Dictionary of the Dutch Language (WNT): the largest historical dictionary in the world
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You can hardly think of a subject or there is an explanatory dictionary in Dutch about it. From fairly obvious matters such as politics, economics, proverbs, etymology, gastronomy ... to less common ones such as football, SMS language, floriculture, swearing ... But one is unique in its kind, purpose, structure, thickness, completeness and production time: the Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal (WNT). This 'museum of the Dutch language' stands out from all other dictionaries in the world.
The first attempts to record the richness of the Dutch language date from the second half of the 18th century. It did not become a real success. That changed in the early 19th century, during the Romantic era, when the language was considered the soul of the nation. During the French rule and after the secession of Belgium in 1830, Dutch suffered a languishing existence in Flanders. Gradually the struggle to reverse that decline germinated. The great zealot of the turnaround was the Dutch language and literature scholar Matthias de Vries (1820-1892). In 1851, he presented his draft of a 'complete Dutch language dictionary'. After five generations of editors, the paper edition of this mammoth project according to scientific methods and insights was finally completed in 1998, no less than 147 years later. Since 2007, there has also been an online version, which is continuously updated.
In the WNT, no fewer than 400,000 keywords from written Dutch from 1500 to 1976 are described in detail. Successively, grammatical features, origin and meaning(s) are covered. Moreover, the keywords are verifiable from about 1,700,000 chronologically arranged quotations, each indicating source and date. There are over 12,000 sources, ranging from novels and poems to manuals, legal texts, recipes ... Furthermore, we learn how these words are used in proverbs, sayings, proverbs, expressions, compositions and derivations.
In 1863, Matthias de Vries and that other linguist, Lammert te Winkel (1809-1868), developed the spelling De Vries-Te Winkel, named after them, especially for this dictionary. This has been retained for reasons of uniformity and reference within this dictionary.
Finally, some figures that aptly illustrate the monumentality of the work: 50,000 pages, 98,000 columns, 43 volumes (including 3 volumes of Supplements) and some 3 linear metres of books. To keep you busy for a while ...