nativename= Limburgs
(Plat, Lèmbörgs)

pronunciation= [lɛmbœrxs] , [plɑt]
states=The Netherlands (Limburg), Belgium (in the province of Limburg and also in some villages in the northeast of the Walloon province of Liege), and adjacent parts of Germany
speakers=1,600,000 (est.)
fam3=West Germanic
nation=the Netherlands (as a regional language); no official status in Belgium or Germany

Limburgish, or "Limburgian" or "Limburgic" (Dutch: "Limburgs", German: "Limburgisch", French: "Limbourgeois") is a group of Franconian 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. Limburgish is recognised as a regional language ("Dutch: streektaal") in the Netherlands and as such it receives moderate protection under chapter 2 of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.


The name "Limburgish" (and variants of it) derives from the now Belgian town of Limbourg ("Laeboer" in Limburgish, IPA: /'læ:buʁ/), which was the capital of the Duchy of Limburg during the Middle Ages. Limburgian people usually call their language "Plat", the same way as Low Germans do. This "plat" basically means: 'not elevated', 'ordinary' or even 'vulgar'. It is opposed to "High" in High German. The word can also be associated with "plattelandj" ('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 ("Platduutch").


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 also 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: from the border regions of Cleves, Aachen, Viersen, Heinsberg stretching out to the Rhine river. At the Rhine river near Duisburg, Limburgish adjoins a smaller strip of other Low Franconian varieties called "Bergish". 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 (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 became under the influence of the Dutch standard language, especially since the founding of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815. The southeastern part became a part of the Kingdom of Prussia at the same time, and from then it 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, 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. The same holds true for his estimation of the Belgian situation.

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, depending on definition. The varieties of Limburgish spoken within Flemish (Belgian) territory are more influenced by French than those spoken on Dutch and German soil. 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.

Tonality as a main trait

Unlike most European languages, Limburgish is clearly a tonal language having two tones to distinguish words. Other European languages known to be marginally tonal are Lithuanian, Livonian, Swedish, Norwegian, some dialects of Slovenian, and the Yugoslav languages Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian. In most cases however, this tonality is better understood as a pitch accent, whereas in Limburgish it plays an important role. Examples are to be found in the paragraph on "Phonology", under Tone.

ubdivisions of Limburgish

"Noord-Limburgs ("ik"-Limburgs)" from Venlo upward to the North in the Netherlands is the form of Limburgish, which has features of the Zuid-Gelders dialect.

"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.


/g/ 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) /χ/ (chemisch) /c/ (landj) /ɲ/ (tenj, teeth)

Instead of /w/ /β̞/ is used in Belgian Limburgish. Overall, Limburgish dialect tend to have more consonants than Standard Dutch. They also tend to have more vowels.



IPA|/ə/ only occurs in unstressed syllables.

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


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

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


Limburgish distinguishes two tones on stressed syllables, traditionally known as "sjtoettoen" ("pushing tone") and "sjleiptoen" ("dragging tone"). Different words can be distinguished by tone alone, as well as different forms of a single word. For example, IPA| [daːx] with "sjleiptoen" is "day", while IPA| [daːx] with "sjtoettoen" is "days". Another example is "bie" with "sjtoettoen" means "bee", while "bie" with "sjleiptoen" means "at".

In some parts of Limburg, the younger generation hardly uses the tone difference for making plural. It's been replaced for Dutch loanwords. The plural for "daag" slowly becomes "dage" (IPA| [daːʝə] ).

There is no standard IPA transcription for the two tones. People often use for "sjtoettoen" and ~ for "sjleiptoen". For example:
* "daa~g" means "day"
* "daag" means "days"

Another good example is the following:
* "Stei~n", which means "stone"
* "Stei ", which means "stones".


Limburgish uses for some nouns 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 for some nouns. The more you go to the east, towards Germany, the more you will find plural and dimunitive 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).

ee also

*Low Rhenish
*Southern Meuse-Rhenish
*Zuidoost-Limburgs on the Dutch Wikipedia
*Low Dietsch


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

External links

* [ On Limburgish Tones (in Dutch)]
* [ Map of dialects spoken in Dutch Limburg]
* [ Advice of recognition of the Limburgish as regional language (in Dutch)]
* [ The visit of the ladies of Charity by Alphonse Olterdissen] translated from the dialect of Maastricht into English for [ Crossroads] , a web magazine for expatriates in Maastricht, the Netherlands
* [ Limburgish Dictionary] from [ Webster's Dictionary] - the Rosetta Edition, a simple list of words and phrases, that can only give a first impression
* [ Limburgish Wiktionary - De Limburgse Wiktionair]

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