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Limburgish edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

(Plat, Lèmbörgs)
Pronunciation [ˈlɛmbœʁʝs], [plɑt]
Spoken in  Netherlands (Limburg)

 Belgium (in the province of Limburg and also in some villages in the northeast of the Walloon province of Liege)

 Germany (adjacent parts)

Region NL-LimburgVlag.svg Limburg (Netherlands)

Vlaams-limburg.png Limburg (Belgium)

Total speakers 1,600,000 (est.)
Language family Indo-European
Writing system Latin
Official status
Official language in the Netherlands (as a regional language); no official status in Belgium or Germany
Regulated by Veldeke Limburg, Raod veur 't Limburgs
Language codes
ISO 639-1 li
ISO 639-2 lim
ISO 639-3 lim
Position of Limburgish (orange) among the other minority languages, regional languages and dialects in the Benelux

Limburgish, or Limburgian or Limburgic (Dutch: Limburgs, German: Limburgisch, French: Limbourgeois) is a group of East Low Franconian language varieties spoken in the Limburg and Rhineland regions, near the common Dutch / Belgian / German border. The area in which it is spoken roughly fits within a wide circle from Venlo to Düsseldorf to Aachen to Maastricht to Hasselt and back to Venlo.
It is generally used as the colloquial language in daily speech. As such, it is used on a wider scale than an average dialect would be.

Limburgish is not to be confused with 'Limburgish Dutch', which denotes the accent of standard Dutch spoken by Limburgish people in the Dutch province of Limburg.



The name Limburgish (and variants of it) derive from the now Belgian town of Limbourg (Laeboer in Limburgish, IPA: /ˈlæːbuʁ/), which was the capital of the Duchy of Limburg during the Middle Ages. Limburgian people usually call their language Plat, the same as Low Germans do. This plat basically means: 'not elevated', 'ordinary' or even 'vulgar', as opposed to High in High German. The word can also be associated with platteland ('countryside'). The general Dutch term for the language of ordinary people in former ages was Dietsch, or Duutsch, as it still exists in the term Low Dietsch (Plattdütsch).

Linguistic versus societal status

Limburgish has been recognised as a regional language (Dutch: streektaal) in the Netherlands since March 1997. As such, it receives moderate protection under chapter 2 of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. It has been argued especially by the Dutch Language Union that this recognition was highly motivated and done more on sociolinguistic than purely linguistic grounds (Welschen 2000–2005). However, Limburgish has many distinctive features in comparison with other neighbouring Low Franconian varieties, such as Hollandic, Brabantian and South Guelderish.

Form and history

Limburgish is far from being homogeneous, i.e. it has numerous varieties instead of one single standard form. However, between 1995 and 1999 a more uniform standard form called AGL (Algemeen Geschreven Limburgs, "Generally written Limburgish") was developed and proposed, but it found too little support[1].

Except for Southeast Limburgish, Modern Limburgish descends from the dialects that formed the offspring of Old Low Franconian in the Early Middle Ages. Only Dutch has become a standard language on the West European continent since the High Middle Ages. The history of Limburgish is at least as long as that of other Low Franconian dialects, of which some eventually yielded standard Dutch. Being a variety of Low Franconian descent, Limburgish is overarched by two succeeding standard languages (Dachsprachen), which are Dutch in Belgium and the Netherlands, and German in Germany. However, it has more genetic relationship with Dutch than with German.

With regards to linguistic distance from national languages, Limburgish has a considerable distance with regards to phonology, morphology and lexicon from Standard Dutch[2]. However, research into some specific variants seems to indicate a gradual process of development towards the national standardised Dutch, especially amongst younger generations (see also dialect levelling).[3].

Limburgish has no real written tradition, except for its early beginnings. Hendrik van Veldeke wrote in a Middle Limburgish dialect[4].

Limburgish and Meuse-Rhenish

It is common to consider the Limburgish varieties as belonging to the Low Franconian languages. In the past, however, all these Limburgish dialects were sometimes seen as West Central German, part of High German. This difference is caused by a difference in definition: the latter stance defines a High German variety as one that has taken part in any of the first three phases of the High German consonant shift. In German sources, the dialects linguistically counting as Limburgish spoken to the east of the river Rhine are called Bergish (named after the former Duchy of Berg). West of the river Rhine they are called "Low Rhenish", which is considered a transitional zone between Low-Franconian and Ripuarian. Thus, former German linguists tended to call these dialects Low German, whereas, as a matter of fact, they are closer to Dutch than to German. Limburgish is spoken in a major part of the German Lower Rhine area. At the Rhine near Duisburg, it adjoins a smaller strip of other Low Franconian varieties called Bergish. This strip stretches rather deeply eastward off the right bank of the Rhine.

Limburgish is not recognised by the German government as an official language. Limburgish is spoken in a considerable part of the German Lower Rhine area, in what linguistically (though not in any sense politically) could be called German Limburg. This area extends from the border regions of Cleves, Aachen, Viersen and Heinsberg, stretching out to the Rhine river. Modern linguists, both in the Netherlands and in Germany, now often combine these distinct varieties with the Cleves dialects (Kleverländisch). This super-ordinating group of Low Franconian varieties (between the rivers Meuse and Rhine) is called Meuse-Rhenish (Dutch: Maas-Rijnlands, Welschen 2002), or in German: Rheinmaasländisch. Both Limburgish and Low Rhenish belong to this greater Meuse-Rhine area, building a large group of southeastern Low Franconian dialects, including areas in Belgium, the Netherlands and the German Northern Rhineland. The northwestern part of this triangle came under the influence of the Dutch standard language, especially since the founding of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815. At the same time, the southeastern portion became part of the Kingdom of Prussia, and was subject to High German language domination. At the dialectal level however, mutual understanding is still possible far beyond both sides of the national borders (Welschen 2002).


Qualifying the use of Limburgish in Germany and Belgium

The Meuse-Rhenish dialects can be divided into Northern and Southern varieties. Hence, Limburgish is Southwestern Meuse-Rhenish as spoken in Belgium, the Netherlands and the German Lower Rhine. The Northeastern Meuse-Rhenish dialects as spoken in the Netherlands and in Germany (a little eastward along the Rhine) are unambiguously Low Franconian and can be considered as Dutch. Limburgish straddles the borderline between 'Low Franconian' and 'Middle Franconian' varieties. These Southwestern Meuse-Rhenish dialects are more-or-less mutually intelligible with the Ripuarian dialects, but show fewer 'High German shifts' (R. Hahn 2001). To what degree Limburgish actually is spoken in Germany today remains a matter of debate. Depending on the city in these parts of Germany, 50% to 90% of the population speak a local or regional form of Meuse-Rhenish, which is either Limburgish or Bergish, according to A. Schunck 2001. However, this percentage seems to be a clear overestimation, as far as the German situation is concerned[citation needed]. The same holds true for his estimation of the Belgian situation[citation needed].

Dutch and Belgian Limburgish

Limburgish is spoken by approximately 1,600,000 people in the Low Countries and by many hundreds of thousands in Germany. The varieties of Limburgish spoken within Flemish (Belgian) territory are more influenced by French than those spoken on Dutch and German soil are[citation needed]. The language has similarities with both German and Dutch and Hendrik van Veldeke, a medieval writer from the region, is referred to as both one of the earlier writers in German and one of the earliest writers in Dutch.

Subdivisions of Limburgish

Language/dialect family model


Noord-Limburgs (ik-Limburgs) is the common name for a group of dialects spoken from Venlo upward to the North in the Dutch province of Limburg which share a lot of features with both the Zuid-Gelders and Brabantian dialect and are closer to Standard Dutch than the more southern language varieties. It is this kind of Limburgish which is used for example by Jack Poels in his song texts written for Rowwen Hèze.

Centraal-Limburgs is a concept used in Germany, which includes the area around Maastricht, Sittard, Roermond, the eastern half of Belgian Limburg, and the Belgian Voeren area, and stretches further Northeast. Belgian linguists use a more refined classification. They use the term Oost-Limburgs for the form of Limburgish spoken in an area from Belgian Voeren south of Maastricht in the Netherlands to the German border. For them, West-Limburgs is the variety of Limburgish spoken around Hasselt, Veldeke and Tongeren in Belgium. It includes areas in Dutch Limburg (like Ool, Maria Hoop and Montfort) and Dutch Brabant. The border of West-Limburgs and Oost-Limburgs starts a little south of the area between the villages of 's-Gravenvoeren and Sint-Martens-Voeren in the Belgian municipality of Voeren.

Südostniederfränkisch is a concept used in Germany to describe the linguistic situation in a large area in Germany around Heinsberg, Viersen, Mönchengladbach and Krefeld. An area close to Westphalia is considered as being the area where Bergisch is spoken. This area is limited roughly by a line Düsseldorf-Mettmann-Solingen-Remscheid. For a more encompassing view, see the article on Low Rhenish.

Southeast Limburgish (Zuidoost-Limburgs) is spoken around Kerkrade, Bocholtz and Vaals in the Netherlands, Aachen in Germany and Raeren and Eynatten in Belgium, in Germany considered as Ripuarian, not always as Limburgish. According to a contemporary vision, all varieties in a wider half circle some 15 to 20 KM around Aachen, including 2/3 of Dutch South Limburg and also the so-called Low Dietsch area between Voeren and Eupen in Belgium, can be taken as a group of its own, which recently has been named Limburgish of the Three Countries Area (Dutch: Drielandenlimburgs, German: Dreiländerplatt), referring to the place where the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany meet. Its concept was introduced by Ad Welschen, mainly based on research by Jean Frins (2005, 2006). This variety still possesses interesting syntactic idiosyncrasies, probably dating from the period in which the old Duchy of Limburg existed.

If only tonality is to be taken as to define this variety, it stretches several dozen KM into Germany. In Germany, it is consensus to class it as belonging to High German varieties. But this is a little over-simplified. In order to include this variety properly a more encompassing concept is needed. The combination of Meuse-Rhenish and Ripuarian, including their overlapping transitional zones of Southeast Limburgish and Low Dietsch, will do.


The phonology below is based on the variety of West-Limburgs spoken in Montfort.


Bilabial Labiodental Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Stop p b t d ɖ c k ɡ ʔ
Approximant w ð j
Fricative f v s z ʃ ʒ ç ʝ x ɣ h ɦ
Trill r
Lateral approximant ɫ,l ʎ

/ɡ/ may not show up in the Hasselt dialect, but is well known in other Limburgish dialects, e.g. zègke (Dutch: zeggen) "to say".

Other Limburgish dialects also have the following sounds: /x/ (daag); /ɣ/ (ach, interjection); /ç/ (chemisch); /c/ (landj); /ɲ/ (tenj, teeth).

Instead of /w/ /β̞/ is used in Belgian Limburgish.

Overall, Limburgish dialects tend to have more consonants than Standard Dutch. They also tend to have more vowels.



Front Central Back
Close i iː y yː u uː
Near-close ɪ
Close-mid e eː ø øː oː o
Mid ə ɔ
Open-mid ɛ ɛː œ œː œ̃ː ɔː ɔ̃ː
Near-open æ æ̃ː
Open a aː ɑ ɑː ɑ̃ː

/ə/ only occurs in unstressed syllables.

/øː œː uː/ are realised as [øə œə uə] before alveolar consonants.


The diphthongs /iə øɪ eɪ æɪ uɪ ɔɪ aɪ ou/ occur, as well as combinations of /uː ɔː ɑː/ + /j/. /aɪ/ only occurs in French loanwords and interjections.

/ou/ is realized as [oə] before alveolar consonants, and /eɪ/ is realized as [eə] or [ejə] before


Like some other European languages, Limburgish has a pitch accent, having two different accents used in stressed syllables to distinguish words. Despite being sometimes called a "tone" (Limburgish toen), this feature is not an example of a proper tone system, like in Chinese languages or most African languages, among others. Other European pitch accent languages are Lithuanian, Livonian, Swedish, Norwegian, some dialects of Slovenian, and the Yugoslav languages Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian.

Limburgish distinguishes two pitch accents on stressed syllables, traditionally known as sjtoettoen ("pushing tone") and sjleiptoen ("dragging tone"). This is used for grammatical distinctions as well as distinguishing words. For example, [daːx˦˨˧] daa~g with sjleiptoen is "a day", while [daːx˦˨] daa\g with sjtoettoen is the plural "days". An example of a lexical difference is [biː˦˨] bie\ with sjtoettoen means "bee", while [biː˦˨˧] bie~ with sjleiptoen means "at".

Other examples include plural

  • [stæɪn˦˨˧] stei~n "stone"
  • [stæɪn˦˨] stei\n "stones"

and lexical

  • [ɡraːf˦˨] "grave"
  • [ɡraːf˦˨˧] "hole next to a road"

Verbs distinguish mood with tone:

  • [weːʁ˦˨˧ˈkɪ˦˨və˧] "We conquer!"
  • [weːʁ˦˨˧ˈkɪ˦˨˧və˧] "May we conquer!"

In some parts of Limburg, the tonal plural is being replaced with the Dutch forms among the younger generation, so that the plural for daag becomes dage ([daːʝə]).


For some nouns, Limburgish uses Umlaut to form the plural. This use of Umlaut is also known in English : man - men ; goose - geese. In most dialects of Limburgish, you will find Umlaut (simulfixes) for some nouns. The more you go to the east, towards Germany, the more you will find plural and diminutive nouns based on Umlaut.

  • broor - breurke - breur (brother - little brother - brothers)
  • sjoon - sjeunke - sjeun (shoe - little shoe - shoes): note this can also be 'sjoon' with sjtoettoen (pushing tone).


See also


  • Bakkes, Pierre (2007: Mofers Waordebook. ISBN 978-90-9022294-3 (Dutch)
  • Cornelissen, Georg (2003). Kleine niederrheinische Sprachgeschichte (1300–1900) : eine regionale Sprachgeschichte für das deutsch-niederländische Grenzgebiet zwischen Arnheim und Krefeld : met een Nederlandstalige inleiding. Geldern / Venray: Stichting Historie Peel-Maas-Niersgebied.  (German)
  • Frins, Jean (2005): Syntaktische Besonderheiten im Aachener Dreilãndereck. Eine Übersicht begleitet von einer Analyse aus politisch-gesellschaftlicher Sicht. Groningen: RUG Repro [Undergraduate Thesis, Groningen University] (German)
  • Frins, Jean (2006): Karolingisch-Fränkisch. Die plattdůtsche Volkssprache im Aachener Dreiländereck. Groningen: RUG Repro [Master's Thesis, Groningen University] (German)
  • Grootaers, L.; Grauls, J. (1930). Klankleer van het Hasselt dialect. Leuven: de Vlaamsche Drukkerij.  (Dutch)
  • Gussenhoven, C.; Aarts, F. (1999). "The dialect of Maastricht". Journal of the International Phonetic Association 29: 155–166.  (English)
  • Gussenhoven, C.; van der Vliet, P. (1999). "The phonology of tone and intonation in the Dutch dialect of Venlo". Journal of Linguistics 35: 99–135. doi:10.1017/S0022226798007324.  (English)
  • Peters, Jörg (2006). "The dialect of Hasselt". Journal of the International Phonetic Association 36 (1): 117–124. doi:10.1017/S0025100306002428.  (English)
  • Staelens, X. (1989). Dieksjneèèr van 't (H)essels. Nederlands-Hasselts Woordenboek. Hasselt: de Langeman.  (Dutch)
  • Welschen, Ad 2000-2005: Course Dutch Society and Culture, International School for Humanities and Social Studies ISHSS, Universiteit van Amsterdam.

External links

Limburgish edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


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