Luxenbourgish

shawnee

Senior Member
English - Australian
Currently watching 'Capitani' on Netflix. The language used throughout is Luxenbourgish. My first experience of this language; wow! What a linguistic feast. As the story isn't so good I spend my time trying to follow the interweaving of German (I don't speak German but know it when I hear it of course) and French and what seems to be another element as well or it maybe the corruptions of parts both in the mix. The only word I've latched on to for the present is 'moyen' which I thought to be a corruption of 'morgen; but I see it used as hello as well but I guess that's not so strange. What's my question? What else should I look out for when trying to encode this language into my linguistic landscape?
 
  • Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Luxembourgish is not so much an interweaving of French and German, but a variety of High German which has lots of French loanwords. Whilst Luxembourgish is in a dialect continuum with other varieties of High German it is not mutually intelligible with all other varieties of High German. Each variety of High German is a separate development from an older form of German and none of them is in any sense a corruption of any other form of High German including Standard German.

    In the tree model Luxembourgish is (according to Ethnologue) classified as follows: Indo-European›Germanic›West›High German›German›Middle German›West Middle German›Moselle Franconian›Luxembourgish

    The wave model will be more complex showing the influence of French and other varieties of German.
     

    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    Moin is also used in German.

    Luxembourgish doesn't seem to have more French loanwords than Southern Dutch (Flemish) dialects or even English.
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    It is the same German dialect spoken across the border in Germany and part of France (where it is called Francique). Do not say to a Luxembourger that it is a German dialect though or you will have a sworn enemy for life! I tried to get familiar with Lëtzebuergesch because I often go to Luxembourg and at one time wanted to work there. Knowing German doesn't help so much as there are many differences, and it can be confusing. Actually in a way it seems closer to Dutch. I now know the reason is because it doesn't have the consonant shift that standard German had. I learned that in this forum. You see p and t where there is f and s in German, for example. Lëtzebuergesch has now been officially standardized with its own grammar and spelling. G is pronounced like y. That's why hello is moyen. I think the spelling has been conceived so the language looks less like German. Sometimes I stare at a word and then realize after a minute what the German equivalent could be. The language has lots of accent marks like French, and double vowels or consonants like Dutch. If you want to read it look here.

    There are a lot of loans from French, but more than that there is code-switching. You'll hear people start a sentence in Lëtzebuergesch and then switch to French in midstream and then go back into Lëtzebuergesch. The reason is French is the official language, everyone speaks it, all signs are in French, and it's the lingua franca too, not Lëtzebuergesch. There are so many immigrants, and cross-border workers, it's probably the minority language now. If you go into a shop, business or restaurant people speak to you automatically in French as if you were in France. The conversation can go on in French even if both parties are from Luxembourg because they don't know each other. If they hear Lëtzebuergesch they'll usually speak it. But people in the country are linguistically laid back compared to its neighbors. They don't care. People feel free to speak in any language and immigrants continue speaking the language of their home country with no problem. You can speak English, German or Italian too and they'll try to accommodate you.
     
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    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    I wonder why Moselle Franconian standardized as a language of its own in Luxembourg while Austro-Bavarian didn't in Austria or Alemannic didn't in Switzerland or Liechtenstein. Is Central Franconian perceived as more distant than Upper German from a linguistic point of view or is it mainly due to sociohistorical reasons?
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    It's down to political factors, surely? Luxembourg is an independent state and as such Luxembourgish developed gradually as a standard. This is not the case elsewhere (and High German has always been the "written language" for other dialects; older Alsatians often call it "Schriftdeutsch").
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Absolutely. Declaring a dialect a language is a political and not a linguistic decision. (Most of you probably know the famous definition "A language is a dialect with an army and a navy"). Until 200 years ago Dutch was considered a German dialect. The English still call it "Dutch", which means "German".
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    It's down to political factors, surely? Luxembourg is an independent state and as such Luxembourgish developed gradually as a standard. This is not the case elsewhere

    That's precisely why I ask. Switzerland, Austria and Liechtenstein are also independent states.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    That's precisely why I ask. Switzerland, Austria and Liechtenstein are also independent states.
    In my previous post
    Absolutely. Declaring a dialect a language is a political and not a linguistic decision. (Most of you probably know the famous definition "A language is a dialect with an army and a navy"). Until 200 years ago Dutch was considered a German dialect. The English still call it "Dutch", which means "German".
    the keyword is decision. It is a choice not something you can deduce for objective characteristics.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    But Luxembourg as a nation state is a modern creation. The old duchy was partitioned when Belgium was created, then the independent part was in personal union with the Netherlands till 1890. So it was effectively a subordinate province till recently. Was the standardization of the local language done only since then?
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    That's precisely why I ask. Switzerland, Austria and Liechtenstein are also independent states.

    Right but High German has long fulfilled the role of "standard" in those countries. Luxembourg wanted to mark its distinctiveness from Germany in the post-WWII era, if I've understood correctly. In any event, one of the major papers in Luxembourg is still written in High German.

    wort.lu - Deutsche Ausgabe

    Edit: As berndf said.
     

    Perseas

    Senior Member
    Currently watching 'Capitani' on Netflix. The language used throughout is Luxenbourgish. My first experience of this language; wow! What a linguistic feast. As the story isn't so good I spend my time trying to follow the interweaving of German (I don't speak German but know it when I hear it of course) and French and what seems to be another element as well or it maybe the corruptions of parts both in the mix.
    I'm watching the same series in German, not Luxembourgish (Lëtzebuergesch). I have tried to listen to some Luxembourgish and I admit that my German helped me to understand some words or short phrases but just that.

    Until 200 years ago Dutch was considered a German dialect. The English still call it "Dutch", which means "German".
    Yes, or until 30 years ago in former Yugoslavia there was only Serbo-Croatian, I think. Now there are more languages in the same region.
     
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    shawnee

    Senior Member
    English - Australian
    Thank you all for wealth of information. The code switching is the most apparent aspect of the dialogue in said show; about three times per sentence. But that probably is not code switching. Then there is the weighting towards French or German depending on who is being spoken to. And that probably is code switching. The language, and what I can make of it, is definitely more entertaining than the show itself.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    It is definitely code switching. Luxembourgish and German is the language of primary education and French of secondary education. French is the language of the grand ducal family and Luxembourgish the language of the rest of the native population. On the other hand, French is also the language of most of the cross border commuters, which means that most salesperson in shops and waiters in restaurants only speak French. Hence, public life at least in Luxembourg city happens in French, which locals sometimes find annoying as they have to adapt to foreigners and not foreigners to their guest country. But by and large, it is normal for people to switch between at least three languages in their daily lives.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Yes, or until 30 years ago in former Yugoslavia there was only Serbo-Croatian, I think. Now there are more languages in the same region.

    One may wryly observe that every time a new country emerges so does a new language. The number of varieties of language in the former Yugoslavia has not increased, it is just that we hear about more languages which match the names of states - not that in the case of Yugoslavia Serbo-Croatian ever matched the name of a state.
     

    Perseas

    Senior Member
    One may wryly observe that every time a new country emerges so does a new language. The number of varieties of language in the former Yugoslavia has not increased, it is just that we hear about more languages which match the names of states - not that in the case of Yugoslavia Serbo-Croatian ever matched the name of a state.

    Of course, there was a number of varieties of languages in former Yugoslavia, but the fact that those varieties became official languages had to do with the new countries that emerged there after 1990. My point was what berndf said in #9.
    Declaring a dialect a language is a political and not a linguistic decision.
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    In what sense? Surely Dutch already had developed their own standard which was the one in use in the Netherlands.
    German was always a macro language with several sub-standards. A unified standard register based on the Saxon chancery standard developed during the 18th century. That is also the time when Dutch started to seen as a separate language and not as a variety of German, and was called Nederlands and not Nederduits any more, which now is a Dutch word (beside Nedsaksisch, which excludes eastern dialects) for Low German.

    Modern scientific classifications distinguish between Dutch, Low German and High German as languages and not as dialects groups within a unified dialect continuum. But that is a retrospect and in to some extend artificial definition.
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    In what sense? Surely Dutch already had developed their own standard which was the one in use in the Netherlands.

    As far as English is concerned, the word dutch used to be applied to the "Dutch" and Germans equally for they were part of a single continuum for the average English-speaker. Over the course of the 17th century, Dutch gradually applied solely to those residing in the Netherlands because the English had frequent commercial contacts (and wars) with that country. But the distinction between the Dutch and the Germans took a long while to get set in the minds of Englishmen.

    The Online Etymological Dictionary has the following to say:

    The sense in of the adjective in English narrowed to "of the Netherlands" in 17c., after they became a united, independent state and the focus of English attention and rivalry. In Holland, Duits (formerly duitsch) is used of the people of Germany. The old use of Dutch for "German" continued in America (Irving and Cooper still distinguish High Dutch "German" and Low Dutch "Dutch") and survives in Pennsylvania Dutch for the descendants of religious sects that immigrated from the Rhineland and Switzerland and their language.

    dutch | Origin and meaning of the name dutch by Online Etymology Dictionary
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    The sense in of the adjective in English narrowed to "of the Netherlands" in 17c., after they became a united, independent state and the focus of English attention and rivalry. In Holland, Duits (formerly duitsch) is used of the people of Germany. The old use of Dutch for "German" continued in America (Irving and Cooper still distinguish High Dutch "German" and Low Dutch "Dutch") and survives in Pennsylvania Dutch for the descendants of religious sects that immigrated from the Rhineland and Switzerland and their language.
    And still even.... I've heard in rural America people say "Dutchman" when they mean German(-American). So, when I pass a place called The Old Dutch Tavern, I have doubts. Pennsylvania Dutch is definitely a German dialect.
    This is not used by young urban educated people or in any official capacity.
     

    Dymn

    Senior Member
    German was always a macro language with several sub-standards. A unified standard register based on the Saxon chancery standard developed during the 18th century. That is also the time when Dutch started to seen as a separate language and not as a variety of German, and was called Nederlands and not Nederduits any more, which now is a Dutch word (beside Nedsaksisch, which excludes eastern dialects) for Low German.
    Didn't however those sub-standards strive to be understood throughout all German-language territories (including the Low Countries or not)? Whereas the Dutch standard was only for use within the United Provinces.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Didn't however those sub-standards strive to be understood throughout all German-language territories (including the Low Countries or not)? Whereas the Dutch standard was only for use within the United Provinces.
    That is again a very much a retrospect perspective based on modern (i.e. 18th century and after) languages. After the demise of the Hanseatic League, Dutch played in important role in many areas of Northern Germany as well. On the other hand, "standards" (in as far as it made sense to talk of them at that time) were designed for a specific purpose, to serve as chancery and literary languages in certain courts or as a business language in trade federations, etc. From a purely linguistic point of, lumping Central and Upper German dialect into a single umbrella term High German but leasing Low German separate seems quite arbitrary and can only be explained politically. Equally, the Frankish dialects continuum could have sensibly been divided differently. In some respects, Flemish and Limburgish has more to do with Moselle Frankish and Ripuarian then with the dialects of Holland while Nierderrheinisch (Xanten area) is certainly closer to Dutch than to any other dialect of Germany.

    Of course, today the overwhelming influence of the established standard languages have torn the dialects apart. Flemish and Limburgish are now undoubtedly closer to Dutch as spoken in Holland than any German dialect and Low German as spoken in the Netherlands sounds like Dutch while Low German as spoken in Germany sounds like German.
     

    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    Actually in a way it seems closer to Dutch. I now know the reason is because it doesn't have the consonant shift that standard German had. I learned that in this forum. You see p and t where there is f and s in German, for example.
    This is not really true. Luxembourgish had most of the High German consonant shifts.

    English - Dutch - Luxembourgish - German

    water - water - Waasser - Wasser
    sleeping - slapen - schlofen - schlafen
    making - maken - maachen - machen
    cat - kat - Kaz - Katze
    tame - tam - zam - zahm
    bridge - brug - Bréck - Brücke
    rib - rib - Rëpp - Rippe
    snow - sneeuw - Schnéi - Schnee

    In all of these examples, Dutch forms a pair with English and Luxembourgish with German.

    Yes, or until 30 years ago in former Yugoslavia there was only Serbo-Croatian, I think. Now there are more languages in the same region.
    Yugoslavia was trilingual: Slovene, Serbo-Croatian, Macedonian. Serbo-Croatian split into 4 languages.
    In some respects, Flemish and Limburgish has more to do with Moselle Frankish and Ripuarian then with the dialects of Holland while Nierderrheinisch (Xanten area) is certainly closer to Dutch than to any other dialect of Germany.

    Of course, today the overwhelming influence of the established standard languages have torn the dialects apart. Flemish and Limburgish are now undoubtedly closer to Dutch as spoken in Holland than any German dialect and Low German as spoken in the Netherlands sounds like Dutch while Low German as spoken in Germany sounds like German.
    What does Flemish have in common with Moselle Frankish that differ from Hollandic? I can't think of anything. The complete lack of umlaut and High German consonant shifts make me think Flemish and Hollandic should be grouped together.

    All dialectal groups in Flanders (Flemish, Brabantian, Limburgish) are also spoken in the Netherlands and Brabantian specifically has had a major influence on Standard Dutch. How much influence did Moselle Frankish have on Standard German? I am inclined to believe that mostly Standard German's is responsible for tearing these dialects apart.

    I agree that Dutch used to be considered a German dialect, but I disagree with the dates. It became a separate language in the eyes of the Flemish when they became part of Spain (1556-1715). This idea only grew when this region became part of Austria. The Northern low countries started calling their dialects a language (Hollandic) starting the middle of the 17th century.
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    The complete lack of umlaut and High German consonant shifts make me think Flemish and Hollandic should be grouped together.
    The e in Dutch zetten is a classical a-umlaut. But I guess you mean only secondary umlauts. There you are right. They are present in both Moselle Frankish and Ripuarian but not in Flemish.

    The lack of the Hugh German consonant shift is typical of all Northern dialects and Ripuarian and Moselle Frankish have only few of them.

    Limburgish was once spoken as far East as Wuppertal and the Ripuarian dialects immediately south of it wasn't much different.
    The Northern low countries started calling their dialects a language (Hollandic) starting the middle of the 17th century.
    I am sure you will find attestations of that as you will find people in absolutely every region of what is now the German speaking area who will explain to you in detail that their own dialect isn't one but a separate language. But you are right that with the Netherlands leaving the Empire in 1648 the relationship between the languages started to shift but nevertheless until the late 18th century it was totally acceptable to speak of Nederduits as a self-reference of the language.
     
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    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    This is a good question. Aside from the possible exception of certain French regional languages, I can't think of any.
    Probably Brusseleir. Like Luxembourgish, those who speak Brusseleir codeswitch with French. However, Luxembourg traditionally had two cultural languages: French and German. Brussels only has one cultural language: French. Dutch is also an official language in Brussels, but it has zero prestige there. When Dutch recently became the cultural language of Flanders again, it was "too little too late" for Brussels already.

    But this might be cheating because the Brusseleir dialect is dying out... I think that's what happens when a language has more French loanwords than English and Luxembourgish: it is doomed to die :eek:
     

    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    What about Albanian?
    It was spoken in Yugoslavia, but it wasn't an official language. I think the Albanians in present-day Kosovo were immigrants. It is also important to note that Serbo-Croatian was co-official in Slovenia and Macedonia, so it functioned as the national language.
     
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    anahiseri

    Senior Member
    Spanish (Spain) and German (Germany)
    (Most of you probably know the famous definition "A language is a dialect with an army and a navy").
    I like that quote, but then I'm afraid it may reassure people who have an incorrect idea of the meaning of "dialect". The words dialect and language are not exclusive. A dialect is a variety; to be more precise, a variety of. What they speak in Vienna is a variety of the standard German, and so is "Plattdeutsch", the German regional variety spoken in the north. You can say that Viennese is a dialect of German, and that German is a dialect of Viennese.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The quote may be considered a response to the question: Is it possible to come up with a purely linguistic definition of "dialect"? The answer most linguists will give range on a scale from "very difficult" to "impossible". One difficulty is that any sort of a definition must be relative because the way the varieties in a given group differ from each may be quite different from the way the varieties in another given group differ from each other. You also have the problem of deciding how different a variety needs to be from another before it is considered a different. There is also the question of where to draw the line between one group of varieties and another.

    Linguists are also known to say: There are no languages, only dialects. That emphasises that dialects are on a continuum. It is though the case that dialects can be collected into coherent groups at some level. Linguists also want to knock on the head any notion that a dialect is a sub-variety or degraded form of a standard language. They will insist that in any group the standard language is just another variety derived with the others from a common ancestor. You can get a problem when you give a group a name. If you say X is a German dialect you have to be clear what you mean by "German". If it is just a label to cover anything considered German including anything considered "Standard German", then it is an abstraction which nobody speaks. If you mean "Standard German" then you are implying that anything considered German other than Standard German is a dialect of Standard German which is far from the case.

    It is fine to say that Viennese is a dialect of German so long as "German" is understood in its widest sense. However, saying that German is a dialect of Viennese does not fit in with any definition of "German" as an umbrella term or with "German" meaning "Standard German".
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    So the German/Luxembourgish speakers can speak French (group 2), but the French speakers can speak little or no German/Luxembourgish (group 3 and 4). Unfortunately, this reminds me of Belgium.
    The difference is that since the cession of the Francophone regions to Belgium first language French speakers are almost all foreigners or immigrants. The native population has almost exclusively Luxembourgish as their first language. With one notably exception: The arch-ducal family. And that gives French its prestige status. That is at least how natives I spoke to explained the situation.

    Another difference is that people in Luxembourg generally accept multi-lingualism while Belgians mostly don't. Two of the three communities of Belgium do their best to ignore that the others exist. The difference is mainly that it is easier for French speakers to ignore that Dutch exists than it is for Dutch speakers to ignore that French exists.
     
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    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    So the German/Luxembourgish speakers can speak French (group 2), but the French speakers can speak little or no German/Luxembourgish (group 3 and 4). Unfortunately, this reminds me of Belgium.
    You know, France is so close, and there is so much traffic back and forth, French speakers on both sides of the border just don't even consider Luxembourg being abroad. It's subconsciously like the same country. I've even been confused sometimes with friends up there. I have to ask, is this town in Luxembourg or France? I used to know when my phone turned off, but now it stays on.
    Now some Luxembourg families are moving to towns in France because they are cheaper. That complicates even more the mix. The whole region is like one big metropolitan area.

    The difference is that since the cession of the Francophone regions to Belgium first language French speakers are almost all foreigners or immigrants. The native population has almost exclusively Luxembourgish as their first language. With one notably exception: The arch-ducal family. And that gives French its prestige status. That is at least how natives I spoke to explained the situation.
    Yes, with one important difference. The native population (Lëtzebuergesch speakers with Luxembourg nationality only) are the minority, especially in Luxembourg City, but even in small towns, there are many Portuguese, Italians, French, Belgiums, etc. living there. There is no "obligation" to seriously learn the national language. Yeah, everyone learns "Moyen. Na gee ma?" but little more. Then when you add the hundreds of thousand cross-border workers you hardly hear Lëtzebuergesch.

    I insist though that there are no linguistic tensions like you might find in Belgium. It is cool. Someone told me a joke recently. What is the difference between a Portuguese immigrant family to France and a Portuguese immigrant family to Luxembourg (they are like 20%)? Answer - in Luxembourg they speak Portuguese.
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    I insist though that there are no linguistic tensions like you might find in Belgium. It is cool.
    :thumbsup: That is what I tried to express by the paragraph I added to my post.

    Edit: There is maybe a slight irritation on the part of natives that they can't go shopping and talk to the salesperson in the local language. But that doesn't seem to be too serious.
     
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