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It derived from the Old Germanic word theudisk, which literarily means "popular" or "belonging to the populace".In Western Europe the term was used for the language of the local Germanic populace as opposed to Latin, the non-native language of writing and the Catholic Church.Outside the Low Countries, it is the native language of the majority of the population of Suriname where it also holds an official status, as it does in Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten, which are constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands located in the Caribbean.Historical minorities on the verge of extinction remain in parts of France Dutch, like English, has not undergone the High German consonant shift, does not use Germanic umlaut as a grammatical marker, has largely abandoned the use of the subjunctive, and has levelled much of its morphology, including most of its case system.(A usage of the English term Dutch that includes German survives in the United States in the name Pennsylvania Dutch for a local German dialect and its speakers, commonly believed to be a corruption of their endonym Deitsch.) In the Low Countries on the contrary, Dietsch or Duytsch as endonym for Dutch went out of common use and had been gradually replaced by the Dutch endonym Nederlands.This designation started at the Burgundian court in the 15th century, although the use of neder, laag, bas and inferior ("nether" or "low") to refer to the area known as the Low Counties, goes back further in time.

As a result, the Hoog ("High") was dropped in the Dutch exonym Hoogduits in the sense of the German standard language, meaning that Duits narrowed down as Dutch exonym for German.

German dialectologists termed the Germanic varieties spoken in the mountainous south of Germany as Hochdeutsch ("High German").

Subsequently, Germanic varieties spoken in the north were designated as Niederdeutsch ("Low German").

Vlaemsch, Hollandsch or Brabantsch were locally used endonyms to refer to the Dutch language as a whole.

Apart from these, the name Nederlands received since 1551 strong competition from the name Nederduits (literally "Low Dutch", i.e. It is a calque of the before mentioned Roman province Germania Inferior.

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For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help: IPA.) is a West Germanic language, spoken by around 23 million people as a first language (including the population of the Netherlands where it is the official language, and about sixty percent of Belgium where it is one of the three official languages) and by another 5 million as a second language.