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Old Dutch branched off more or less around the same time as Old English (Anglo-Saxon), Old High German, Old Frisian and Old Saxon did. The early form of Dutch was a set of Franconian dialects spoken by the Salian Franks in the fifth century, and thus, it has developed through Middle Dutch to Modern Dutch over the course of 15 centuries.[20] During that period, it forced Old Frisian back from the western coast to the north of the Low Countries, and influenced or even replaced Old Saxon spoken in the east (contiguous with the Low German area). On the other hand, Dutch has been replaced in adjacent lands in nowadays France and Germany. The division in Old, Middle and Modern Dutch is mostly conventional, since the transition between them was very gradual. One of the few moments linguists can detect somewhat of a revolution is when the Dutch standard language emerged and quickly established itself. The development of the Dutch language is illustrated by the following sentence in Old, Middle and Modern Dutch:

  • Irlôsin sol an frithe sêla mîna fan thên thia ginâcont mi, wanda under managon he was mit mi (Old Dutch)
  • Erlossen sal [hi] in vrede siele mine van dien die genaken mi, want onder menegen hi was met mi (Middle Dutch)
  • Verlossen zal hij in vrede ziel mijn van degenen die genaken mij, want onder menigen hij was met mij (Modern Dutch, same word order)
  • Hij zal mijn ziel in vrede verlossen van degenen die mij genaken, want onder menigen was hij met mij (Modern Dutch, default word order)[21]
  • He will deliver my soul in peace from those who come on to me, because, amongst many, he was with me (English)[