The area where Luxembourgish (pale indigo) and other dialects of Moselle Franconian (medium indigo) are spoken. The internal isogloss for words meaning "of", i.e. op and of is also shown (Standard German: auf).
Moselle Franconian dialects outside the Luxembourg state border tend to have far fewer French loan words, and these mostly remain from the French Revolution.
There are several distinct dialect forms of Luxembourgish including Areler (from Arlon), Eechternoacher (Echternach), Kliärrwer (Clervaux), Miseler (Moselle), Stater (Luxembourg), Veiner (Vianden), Minetter (Southern Luxembourg) and Weelzer (Wiltz). Further small vocabulary differences may be seen even between small villages.
Increasing mobility of the population and the dissemination of the language through mass media such as radio and television are leading to a gradual standardisation towards a "Standard Luxembourgish" through the process of koineization.
There is no distinct geographic boundary between the use of Luxembourgish and the use of other closely related High German dialects (for example Lorraine Franconian); it instead forms a dialect continuum of gradual change.
Spoken Luxembourgish is relatively hard to understand for speakers of German who are generally not familiar with Moselle Franconian dialects (or at least other West Central German dialects). However, they can usually read the language to some degree. For those Germans familiar with Moselle Franconian dialects, it is relatively easy to understand and speak Luxembourgish as far as the everyday vocabulary is concerned. However, the large number of French loanwords in Luxembourgish may hamper communication about certain topics, or with certain speakers (who use many French loanwords).
There is no intelligibility between Luxembourgish and French or any of the Romance dialects spoken in the adjacent parts of Belgium and France.
A number of proposals for standardising the orthography of Luxembourgish can be documented, going back to the middle of the 19th century. There was no officially recognised system, however, until the adoption of the "OLO" (ofizjel lezebuurjer ortografi) on 5 June 1946. This orthography provided a system for speakers of all varieties of Luxembourgish to transcribe words the way they pronounced them, rather than imposing a single, standard spelling for the words of the language. The rules explicitly rejected certain elements of German orthography (e.g., the use of "ä" and "ö", the capitalisation of nouns). Similarly, new principles were adopted for the spelling of French loanwords.
This proposed orthography, so different from existing "foreign" standards that people were already familiar with, did not enjoy widespread approval.
A more successful standard eventually emerged from the work of the committee of specialists charged with the task of creating the Luxemburger Wörterbuch, published in 5 volumes between 1950 and 1977. The orthographic conventions adopted in this decades-long project, set out in Bruch (1955), provided the basis of the standard orthography that became official on 10 October 1975. Modifications to this standard were proposed by the Permanent Council of the Luxembourguish language and adopted officially in the spelling reform of 30 July 1999. A detailed explanation of current practice for Luxembourgish can be found in Schanen & Lulling (2003).
Like many other varieties of Western High German, Luxembourgish has a rule of final n-deletion in certain contexts. The effects of this rule (known as the "Eifel Rule") are indicated in writing, and therefore must be taken into account when spelling words and morphemes ending in ⟨n⟩ or ⟨nn⟩. For example:
wann ech ginn "when I go", but wa mer ginn "when we go"
fënnefandrësseg "thirty-five", but fënnefavéierzeg "forty-five".
/p͡f/ occurs only in loanwords from Standard German. Just as for many native speakers of Standard German, it tends to be simplified to [f] word-initially. For example, Pflicht ('obligation') is realised as [fliɕt] or, in careful speech, [p͡fliɕt].
/v/ is realised as [w] when it occurs after /k, t͡s, ʃ/, e.g. zwee[t͡sweː] ('two').
/d͡z/ appears only in a few words, such as spadséieren/ʃpɑˈd͡zəɪ̯eʀen/ ('to go for a walk').
/oɪ/ appears only in loanwords from Standard German.
The first elements of /æːɪ, æːʊ/ may be phonetically short [æ] in fast speech or in unstressed syllables.
The /æːɪ–ɑɪ/ and /æːʊ–ɑʊ/ contrasts arose from the former lexical tone contrast; the shorter /ɑɪ, ɑʊ/ were used in words with Accent 1, and the lengthened /æːɪ, æːʊ/ were used in words with Accent 2.
Luxembourgish has three genders (masculine, feminine, and neuter), and has three cases (nominative, accusative, and dative). These are marked morphologically on determiners and pronouns. As in German, there is no morphological gender distinction in the plural.
The forms of the articles and of some selected determiners are given below:
As seen above, Luxembourgish has plural forms of en ("a, an"), namely eng in the nominative/accusative and engen in the dative. They are not used as indefinite articles, which—as in German and English—do not exist in the plural, but they do occur in the compound pronouns wéi en ("what, which") and sou en ("such"). For example: wéi eng Saachen ("what things"); sou eng Saachen ("such things"). Moreover, they are used before numbers to express an estimation: eng 30.000 Spectateuren ("some 30,000 spectators").
Distinct nominative forms survive in a few nominal phrases such as der Däiwel ("the devil") and eiser Herrgott ("our Lord"). Rare examples of the genitive are also found: Enn des Mounts ("end of the month"), Ufanks der Woch ("at the beginning of the week"). The functions of the genitive are normally expressed using a combination of the dative and a possessive determiner: e.g. dem Mann säi Buch (lit. "to the man his book", i.e. "the man's book"). This is known as a periphrastic genitive, and is a phenomenon also commonly seen in dialectal and colloquial German, and in Dutch.
The forms of the personal pronouns are given in the following table (unstressed forms appear in parentheses):
äis / eis
The 2pl form is also used as a polite singular (like French vous, see T-V distinction); the forms are capitalised in writing:
Wéi hues du de Concert fonnt? ("How did you [informal sg.] like the concert?")
Wéi hutt dir de Concert fonnt? ("How did you [informal pl.] like the concert?")
Wéi hutt Dir de Concert fonnt? ("How did you [formal sg. or pl.] like the concert?")
Like most varieties of colloquial German, but even more invariably, Luxembourgish uses definite articles with personal names. They are obligatory and not to be translated:
De Serge ass an der Kichen. ("Serge is in the kitchen.")
A feature Luxembourgish shares with only some western dialects of German is that women and girls are most often referred to with forms of the neuter pronoun hatt:
Dat ass d'Nathalie. Hatt ass midd, well et vill a sengem Gaart geschafft huet. ("That's Nathalie. She is tired because she has worked a lot in her garden.")
De Mann ass grouss. (masculine, "The man is tall.")
D'Fra ass grouss. (feminine, "The woman is tall.")
D'Meedchen ass grouss. (neuter, "The girl is tall.")
D'Kanner si grouss. (plural, "The children are tall.")
Attributive adjectives are placed before the noun they describe, and change their ending according to the grammatical gender, number, and case:
de grousse Mann (masculine)
déi grouss Fra (feminine)
dat grousst Meedchen (neuter)
déi grouss Kanner (plural)
Curiously, the definite article changes with the use of an attributive adjective: feminine d' goes to déi (or di), neuter d' goes to dat, and plural d' changes to déi.
The comparative in Luxembourgish is formed analytically, i.e. the adjective itself is not altered (compare the use of -er in German and English; tall → taller, klein → kleiner). Instead it is formed using the adverb méi: e.g. schéin → méi schéin
Lëtzebuerg ass méi schéi wéi Esch. ("Luxembourg is prettier than Esch.")
The superlative involves a synthetic form consisting of the adjective and the suffix -st: e.g. schéin → schéinst (compare German schönst, English prettiest). Attributive modification requires the emphatic definite article and the inflected superlative adjective:
dee schéinste Mann ("the most handsome man")
déi schéinst Fra ("the prettiest woman")
Predicative modification uses either the same adjectival structure or the adverbial structure am+ -sten: e.g. schéin → am schéinsten:
Lëtzebuerg ass dee schéinsten / deen allerschéinsten / am schéinsten. ("Luxembourg is the most beautiful (of all).")
Some common adjectives have exceptional comparative and superlative forms:
gutt, besser, am beschten ("good, better, best")
vill, méi, am meeschten ("much, more, most")
wéineg, manner, am mannsten ("few, fewer, fewest")
Several other adjectives also have comparative forms. However, these are not commonly used as normal comparatives, but in special senses:
al ("old") → eeler Leit ("elderly people"), but: méi al Leit ("older people, people older than X")
fréi ("early") → de fréiere President ("the former president"), but: e méi fréien Termin ("an earlier appointment")
laang ("long") → viru längerer Zäit ("some time ago"), but: eng méi laang Zäit ("a longer period of time")
Luxembourgish exhibits "verb second" word order in clauses. More specifically, Luxembourgish is a V2-SOV language, like German and Dutch. In other words, we find the following finite clausal structures:
the finite verb in second position in declarative clauses and wh-questions
Ech kafen en Hutt. Muer kafen ech en Hutt. (lit. "I buy a hat. Tomorrow buy I a hat.)
Wat kafen ech haut? (lit. "What buy I today?")
the finite verb in first position in yes/no questions and finite imperatives
Bass de midd? ("Are you tired?")
Gëff mer deng Hand! ("Give me your hand!")
the finite verb in final position in subordinate clauses
Du weess, datt ech midd sinn. (lit. "You know, that I tired am.")
Non-finite verbs (infinitives and participles) generally appear in final position:
compound past tenses
Ech hunn en Hutt kaf. (lit. "I have a hat bought.")
Du solls net esou vill Kaffi drénken. (lit. "You should not so much coffee drink.")
infinitival clauses (e.g., used as imperatives)
Nëmme Lëtzebuergesch schwätzen! (lit. "Only Luxembourgish speak!")
These rules interact so that in subordinate clauses, the finite verb and any non-finite verbs must all cluster at the end. Luxembourgish allows different word orders in these cases:
Hie freet, ob ech komme kann. (cf. German Er fragt, ob ich kommen kann.) (lit. "He asks if I come can.")
Hie freet, ob ech ka kommen. (cf. Dutch Hij vraagt of ik kan komen.) (lit. "He asks if I can come.")
This is also the case when two non-finite verb forms occur together:
Ech hunn net kënne kommen. (cf. Dutch Ik heb niet kunnen komen.) (lit, "I have not be-able to-come")
Ech hunn net komme kënnen. (cf. German Ich habe nicht kommen können.) (lit, "I have not to-come be-able")
Luxembourgish (like Dutch and German) allows prepositional phrases to appear after the verb cluster in subordinate clauses:
alles, wat Der ëmmer wollt wëssen iwwer Lëtzebuerg
(lit. "everything what you always wanted know about Luxembourg")
Luxembourgish has borrowed many French words. For example, the name for a bus driver is Buschauffeur (also Dutch and Swiss German), which would be Busfahrer in German and chauffeur de bus in French.
Some words are different from Standard German but have equivalents in German dialects. An example is Gromperen (potatoes – German: Kartoffeln). Other words are exclusive to Luxembourgish.
direct loans from English: Browser, Spam, CD, Fitness, Come-back, Terminal, Hip, Cool, Tip-top
also found in German: Sichmaschinn (search engine, German: Suchmaschine), schwaarzt Lach (black hole, German: Schwarzes Loch), Handy (mobile phone), Websäit (webpage, German: Webseite)
déck as an emphatic like ganz and voll, e.g. Dëse Kuch ass déck gutt! ("This cake is really good!")
recent expressions, used mainly by teenagers: oh mëllen! ("oh crazy"), en décke gelénkt ("you've been tricked") or cassé (French for "(you've been) owned")
Between 2000 and 2002, Luxembourgish linguist Jérôme Lulling compiled a lexical database of 125,000 word forms as the basis for the very first Luxembourgish spellchecker (Projet C.ORT.IN.A).
The LaF (Lëtzebuergesch als Friemsprooch – Luxembourgish as a Foreign Language) is a set of four language proficiency certifications for Luxembourgish and follows the ALTE framework of language examination standards. The tests are administered by the Institut National des Langues Luxembourg.
The "Centre for Luxembourg Studies" at the University of Sheffield was founded in 1995 on the initiative of Professor Gerald Newton. It is supported by the government of Luxembourg which funds an endowed chair in Luxembourg Studies at the university.
The first class of students to study the language outside of the country as undergraduate students began their studies at the 'Centre for Luxembourg Studies' at Sheffield in the academic year 2011–2012.
^Note that the letter ⟨é⟩ today represents the same sound as ⟨ë⟩ before ⟨ch⟩. The ostensibly inconsistent spelling ⟨é⟩ is based on the traditional, now widely obsolete pronunciation of the sound represented by ⟨ch⟩ as a palatal [ç]. As this consonant is pronounced further back in the mouth, it triggered the use of the front allophone of /e/ (that is [e]) as is the case before the velars (/k, ŋ/). Since the more forward alveolo-palatal [ɕ] has replaced the palatal [ç] for almost all speakers, the allophone [ə] is used as before any non-velar consonant. So the word mécht ('[he] makes'), which is now pronounced [məɕt], used to be pronounced [meçt]; this is the reason for the spelling. The spelling ⟨mëcht⟩, which reflects the contemporary pronunciation, is not standard.
^In the standard orthography, /ɑʊ̯/ and /æːʊ̯/ are not distinguished; this is due to the conflicting use of ⟨äu⟩ in German words to indicate /oɪ̯/.
BRAUN, Josy, et al. (en coll. avec Projet Moien), Grammaire de la langue luxembourgeoise. Luxembourg, Ministère de l'Éducation nationale et de la Formation professionnelle 2005. ISBN2-495-00025-8
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SCHANEN, François / ZIMMER, Jacqui, Lëtzebuergesch Grammaire luxembourgeoise. En un volume. Esch-sur-Alzette, éditions Schortgen, 2012. ISBN978-2-87953-146-5
SCHANEN, François, Lëtzebuergesch Sproocherubriken. Esch-sur-Alzette, éditions Schortgen, 2013.ISBN978-2-87953-174-8
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MOULIN, Claudine and Nübling, Damaris (publisher): Perspektiven einer linguistischen Luxemburgistik. Studien zu Diachronie und Synchronie., Universitätsverlag Winter, Heidelberg, 2006. This book has been published with the support of the Fonds National de la Recherche
GILLES, Peter (1998). "Die Emanzipation des Lëtzebuergeschen aus dem Gefüge der deutschen Mundarten". Zeitschrift für deutsche Philologie. 117: 20–35.
BERG, Guy, Mir wëlle bleiwe wat mir sin: Soziolinguistische und sprachtypologische Betrachtungen zur luxemburgischen Mehrsprachigkeit., Tübingen, 1993 (Reihe Germanistische Linguistik 140). ISBN3-484-31140-1
(phrasebook) REMUS, Joscha, Lëtzebuergesch Wort für Wort. Kauderwelsch Band 104. Bielefeld, Reise Know-How Verlag 1997. ISBN3-89416-310-0