Zeelandic

This text is written by Marco Evenhuis,
after you read this introduction,
you should visit his own website about Zeeuws too!

Zeeuws or Zeelandic is a regional language with a lot of North Sea Germanic features and is therefore related to Frisian, Scots and English. Some of these features can be found in Frisian as well, but others are exclusive to Zeeuws. As a reslut of continuing influence on Zeeuws by the Dutch standard language since the 17th century, a lot of these features have disappeared and made way for more 'Hollandic' forms.
Together with West-Flemish and the Flemish spoken in nothern France, Zeeuws is part of a cluster of remarkably homogenic dialects. The homogenicy of the dialects in the area make that someone from the island of Schouwen, in the north, can easily speak with someone from French Flanders in the south. But whe the speaker from Schouwen speaks his dialect to someone from Rotterdam, a Dutch-speaking city only 30 km north of Schouwen, he will not be understood.
In the Middle Ages, Zeeuws (then often spelled as Zeesch, 'Sea-ish') was the name of the costal language of Zeeland and West Flanders. Nowadays, the term Zeeuws is used only for the dialects spoken in the Dutch province of Zeeland.
Today, while the language is under threat by Standard Dutch, more and more people find that Zeeuws or Zeelandic should be protected. A lot of people are in favour of recognizing Zeeuws officially as a regional language, based on the European Charter for Minority and Regional Languages.
If this official recognition would go through in West and French Flanders as well, a huge linguistic area would become to exist with more than 1,2 million speakers. Zeeland and French Flanders are allready on their way.

Dialects of Zeeuws
Zeeuws can be divided into a number of dialectgroups: Svores (a very small area around the village of Oostvoorne in the province of South Holland), Goereês, Flakkees (both in South Holland, too), Fluplands (St. Philipsland), Thools, Schouws, Duvelands, Noord-Bevelands, Zuud-Bevelands, Walchers, West-Zeêuws-Vlaoms and Land-van-Axels. Besides that, Zeeuws is very homogenic with West Flemish.
The dialects in the easternmost part of Zeeuws Vlaanderen (Zeeland Flanders), and some villages on the Belgian border aren’t Zeeuws, but Eastern-Flemish (and therefore Frankish instead of Friso-Frankish).

Within the dialects mentoned above, most villages, towns and cities have their own dialect. These local dialects differ only very slightly from each other. On the island of Wacheren, for instance, only the oldest people are able to locate speakers on basis of their dialect. But some very strong local dialects have survived. Costal towns and villages as Ouddorp, Bruinisse, Yerseke, Arnemuiden and Westkapelle still have some very characteristic features and speakers use their dialect with pride.
The urban dialects of Zeeuws, spoken in Middelburg and Vlissingen, differ very strongly from the rural dialects of the rest of Zeeland. Smaller cities like Zierikzee, Goes, Veere, Tholen, Oostburg, Axel and Terneuzen show far less differences with rural dialects.

From north to south, the language gets more and more West Flemish. The dialects of western Zeeland Flanders are basically West Flemish dialects with a lot of Zeelandic influence. There, in Zeeland Flanders, one can also see quite clearly what Standard Dutch has done to Zeeuws. A lot of the original vocabulary, still very much in use acrosse the border in West Flanders (where the influence of Standard Dutch is only quite recent), is lost.

Speakers
From a number of inquities, one can conclude that in Zeeland almost 60% of the population still speaks Zeeuws (about 250.000 speakers all together). The rest of the people of Zeeland have at least some passive knowledge of the language. The language is under pressure in Walcheren (especially in around the cities of Middelburg and Vlissingen), the eastern part of Tholen, parts of Schouwen and parts of Flakkee. The language is still very much alive in parts of Zuid-Beveland, in Goeree, Duiveland and western Zeeuws.Vlaanderen. In villages as Bruinisse, Arnemuiden and Westkapelle (where even more than 90% of the people under 20 speak the language) and most villages in western Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, Zeeuws is still the dominant language in most language areas; sometimes it's even the only language used in supermarkets.
In West Flanders almost 90% of the population still speaks West Flemish (over 1 million speakers). In French Flanders, a lot of older people still speak the language (varying from around 15% of the people over 65 years of age in the south up to 80% near the Belgium border). Only 10-50% of the people older than 50 know and use the language. Under 50, language use is almost extinct, but a lot of people still have some passive knowledge of the language and some youngsters try tpo learn the language of their grandparents. All together, around 20.000 people still speak West Flemish in France.
The total number of speakers of Zeeuws/West Flemish/French Flemish, including immigrants living in Michigan, Detroit and Brazil, is about 1.5 million.

Activities
Especially in the western part of Zuid-Beveland, there are a lot of people that are active in writing, storytelling, theatre, music and other activities in their own language. On Walcheren there is the biggest audience for activities in Zeeuws. People are less active in using their language for cultural purposes there, but books and magazines in Zeeuws are very populair there.
In western Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, there is not much interest in Zeeuws. That desinterest is even bigger in West Flanders. In these parts, Zeeuws and West Flemish are still very much an everyday language. more than 85% of the population still speaks it on a daily basis.

Infrastructure
Compared to other regions, Zeeuws is very much negelcted by local and regional government. There are almost no efforts to change this situation. Nevertheless, private initiatives have led to a dictionary Zeeuws-Dutch, a cd-rom with a spoken dictionary, a magazine in Zeeuws and some other, smaller projects.
The only organizations that try to do something to promote the language are Stichting Zuudwest 7 (publisher of the Noe-magazine), the Stichting School en Dialect (that is working on very small scale educational projects) and the Zeeuwsche Vereniging voor Dialectonderzoek.
In West Flander, the situation is even worse, even though the chances for the language to survive are much better there tha they are in Zeeland. IN French Flanders the centralized Parisian regime is still working against initiatives to do something for regional languages. Nevertheless, thanks to private initiatives one can learn the language in most towns and villages and Flemish roadsigns are now qite common throughout French Flanders.