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The Luxembourgish Language - A Languages Of The World Primer

Jan 9, 2008
Luxembourgish is a West Central German language belonging to the High German language family (to which modern-day German belongs) spoken along the banks of the Moselle since Frankish times (circa 1000 AD). There is, however, no defined geographic boundary as such between Luxembourgish and the neighbouring related West Central German languages with the change between one language and the next being gradual (called a dialect continuum by linguists).

This means that it is difficult, if not impossible, to say where one language begins and another ends. Indeed, in many cases such decisions are rather arbitrary, driven more by political than linguistic considerations. Whether or not Luxembourgish would be considered a language if Luxembourg were not an independent country is certainly open to debate. That said, since the second World War extensive efforts have been made at official levels to standardise the language, involving various spelling reforms and the creation of a Luxembourgish dictionary. The most recent such project completed in 2002, involved the compilation of 125,000 word forms to serve as the basis of the first Luxembourgish spellchecker.

Related languages
Whilst a member of the High German family and thus related to modern-day German, Luxembourgish is not readily understandable by most German speakers. This is primarily due to the fact that West Central German languages are heavily influenced by French. That said, there is absolutely no mutual intelligibility between Luxembourgish and any of the surrounding Romance languages including French.

Status today
Although not an official language of the European Union despite the fact that Luxembourg was a founding member, Luxembourgish is the national language of Luxembourg. It is also spoken in neighbouring areas of Belgium (Luxembourg Province), France (Lorraine) and Germany. However, outside Luxembourg the language is increasingly restricted to the older generations.

Within Luxembourg, the language is rather vibrant and happily coexists with French and German. For example, Luxembourgish is used in pre-schools, German increasingly in primary education, giving way to French in secondary education (high school). That said, Luxembourgish continues to be taught throughout and is the main language of communication between students and teachers. Beyond education, Luxembourgish is the language of daily discourse not only in the home but also in social and political life, with the bulk of Parliamentary debates being in Luxembourgish. The language is similarly well represented on radio and television.

Although there are various dialects of Luxembourgish, they are all increasingly converging towards the standard form mainly used in the mass media. Despite being spoken by only around 300,000-400,000 people, the language enjoys strong political and financial support from the Luxembourg government, support that is denied to languages in similar circumstances in many other countries. The outlook for the language is thus good.
About the Author
Stranslations offers professional language translation services in English, French, Spanish, German and other major European languages.
The original version of this article can found at www.stranslations.com.
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