Luxembourgish: Mutual intelligibility with other Germanic languages and French

Discussion in 'Other Languages' started by terredepomme, Jun 11, 2011.

  1. terredepomme Senior Member

    Human Language

    I am curious about the degree of difficulty of learning the Luxembourgish language.
    Compared to Dutch or Swiss German, is it easier or harder for German speakers?
    Also, would knowing French help?
  2. kloie Senior Member

    It is easier for anyone that speaks another germanic language not that i know much about luxembourgish. just my opinion
  3. Juan Jacob Vilalta

    Juan Jacob Vilalta Banned

  4. terredepomme Senior Member

    Human Language
    Well yes I know it is Germanic, but what I wanted to know was how much it is close to Hochdeutsch compared to other Germanic languages or German dialects. Is there mutually intelligibility?(In speech or in writing?)
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2011
  5. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Australia English
    According to Wikipedia "Luxembourgish belongs to the West Central German group of High German languages and is the primary example of a Moselle Franconian language"

    As a foreigner who has learned some German, I have no real trouble working out the meaning of this piece:

    Bä menjer Luxemburg Ris vum lietzten Johr hat ech än der Luxemburgensia Beachhondlung än Luxemburg Stadt erfueren, dat et noch nichen noa Eusgow gew.

    I presume that the equivalent in German would be:
    Bei meiner Luxemburgischen Reise von letzen Jahr hab ich in der Luxemburgischen Buchhandlung in Luxemburg Stadt erfunden, dass es noch nicht neue Ausgaben gibt.
  6. terredepomme Senior Member

    Human Language
    From what I see, it is basically a German dialect sanctioned as a seperate language with a standard writing system for nationalist reasons, while other dialects like Swiss german did not, am I right?
  7. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    The comparison is fitting. Swiss German is about as distant from Standard German as Lëtzebuergesch. The difference is that the German speaking Swiss have not (yet) chosen to develop a common written standard language out of their dialects but rather maintained Standard German as written language.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2011
  8. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Australia English

    Considering the wide variety of different Swiss dialects, and how each dialect is associated with cantonal identity, could they ever come to an agreement on a common standard?

    Canton X and Canton Y would rather use Schriftdeutsch than adopt Canton Z's dialect.
  9. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    An obvious candidate would be the Zürich-Basel mixture use on TV which is already now something like a de-facto standard.
  10. CapnPrep Senior Member

    Good for you ;), but that is not Luxembourgish.
  11. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Indeed, it is Siwweberjisch Sächsesch. It is a closely related Moselle-Franconian dialect, though it is spoken in a completely different part of the continent. Hence, the confusion doesn't really matter.;)
  12. CapnPrep Senior Member

    It matters a little bit, because you all were talking about the standard written form of Luxembourgish, and this quotation is definitely not an example of that.
  13. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Not much, really. The question was how easy it is for a German speaker or a someone familiar with standard German to understand Lëtzebuergesch without being familiar the the language or its written standard.
  14. CapnPrep Senior Member

    Whatever you say :rolleyes:. Although the OP rather clearly asks "In speech or in writing?" and was the first to bring up the "standard writing system".

    Anyway, it would be a shame to have no example of standard written Luxemburgish in this thread.
    And just for fun, here's a passage written in the earlier orthography, introduced in 1946:
  15. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    The current 1976 orthography is much more oriented towards standard German spelling. It corresponds more or less how a German speaker would naively transcribe the words. Take e.g. the word /ʃraɪʋə/ or /ʃraɪʋn̩/ which is written shraive in the above sample of the 1946 orthography and schreiwen in 1976. The latter is exactly how a German would transcribe the word. So, the fact that there is a official standard spelling for Lëtzebuergesch does not significantly influence the ability of Germans to read the language. There is one special grapheme, <ë>, which has no correspondence in standard German. It represents the vowel /ɘ/. Before 1976, this sound was usually transcribed <ö>. In Standard German, this grapheme represents /ø:/ or /œ/. In standard German the phoneme /ɘ/ doesn't exist and German would normally perceive this phoneme as /ø/ or /œ/.​
  16. garethw87 New Member

    French helps massively. Not only because of borrowed words and the fact French is used in Luxembourg but also because there is alot of material in French - Lux. Try Assimil 'Guide de conversation luxembourgeois de poche'

    How ignorant? Just because it sounds or looks like German doesn't mean 'it's' German. Its Luxembourgish that is used by the People of that country.
  17. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    It is not that ignorant. The language is within the normal variability of German dialect. The difference is that they chose to adopt a written standard while speakers of other dialect regions have to resort to standard German for written text. For practical purposes, you find the normal diglossia as in many parts of the German language area: Locals speak their local language among themselves and standard German to speakers from other areas. I never met a Luxembourger who had any problems with that, while I met a lot of Swiss who have.

    That doesn't mean I don't respect Luxembourgish as a separate language. It is that their choice, if they prefer to regard it as a language rather than as a dialect. From a linguistic point of view the distinction doesn't really matter. But it does matter from a sociocultural and from a political perspective. And it is quite obvious that this is what Terredepomme meant, though he maybe formulated it in a ways that may unfortunately be perceived as disparaging.
  18. L'irlandais

    L'irlandais Senior Member

    Dreyeckland/Alsace region
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    That is my experience too. In Basel their is no way that the Zurich dialect (High Alemannic) could ever be sanctioned as the accepted "standard writing system" since they are basically two different dialects. So I can't agree with some of the comments on mutually intelligibility. I'm not convinced that all German native speakers understand Basel German, certainly some I know live many years in that city without ever speaking a word of dialect.

    Hi gareth87,
    I speak fluent french & my German is of B1/B2 level (so I'm familiar with standard German) and I personnaly understand precious little Swiss German / Milhüsa Alsatian (Low Alemannic)
  19. Wynn Mathieson

    Wynn Mathieson Senior Member

    Castell-nedd Port Talbot
    English - United Kingdom
    If you want to get a "feel" for Luxembourgish, I'd suggest you try listening to Radio 100,7 -- -- the Grand Duchy's "socio-cultural" radio channel. Occasional items (sometimes even whole programmes) can be in French or German -- but that's par-for-the-course in Luxembourg: newspapers there, too, can jump between languages on the same page. (The station's website BTW, if it's written Luxembourgish you're interested in, also provides much interesting reading material.)

    Personally, I find Luxembourgish a little, but not a lot, harder to follow than the kind of Schwyzerdütsch -- to cite another non-Hochdeutsch example -- that's normally to be heard on "Alemannic" Swiss radio (SRF1 etc.), but on the other hand the fact that Luxembourgish is so liberally larded with standard French words (especially for "administrative language" / officialese) makes talk about politics and institutions that much more comprehensible to those who already have French.

    Nevertheless, Luxembourgish remains a thoroughly Germanic language au fond, so that if you're going to start from a prior knowledge of either of the two, an acquaintance with German rather than one with French is going to be far more valuable to anyone setting out to study Luxembourgish, in my opinion.

    Sometimes I wonder if the situation of Luxembourgish -- a Germanic language that has been loaded with a great deal of (chiefly official/administrative) French -- doesn't closely resemble that of English following the Norman conquest.
  20. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    "Eng Nationalsprooch brauch eng offiziell unerkannten Orthographie, fir kënne kloer geschriwwen, gelies an enseignéiert ze ginn. Dës orthographesch Regele gëllt et méigleschst kohärent ze presentéieren, fir datt jiddweree se léieren an uwenne kann."

    This is German, with standard High German syntax and word order (apart only from “kënne” in the first sentence) in a local orthography and some local vocabulary substitution. You can translate it (with the exception mentioned) word for word into High German.
  21. Roel~ Member

    Nederlands - Nederland
    My first language is Dutch and I can very well understand German. Sometimes I listen to the Luxembourgish tv and I have never learned Luxembourgish. I can understand quite some things of what they say, but understanding 50%? No, it's very hard to understand it without having learned it. After WW II Luxembourg changed their dialect so much that it became a seperate language, with a lot of influence from French. When I couldn't speak and understand French it was much harder to understand Luxembourgish. Luxembourg used a lot of words from French to make their language sound less German, what is the reason that being able to speak French will help you learning Luxembourgish and make it easier, in contrast to what somebody here said who claimed that French won't help.
  22. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    USA Northeast
    What I find extremely daunting are that the vowels are almost always different between a Lëtzebuergesch and a German word, and there doesn't seem no visible pattern at all to help.
    Béier - Bier
    Botter - Butter
    Braut - Brot
    Bréck - Brücke
    Bréissel - Brüssel
    Éeer - Eier
    Geméis - Gemüse
    Hunnech - Honig
    Jo - Ja
    Kanner - Kinder
    Kéis - Käse
    Kraider - Kräuter
    Mellech - Milch
    Mount - Monat
    Ness - Nüsse
    Uebst - Obst
    Pabéier - Papier
    Rendfleesch - Rindfleisch
    Schwéng - Schweine
    Strooss - Strasse
    Téi - Tee
    Ueleg - Öl
    Wäin - Wein
    Zwëschent - Zwischen
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2016
  23. HilfswilligerGenosse Senior Member

    German, High German
    Yes. Not to disrespect Letzebuergisch, but it shows why they say that "a language is basically a dialect with an army" - and separate orthography.

    Probably, for Northern Germans from the "Waterkant", the mutual intelligibility of Letzebuergisch might well not be significantly lower than of dialects in parts of (rural) Bavaria or Switzerland...
  24. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    For a Northern German, Lëtzebuergesch is clearly easier to understand than Bavarian or Swiss German.
  25. Olaszinhok Senior Member

    Central Italy
    What are the main differences between Luxembourgish and standard German from a morphological point of view? I mean, are there differences in the use of cases, noun-gender, articles, verb tenses? Thank you in advance.
  26. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    USA Northeast
    There are three cases: nominative, accusative, and dative, but nominative and accusative have the same forms:
    Definite articles: nominative/accusative-- de(n) [masculine], d' [feminine, neuter, and plural]. The "n" is added if the next letter is a vowel or n,d,t,z,h. dative-- dem [mas], der [fem], dem [neut], de(n). Same rule for adding "n".
    Indefinite articles: nominative/accusative-- e(n) [mas], eng [fem], e(n) [neutre], eng or nothing [plural]. Same rule for adding "-n". dative-- engem [mas], enger [fem], engem [neutre], enger or nothing [plural].
    Masculine adjectives always add "-e", Feminine add "-r" in the dative, Neuter add "-t" in nominative/accusitve and "n" in "dative", plurals always add "-n" when placed before the noun they modify.
    The words of Germanic origin seem to have the same gender as German, those of Romance origin like French

    Subject pronouns:
    Ech (I), de (you familiar), hie(n)/e(n) (he), se (she), et (it), mir/mer (we), dir/der (you plural), Dir/Der (you polite), se (them)

    Verbs: Present tense regular conjugation is to drop the "n" of infinitive, and add nothing for Ech, -s for De, -t for "hien/en, se, et" and "dir/der", "-n" or "-nn" for "mir/mer" and "se". Preterite has been replaced with present perfect and only a few verbs have a conjugation.
    Future and present have merged. Conditional is formed with the auxiliary verb "ginn" and the infinitive which also means "give". The passive is formed with "ginn" and the past participle.
    Some irregular verbs: soen (to say), wëssen (to know), daërfen (to be able to), doen (to do), verstoen (to understand), ginn (to give, to become, auxiliary be), hunn (to have), fuéren (to go).

    In general this language seems to me more simplified than German, but complicated to learn for someone having studied German because everything is a little different. Even more difficult for someone who hasn't yet mastered German!
    The use of a French word in pretty much every sentence makes it easier to understand, but it's hard to know which French word has been adapted officially, which has a Luxembourgish doublet, and which are only optionally thrown in for personal taste.
    "Wou ass de Pierre? E gëtt malade sinn." (Where is Pierre? He got sick.)
    "Monsieur, Dir hutt un d'Vacanz geduecht." (Sir, you thought about the vacation.)

    This should get you started. Information taken from Assimil "Luxembourgeois de poche"
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2017

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