Justification

The goal of this project is to make Limburgish accessible to both linguistic researchers and a wider audience through modern means. Creating dictionaries from Limburgish into other languages and vice versa is an integral part of this project. These dictionaries are mainly intended as reference works for Limburgers, non-Limburgish-speaking Dutch people and others.

This is the first time that such a project has been undertaken in this particular format. Although many dictionaries have already been created, and are being prepared, for individual Limburgish places, only two projects so far have focused on the entire Limburgish linguistic region as such.

The first one is the Woordenboek van de Limburgse Dialecten (‘Dictionary of Limburgish Dialects’ – DLD), created by linguists from Nijmegen and Leuven. This work documents the linguistic knowledge of the older generation of Limburgish-speakers. The project was begun in the 1960s and completed in 2008 and it is an important resource for our project. As a first comprehensive dictionary of Limburgish it provides a thematic overview of how and where Limburgish words were used. The DLD is an extremely rich information source for Limburgish words. Unfortunately, the dictionary was not intended to record any contemporary language use. Another difficulty is presented by the thematic overview of the DLD, which renders searching for words more difficult, despite the option of using an internet search engine to browse through the electronic database. Finally, lemmas and dictionary entries appear in a ‘Dutchified’ version, i.e. the Limburgish words are written and spelled in a form that is different from their Limburgish orthography.

A second overview that attempts to gather the words of various Limburgish dialects is De Taal van de Maas (‘The Language of the Meuse’) by Paul Pricken. His Dutch to Limburgish dictionary contains more than 30,000 words, as well as many figurative expressions and sayings. However, Mr Pricken limits himself to the Limburgish dialects that are spoken in East Limburg. Furthermore, the origin of words is not always clear and it remains unclear whether or not these words are understood throughout the whole of Limburg or in only a part of it. Finally, the spelling of words also differs significantly from the tradition that was further developed and approved by the Raod veur ’t Limburgs (‘Limburgish Language Council’) in 2003.

The basis for the dictionary project of the Limburgish Academy Foundation is that a common written form should be found for all the dialects that are linguistically part of Limburgish. Such dictionaries would not be possible without common written form. Therefore, to execute this project we have chosen for the official Limburgish orthography, as approved by the Limburgish Language Council in 2003. All words that are used in the dialects of Limburgish, both in print and on the internet, are viewed as part of the common Limburgish language with an emphasis on contemporary language use. Words that are understood throughout most of Limburg are seen as 'general Limburgish' and included without further reference. Words that are understood only in certain parts of Limburg are also included, but a reference makes clear that these are understood only in those parts.

For the same reasons that the Limburgish Language Council decided to select the Maastricht dialect of Limburgish for its spelling guide, we also decided to opt for the Maastricht dialect in our project. Moreover, most texts which exist or have been written in Limburgish were written in the Maastricht dialect. However, this does not exclude future modification of our spelling system, in the event of a decision to extend the codification of Limburgish and/or its standardisation.

One of the main objectives of this project is to make a contribution to the preservation of Limburgish. By making this project available as an open source on the internet, we hope that Limburgers will begin, or continue, to use their language in an active way. Moreover, reference works for the whole linguistic area will enable interested Limburgers and others to find out more about Limburgish words. Several literary works from other languages have already been translated into Limburgish, but making the above-mentioned reference works available will also assist with the translation of Limburgish literature into other languages.