Luxembourgish Phonology
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Luxembourgish Phonology

This article aims to describe the phonology and phonetics of central Luxembourgish, which is regarded as the emerging standard.[1]


The consonant inventory of Luxembourgish is quite similar to that of Standard German.[1]

  • /m, p, b/ are bilabial, /pf/ is bilabial-labiodental, whereas /f, v/ are labiodental.[1]
    • /pf/ occurs only in loanwords from Standard German.[2] Just as among many native German-speakers, it tends to be simplified to [f] word-initially. For example, Pflicht ('obligation') is pronounced [fli?t], or in careful speech [pfli?t].
    • /v/ is realized as when it occurs after /k, ts, ?/, e.g. zwee [tswe:] ('two').[3]
  • /p, t, k/ are voiceless fortis [p, t, k]. They are aspirated [p?, t?, k?] in most positions,[4] but not when /s/ or /?/ precedes in the same syllable, or when another plosive or affricate follows.
  • /b, d, ?/ are unaspirated lenis, more often voiceless [b?, d?, ] than voiced [b, d, ?].[4]
  • /dz/ as a phoneme appears only in a few words, such as spadséieren /?p?'dze?en/ ('to go for a walk'). /d?/ as a phoneme occurs only in loanwords from English.[2]
    • Note that phonetic [dz] and [d?] occur due to voicing of word-final /ts/ and /t?/; 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/.
  • /?, k, ?/ are velar, /j/ is palatal whereas /?/ is uvular.[1]
    • /j/ is frequently realized as , e.g. Juni ['ju:ni:] or ['?u:ni:] ('June').[3]
    • The normal realization of /?/ is more often a trill than a fricative . The fricative variant is used after short vowels before consonants. If the consonant is voiceless, the fricative is also voiceless, i.e. . Older speakers use the consonantal variant [? ~ ?] also in the word-final position, where younger speakers tend to vocalize the /?/ to a central vowel or .[4]
  • /?, ?/ have two types of allophones: alveolo-palatal [?, ?] and uvular [?, ?]. The latter occur after back vowels, whereas the former occur in all other positions.[4]
    • The allophone appears only in a few words intervocalically, e.g. Spigel ['?pil] ('mirror'), héijen ['hn] (inflected form of héich 'high'). Note that an increasing number of speakers do not distinguish between the alveolo-palatal allophones [?, ?] and the postalveolar phonemes /?, ?/.[5]

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 [dl?nt] ('the country') or d'Kräiz [tk?æ:ts] ('the cross').[2] Due to cluster simplification this article often disappears entirely between consonants.

Word-final obstruents

Phonetically, word-final /b, d, d?, ?, v, z, ?, ?/ are realized exactly the same as /p, t, t?, k, f, s, ?, ?/. In most cases, they are realized the same as the main allophones of /p, t, t?, k, f, s, ?, ?/ (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, d?, ?, v, z, ?, ?/, 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 ). For instance, sech eens (phonemically /ze? 'e:ns/) is pronounced [z?'?e:ns],[6] although this article transcribes it [z'e:ns] so that it corresponds more closely to the spelling. Similarly, eng interessant Iddi [e? int?æ's?nd?'idi] ('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 [?] initially and [? ~ ?] elsewhere, the latter being devoiced to [? ~ ?] at the end of a morpheme. Words from French, English and (in a few cases) German have introduced [?] (devoiced [k]) in other environments, and French orthography's "soft g" indicates [?] (devoiced [?]).

By the now very common mergers of [?] and [?], as well as [?] and [?], this number may be reduced to seven, however. The pronunciation [j] is also (generally) not obligatory but a common alternative to [?] in the environment indicated below.

Summary of pronunciation of ⟨g⟩
Phoneme Allophone Applies in Phonetic environment Example IPA Meaning
/?/ native and German
stem-initially géi [?] go
some German words stem-internally Drogen ['d?o:n] drugs
French words stem-initially and internally before written a, o, u, or consonant Negatioun [ne'sjn] negation
French and some
German words
word-finally Drog [d?o:k] drug
/?/ French words stem-initially and internally before written e, i or y originell [o?i?i'næl] original
word-finally before mute e Plage [pla:?] beach
/?/ native and most
German words
stem-internally after back vowels Lager ['la:] store
word-finally after back vowels Dag [da:?] day
stem-internally after consonants and non-back vowels Verfügung [f?'fy:?u?] disposal
word-finally after consonants and non-back vowels bëlleg ['b?l] cheap
in the unstressed sequences /e?e/ ([?j?]) and /e/ ([?j?]) bëllegen ['b?l?j?n] cheap [inflected]



Native monophthongs of Luxembourgish, from Gilles & Trouvain (2013:70)

The monophthongs of Luxembourgish are as follows:[7]

Front Central Back
unrounded rounded
short long short long short long
Close i i: y y: u u:
Mid close e: ø: o:
open e oe oe: o
Open æ ? ? a:
Nasal : õ?:
  • The nasal vowels appear only in loanwords from French, whereas the oral front rounded vowels appear in loans from both French and German.[2]
    • 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 /ø:/ and the open-mid /oe:/.
  • /i, i:, u, u:, o/ are close to the corresponding cardinal vowels [i, u, o].[7]
    • Some speakers may realize /o/ as open-mid , especially before /?/.[7]
  • /e/ has two allophones:
    • Before velars: close-mid , which for some speakers may be open-mid - this is especially frequent before /?/.[7]
    • All other positions: mid central vowel with variable rounding, but more often slightly rounded than unrounded . Contrary to Standard German, the sequence of [?] 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 ['t?a:n], rather than ['t?a:?n?] or ['t?a:].[8][9]
  • /e:, o:/ are higher than close-mid [e?:, o?:] and may be even as high as /i, u/.[7]
    • Before /?/, /e:/ is realized as open-mid .[7]
  • The quality of /æ/ matches the prototypical IPA value of the ⟨æ⟩ symbol .[7]
  • /?/ appears only in unstressed syllables. Phonetically it is a near-open near-back unrounded vowel .[7] It is similar to /?/, 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 /?/.
  • /?/ is near-open .[7]
  • /a:/, a phonological back vowel (the long counterpart of /?/), is phonetically near-front . Sometimes, it may be as front and as high as /æ/ , though without losing its length.[10]


Part 1 of native diphthongs of Luxembourgish, from Gilles & Trouvain (2013:71)
Part 2 of native diphthongs of Luxembourgish, from Gilles & Trouvain (2013:71)
Diphthong phonemes[11]
Closing o æ: æ:
Centering i u
  • The ending points of the closing diphthongs tend to be fairly close, more like [i, u] than [?, ?].[11]
  • The starting points of /, / are typically schwa-like , but the first element of // may be more of a centralized front vowel .[11]
  • The starting points of /æ:, æ:/, /, / as well as /i/ and /u/ are similar to the corresponding short monophthongs [æ, ?, i, u].[11]
    • The first elements of /æ:, æ:/ may be phonetically short [æ] in fast speech or in unstressed syllables.[11]
  • The centering diphthongs end in the mid central unrounded area .[11]
  • /o/ appears only in loanwords from Standard German.[2]

The /æ: - / and /æ: - / contrasts arose from a former lexical tone contrast: the shorter /, / were used in words with Accent 1, whereas the lengthened /æ:, æ:/ were used in words with Accent 2 (see Pitch-accent language#Franconian dialects.)[2]

Additional phonetic diphthongs arise after vocalisation of /?/.[11] These are [i:, u:, o:, ?:], with [i:, u:, o:, ?:] as possible alternatives. However, the sequence /a:?/ is realized the same as long /a:/, unless a vowel follows within the same word.

In loanwords from Standard German (such as Bad Dürkheim and Föhr) [y:] and [ø:] also occur, again with [y:] and [ø:] as possible alternatives.



  • 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

Further reading

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