Dutch is a West Germanic language spoken by around 24 million people, mainly in the Netherlands, Belgium and Suriname, but also by smaller groups of speakers in parts of France, Germany and several former Dutch colonies. Dutch is a descendant of Old Frankish and is the parent language of Afrikaans. Standard Dutch (Standaardnederlands) is the standard language of the major Dutch-speaking areas and is regulated by the Nederlandse Taalunie ("Dutch Language Union"). Dutch is also an official language of the European Union and the Union of South American Nations. Dutch grammar also shares many traits with German, but has a less complicated morphology caused by deflexion, which puts it closer to English. Dutch has officially three genders, masculine, feminine, and neuter. Like most Germanic languages it has a syllable structure that allows fairly complex consonant clusters. Dutch is often noted for the prominent use of velar fricatives (ch and g, pronounced at the back of the mouth). Dutch vocabulary is predominantly Germanic in origin, considerably more so than English.
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