Dutch ( ) is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second language for another 5 million people. It also holds official status in the Caribbean island nations of Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten, while historical minorities remain in parts of France and Germany, and to a lesser extent, in Indonesia, and up to half a million native Dutch-speakers may be living in the United States, Canada, and Australia. The Cape Dutch dialects of Southern Africa have been standardised into Afrikaans, a mutually intelligible daughter language of Dutch which today is spoken to some degree by an estimated total of 15 to 23 million people in South Africa and Namibia.
Dutch is closely related to English and German and is said to be between them. Apart from not having undergone the High German consonant shift, Dutch-as English-also differs from German by the overall abandonment of the grammatical case system, the relative rarity of the Germanic umlaut, and a more regular morphology. Dutch has effectively two grammatical genders, but this distinction has far fewer grammatical consequences than in German. Dutch shares with German the use of subject � verb � object word order in main clauses and subject � object � verb in subordinate clauses. Dutch vocabulary is mostly Germanic and contains the same Germanic core as English, while incorporating more Romance loans than German and fewer than English.