Limburgish

Genealogical classification
Indo-European / Germanic / West Germanic / Rhinelandic

Area
Limburgish is spoken in the two provinces of Limburg (Netherlands & Belgium), and in a few border villages in a small neighbouring part of Germany (the Selfkant area).
There are many varieties of Limburgish. Each village and city has its own dialect, but they are all mutually intelligible.
The dialects in the north of Dutch Limburg are not considered Limburgish. The north boundary of the language is roughly marked by the "ik-ich isogloss". In this area, a lot of linguistic boundaries converge. In the east, there is a gradual transition to the Rhenish dialects (Kerkrade-Aachen, Sittard-Selfkant, Venlo-Krefeld).

History
The name “Limburgish” for the language spoken in today’s provinces of Limburg is relatively new. The language was named after the province, and this goes back to 1815. The then still undivided province received this name from King Willem I. An alternative would have been to name the province after its capital city: Maastricht. However, this never happened.
Generally speaking, the Limburgish language shares its ancestry with both Dutch and German, and it represents a transition between the Low Franconian dialects in the west (Netherlands) and the Central Franconian (German) dialects in the east. The Limburgish language is a link between German and Dutch. This is the impression one gains from medieval records (accounts and documents from the parishes of Alden Biezen, Maastricht, Sittard, etc.) as well as from literary texts such as the works of Henric van Veldeke, de Aiol—fragments, the Limburger Sermons and various Limburgish-Ripuarian editions of the late medieval novel Heinric en Margarete van Limburg. With Henric van Veldeke as its cardinal figure, Limburgish was the oldest predominant variety of the Low German language group, but following the rise of Brabantish in the 13th century Limburgish came to be gradually marginalized within the literary culture of the Low Countries. Incidentally, it is difficult to determine the exact age of Limburgish. Its earliest know written form goes back to about 1170 (the works of Henric van Veldeke).
Linguists assume that linguistic differences between various parts of Limburg are now much greater than they used to be. Dialect differences within Limburg were minor around the year 1200. Since then, dialect differences have grown to what they are now, due to decreased interregional contacts.

Number of speakers
Research has shown that approximately 75% of the inhabitants of the Dutch province of Limburg are able to speak the language. In a population of 1,200,000 people, this makes ± 900,000 speakers. The number of speakers is higher in the south, and lower in the northern parts and the city of Heerlen. The number of speakers in Belgian Limburg (675,000 inhabitants) is not exactly known. It is spoken in the entire province, but in a less extensive range of situations.

Status
Since 1997, the Limburgish language has been recognized as regional language by the Netherlands' government, according to Article 2, paragraph 1, of the "European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages". Because of this, the Dutch Government is obligated to encourage the use of the language, although no specific rules or arrangements have been set.
With regard to social status, Limburgish is better off than many other regional languages. Not only the common people, but also the middle classes and the elite speak Limburgish.

Public services
Limburgish is in many cases the everyday speech of municipal and provincial governments, and it is also used in social intercourse between the government and the people in an endeavor to bridge the gap between administration and citizenry.
In churches, Limburgish is not officially used, because of reticent policy of the Roman-Catholic authorities. However, the language is used throughout the province in mass and in oecumenical services, especially around Christmas, Carnival and local holidays.
The language is used in hospitals, public administration, and in providing commercial, governmental or cultural information. Telephone operators and reception employees in trade and industry, as well as for instance policemen and employees of public libraries, will speak Limburgisch if the client so desires.

Education
There is no provincial education program to teach the language, but Limburgish is often used in class, as everyday speech. On a local level there are small projects, for instance in Maastricht, where a Limburgish educational course has been developed. There are earlier experiences in this field, as a result of the so-called "Kerkrade Project," in which the linguistic situation in Kerkrade was researched for the benefit of primary-level education.

Media
Regional and local radio stations, advertisements in provincial newspapers and magazines use Limburgish frequently and freely. Also the regional television station "L1" has numerous programs in Limburgish.

Miscellaneous
Limburgish also plays a role in cultural spheres. Pop music has been using the language for many years. This music is not only popular in Limburg, but some artists even have gained national acclaim. Above that, there has been a lively tradition of cabaret in Limburgish. This tradition ranges from the very popular type of carnival entertainment to the more serious art of cabaret.