The Afrikaans language originated mainly from 17th century Dutch dialects and developed in South Africa. As early as the mid-18th century and as recently as the mid-20th century, Afrikaans was known in standard Dutch as a "kitchen language" (kombuistaal), lacking the prestige accorded, for example even by the educational system in Africa, to languages spoken outside Africa; other early epithets setting apart Kaaps Hollands ("Cape Dutch", i.e. Afrikaans) as putatively beneath official Dutch standards included geradbraakte/gebroke/onbeskaafde Hollands ("mutilated/broken/uncivilised Dutch"), as well as verkeerde Nederlands ("incorrect Dutch"). An estimated 90 to 95% of Afrikaans vocabulary is ultimately of Dutch origin, and there are few lexical differences between the two languages; however, Afrikaans has a considerably more regular morphology, grammar, and spelling. There is a degree of mutual intelligibility between the two languages, particularly in written form.
Afrikaans acquired some lexical and syntactical borrowings from other languages such as Malay, Khoisan languages, Portuguese, and of the Bantu languages, and to a lesser extent, French. Afrikaans has also been significantly influenced by South African English. Nevertheless, Dutch-speakers are confronted with fewer non-cognates when listening to Afrikaans than the other way round. Mutual intelligibility thus tends to be asymmetrical, as it is easier for Dutch-speakers to understand Afrikaans than for Afrikaans-speakers to understand Dutch. In general, research suggests that mutual intelligibility between Dutch and Afrikaans is better than between Dutch and Frisian or between Danish and Swedish.
Afrikaans was considered a Dutch dialect in South Africa up until the early 20th century when it became recognised as a distinct language. A relative majority of the first settlers whose descendants today are the Afrikaners were from the United Provinces (now Netherlands and Belgium), though there were also many from Germany, a considerable number from France, and some from Norway, Portugal, Scotland, and various other countries.
The workers and slaves who contributed to the development of Afrikaans were Asians (especially Malays), Malagasys, as well as the Khoi, Bushmen and Bantu peoples who also lived in the area. African creole people in the early 18th century — documented on the cases of Hendrik Bibault and patriarch Oude Ram — were the first to call themselves Afrikaner (Africans). Only much later in the second half of the 19th century did the Boers adopt this attribution, too. The Khoi and mixed-race groups became collectively referred to as Coloureds.
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