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Esquina - Corner

Liège, Bélgica.


Origins of the name "Liège"


The city has the particulaity of having a different name in a dozen of European languages. Now called Liège in French, it was spelt Liége until 1946, which show a slight evolution in the pronuciation.


It is not hard to guess that the Italian Liegi, the Spanish Lieja or the Latvian Lježa derive directly from the French name. On the other hand, the German Lüttich and the Dutch Luik bear little resemblance with the French spelling or pronuciation. To understand why a city can be called by such different names by people living next to each others, we have to go back to the original name of the place, before modern French, German or Dutch languages came into existence.


The original Frankish name of the place seem to have been Leudico (mentioned in 718), or Leudicus in its Latinised form. It could come from the Old German Leudika, meaning "land of the people" (or villa leudica in Latin). We can reasonably assume that in Old Frankish the name must have sounded like "Leudik" or "Liudig" in the spoken form.


The "d" disappeared and the vowel sounds evolved, or even merged in most local Frankish dialects, like in Dutch (Luik), in Limburgish (Luuk), and in Luxembourgish (Léck). The same "d" became a "t", and the final "k/g" sound changed into a "ch/sh" in Ripuarian German (Lüttish) and in standard High German (Lüttich) - from where the Czech Lutych was derived.


The transition from Old Frankish to modern French is more radical, as it is with most Walloon place names. One common feature in the evolution of French is the inversion of the last vowel and consonant sounds. This is still visible when comparing English words which come from Medieval French with the modern French equivalent (e.g. vocabulary => vocabulaire ; repertory => repertoire ; Anthony => Antoine). Liudig probably evolved into something like Liedig in medieval patois, then Liedji by invertion of the final vowel and consonant, which eventually gave Lîdje in Walloon and Lié(d)ge, then Liège in standard French. Alternatively, the Latin form of Leudicus, evolved into Leudium, then Legium, Legia and finally Liege.

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Taken on October 19, 2009