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This is assumed to have taken place in approximately the mid-first millennium BCE in the pre-Roman Northern European Iron Age.

They remained mutually intelligible throughout the Migration Period.

Dutch is part of the West Germanic group, which also includes English, Scots, Frisian, Low German (Old Saxon) and High German.

The Hoog was later dropped, and thus, Duits narrowed down in meaning to refer to the German language.

The term Nederduits, however introduced new confusion, since the non-standardised dialects spoken in the north of Germany came to be known as Niederdeutsch as well, and thus the Duits reference in the name was dropped, leading to Nederlands as designation to refer to the Dutch language.

Until roughly the 16th century, speakers of all the varieties of the West Germanic languages from the mouth of the Rhine to the Alps had been accustomed to refer to their native speech as some cognate of theudisk.

This led inevitably to confusion since similar terms referred to different languages. Owing to Dutch commercial and colonial rivalry in the 16th and 17th centuries, the English term came to refer exclusively to the Dutch.

A notable exception is Pennsylvania Dutch, which is a West Central German variety called Deitsch by its speakers.

Jersey Dutch, on the other hand, as spoken until the 1950s in New Jersey, is a Dutch-based creole.

The Dutch language has been known under a variety of names.

In Middle Dutch – the unstandardised precursor of Modern Dutch – Dietsc was mainly used in Flanders and Brabant, while Duutsc or Duitsc was more in use in Holland and other parts of the northern Netherlands.

The development of the Dutch language is illustrated by the following sentence in Old, Middle and Modern Dutch: Among the Indo-European languages, Dutch is grouped within the Germanic languages, meaning it shares a common ancestor with languages such as English, German, and the Scandinavian languages.

All Germanic languages are subject to the Grimm's law and Verner's law sound shifts, which originated in the Proto-Germanic language and define the basic features differentiating them from other Indo-European languages.

The division in Old, Middle and Modern Dutch is mostly conventional, since the transition between them was very gradual.

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