The consonant inventory of Luxembourgish is quite similar to that of Standard German.
- /m, p, b/ are bilabial, /pf/ is bilabial-labiodental, whereas /f, v/ are labiodental.
- /pf/ occurs only in loanwords from Standard German. Just as among many native German-speakers, it tends to be simplified to [f] word-initially. For example, Pflicht ('obligation') is pronounced [fliɕt], or in careful speech [pfliɕt].
- /v/ is realized as [w] when it occurs after /k, ts, ʃ/, e.g. zwee [tsweː] ('two').
- /p, t, k/ are voiceless fortis [p, t, k]. They are aspirated [pʰ, tʰ, kʰ] in most positions, but not when /s/ or /ʃ/ precedes in the same syllable, or when another plosive or affricate follows.
- /b, d, ɡ/ are unaspirated lenis, more often voiceless [b̥, d̥, ɡ̊] than voiced [b, d, ɡ].
- /dz/ as a phoneme appears only in a few words, such as spadséieren /ʃpɑˈdzəɪ̯eʀen/ ('to go for a walk'). /dʒ/ as a phoneme occurs only in loanwords from English.
- Note that phonetic [dz] and [dʒ] occur due to voicing of word-final /ts/ and /tʃ/; see below.
- /s/ and /z/ only contrast between vowels. /s/ does not occur word-initially except in French and English loanwords. In the oldest loans from French it is often replaced with /ts/.
- /ŋ, k, ɡ/ are velar, /j/ is palatal whereas /ʀ/ is uvular.
- /j/ is frequently realized as [ʒ], e.g. Juni [ˈjuːniː] or [ˈʒuːniː] ('June').
- The normal realization of /ʀ/ is more often a trill [ʀ] than a fricative [ʁ]. The fricative variant is used after short vowels before consonants. If the consonant is voiceless, the fricative is also voiceless, i.e. [χ]. Older speakers use the consonantal variant [ʀ ~ ʁ] also in the word-final position, where younger speakers tend to vocalize the /ʀ/ to a central vowel [ə] or [ɐ].
- /χ, ʁ/ have two types of allophones: alveolo-palatal [ɕ, ʑ] and uvular [χ, ʁ]. The latter occur after back vowels, whereas the former occur in all other positions.
In external sandhi, syllable-final /n/ is deleted unless followed by [n t d ts h], with few exceptions. Furthermore, some unusual consonant clusters may arise post-lexically after cliticisation of the definite article d' (for feminine, neuter and plural forms), e.g. d'Land [dlɑnt] ('the country') or d'Kräiz [tkʀæːɪ̯ts] ('the cross'). Due to cluster simplification this article often disappears entirely between consonants.
Phonetically, word-final /b, d, dʒ, ɡ, v, z, ʒ, ʁ/ are realized exactly the same as /p, t, tʃ, k, f, s, ʃ, χ/. In most cases, they are realized the same as the main allophones of /p, t, tʃ, k, f, s, ʃ, χ/ (i.e. voiceless), but when the next word begins with a vowel and is pronounced without a pause, they are realized the same as the main allophones of /b, d, dʒ, ɡ, v, z, ʒ, ʁ/, i.e. voiced and are resyllabified, that is, moved to the onset of the first syllable of the next word (the same happens with /ts/, which becomes [dz], and the non-native affricate /pf/, which is also voiced to [bv]). For instance, sech eens (phonemically /zeχ ˈeːns/) is pronounced [zəˈʑeːns], although this article transcribes it [zəʑ‿ˈeːns] so that it corresponds more closely to the spelling. Similarly, eng interessant Iddi [eŋ intʀæˈsɑnd‿ˈidi] ('an interesting idea').
Pronunciation of the letter g
In Luxembourgish, the letter g has no fewer than nine possible pronunciations, depending both on the origin of a word and the phonetic environment. Natively, it is pronounced [ɡ] initially and [ʁ ~ ʑ] elsewhere, the latter being devoiced to [χ ~ ɕ] at the end of a morpheme. Words from French, English and (in a few cases) German have introduced [ɡ] (devoiced [k]) in other environments, and French orthography's "soft g" indicates [ʒ] (devoiced [ʃ]).
By the now very common mergers of [ʒ] and [ʑ], as well as [ʃ] and [ɕ], this number may be reduced to seven, however. The pronunciation [j] is also (generally) not obligatory but a common alternative to [ʑ] in the environment indicated below.
|Phoneme||Allophone||Applies in||Phonetic environment||Example||IPA||Meaning|
|/ɡ/||[k]||French and some
|[ɡ]||native and German
|some German words||stem-internally||Drogen||[ˈdʀoːɡən]||drugs|
|French words||stem-initially and internally before written a, o, u, or consonant||Negatioun||[neɡɑˈsjəʊ̯n]||negation|
|/ʃ/||[ʃ]||French words||word-finally before mute e||Plage||[plaːʃ]||beach|
|/ʒ/||[ʒ]||stem-initially and internally before written e, i or y||originell||[oʀiʒiˈnæl]||original|
|/χ/||[χ]||native and most
|word-finally after back vowels||Dag||[daːχ]||day|
|[ɕ]||word-finally after consonants and non-back vowels||bëlleg||[ˈbələɕ]||cheap|
|/ʁ/||[ʁ]||stem-internally after back vowels||Lager||[ˈlaːʁɐ]||store|
|[ʑ]||stem-internally after consonants and non-back vowels||Verfügung||[fɐˈfyːʑuŋ]||disposal|
|[j]||in the unstressed sequences /eʁe/ ([əjə]) and /eʁɐ/ ([əjɐ])||bëllegen||[ˈbələjən]||cheap [inflected]|
- The nasal vowels appear only in loanwords from French, whereas the oral front rounded vowels appear in loans from both French and German.
- The opposition between close-mid and open-mid vowels does not exist in native Luxembourgish words. In non-native words, there is a marginal contrast between the close-mid /øː/ and the open-mid /œː/.
- /i, iː, u, uː, o/ are close to the corresponding cardinal vowels [i, u, o].
- /e/ has two allophones:
- Before velars: close-mid [e], which for some speakers may be open-mid [ɛ] – this is especially frequent before /ʀ/.
- All other positions: mid central vowel with variable rounding, but more often slightly rounded [ə̹] than unrounded [ə̜]. Contrary to Standard German, the sequence of [ə] and a sonorant never results in a syllabic sonorant; however, Standard German spoken in Luxembourg often also lacks syllabic sonorants, so that e.g. tragen is pronounced [ˈtʀaːɡən], rather than [ˈtʀaːɡn̩] or [ˈtʀaːɡŋ̍].
- /eː, oː/ are higher than close-mid [e̝ː, o̝ː] and may be even as high as /i, u/.
- The quality of /æ/ matches the prototypical IPA value of the ⟨æ⟩ symbol ([æ]).
- /ɐ/ appears only in unstressed syllables. Phonetically it is a near-open near-back unrounded vowel [ɐ̠]. It is similar to /ɑ/, though it is shorter and somewhat more central. Phonemically, it can be analyzed either as a marginal phoneme or a non-prevocalic sequence of /e/ and /ʀ/.
- /ɑ/ is near-open [ɑ̝].
- /aː/, a phonological back vowel (the long counterpart of /ɑ/), is phonetically near-front [a̠ː]. Sometimes, it may be as front and as high as /æ/ ([æː]), though without losing its length.
|Closing||əɪ̯ əʊ̯ oɪ̯ æːɪ̯ æːʊ̯ ɑɪ̯ ɑʊ̯|
- The ending points of the closing diphthongs tend to be fairly close, more like [i, u] than [ɪ, ʊ].
- The starting points of /əɪ̯, əʊ̯/ are typically schwa-like [ə], but the first element of /əɪ̯/ may be more of a centralized front vowel [ë̞].
- The starting points of /æːɪ̯, æːʊ̯/, /ɑɪ̯, ɑʊ̯/ as well as /iə̯/ and /uə̯/ are similar to the corresponding short monophthongs [æ, ɑ, i, u].
- The first elements of /æːɪ̯, æːʊ̯/ may be phonetically short [æ] in fast speech or in unstressed syllables.
- The centering diphthongs end in the mid central unrounded area [ə].
- /oɪ̯/ appears only in loanwords from Standard German.
The /æːɪ̯ – ɑɪ̯/ and /æːʊ̯ – ɑʊ̯/ contrasts arose from a former lexical tone contrast: the shorter /ɑɪ̯, ɑʊ̯/ were used in words with Accent 1, whereas the lengthened /æːɪ̯, æːʊ̯/ were used in words with Accent 2 (see Pitch-accent language#Franconian dialects.)
Additional phonetic diphthongs arise after vocalisation of /ʀ/. These are [iːə̯, uːə̯, oːə̯, ɛːə̯], with [iːɐ̯, uːɐ̯, oːɐ̯, ɛːɐ̯] as possible alternatives. However, the sequence /aːʀ/ is realized the same as long /aː/, unless a vowel follows within the same word.
- Gilles & Trouvain (2013), p. 67.
- Gilles & Trouvain (2013), p. 72.
- Gilles & Trouvain (2013), p. 69.
- Gilles & Trouvain (2013), p. 68.
- Gilles & Trouvain (2013), pp. 68–69.
- Gilles & Trouvain (2013), pp. 68, 72.
- Gilles & Trouvain (2013), p. 70.
- Gilles & Trouvain (2013), pp. 70–71.
- Dudenredaktion, Kleiner & Knöbl (2015), p. 39.
- Gilles & Trouvain (2013), pp. 68, 70–71.
- Gilles & Trouvain (2013), p. 71.
- Dudenredaktion; Kleiner, Stefan; Knöbl, Ralf (2015) [First published 1962], Das Aussprachewörterbuch (in German) (7th ed.), Berlin: Dudenverlag, ISBN 978-3-411-04067-4
- Gilles, Peter; Trouvain, Jürgen (2013), "Luxembourgish" (PDF), Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 43 (1): 67–74, doi:10.1017/S0025100312000278
- Tamura, Kenichi (2011), "The Wiltz Dialect in a Luxembourgish Drama for Children: Analysis of the Script for "Den Zauberer vun Oz" (2005)" (PDF), Bulletin of Aichi University of Education, 60: 11–21, archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04