Continuing Typesetting in Dutch: Dijkstra vs. Dijkstra, how do you typeset the Dutch word for release:

  1. vrijgeven (with two separate glyphs i and j) or
  2. vrijgeven (with a ligature ij)?

Do i and j in this word belong to two syllables or to one?

(I'm not asking about the capitalized versions VRIJGEVEN vs. VRIJGEVEN. I'm also not asking about what various typesetting programs currently do in Dutch: their authors are sometimes terribly off, and the programs sometimes do exhibit unintended behavior. I'm asking what should be the case in Dutch for the lower-case word.)

  • For fun, I just had a look on the wikipedia talk page for IJ (digraph). It would seem to be a rather controversial subject, with strong opinions from either side. Some consider ij a separate letter, others wish it never existed and argue that it should be gotten rid of. Reminds me of the encylopaedia/encylopedia controversy between British and American English spellings.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Jul 27, 2022 at 9:56
  • @BillyKerr The talk is longer than the article itself. :-( To start with, do i and j belong to two different syllables in vrijgeven / vrijgeven or to one?
    – user157607
    Commented Jul 27, 2022 at 13:58
  • Seems there are differing opinions.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Jul 27, 2022 at 17:23

1 Answer 1


The 'ij' sound is a single phoneme in the Dutch language. Like many other European languages, Dutch has its share of diphthongs, and this is one of them.

Hence, regardless of whether you consider the ij to be a single letter or a combination of two existing ones, it is (almost*) always a single sound, and thus part of a single syllable. Your example would be split in syllables as vrij - ge - ven.

Never hyphenate between the i and j of an ij diphtong. Any decent automated spelling checker with an up-to-date Dutch hyphenation routine should do this correctly.

As per my answer to Typesetting in Dutch: Dijkstra vs. Dijkstra, whether you typeset it with two letters or a ligature... we don't really care.

* Of course there are rare exceptions, like the words 'bijoux' (a French loan) and 'bijectief' (a Latin-like construction).

  • Same for bijectie, right?
    – user157607
    Commented Jul 27, 2022 at 17:46
  • @GeekestGeek bijectief is the adjective form of the noun bijectie, so yes.
    – Vincent
    Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 9:52

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