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Limburgan, Limburgian, Limburgic
Limburgs, Lèmburgs
Pronunciation[ˈlɪm˦bʏʀ(ə)çs], [ˈlɛm˦-]
Native toNetherlands



RegionLimburg (Netherlands) Limburg (Belgium)
Native speakers
1.3 million in Netherlands and Belgium[citation needed] (2001)[1]
unknown number in Germany
Early form
Official status
Recognised minority
language in
Netherlands – Statutory provincial language in Limburg Province (1996, Ratification Act, ECRML, No. 136), effective 1997.[2]
Regulated byVeldeke Limburg, Raod veur 't Limburgs
Language codes
ISO 639-1li
ISO 639-2lim
ISO 639-3lim
Glottologlimb1263  Limburgan
Limburgish is classified as Vulnerable by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger.[3]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
A Limburgish speaker, recorded in Slovakia.

Limburgish[a] (Limburgish: Limburgs [ˈlɪm˦bʏʀ(ə)çs] or Lèmburgs [ˈlɛm˦-]; Dutch: Limburgs [ˈlɪmbʏr(ə)xs]; German: Limburgisch [ˈlɪmbʊʁɡɪʃ]; French: Limbourgeois [lɛ̃buʁʒwa]), also called Limburgan,[1][4][a] Limburgian,[1][a] or Limburgic,[1][a] is a West Germanic language spoken in the Dutch and Belgian provinces of Limburg and in the neighbouring regions of Germany (North Rhine-Westphalia).

Although frequently misunderstood as such, Limburgish as a linguistic term does not refer to the regional variety of Dutch spoken in Dutch Limburg and Belgian Limburg. Within the modern communities of the Belgian and Dutch provinces of Limburg, intermediate idiolects are also very common, which combine standard Dutch with the accent and some grammatical and pronunciation tendencies derived from Limburgish. This "Limburgish Dutch" is confusingly also often referred to simply as "Limburgish", although in Belgium such intermediate languages tend to be called tussentaal ("in-between language"), no matter the exact dialect/language with which standard Dutch is combined.

Since Limburgish is still the mother tongue of many inhabitants in the aforementioned region, Limburgish grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation can have a significant impact on the way locals speak Dutch in public life.[5] Limburgish shares vocabulary and grammatical characteristics with both German and Dutch, but has some unique features as well, such as tonality.[6][7]


The name Limburgish (and variants of it) derives only indirectly 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. More directly it is derived from the more modern name of the Province of Limburg (1815–39) in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which has been split today into a Belgian Limburg and a Dutch Limburg. In the area around the old Duchy of Limburg the main language today is French, but there is also a particular cluster of Limburgish (or Limburgish-like, depending on definitions) dialects. The use of Limburgish is first attested at the close of the 19th century.[8]

People from Limburg usually call their language plat, similar as Low German speakers do. This plat refers simply to the fact that the language is spoken in the low plains country, as opposed to the use of "High" in "High German", which are derived from dialects spoken in the more mountainous southerly regions. The word "plat" (which also occurs in for example Plattdütsch, the indigenous term for Low German) is therefore associated both with the platteland (Dutch: "countryside") and can in effect sometimes mean simply "slang" in the sense of any very informal, rustic or locally unique words or expressions.


Limburgish using several definitions.

The term Limburgish can refer to all varieties spoken within either the Belgian or Dutch province of Limburg, the South-East of Flemish Brabant, the North-East of Liège as well as in combination with the adjacent Rhineland region in a Limburgian-Ripuarian context.

  • In everyday speech, Limburgish refers to the varieties spoken in Dutch and Belgian Limburg. It is likewise legally defined through the Dutch recognition of Limburgish as a regional language under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.[9]
  • In a traditional linguistic definition, Limburgish is defined as consisting of the Low Franconian varieties positioned between the Uerdingen and Benrath line.
  • In more recent linguistic publications, some linguists further narrow this traditional definition by defining Limburgish as the dialects between the Uerdingen and Benrath isoglosses marked by pitch accent.[10]

Regardless of the exact definition used, the term Limburgish itself is specific to the Netherlands and Belgium, where it used by linguists and speakers alike and is strongly connected to the cultural and regional identity of the inhabitants of both Belgian and Dutch Limburg. This regional identity is notably absent from the speakers of closely related Low Franconian dialects in adjacent parts of Germany, who do not refer to their local dialects as Limburgish.[11] In German linguistic discourse too, the term is uncommon with German linguists instead tending to use Southern Low Franconian (Ger: Südniederfränkisch) to refer to the same dialect grouping.

Classification and history[edit]

The classification of Limburgish is contended by different national traditions. Dutch dialectology groups Limburgish together with the Hollandic, Brabantic, West Flemish, East Flemish, Zealandic and South Guelderish varieties where Limburgish forms the Low Franconian branch of the West Germanic languages.[12][13][14][15][16][17] Within the context of historical linguistics, Limburgish is regarded as one of the five main dialects of Middle Dutch,[16][18] although this is not considered to be a homogeneous language, but a retrofit definition based on the region where Dutch is currently an official language.[19]

German and French[20] dialectology considers Limburgish part of the Rhenish Fan. Sometimes it is also called a variety of Meuse-Rhenish, especially among German dialectologists. International linguistics considers it in the context of Limburgian-Ripuarian,[21] together with the Ripuarian varieties. The early medieval Limburgish writer Heinrich von Veldeke is claimed by the tradition of both Dutch and German dialectology.[22] Johann Wassenberch from Duisburg was a writer in Limburgish in the 16th century. From the end of the 20th century on, Limburgish has developed a sense of autonomy from the traditional Dutch-German dipole as Limburgish linguists and functionaries consider it explicitly distinct from Dutch and German,[23][24] as affirmed by the Covenant of the Limburgish language [25] which politically decouples Limburgish from Dutch in the eyes of the Dutch government.

Limburgish developed from Old East Low Franconian,[26] which had evolved itself from earlier Weser-Rhine Germanic, a language which had been spoken in the Low Countries on both side of the Roman limes since at least the 4th century. During the High Middle Ages, the dialects which would result in Limburgish were influenced by the High German dialects spoken around the city of Cologne, resulting in certain High German features being absorbed by these varieties. It is the adoption of these phonological traits that resulted in Limburgish being classified as East Low Franconian.

In the past, all Limburgish varieties were therefore sometimes seen as West Central German, part of High German.[27][28] 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. It is nevertheless most common in linguistics to consider Limburgish as Low Franconian.

The traditional terminology can be confusing as the differences between the historical groupings Old West Franconian and Old East Franconian (which mainly concern certain vowel variations and the presence of Ingvaeonic features) is different from the modern modern dialectal dichotomy between Western and Eastern Low Franconian, which is based on the presence or absence of High German features in Low Franconian, which did not occur until the advent of the Middle Dutch period.[29][30] The period of High German influence lasted until the 13th century, after which the Duchy of Brabant extended its power, which resulted in a marked Brabantian influence, first among the western (i.e. spoken up to Genk) Limburgish dialects and then also among the eastern variants.[31]

Currently Limburgish – although being essentially a variety of Low Franconian – still has a considerable distance from Standard Dutch with regards to phonology, morphology and lexicon. Standard Dutch, which developed mostly from West Low Franconian dialects such as Flemish, Brabantic and Hollandic,[32][page needed] serves as the standard language (or Dachsprache) for the Limburgish varieties spoken in the Netherlands and Belgium. The speakers of Limburgish or South Low Franconian dialects in Germany use Standard German as their Dachsprache.

Limburgish and Meuse-Rhenish[edit]

The dialects between and around Meuse and Rhine.

Limburgish is spoken in a considerable part of the German Lower Rhine area. 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 superordinating group of Low Franconian varieties (between the rivers Meuse and Rhine) is called Meuse-Rhenish.

Both Limburgish and Low Rhenish belong to this greater Meuse-Rhine area, building a large group of 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.

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. As discussed above, 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 have been influenced less by the High German consonant shift (R. Hahn 2001).


Limburgish is far from being homogeneous. In other words, it has numerous varieties instead of one single standard form. Between 1995 and 1999, a uniform standard form called AGL (Algemein Gesjreve Limburgs, "Generally written Limburgish") was developed and proposed, but found too little support.[33] Today the so-called "Veldeke-spelling" which was first applied in the 1940s is most of the time used to write in a specific Limburgish dialect.[34] In 2000 the parliament of the province of Dutch Limburg enacted a measure establishing the Limburgish Language Council (Raod veur 't Limburgs), a committee which advises the Parliament of Dutch Limburg on measures in relation to Limburgish. In 2003 the Limburgish Language Council adopted a standard orthography for Limburgish. On the basis of this standard orthography the Limburgish Academy Foundation (Stiechting Limbörgse Academie) is creating Limburgish-Dutch, Limburgish-English, Dutch-Limburgish and English-Limburgish dictionaries.[35]

Contemporary usage[edit]

Limburgish is spoken by approximately 1.6 million people in the Low Countries and by many hundreds of thousands in Germany.[citation needed] It is especially in the Dutch province of Limburg that Limburgish is used not only in everyday speech, but also often in more formal situations and on the local and regional radio.[36] According to a study by Geert Driessen, in 2011 Limburgish was spoken by 54 percent of the adults and 31 percent of the children.[37] Limburgish has no real written tradition, except for its early beginnings. Hendrik van Veldeke wrote in a Middle Limburgish dialect.[38] Especially in the Netherlands, the cultural meaning of the language is also important. Many song texts are written in a Limburgish dialect, for example during Carnival. Jack Poels writes most of his texts for Rowwen Hèze in Sevenums, a local dialect within the Northern Limburgish dialects, which is often wrongly assumed to be part of the Limburgish dialect, since the Northern Limburgs dialect is classified in the greater group of South Guelderish dialects and not in the Limburgish dialects.

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[citation needed]. 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] Moreover, research into some specific variants seems to indicate a gradual process of development towards the national standardised Dutch, especially amongst younger generations.[39] In Belgium, the Limburgish dialects are more endangered than in the Netherlands.[according to whom?]

Linguistic versus societal status[edit]

In March 1997 the Dutch government recognised Limburgish as a regional language (Dutch: streektaal) in the Netherlands. As such, it receives moderate protection under chapter 2 of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

However, it has been argued by some linguists that this recognition was highly politically motivated and done more on sociolinguistic than purely linguistic grounds. In 1999, the Dutch Language Union, the de facto language authority which asserted that it had not been asked for advice, opposed the recognition.[40] From the Limburgish side[vague] it has been argued[according to whom?] that the arguments put forth against the recognition of Limburgish were not based on linguistic considerations, but rather a concern for maintaining the dominance of the Dutch language.

On the other hand, Limburgish has not been recognised by the German and Belgian national governments as an official language so far. An attempt at recognition, made after Limburgish had been recognised in the Netherlands, failed in the Belgian parliament due to Flemish opposition. Because in Belgium political power is divided according to linguistic lines, recognizing Limburgish as an official language would have had considerable constitutional implications and undermine the small majority Flemish speakers hold over Walloon speakers in the Belgian State.[according to whom?]

Subdivisions of Limburgish[edit]

Limburgish is the group divided by the river Rhine between Duisburg and Düsseldorf on this map.

Principal dialects[edit]

The dialect of Venlo is generally considered a transition dialect between East Limburgish and Kleverlandish.


Languages of the Benelux

Südniederfränkisch (South Low Franconian) is a concept used in Germany to describe the Limburgish language of Germany. It is a group spoken in a part of the Bergisches Land Region near Düsseldorf east of the Rhine and in the lower Rhine area between the rivers Rhine and Maas, the latter (called Rheinmaasländisch or Südostniederfränkisch "Southeast Low Franconian") shortly behind the Dutch–German border in the vicinity of Heinsberg and Nettetal. These languages are predominantly seen as belonging to the Limburgish language group.

They were also referred to as the East Limburgish group. It encompasses the varieties of Limburgish spoken in Germany. They are also seen as part of the Meuse-Rhenish language group. Population using one of the languages in the group either name their local variety Bergish (in the Bergisches Land Region only), or Platt, or after their village, town, or city placeer Platt. People from outside the Rhineland often make less distinctions and use the term Rhinelandic for large set of varieties of languages.

The Limburgish group belongs to the Continental West Germanic dialect continuum. As usual inside dialect continua, neighboring languages have a maximum of similarities, and speakers being used to the rather small individual lingual differences in their immediate neighborhood perceive them as close, and familiar, while more distant ones become gradually harder to understand with distance. That ends, in the Dutch–German continuum at least, most often with incomprehensible dialects. Isoglosses are so dense in this area that practically every village or town has its own distinct dialect of Limburgish. Large cities such as Mönchengladbach, Krefeld, and Düsseldorf have several local dialect varieties. The named cities have in common, that they are large enough to in part extend outside the area of the dialect group. Thus each has one or more quarters outside, having vernacular languages belonging to adjacent groups, such as Kleverlandish or Ripuarian.

A few sample South Low Franconian dialects are: Dremmener Platt of Dremmen near Heinsberg, Breyellsch Platt of Breyell in Nettetal, Jlabbacher Platt of central Mönchengladbach, Jriefrother Platt of Grefrath, Viersener Platt of Viersen, Föschelner Platt of Fischeln in Krefeld, Krieewelsch of central Krefeld, Ödingsch of Uerdingen in Krefeld, Düsseldorver Platt of northern and central Düsseldorf, Rotinger Platt of Ratingen, Wülfrother Platt of Wülfrath, Metmannsch Platt of Mettmann, Solinger Platt of Solingen, Remscheder Platt of Remscheid, and many more.

The group combines Low Franconian properties with some Ripuarian properties, such as tonal accents, the pronoun "I" translates as ech or iech, the word "but" most often as awwer, all like Ripuarian. Contrasting, "time" is translated as tied, "to have" mostly as hebbe, "today" as vandag, all typical for Low Franconian.

An area close to Westphalia called Bergisches Land is considered to be the area where Bergisch is spoken. This area is limited roughly by a line DüsseldorfMettmannSolingenRemscheid.

Noord-Limburgs (also called ik-Limburgs) is the Dutch term for a group of dialects spoken north of the Uerdingen line, i.e. from just south of Venlo upward to the North in the Dutch province of Limburg. These dialects share many features with both the Zuid-Gelders and Brabantian dialects and are closer to Standard Dutch than the more southern language varieties (see e.g. Hoppenbrouwers 2001). The term Noord-Limburgs is used by Jo Daan for the entire province north of the Uerdingen line, whereas other linguists use it only for the part that has tonality, the language north of this region then being considered Kleverlandish.

The north border of the Limburgish tonality zone lies a little north of Arcen and Horst aan de Maas and just above the meej/mich isogloss, also known as the "mich-kwartier". This makes this Limburgish isogloss the northernmost of all. Venlo lies between the meej/mich isogloss and the Uerdingen line, so the Venlo dialect is the only one with both forms ik and mich/dich. All dialects in the Dutch province of Limburg spoken north of the tonality border are South Guelderish in linguistic respect.

The dialects spoken in the most southeastern part of the Dutch province of North Brabant (i.e. in and around Budel and Maarheeze) also have many Limburgish characteristics. An important difference between these dialects and the adjacent ones in the Dutch province of Limburg is, however, that the second-person pronoun gij is here used instead of doe, as in "purely" Brabantian dialects.[41]

Centraal-Limburgs includes the area around Maastricht, Sittard, Roermond, the eastern half of Belgian Limburg, and the Belgian Voeren area, and stretches further Northeast. Belgian linguists[citation needed] use a more refined classification. Dutch linguists 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 in Belgium in the area east of the Uerdingen line, for example in and around Hasselt and Tongeren. 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.

Southeast Limburgish (Zuidoost-Limburgs) is spoken in and around Kerkrade, Simpelveld, Bocholtz and Vaals in the Netherlands,[42] Aachen[citation needed] in Germany and Raeren and Eynatten in Belgium. Especially in Germany these dialects are usually considered as variants of Ripuarian,[citation needed] not of Limburgish.

Jan Goossens defines the northwest boundary of South East Limburgish at the lijk-lich isogloss. The area between this line and the Benrath line is called Ripuarian-Limburgish. The area between the Benrath line and the aat-alt isogloss is then called Aachens or Limburgish-Ripuarian.


Limburgish has many varieties hence there isn't a standard written form.[43][44] However the Limburgish Language Council has adopted a standard orthography for Limburgish since 2003[45] and it is used in its websites as well as dictionaries.[46][47] This is the form presented below.[48]


Majuscule forms
Minuscule forms
a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z
/aː/, /ɑ/ /b/ /k/, /s/ /d/ /æ/, /ə/, /eː/ /f/ /ʝ/ /h/, /ɦ/ /i/, /ɪ/ /j/ /k/ /l/ /m/ /n/ /ɔ/, /oː/ /p/ /kʷ/ /ʁ/, /r/ /s/ /t/ /ʏ/, /yː/ /v/ /w/, /β/ /ks/ /j/, /iː/ /z/

Limburgish orthography[edit]

Letters ch dj gk lj ng nj qu sj tj zj
IPA /ç/ /dʒ/, /ɟ/ /g/ /ʎ/ /ŋ/ /ɲ/ /kʷ/ /ʃ/ /c/,/tʃ/ /ʒ/
Monophthong vowels[edit]
Letter a á â aa ae ao äö e ee àè/èè/ei eu è i ie o oe oo ó ö u uu
IPA /ɑ ~ aː/ /a/ /aː/ /aː/ /æː/ /ɒː ~ ɔː/ /œː/ /æ ~ ə ~ eː/ /eː/ /ɛː/ /øː/ /ɛ/ /ɪ~iː/ /i~iː/ /iː/ /ɔ~oː/ /u~uː/ /uː/ /oː/ /o/ /œ/ /ʏ~yː/ /y~yː/

Diphthongs vowels[edit]

Letter aaë aaj aaw aej aew àèë àèw aj aoë aoj aow äöj äöw au aw
IPA /aːə/ /aːj/ /aːw/ /æːj/ /æːw/ /ɛːə/ /ɛːe/ /aə/ /aj/ /ɒːə/ /ɒːj~ɔːj/ /ɒːw~ɔːw/ /œːi/ /œːw/ /ɑu/ /ɑw/
Letter eej eew ei/ij ej eu euë euj euw ew èë èw
IPA /eːj/ /eːw/ /æə~eːə/ /ɛi/ /æj/ /øː/ /øːə/ /øːj/ /øːw/ /æw ~ ɛw/ /ɛːə/ /ɛːw/
Letter ieè ieë iej iew i-j iw
IPA /iːɛ/ /iːə/ /iːj/ /iːw/ /iɛ/ /ɪə/ /ɪj/ /ɪw/ /jɛ/
Letter oa oea oeè oeë oej oew oj ooë ooj oow ou óa óë ój ów öë öä öw
IPA /ɔɑ/ /ɔə/ /uːɑ/ /uːɛ/ /uːə/ /uːj/ /uːw/ /ɔj/ /oːə/ /oːj/ /oːw/ /ɔu~au/ /oɑ/ /oə/ /oj/ /ow/ /œɑ/ /œə/ /œw/
Letter ui uj uw uuè uuë uuj uuw wa wjè
IPA /yːə/ /yɛ/ /œy/ /œj/ /œw/ /yːɛ/ /yːə/ /yːj/ /yːw/ /wɑ/ /wɛ/


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


Labial Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Plosive /
voiceless p t t͡ʃ c k ʔ
voiced b d d͡ʒ ɟ ɡ
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ x h
voiced v z ʒ ɣ ʁ
Approximant central w j
lateral l ʎ
  • /ɡ/ may not show up in the Hasselt dialect, but is common in other Limburgish dialects, e.g. zègke (Dutch: zeggen) "to say".
  • Other Limburgish dialects also have the following sounds: [c] (landj); [ɲ] (tenj, teeth).
  • /w/ is realized as [β̞] in Belgian Limburgish.
  • [ɫ] is a common allophone of /l/, especially in coda position. It is rare in the Montfortian dialect.
  • [ç] and [ʝ] are allophones of /x/ and /ɣ/, occurring in a front-vowel environment. This is termed Soft G in Dutch dialectology.
  • [ɦ] is an allophone of /h/. In some dialects, it may be the usual realization of /h/.
  • In most modern dialects, /r/ is uvular.

Overall, Limburgish dialects tend to have more consonants than Dutch. They also tend to have more vowels. According to Peter Ladefoged, the vowel inventory of the dialect of Weert is perhaps the richest in the world. It has 28 vowels, among which there are 12 long monophthongs (three of which surface as centering diphthongs), 10 short monophthongs and 6 diphthongs.[49][50]

In most of the Limburgish dialects spoken to the southeast of Panningen—for example those of Roermond, Sittard and Heerlen—[ʃ] appears at the beginning of words in the consonant clusters sp, st, sl, sm, sn and zw. The same sound is realized as [s] elsewhere (e.g. sjtraot/straot, "street"). This is not the case, however, in the dialects of for example Venlo, Weert, Maastricht, Echt, Montfort and Posterholt.


Monophthongs of the Maastrichtian dialect, from Gussenhoven & Aarts (1999:159)
Diphthongs of the Maastrichtian dialect, from Gussenhoven & Aarts (1999:159)


Short vowels
Front Central Back
Unrounded Rounded
Close i y u
Close-mid ɪ ʏ ə ʊ
Open-mid ɛ œ ɔ
Open æ ɑ
Long vowels
Front Central Back
Unrounded Rounded
Close-mid øː
Open-mid ɛː œː œ̃ː ɔː ɔ̃ː
Open æː æ̃ː ɑː ɑ̃ː
  • /ə/ only occurs in unstressed syllables.
  • /øː œː uː/ are realised as [øə œə uə] before alveolar consonants.


The diphthongs /iə ø æɪ ɔɪ ou/[clarification needed] 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. /eɪ/ can be realized as [eə] or [ejə]. In the dialect of Geleen, /eː/ is realized as [iɛ] and /oː/ as [ɔː]. In many dialects such as that of Maastricht and Sittard, the long vowel /aː/ in Dutch cognates is most of the time realized as [ɒː], as in nao ("after", "to, towards"). The Standard Dutch equivalents are na [naː] and naar [naːr].

In about 50 Belgian Limburgish dialects, the rounded front vowels /y, yː, ø, øː, œ, œː, œy/ are unrounded to /i, iː, ɪ, eː, ɛ ~ æ, ɛː, ɛi/ in most native words. They are retained in French loanwords such as dzjuus /dʒys/.[51]


Extent (orange) of the region where a pitch accent was historically used in The Benelux, France and Germany
Tone contour in pulling tone[clarification needed]
Tone contour in push tone

Many dialects of Limburgish (and of Ripuarian)[52] have a pitch accent, having two different accents used in stressed syllables. The difference between these two accents is used for differentiating both various grammatical forms of a single lexeme and minimal tone pairs one from the other.[53]

With specific regards to Limburgish, these two accents are traditionally known as sjtoettoen ("push tone") and sjleiptoen ("dragging tone"). The dragging tone is lexical while the push tone is not. For example, [daːx˦˨˧] daãg with a dragging tone means "day" in Limburgish, while in many Limburgish dialects [daːx˦˨] daàg with a push tone is the plural form, "days" (in addition, [daːx] can also be articulated in a neutral tone as a third possibility. In this case, it means "bye-bye").

This difference is grammatical, but not lexical. An example of a lexical difference caused by dragging tone is the word [biː˦˨] biè which is articulated with a push tone and means "bee", forming a tonal minimal pair with [biː˦˨˧] biẽ, which is articulated with a dragging tone and means "at".

Pitch accent in comparison with "real" tonality[edit]

However, this feature cannot be compared to the "real" tone systems such as for example that of Chinese or Vietnamese, the number of tone contours and their division being far more restricted in Limburgish than in these languages[dubious ]. Other Indo-European languages with a pitch accent include Lithuanian, Latvian, Swedish, Norwegian, Standard Slovene (only some speakers), and Serbo-Croatian.

Most of these languages being spoken at the borders of Europe, it has been suggested that tonality once was present in Proto-Indo-European, and that its disappearance would have spread from the center of the European continent.[54][dubious ] However, it is generally accepted that this system was already lost in Proto-Germanic.[citation needed] A more plausible explanation of the origin of the Limburgish/Ripuarian tone system is that it originated in the Middle Ages from the apocope of plural schwas in the dialect of Cologne (Kölsch). This change in turn necessitated a somewhat different articulation of the preceding vowel in the singular form, which was lengthened as in German but only to a limited extent, in order to keep on distinguishing the singular from the plural forms. This specific way of vowel lengthening may finally have resulted in the dragging tone.[55]

Particular local features[edit]


It has been proven[according to whom?] by speech analysis that in the Belgian Limburgish dialect of Borgloon, the dragging tone itself is bitonal, while it has also been proved that this is not the case in the adjacent Limburgish dialects of Tongeren and Hasselt.

Steeper fall[edit]

Other research[which?] has indicated that the push tone has a steeper fall in the eastern dialects of Limburgish (e.g. those of Venlo, Roermond and Maasbracht) than it has in western dialects. In addition, both the phonetic realisation and the syllable-based distribution of the contrasts between push and dragging tone seem to be mora-bound in the eastern dialects only. This has been examined especially by Jörg Peters.[56]


Moreover, in some dialects such as that of Sittard and Maastricht, especially the mid and high vowels tend to diphthongize when they have a push tone. So in the dialect of Sittard keize means "to choose" while in the dialect of Maasbracht no diphthongization takes place, so keze means the same here. This difference has been examined in particular by Ben Hermans and Marc van Oostendorp.[57]

Other examples include plural

  • [stæɪn˦˨˧] steĩn "stone"
  • [stæɪn˦˨] steìn "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!"

The difference between push tone and dragging tone may also purely mark grammatical declension without there being any difference in meaning, as in the dialect of Borgloon: gieël ("yellow", with dragging tone) as opposed to en gieël peer ("a yellow pear", with push tone). This tonal shift also occurs when the adjective gets an inflectional ending, as in nen gieëlen appel ("a yellow apple").[58]

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]).


The sample texts are readings of the first sentence of The North Wind and the Sun.

Phonetic transcription (Hasselt, West Limburgish)[edit]

[də ˈnɔːʀdəʀˌβɛntʃ˨ ən ˈzɔn | βøːʀən ɑn dɪskəˈtɛːʀə | ˈeː˨vəʀ ˈβiə vɔn ɪn ˈtβɛː ət ˈstæʀ˨əkstə βøːʀ || ˈtuːn ˈkum təʀ ˈdʒys ˈei˨mɑnt vʀ̩ˈbɛː˨ | ˈdiː nən ˈdɪkə ˈβæʀmə ˈjɑs ˈɑːn˨ɦaː][59]

Orthographic version (Hasselt, West Limburgish)[edit]

De naorderwèndj en de zon weuren an disketaere ever wieë von hin twae het sterrekste weur, toên koem ter dzjuus eejmand verbae diê nen dikke, werme jas àànhaa.

Phonetic transcription (Maastricht, Central Limburgish)[edit]

[də ˈnoːʀ˦dəˌβɪnt˦ æn ˈzɔn ɦɑdən ən ˈdʀœkə dɪsˈkʏsi ˈøː˦vəʀ ˈvʀɒːx | ˈβeː vaːn ɦynən ˈtβijə ˈstæʀ˦kstə βɒːʀ | tun ˈʒys iːmɑnt vøːʀˈbɛː˦ kɒːm | deː nən ˈdɪkə ˈβæʀmə ˈjɑs ˈɒːnɦɑt][60]

Orthographic version (Maastricht, Central Limburgish)[edit]

De noordewind en de zon hadde en drökke discussie euver de vraog wee vaan hunen twieje de sterkste waor, toen zjuus iemand veurbij kaom dee nen dikke, werme jas aonhad.




Limburgish has three grammatical genders. In some of the Limburgish dialects[which?], den is used before masculine words beginning with b, d, h, t or with a vowel and in many other dialects der is used before all masculine words. In most dialects, the indefinite article is eine(n) for masculine nouns, ein for feminine nouns and ei or 'n for neuter nouns. Without stress, these forms are most of the time realized as ne(n), n and e.


For some nouns, Limburgish uses simulfixes (i.e. umlaut) to form the plural:

  • broorbreur (brother – brothers)
  • sjoonsjeun (shoe – shoes): note this can also be 'sjoon' with sjtoettoen (pushing tone).

Plural and diminutive nouns based on Umlaut start to prevail east towards Germany. However, towards the west, the phonemic distinction between dragging and pushing tone will stop just before Riemst.[61]


The diminutive suffix is most often -ke, as in Brabantian, or -je/-sje after a dental consonant. For some nouns an umlaut is also used and in breurke for 'little brother' and sjeunke for 'little shoe'.


According to their declension, Limburgish adjectives can be grouped into two classes. Adjectives of the first class get the ending -e in their masculine and feminine singular forms and always in plural, but no ending in their neuter singular form. When combined with a masculine noun in singular adjectives may also end on -en, under the same phonological conditions which apply to articles. To this class belong most adjectives ending on a -ch[t], -d, -k, -p, -t or -s preceded by another consonant or with one of the suffixes -eg, -ig and -isch. The other declension class includes most adjectives ending on -f, -g, -j, -l,-m,-n, -ng, -r, -w or -s preceded by a vowel; these adjectives only get the ending -e(n) in their masculine singular form.

When used as a predicate, Limburgish adjectives never get an ending: Dee mins is gek (Maastrichtian: "That man is crazy"). Except for neuter adjectives which sometimes get -t: "'t Eint of 't angert", though this is dying out.


Personal pronouns[edit]

Subject Object
Venlo Roermond Weert Maastricht Venlo Roermond Weert Maastricht
First person singular ik ich iech mich miech
Second person singular doe dich diech dich diech (especially in Maastrichtian)
Third person singular masculine hae heer häöm (also dem in the dialect of Roermond)
Third person singular feminine zie, het zeuj zie, zij häör, häöm heur häör
Third person singular neutral het het
First person plural weej veer vae veer ós us
Second person plural geej geer gae geer óch uch uuch
Third person plural zie zeuj die häör hun

Possessive pronouns[edit]

Singular masculine Singular feminine Singular neuter Plural
First person singular miene(n) mien mie mien
Second person singular diene(n) dien die dien
Third person singular masculine ziene(n) zien zie zien
Third person singular neutral ziene(n) zien zie zien
Third person singular feminine häöre(n) häör häör häör
First person plural ooze(n) oos (Maastrichtian: eus) ós (Maastrichtian: us) oos (Maastrichtian: eus)
Second person plural eure(n) eur eur eur
Third person plural häöre(n) (easterly) / hunne(n) (westerly) häör (easterly) / hun (westerly) häör (easterly) / hun (westerly) häör (easterly) / hun (westerly)

In the masculine singular forms of mien, dien, zien and oos, final -n is added under the same phonological conditions which apply to articles and adjectives. Deletion of the final -n in the neuter forms of mien, dien, zien no longer occurs in the dialect of Venlo and is also disappearing in the dialect of Roermond.

Demonstrative pronouns[edit]

The most common demonstrative pronouns in Limburgish are:

Singular masculine Singular feminine Singular neuter Plural Translation
deze(n)/dizze(n) dees/dis dit dees this/these
dae(n) (Maastrichtian: dee) die det (Venlo, Roermond, Weert), dat (Maastricht) die that/those


Most of the modern Limburgish vocabulary is very similar to that of Standard Dutch or to that of Standard German due to a heavy influence from the two. However, some[vague] of the basic vocabulary is rooted in neighboring Central German dialects.

Historically, the vocabulary of the varieties of Limburgish spoken within current Belgian territory has been more influenced by French than that of the Limburgish dialects spoken on Dutch and German soil, as appears form words such as briquet ("cigarette-lighter"), camion ("truck") and crevette ("shrimp"). 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Limburgish is pronounced /ˈlɪmbɜːrɡɪʃ/ LIM-bur-ghish, whereas Limburgan, Limburgian and Limburgic are /lɪmˈbɜːrɡən/ lim-BUR-gən, /-ɡiən/ -⁠ghee-ən and /-ɡɪk/ -⁠gik, respectively.


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  • Bakkes, Pierre (2007): Mofers Waordebook. ISBN 978-90-902229-4-3 (in Dutch)
  • Belemans, Rob; Keulen, Ronny (2004). Belgisch-Limburgs (in Dutch). Lannoo Uitgeverij. ISBN 978-9020958553.
  • Cornelissen, Georg (2003). Kleine niederrheinische Sprachgeschichte (1300–1900) : eine regionale Sprachgeschichte für das deutsch-niederländische Grenzgebiet zwischen Arnheim und Krefeld : met een Nederlandstalige inleiding (in German). Geldern / Venray: Stichting Historie Peel-Maas-Niersgebied.
  • Driessen, Geert (2012): Ontwikkelingen in het gebruik van Fries, streektalen en dialecten in de periode 1995-2011. Nijmegen: ITS.
  • 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] (in German)
  • Frins, Jean (2006): Karolingisch-Fränkisch. Die plattdůtsche Volkssprache im Aachener Dreiländereck. Groningen: RUG Repro [Master's Thesis, Groningen University] (in German)
  • Grootaers, L.; Grauls, J. (1930). Klankleer van het Hasselt dialect (in Dutch). Leuven: de Vlaamsche Drukkerij.
  • Gussenhoven, Carlos; Aarts, Flor (1999). "The dialect of Maastricht" (PDF). Journal of the International Phonetic Association. University of Nijmegen, Centre for Language Studies. 29 (2): 155–166. doi:10.1017/S0025100300006526. S2CID 145782045.
  • 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. S2CID 18527758.
  • Peters, Jörg (2006). "The dialect of Hasselt". Journal of the International Phonetic Association. 36 (1): 117–124. doi:10.1017/S0025100306002428.
  • Staelens, X. (1989). Dieksjneèèr van 't (H)essels. Nederlands-Hasselts Woordenboek (in Dutch). Hasselt: de Langeman.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bakkes, Pierre (1999), "Roermond" (PDF), in Kruijsen, Joep; van der Sijs, Nicoline (eds.), Honderd Jaar Stadstaal, Uitgeverij Contact, pp. 251–262
  • Janssens, Guy (1999), "Tongeren" (PDF), in Kruijsen, Joep; van der Sijs, Nicoline (eds.), Honderd Jaar Stadstaal, Uitgeverij Contact, pp. 263–271
  • van der Wijngaard, Ton (1999), "Maastricht" (PDF), in Kruijsen, Joep; van der Sijs, Nicoline (eds.), Honderd Jaar Stadstaal, Uitgeverij Contact, pp. 233–249
  • van Oostendorp, Marc (2001). "The phonology of postvocalic /r/ in Brabant Dutch and Limburg Dutch". In van de Velde, Hans; van Hout, Roeland (eds.). 'r-atics. pp. 113–122. ISSN 0777-3692. {{cite book}}: |journal= ignored (help)

External links[edit]