Luxembourgish was originally a Moselle Franconian dialect, and for a long time was less important than it is today. In the administration, French has had a clear preference over German since the 14th century. Whereas in everyday life, Luxembourgish remains the language spoken by the population. A law passed in 1984 defined Luxembourgish for the first time ever as the national language, but also recognised the existing trilingualism (German, French, Luxembourgish).
Key stages in the country's linguistic evolution
Multilingualism in the Grand Duchy is rooted in the historical coexistence of the Roman and Germanic ethnic groups.
The origins of the Grand Duchy's linguistic particularity go back to the Middle Ages. To understand the present situation, it is necessary to remember a number of key stages in the Grand Duchy's linguistic evolution.
The languages used by the administration
French gained ground initially under the first French occupation (Louis XIV - 1684), and subsequently as a result of the French Revolution (1789).
In the administration, French was already clearly preferred to German, continuing a tradition which designated French as the language of the administration in the 14th century. Under the reign of the Habsburgs (15th to 18th centuries), neither the Spanish nor the Austrians questioned the preferential use of French as the official and administrative language.
The Napoleonic Code was introduced in 1804.
German was used as the written language in the political sphere to comment on laws and ordinances so that these texts could be understood by all.
Before 1843, all primary schooling was carried out in German; French was added at secondary school.
The 1839 Treaty of London, which gave the Grand Duchy its autonomy, did not change linguistic practices. The Law of 26 July 1843 reinforced bilingualism substantially by introducing the teaching of French at primary school.
Luxembourgish began to be taught in schools, at the primary level, in 1912.
The 1984 Languages Law
The 1984 Languages Law elevated Luxembourgish to the rank of national language of the Grand Duchy.
Prior to 1984, the official use of languages was based on Grand Ducal Decrees dating back to 1830, 1832 and 1834 which allowed free choice between French and German.