Luxembourgish Lessons #37: Diminutives
Welcome to number thirty-seven of the Luxembourgish lessons, which will be going over these tiny, little things called diminutives.
Forming the Diminutive
Diminutives are words used to mean a smaller degree of the noun root, often (but not always) being translated as "little ___". For example, there is "hand" and "little hand". Simple enough.
There are three ways of forming the diminutive.
The sufix -chen is by far the most common way of forming the diminutive. Along with the suffix, often the root noun will also take an umlaut change to further distinguish the diminutive from the root noun. Below are a few examples.
Some nouns like Kaz (cat) and Wäin (wine) have irregular diminutives .
"Little" can usually be omitted in most circumstances.
There are two corresponding plural suffixes for -chen: -ercher and -cher. The difference between them is whether the last syllable of the root noun before the suffix -chen is stressed or unstressed. -ercher is used if the syllable is stressed, otherwise -cher is used. For example:
- Kaz (cat) -> Kätzchen (singular diminutive) -> Kätzercher
- Hand (hand) -> Händchen (singular diminutive) -> Hännercher
- Apel (apple) -> Äppelchen (singular diminutive) -> Äppelcher
- Läffel (spoon) -> Läffelchen (singular diminutive) -> Läffelcher
An alternative form of -chen, the suffix -elchen is used to make diminutives of nouns that end in k, g, ch, or ng. Below are a few examples.
The plural of -elchen is always -elcher. For example, the diminutive noun Zéngelchen (little tongue) takes the plural Zéngelcher.
Another, less common way of forming the diminutive is with the suffix -i. Diminutives that use this suffix are endearments. A few examples are shown below:
All nouns with the diminutive -i take the plural -ien. For example, the diminutive Kënni (child) takes the plural Kënnien.
In German and Dutch, languages fairly similar to Luxembourgish, all diminutives are neuter nouns. For example, the German diminutive for der Löffel (the spoon), which is masculine, is das Löffelchen. Likewise, the Dutch diminutive for de lepel (spoon), which is also masculine, is het lepeltje.
This feature is not true in Luxembourgish. In Luxembourgish, the diminutive noun will keep the gender of the root noun. The Luxembourgish diminutive of de Läffel (the spoon), yet again masculine, is de Läffelchen. As you can see, the gender of Läffelchen is still masculine.
- Luxembourgish Lessons #34: Occupations
- Luxembourgish Lessons #35: Imperatives
- Luxembourgish Lessons #36: Participles & Gerunds