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The letter ij


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I'm still confused about something!  I hope you can help me out... how is one supposed to pronounce ''ij''?  I get confused because I've checked several sources, some people seem to pronounce it like an english ''I'' and others like an english ''A''. What's the right one?  Are there variations in the pronunciation of that vowel depending on where in the Netherlands one lives?

Ah yes, the letter ij. Officially it shares its place in the alphabet with the letter y (like in telephone listings), but they're really not the same. Even though it is spelled using both the i and j together, it must be considered a single letter, which becomes apparent when it's capitalised, for example in the name of the largest lake in he Netherlands, the IJsselmeer.

As for the pronunciation, I'd say it's somewhat a mix between the English A and I.

Note that there also exists the ei, which is pronounced very similar, though there is a subtle difference. The ij is often called the 'long ij' and the ei then is called the 'short ei'. I would say the ei is pronounced a tiny bit 'flatter' than the ij. Ask someone to say the words hij and hei and try to hear the difference. The ei is not a single letter like the ij is, for example in the name of the city Eindhoven, you can see only the e is capitalised.

And yes, there are notable differences in the pronunciation in various dialects. Some may sound rounder (more like the English I) and some sound way flatter (like a short e as in 'help').

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi there! That was a really clear and good explanation!  I thought those two were very similar! I still have issues with the ''ij'' tho, sometimes I could swear it sounds like an english A and sometimes like and english I!  But it seems it really depends on the speed of the speaker and wish words come before it!  It must be the dialect differences, I just hope I don't have issues passing my yest :(

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