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What’s with this “Wren” thing?
The oldest extant version of the fable
are presenting here appeared in 1913 in the first volume of a two-volume anthology
Saxon folktales (Plattdeutsche
Volksmärchen “Low German Folktales”)
collected by Wilhelm Wisser (1843–1935). Read
Hendrik van Veldeke (German:
Heinrich von Veldeke, born before
after 1190) used a
Limburgish dialect (in Germany
considered a “Middle German” dialect)
and is widely celebrated in Limburg.
Limburgish is a language spoken (alongside Dutch) in the provinces of Limburg
of Belgium and the Netherlands. The dialects on the German side of the border in that area and those of the Cleves Franconian area are closely related to Limburgish. Some of them might have been considered
Limburgish varieties if they had happened to be on Belgian or Netherlands soil.
Limburgish is officially recognized as a regional language of the
Netherlands under Chapter
2 of the
for Regional and Minority Languages. Belgium has not officially recognized
Limburgish or any other language aside from Dutch, French and German. Limburgish
is spoken by over one and a half million people in the Netherlands and Belgium.
This figure may be closer to two million if speakers of at least some questionable
varieties on the German side of the border are added to this.
terms of historical sound shifts, Limburgish constitutes an interesting case
of both Low
German (specifically Low Franconian) and High German. Like Low German varieties,
/p/ (rather than having shifted them to High-German-type /ts/, /s/, /pf/ and
/f/). Like High German varieties, however, it has shifted old /-k/ to /-x/ (phonetically
[ç] and [x]; e.g., *ik > ich [ıç] ‘I’, *ouk > ouch [oux] ‘also’; cf. Dutch ik and ook, German ich and auch).
Limburgish has two
phonemic tone, thus is a tonal language, apparently the only West Germanic one.
(However, numerous tonal varieties exist within the North Germanic range in Scandinavia,
appently all of them with two-tone systems as well.) These two tones are traditionally
known as stoottoon (“push tone”) and sleeptoon (“dragging tone”) in Dutch. For example, the word wies pronounced with the stoottoon means ‘tune’ and with sleeptoon ‘wise’, veule (völe) ‘to feel’ (stoottoon) or ‘foal’ (sleeptoon), bal ‘(gala) ball’ (stoottoon) or ‘(play) ball’ (sleeptoon), and daag or daach ‘days’ (stoottoon) or ‘day’ (sleeptoon).
(Note that the same
terminology is used in Low Saxon linguistics: Stoottoon [German Stoßton] and Sleeptoon [German Schleifton], though no one has so far claimed that Low Saxon is a tonal language. In this
language, the Stoottoon has a simple, usually falling tone of short or long duration, while the Sleeptoon, occurring only in long vowels or in diphthongs of syllables after which a syllable
containing /-e/ has been deleted, has extra-length or super-length and no final
absorbed the length of the deleted syllable. Take, for example, Stoottoon and short Dag [dax] ‘day’ versus Sleeptoon and extra-long Daag’ [dα:∙γ] ‘days’, the latter being derived from Dage ['dα:ge] ~ ['dα:γe].)
Like most High German
varieties, Limburgish changes /s-/ to a “sh” sound (spelled sj in Belgium and the Netherlands) before consonants.
The claim has been
made that Limburgish has an ancient Celtic substrate, which is consistent with
history, since today’s Limburg used to be inhabited by Gauls.
So far, there is
no officially recognized Limburgish standard variety and standard orthography.
Genealogy: Indo-European > Germanic > Western > Rhinelandic > Low