The Witcher

Nilfgaardian and the Dutch language

TheWitcher6 - Nilfgaardian and the Dutch language

I don't speak Dutch myself, but grew up around Dutch grandparents and so came across a lot of the language whenever I visited their house. I keep coming across posts here and there asking what Nilfgaardian is based off of, but no one really mentions its obvious similarity to Dutch.

While Nilfgaardian does sprinkle in loan words from other European languages (especially German, which is similar), most of the words it borrows directly from Dutch:

aâ'anvalattack (from Dutch: aanval)
beistenanimals (From Dutch: beesten)
belean'graecimportant, something important (From Dutch: belangrijk – pronounciation is nearly the same)
bloedebloody, gory, damn (UK: bloody / Dutch: Bloederig = bloody)
bloedzuigerleech (From Dutch: bloedzuiger, literally 'blood sucker')
ceas'raetempire (of Nilfgaard) (From Dutch: Keizerrijk)
deiento serve (From Dutch: Dienen)
d'yaebldevil (From Spanish: diablo / Dutch: duivel)
e'erhonor (from Dutch: eer)
evn'gesaenambassador (From German: Abgesandter / Dutch: afgezant)
Ker'zaerEmperor (From German: Kaiser / Dutch: Keizer)
kussegenitals (From Dutch: Kutte)
nyaldneedle (From Dutch: naald)
pestpestilence, plague, blight (from Dutch: pest)
piemelikkerscocksuckers (from Dutch: piemellikkers)
raetcountry (From Dutch: Rijk)
schijtleistercoward (From Dutch: Schijtlijster, literally 'little shitbird')
se'egevictory (From Dutch: Zege)
strontheshit (From Dutch: Stront)
teddtime, age, season (From Dutch: Tijd)
twetwo (From Dutch: twee)
vaer'truovto hope, to trust (From Dutch: vertrouw)
var'oom?what? (from German: warum / Dutch: waarom)

For a comparison, here is a list of total loan words in Nilfgaardian from each language listed on the Nilgaardian language wiki page:

  • Dutch: 23
  • German: 5
  • English: 3
  • Irish: 3
  • Italian: 3
  • Welsh: 3
  • Spanish: 2
  • French: 2
  • Latin: 1

Besides loan words, I noticed there is also a heavily prevalence of double vowels and the letters 'z', 'j', and 'k' in Nilfgaardian, which sound harsh to an English listener but are common in Dutch. Likewise, many Nilfgaardians speak with a Dutch accent, or something close to it.

Additionally, many Nilfgaardian characters also have names with Dutch or Flemish origins:

  • Carthia van Canten ('van' is very common prefix in Dutch surnames)
  • Joachim de Wett (Flemish origin)
  • Declan Leuvaarden (Leeuwarden is a city in the Netherlands)
  • Menno Coehoorn (Dutch origin)
  • Peter Evertsen (Dutch origin)
  • Morvran Voorhis (Dutch origin)
  • Roderick de Wett (Flemish origin)

Furthermore, if we consider the 'var' prefix in Niflgaardian surnames to be equivalent to the Dutch 'van' (meaning 'of' or 'from' their place of origin), then the following characters can likewise be considered to have Dutch-sounding names.

  • Torres var Emreis
  • Fergus var Emreis
  • Emhyr var Emreis
  • Assire var Anahid
  • Henry var Attre

Though one could just as easily compare 'var' with 'von', the German equivalent of 'van'.

Of course, the language is jumbled enough that I've read posts by native Dutch speakers saying that it's absolute nonsense to them. That makes sense – it's still a fictional language after all, so most of the syntax, grammar, and vocabulary is complete gibberish.

There's also admittedly a lot of loan words and last names in Niflgaardian with German, Ango-Saxon, Frisian, and even Scandinavian origins (which all share a common ancestor of Old Saxon).

Gaelic and Welsh (which derive from a Proto-Celtic language) also appear, and there's even a light smattering of Latin languages such as French, Italian, and Spanish. Plus several words that derive from the fictional Elder Speech itself.

So overall, most of the language is pure fiction. But Dutch, in my opinion, seems to be the most prevalent influence on it.

Personally, I think this was a great touch by Andrzej Sapkowski (or whoever may have helped develop the language for him). Dutch is a close cousin to English and German. However, its long vowels and sharp consonants like z and k make it sound very harsh and foreign to a native English speaker. Probably even more so for native Polish speakers.

I can understand a bit of German without knowing any of the language. But Dutch is still quite hard for me to decipher, even when read. It really "fills the mouth" as my brother likes to say.

I think this does a great job of emphasizing how foreign Nilfgaardians must feel to the peoples of the Northern Kingdoms. Shared languages usually help strangers find at least some common ground with one another. Nilfgaardian's difficult pronunciation plus its overall harsh tone must put a serious language barrier between it and the North, encouraging more hatred and the shared opinion that the other's culture is barbaric.

One last thing to note is that when turned 90 degrees counterclockwise, the map of the continent in the Witcher does strongly resemble the northern coast of continental Europe. It would also place each location's influences in their historically correct place: Poland and the city of Danzig (Novigrad) in the East, the Netherlands in the West, Germany and Denmark between them, Scandinavia and Scotland to the north (though Scotland itself is further west than the Netherlands), and France/Italy towards the southwest. Just a thought to tie it all together.

For the record, this post was largely compiled with the help of the wiki pages for Nilfgaard and its language:

Nilfgaardian Empire - Nilfgaardian and the Dutch language
Nilfgaardian language - Nilfgaardian and the Dutch language

Note: I posted this on the Steam community forums fist, but also posted it here since I thought you folks might also be interested.

Source: Original link

© Post "Nilfgaardian and the Dutch language" for game The Witcher.

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