Grammar is a truly vast playing field. While you could easily write three articles about some topics, there are others that you can sum up quickly.
Hello and wëllkomm zeréck to Language Basics!
In this lesson, we've combined some of these "minor" grammar points for you.
Over the last 17 lessons, we've covered several "big" grammar topics, such as tenses, numbers, formal speech, cases, pronouns…etc. And while these topics are all complex enough to justify their own, individual lessons, there are other aspects of grammar that are a lot more straightforward. Even though they are still important and useful, there's just not enough to talk about to write a whole lesson just about this one topic.
For this reason, we decided that we should dedicate one of these grammar lessons to three topics that fall a bit short in terms of complexity but are still highly useful for anyone learning Luxembourgish. We hope you enjoy our selection!
The diminutive – Make it cute!
A diminutive is a grammatical form that conveys a meaning of "small", "little", or even "cute". Examples of this in English include words like "leaflet" (suffix -let expresses the diminutive), "minibus" (prefix mini- expresses the diminutive), or adding a -y to someone's name, e.g., "Matty" instead of "Matt". In the latter case, the diminutive can also be used to express affection.
In Luxembourgish, we can form a diminutive by adding the suffices -i and -chen / -elchen:
Häerz ("heart") -> Häerzi(this can be used as a term of endearment for one's partner)
Fënger ("finger") -> Fëngerchen("little finger", e.g., of a baby)
-i is almost exclusively used to form terms of endearments. Another example would be Stupp, which is already a pet name for one's partner but can be made even cuter by adding the -i: Stuppi.
Quite often, you will also notice a vowel change:
Haus ("house") -> Haischen
Brout ("bread") -> Bréitchen ("bread roll")
Maart ("market") -> Mäertchen
Hues ("rabbit") -> Hieschen
Fuuss ("fox") -> Fiischen
Jong ("boy") -> Jéngelchen
Some words already have a diminutive ending in their standard form:
The genitive – The lost case
Remember a few lessons ago, when we told you that there are three grammatical cases in Luxembourgish? We feel that you are now ready to learn the truth: There are actually four – but the fourth case has almost completely disappeared from the language.
Some remnants of the genitive case remain and that's why it's at least worth mentioning this. Among them are two relatively common expressions that you will encounter:
Ufanks der Woch-> "At the start of the week"
Enn des Mounts-> "At the end of the month"
Since we're on the topic of grammatical cases again, there's another word that we should point out to you:
Der Däiwel -> the devil
As you can see, der Däiwel has a bit of a peculiar definite article. Basically, this word is what's left of a time when the nominative and the accusative case were still distinct from each other in Luxembourgish. Because it is so unusual, even native speakers of Luxembourgish (especially younger ones) can find this word a bit weird. It is used in a number of very common expressions though (the following examples are all from LOD.lu):
dat ass en aarmen Däiwel
-> "this is a poor devil"
dee Kärel huet der Däiwel an der Panz
-> this guy is mischievous (lit. "this guy has the devil in the belly")
an der Klass war der Däiwel lass!
-> All hell broke loose in the class (lit. "the devil was loose in the class")
meng Mamm fäert d'Dimmeren ewéi der Däiwel d'Weiwaasser
-> my mother is afraid of thunder as the devil is of holy water
mäi Bopi ass all Dag um Dill, éier der Däiwel Schong an Huesen unhuet
-> my grandpa wakes up very early in the day (lit. "every day, my grandpa wakes up before the devil has put shoes and socks on")
dem Noper säi Klengt ass der Däiwel an Zivil
-> the neighbour's girl is mischievous (lit. "the neighbour's girl is the devil in plain clothes")
déi zwee Nopere waren zäitliewens een deem aneren säin Däiwel
-> the two neighbours despised each other for as long as they've lived (lit. "the two neighbours have been each other's devil for as long as they've lived")
der Däiwel ass net esou schwaarz, wéi e gemoolt gëtt!
-> things are not as bad as you may make them out to be (lit. "the devil is not as black as he is painted")
The weird thing Luxembourgers do with their names
Since you've just learned about the genitive, you are now also able to understand a very peculiar thing that Luxembourgers do with their names. Let's come up with three fictional Luxembourgers to show you what we mean: Viviane Hellers, Marcel Weber, and Stéphanie Thewes. Alright and now let's take a look at some examples to illustrate how native speakers might use those names:
Hues du d'Hellers Viviane scho gesinn? -> Have you seen Viviane Hellers already?
De Webesch Marcel huet mir dat ginn -> Marcel Weber gave this to me
D'Thewese Stéphanie war bei mir an der Klass -> I was in a class with Stéphanie Thewes
As you can see, the last and first names have switched places. But there's even more going on. Three suffixes have been added to the last names: -s, -se(n), and -sch(en). This is in fact another archaic form of the genitive that has survived to this day. So, what's basically happening here is that the last name is turned into a possessive. While this concept does not exist in English, we can imagine what it would look like if it did: Instead of saying "John Smith called me" you could say "Smith's John called me" (as in: John of the Smith family called me).
This is one of those aspects that can instantly take your Luxembourgish to the next level, if you get the hang of it. Try it out with your own name (you don't have to have a "Luxembourgish" name for this to work) and have some fun with it!
Vocabulary list – Animals
Before you leave, don't forget to have a look at our extensive vocabulary list for the core lesson:
Selection of common animals
the oak processionary
d'Flantermaus / d'Fliedermaus
de Glüwiermchen / de Gehaansfénkelchen
den Hond / de Mupp
de Kéiseker / den Igel
de Maulef / de Maulwuerf
the guinea pig
d'Mustik / Moustique
d'Nashorn / d'Rhinozeros
de Päiperlek / de Schmetterling / de Pimpampel
the turtle / the tortoise (Luxembourgish does not differentiate between the two)
d'Schnuddelhong (lit. "the snotchicken" – probably one of the best Lux words of all time)
d'Seejomes / d'Ameis
den Tëntefësch (lit. "the ink fish")
de Vugel / de Vull (note that Vull is also a slang term for male genitals)
the (wild) boar
d'Wëllt Schwäin / d'Wëllschwäin
den Zeebra / den Zebra