Southeast Limburgish
Native toNetherlands, Belgium and Germany
RegionLimburg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Province of Liege
Native speakers
1.6 million[citation needed]
Language codes
ISO 639-3

Southeast Limburgish (Dutch: Zuidoost-Limburgs, Ripuarian: Süüdoß-Limburjesch), also referred to as Southern Meuse-Rhenish, is a subdivision of what recently has been named Meuse-Rhenish. Both terms denote a rather compact grouping of varieties spoken in the Limburg and Lower Rhineland regions, near the common Dutch/Flemish (Belgium) and Dutch/German borders. These dialectal varieties differ notably from Dutch and Flemish at the one side, and no less from German at the other. In the Netherlands and Belgium this group is often included in the generic term Limburgish. Limburgish was recently recognised as a regional language (streektaal) in the Netherlands and as such it receives moderate protection under chapter 2 of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. The linguistic border of the Limburgish varieties to the South is the Benrath line, to the North it is the Uerdingen line. This means Southeast Limburgish is different in nature from the other Limburgish varieties.

Southeast Limburgish is not to be confused with Southern East Limburgish dialects (such as the Sittard dialect), which are varieties of East Limburgish.

Southeast Limburgish around Aachen

Southeast Limburgish is spoken around Kerkrade, Bocholtz and Vaals in the Netherlands, Aachen in Germany and Raeren and Eynatten in Belgium. In Germany it is sometimes considered as Ripuarian, not always as Limburgish. This explains why it is not distinctly marked on both maps (at right and below). These pictures, however, have to be fine-tuned for the transitional zone between Limburgish and Ripuarian. In Belgium, the southeastern boundary between Meuse-Rhenish (Du: Maas-Rijnlands, Fr: francique rhéno-mosan) and Ripuarian is formed by the so-called Low Dietsch (Limburgish: Platduutsj, Du: Platdiets, Fr: platdutch, francique carolingien) language area. According to a contemporary vision, all varieties in a wider half circle some 20 km around Aachen, including 2/3 of Dutch South Limburg and the Low Dietsch area between Voeren and Eupen in Belgium, can be taken as a group of its own, which recently has been named "Tri-state Limburgish" (Dutch: Drielandenlimburgs, German: Dreiländerplatt), referring to the place where the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany meet (Welschen 2005, Frins 2005, 2006). This variety still possesses interesting syntactic idiosyncrasies, probably dating from the period in which the old Duchy of Limburg existed.

Relation to Ripuarian

If only tonality is to be taken as to define this variety, both Southeast Limburgish and Ripuarian belong to a broader class of Meuse-Rhenish varieties in a wider sense. This tonal language group stretches rather deep into Germany, even across the Rhine up to Siegen. In Germany, it is consensus to class both varieties 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.


Main article: Kerkrade dialect phonology

As most other dialect of Ripuarian and Limburgish, Southeast Limburgish features a distinction between the thrusting tone (Dutch: stoottoon, German: Schärfung or Stoßton), which has a shortening effect on the syllable (not shown in transcriptions in this article) and the slurring tone (Dutch: sleeptoon, German: Schleifton). In this article, the slurring tone is transcribed as a high tone, whereas the thrusting tone is left unmarked. This is nothing more than a convention, as the phonetics of the Southeast Limburgish pitch accent are severely under-researched. There are minimal pairs, for example moer /ˈmuːʀ/ 'wall' - moer /ˈmúːʀ/ 'carrot' in the Kerkrade dialect.[1][2]

Kerkrade consonants
Labial Alveolar Postalveolar Dorsal Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive voiceless p t k
voiced b d (ɡ)
Affricate voiceless ts
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ χ
voiced v z ʒ ʁ ɦ
Liquid l ʀ
Approximant w j

The sounds corresponding to Limburgish /x, ɣ/ are very back after back vowels, being uvular [χ, ʁ] (as in Luxembourgish), rather than velar as in Limburgish. In fact, there is not much of a difference between /ʁ/ and /ʀ/ in the Kerkrade dialect.[3][4]

Most instances of historical /ɡ/ (/ɣ/ in Limburgish and (southern) Standard Dutch) have merged with /j/, so that the word for green in the Kerkrade dialect is jreun /ˈjʀøːn/ (compare Standard Dutch groen /ˈɣrun/).[5] The dialect of Lemiers is much more similar to the dialect of Vaals than the dialect spoken in Vijlen (called Vieleter or Vielender) as the former features the High German consonant shift. In Lemiers, the etymological /ɡ/ (/ɣ/ in Limburgish and southern Standard Dutch) has not fully shifted to /j/ in consonant clusters. Thus, the word for big (Standard Dutch groot [ˈɣroːt]), varies between [ˈɣʁuəs] and [ˈjʁuəs]. A Limburgish dialectologist Will Kohnen recommends the spelling jroeës to cover this variation (cf. Vieleter groeët). In Kerkrade, the shift has been completed and so only the form [ˈjʀuəs] occurs.[6][7]

The palatal [ç] is an allophone of /χ/ after consonants, the front vowels and the close-mid central /ø/, which phonologically is a front vowel.[3] In some dialects, [ç] is fronted, which may result in a merger with [ʃ]. That is the case in the dialect of Vaals, in which the first person singular pronoun is iesj [iʃ], rather than ich [ɪç] or iech [iç] found in other dialects of Limburgish. In Aachen, [ç] is also fronted but without a merger with [ʃ], with the resulting sound being [ɕ], as it used to be the case in Luxembourgish (which is rapidly transitioning towards a full merger). The two sounds are not distinguished in Rheinische Dokumenta.

Before consonants and pauses, /ʀ/ may be vocalized to [ɐ], especially in Germany. Thus, the name of the Aachen dialect in the dialect itself is Öcher Platt [ˈœɕɐ ˈplɑt]. In the Netherlands, the consonantal pronunciation is more likely to occur.

Kerkrade vowels[8]
Front Central Back
unrounded rounded
short long short long short long short long
Close i y u
Close-mid e ø øː ə o
Open-mid ɛ ɛː œ œː ɔ ɔː
Open ɑ
Diphthongs closing ɛɪ   œʏ   ɔɪ   ɔʊ   aɪ   aʊ
centering iə   yə   uə   eə   œə   oə

See also


  • Bodelier, Jorina (2011). Tone and intonation in the Lemiers dialect of Ripuarian (MA General Linguistics Thesis). Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam.
  • Cornelissen, Georg (2003): Kleine niederrheinische Sprachgeschichte (1300-1900) : eine regionale Sprachgeschichte für das deutsch-niederländische Grenzgebiet zwischen Arnheim und Krefeld [with an introduction in Dutch]. Geldern / Venray: Stichting Historie Peel-Maas-Niersgebied, ISBN 978-90-807292-2-3
  • Gilles, Peter; Trouvain, Jürgen (2013). "Luxembourgish" (PDF). Journal of the International Phonetic Association. 43 (1): 67–74. doi:10.1017/S0025100312000278.
  • Kohnen, Will (2003). "Sjpelling 2003 van 't Vieleter, Völser en Lemieësjer in 't kót" (PDF). Retrieved 13 August 2022.
  • Stichting Kirchröadsjer Dieksiejoneer (1997) [1987]. Kirchröadsjer Dieksiejoneer (in Dutch) (2nd ed.). Kerkrade: Stichting Kirchröadsjer Dieksiejoneer. ISBN 90-70246-34-1.

Further reading

  • Ludewig Rovenhagen: Wörterbuch der Aachener Mundart, Aachen, 1912.
  • Prof. Dr. Will Herrmanns, Rudolf Lantin (editor): Aachener Sprachschatz. Wörterbuch der Aachener Mundart. Beiträge zur Kultur- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte Aachens und Seiner Umgebung, Band 1. Im Auftrag des Vereins „Öcher Platt“ für den Druck überarbeitet und herausgegeben von Dr. Rudolf Lantin. 2 Bände. Verlag J. A. Mayer, 1970. ISBN 3-87519-011-4
  • Adolf Steins: Grammatik des Aachener Dialekts. Herausgegeben von Klaus-Peter Lange. Rheinisches Archiv Band 141. Böhlau-Verlag, Kölle, Weimar, Wien, 1998. ISBN 3-412-07698-8
  • Dr. Karl Allgeier, Jutta Baumschulte, Meinolf Baumschulte, Richard Wolfgarten: Aachener Dialekt - Wortschatz, Öcher Platt - Hochdeutsch und Hochdeutsch - Öcher Platt. Öcher Platt e.V. Aachen, 2000.


  1. ^ Fournier, Rachel; Gussenhoven, Carlos; Peters, Jörg; Swerts, Marc; Verhoeven, Jo. "The tones of Limburg". Archived from the original on 26 February 2012. Retrieved 26 February 2012.
  2. ^ Stichting Kirchröadsjer Dieksiejoneer (1997), p. 19.
  3. ^ a b Stichting Kirchröadsjer Dieksiejoneer (1997), p. 17.
  4. ^ Gilles & Trouvain (2013), p. 68.
  5. ^ Stichting Kirchröadsjer Dieksiejoneer (1997), pp. 17, 126.
  6. ^ Kohnen (2003), p. 1.
  7. ^ Bodelier (2011), p. 11.
  8. ^ Stichting Kirchröadsjer Dieksiejoneer (1997), pp. 15–17.
  9. ^ Stichting Kirchröadsjer Dieksiejoneer (1997), pp. 15, 18.