Flemish language, member of the West Germanic group of the Germanic subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages (see Germanic languages). Generally regarded as the Belgian variant of Dutch (see Dutch language) rather than as a separate tongue, Flemish is spoken by approximately 5.5 million people in Belgium, where it is one of the official languages, and by a few thousand persons in France. So closely are Flemish and Dutch related that the difference between them has been compared to the difference between American and British English; however, some scholars hold that they have diverged sufficiently since the 16th cent. to be described as separate languages.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.