Kerkrade dialect phonology

This article covers the phonology of the Kerkrade dialect, a West Ripuarian language variety spoken in parts of the Kerkrade municipality in the Netherlands (including the town of Kerkrade itself) and Herzogenrath in Germany.

Just like Colognian, the Kerkrade dialect is not uniform and there are some geographical differences. This article focuses on the variety spoken in the Dutch town of Kerkrade. The spelling used in this article is a Dutch-based one used in Kirchröadsjer dieksiejoneer.


In contrast to Limburgish and Standard Dutch, but like other varieties of Ripuarian, the Kerkrade dialect was partially affected by the High German consonant shift. For instance, the former /t/ became an affricate /ts/ in word-initial and word-final positions, after historical /l/ and /ʁ/ as well as when doubled. Thus, the word for "two" is twee /ˈtʋeː/ in Standard Dutch, but tswai /ˈtsβai/[tone?] in the Kerkrade dialect, almost identical to Standard German zwei /ˈtsvaɪ/.[1]

Labial Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive voiceless p t k
voiced b d (ɡ)
Affricate voiceless ts
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ (ç) x
voiced v z ʒ (ɣ) ʁ ɦ
Approximant β l j
  • /m, p, b, β/ are bilabial, whereas /f, v/ are labiodental.
  • Syllable-final /β, l/ tend to be velarized [w, ɫ], especially after /ɑ/. /l/ can also be velarized intervocalically after /ɑ/.[2]
  • /ɡ/ occurs only intervocalically.[3]
  • Most instances of historical /ɣ/ have merged with /j/, so that the word for green in the Kerkrade dialect is jreun /ˈjʁø̂ːn/ (compare Standard Dutch groen /ˈɣrun/). /ɣ/ occurs only after back vowels and is phonetically very similar to /ʁ/.[4] In fact, it is unclear whether speakers make a consistent phonetic distinction between the velar /ɣ/ and the uvular /ʁ/. In Luxembourgish, which is also a Central Franconian language variety spoken further south in Luxembourg and Belgium, the two sounds (usually transcribed with ⟨ʁ⟩ and ⟨ʀ⟩ in IPA) have been reported to merge to [ʁ] between a vowel and a voiced consonant.[5]
  • The palatal [ç] is an allophone of /x/ after consonants, the front vowels and the close-mid central /ø/, which phonologically is a front vowel. The velar [x] is used after back vowels and the open central /aː/, which phonologically is a back vowel. Both allophones can appear within one lexeme, e.g. laoch [ˈlɔːx][tone?] and löcher [ˈlœçəʁ].[tone?][3]


Vowel phonemes[6]
Front Central Back
unrounded rounded
short long short long short long short long
Close i y u
Close-mid ɪ øː ø o
Open-mid ɛ ɛː œ œː ə ɔ ɔː
Open ɑ
Diphthongs closing ɛi   œy   ɔi   ɔu   ai   au
centering iə   yə   uə   eə   øə   oə
  • Many words that have the long rounded close-mid vowels /øː/ and /oː/ in the neighboring Limburgish dialects have the short /ø/ and /o/ in Kerkrade.
  • /ø, øː, œ, œː/ can be considered the umlauted variants of /o, oː, ɔ, ɔː/.[7]
  • /ə/ occurs only in unstressed syllables. It is inserted allophonically between /l/ or /ʁ/ and a labial or velar consonant, as in milch [ˈmɪləç][tone?] and sjterk [ˈʃtæʁək].[tone?][8]
  • /oə/ is the only centering diphthong that can occur before /ʁ/.[3]

Phonetic realizationEdit

  • /i, iː, yː, u, uː/ are fully close [i, , , u, ].[7] The exact backness of the latter three is unknown; the phonologically front /yː/ can be central [ʉː], as in Maastricht, whereas /u, uː/ may be somewhat advanced from the fully back position.
  • The main allophone of /y/ is near-close [ʏ]. In word-final positions, it is realized as fully close [y].[7]
  • /ɪ/ and /ɛ/ are more open [ɪ̞, æ] before /m, n, ŋ, l, ʁ/ than elsewhere, where they are realized as [ɪ] and [ɛ], respectively.[7] Only the allophony of /ɛ/ is indicated in transcriptions in this article.
  • /eː, øː, oː/ are phonetically close-mid [, øː, ].[7] The exact backness of /øː/ is unknown, it can be as central as Maastrichtian /øː/.
  • /ø/ is phonetically close-mid central [ɵ] and the main difference between it and the unstressable /ə/ is rounding; /ø/ is rounded, whereas /ə/ is unrounded.[7]
  • /ɛː, œː, ɔ/ are open-mid [ɛː, œː, ɔ].[7]
  • /œ/ is mid front [œ̝].[7]
  • /ɑ/ is open back [ɑ].[9]
  • /aː/, a phonological back vowel, is phonetically central [äː].[9]
  • Before /ʁ/, all of the long vowels are pronounced even longer than in Standard Dutch. In this position, the long /iː, yː, uː, eː, øː/ are realized with a slight schwa offglide [iːə, yːə, uːə, eːə, øːə], which means that they approach the centering diphthongs /iə, yə, uə, eə, øə/, though the latter have a more prominent offglide and a shorter first element.[2]
  • The starting point of /œy/ is phonetically close to a shortened /œː/ ([œ]).[10]

Pitch accentEdit

As most other Ripuarian and Limburgish dialects, the Kerkrade dialect features a distinction between the thrusting tone (Dutch: stoottoon, German: Schärfung or Stoßton), which generally has a shortening effect on the syllable (not shown in transcriptions in this article) and the slurring tone (Dutch: sleeptoon, German: Schleifton). As in Help:IPA/Colognian, the thrusting tone is transcribed as a falling tone, whereas the slurring tone is left unmarked. There are minimal pairs, for example moer /ˈmûːʁ/ 'wall' - moer /ˈmuːʁ/ 'carrot'.[11][12]

The thrusting tone does not always shorten the syllable; for example, among the long monophthongs, only /iː/, /uː/ and /øː/ are shortened, but without merging with /i/, /u/ and /ø/ which are even shorter.[13]

The pitch accent can be the only difference:[11]

  • Between words differentiated only by gender, as in the minimal pair de val /ˈvɑ̂l/ - d'r val /ˈvɑl/
  • Between the plural and singular, as in the minimal pair de peëd /ˈpêət/ - 't peëd /ˈpeət/.
    • This is sometimes reinforced by other differences, e.g. de knieng /ˈknîŋ/ - d'r knien /ˈknin/. Some words have two possible plural forms, one that is differentiated from the singular form only by tone and a more distinct one; compare de boom /ˈbôːm/ with the umlauted de beum /ˈbø̂ːm/, which are plural forms of d'r boom /ˈboːm/.
  • Between inflected and uninflected forms of adjectives, compare rónge /ˈʁôŋə/ with rónk /ˈʁoŋk/.
  • Between the diminutive and the primitive form, compare müsje /ˈmŷʃə/ with moes /ˈmus/.



  • Gilles, Peter; Trouvain, Jürgen (2013). "Luxembourgish" (PDF). Journal of the International Phonetic Association. 43 (1): 67–74. doi:10.1017/S0025100312000278.
  • Köhnlein, Björn (2013). "Optimizing the relation between tone and prominence: Evidence from Franconian, Scandinavian, and Serbo-Croatian tone accent systems" (PDF). Lingua. 131: 1–28.
  • Stichting Kirchröadsjer Dieksiejoneer (1997) [1987]. Kirchröadsjer Dieksiejoneer. (in Dutch and Ripuarian) (2nd ed.). Kerkrade: Stichting Kirchröadsjer Dieksiejoneer. ISBN 90-70246-34-1. Archived from the original on 2015-09-19. Retrieved 2015-06-10.