the 2000s soap in Tweants, "Van Jonge Leu en Oale Groond" ("Of young people and old land"). The soap, focussing on a rural part of Twente, combined local traditions and culture with the life and aspirations of young people, emphasising how people can live modern lives while cherishing and being rooted in local traditions. Originally broadcast by local television, it was later broadcast on national television with subtitles.

From the 2000s onwards, Tweants is increasingly being employed in advertising. More and more companies choose for a Tweants slogan, and some choose for a more personal advertising approach, by translating their adverts into several dialects. Examples of such companies are Regiobank and Moneybird. Furthermore, the municipality of Rijssen-Holten employs a number of civil servants, who are allowed to wed couples in Tweants. Additionally, the municipality hall's personnel is officially bilingual, being able to help citizens in either Dutch, Tweants or Sallaands.

In 2012, a radio presenter for national broadcasting station 3FM, Michiel Veenstra from Almelo, promised to present in Twents for an hour if a Twents song received more than €10,000 in the annual fundraising campaign Het Glazen Huis (The Glass House). As the song received more than €17,000, Veenstra kept his promise.[4]

In 2014, a Facebook page called "Tukkers be like" gained more than 18,000 followers within a week. The page uses Twents cultural concepts, and expressions in the Twents language. The idea of the page was based on the US Internet meme "Bitches be like", which gained enormous popularity in 2013, and inspired many to create their own versions. The meme presents an image of a certain situation, to which a certain group would respond in a typical way.

Written form[]

There is no generally accepted spelling for writing Tweants, although discussions about spellings are held on a regular basis. Rather, there are two commonly accepted spellings, although few strictly adhere to them. The previously mentioned diversity in speech varieties makes designing an all-encompassing spelling a cumbersome project, as spelling rules that fit one variety, may not be useful for others.

The (educated) debate always evolves around two points of view.

Cultural expressions in Tweants[]

The earliest form of written Tweants is a poem dating from the eighteenth century,[specify] although it is a rare example. Tweants, like the other Dutch Low Saxon dialects, has had a literary tradition since the nineteenth century when Romanticism sparked an interest in regional culture. Some of the better-known authors include:

Since the start of the dialect renaissance, Tweants has increasingly been used as a written language, although this is still almost entirely reserved to the province of literature. Works have been translated into Tweants to stress that Tweants is as sophisticated and expressive as any other language, and to put its own aesthetic properties to use.

A renowned Dutch comedian, Herman Finkers, even translated his last shows into Tweants, using the motto "accentless at last", to indicate that he can finally sound natural by using his mother tongue, without someone mocking him about it. A number of comic books and a children's television programme have been translated into Tweants to critical success.

Reverend Anne van der Meijden, a long-standing promoter of the use of Tweants, has translated the Bible into Tweants on the basis of the original languages. He also preaches sermons in Tweants.

Twentse Welle, formerly the Van Deinse Instituut, in Enschede is an organisation that maps, monitors, promotes and develops teaching material for Tweants, Tweants identity and the culture of Twente.


  1. ^ a b c d Ethnologue entry
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Twents". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Bloemhoff, H. et al. Taaltelling Nedersaksisch: Een enquête naar het gebruik en de beheersing van het Nedersaksisch in Nederland. Groningen: Sasland (2005). 39-40.
  4. ^ Michiel Veenstra presenteert een uur lang in het twents.

External links[]