Low German/Low Saxon (Plattdüütsch/Nedderdüütsch)

As a branch of the West Germanic group, "Low German" includes all varieties derived from Old Low Frankish (e.g. Dutch and Afrikaans) and from Old Saxon. In Germany, the name (Niederdeutsch/Plattdeutsch) is used as a general label for Low Frankish and Low Saxon varieties that happen to be used on German soil. In a specific sense, the name refers to varieties that descended from Old Saxon. These are used in Northern Germany and in the eastern parts of the Netherlands. The native name Neddersassisch (Low Saxon), in the Netherlands Nedersaksisch and Neersaksisch, has begun to be applicable to all Old-Saxon-derived varieties.

There are also speakers of Low German in Poland, Denmark, Russia, Ukraine, Central Asia, Australia, the USA, Canada and Latin America. This includes Mennonite Plautdietsch. Low German is the native language of about 3 million people and can be understood by about 10 million people. Since 1999, Low German has been recognised by Germany as a regional language according to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. The Netherlands recognised their varieties somewhat earlier.

Low German first appeared in writing during the 9th century in the form of two poems, Heliand (The Savior) and Genesis, short texts, such as a baptismal oath, a little earlier. It was used as a written language in official documents until the 17th century, when it was largely replaced by High German. German traders from the Hanseatic cities dominated trade on the Baltic Sea coasts and their language influenced the other languages of the region.

Low German literature has a long history. While in the recent past it consisted mostly of traditional styles and genres, publication of works in contemporary styles and genres have been on the increase since the middle of the 20th century, especially since official recognition of the language.

There is no standard orthography or a standard written language for Low German. A German-based spelling system is usually used by speakers of Low German in Germany, and a Dutch-based one in the Netherlands.

Northern Low German pronunciation (Germany, Sass Orthography)

Northern Low German pronunciation (Germany, Sass Orthography)

Notes

  1. Short vowels are slightly lengthened (but not changed otherwise) before m, n, ng, l and r. In these cases they tend to be written double in Dutch-based systems.
  2. Long vowels (and diphthongs where applicable) except long i are spelled as single letters in open syllables; they are spelled as double letters in closed syllables and when followed by more than one consonant letter. Long i is always spelled ie. A long vowel is supposed to be followed by h wherever this applies in the German cognate. In the Lokkum Guidelines orthography (which is used in religious circles), long vowels are represented by double letters in both closed and open syllables (unless they are followed by lengthening h).
  3. In some northern dialects, especially in the Lower Elbe region, long a is pronounced [oː] and tends to be spelled o or oh.
  4. Long monophthong e is supposed to be distinguished from the diphthong spelled e/ee by being written with an ogonek (ę/ęę) or as ä/ää, but most writers ignore this rule.
  5. Long monophthong ö is supposed to be distinguished from the diphthong spelled ö/öö by being written with an ogonek (ǫ̈/ǫ̈ǫ̈) or as œ, but most writers ignore this rule.
  6. At the end of a syllable, b, d and g are devoiced.
  7. In dialects of the Lower Elbe region and Western Mecklenburg, the marked diphthongs become long monophthongs before syllable-final r.
  8. Following i, ie, e, ü or ö in the same syllable, ch and g are pronounced [ç]; after a, o or u [χ].
  9. At the end of a syllable, h is not pronounced.
  10. Voiceless stops are aspirated only at the beginning of a word.
  11. Traditionally, l is pronounced velar (like English l) at the end of a syllable.
  12. n becomes [m] before b and p; it becomes [ŋ] before ch, g and k.
  13. At the end of a syllable r becomes a vowel. At the beginning of a syllable it is traditionally trilled, but under German influence some speakers now use uvular [ʁ].
  14. s is pronounced [z] before a vowel, elsewhere [s]. Before p, t, m and n at the beginning of a syllable, s is always [s]; it becomes [ʃ] only in a few marginal dialects and under strong German influence.
  15. The apostrophe is used as an omission symbol. At the end of a word, it tends to stand for omitted older e, in which case the preceding vowel is lengthened (long vowels and diphthongs becoming extra long) and preceding d is not pronounced in many dialects. Most writers do not understand and follow this rule.

Sample text in North Low Saxon

Wat Wöörd' un Rechten sünd, daar sünd all de Minschen free un liek mit boorn. Se hebbt dat Tüüg för Vernimm un Gewäten mitkrägen, un dat böört jüm, dat se eenanner in'n Geest vun Bröderschup in de Mööt kaamt.

This text in Fraktur

North Low Saxon sample text in the Fraktur script

This text in Sütterlin

North Low Saxon sample text in the Sütterlin script

IPA transcription of this text

vat vœːɪɝ ʔʊˑn ˈrɛçtn̩ zʏˑn(t) dɒːɐ zʏˑn(t) ʔaˑɫ de ˈmɪˑnʃn̩ frɛˑɪ ʔʊˑn liːk mɪt bɔˑʊɐn zɛˑɪ hɛp(t) dat tʰyːç fœˑɐ fɝˈnɪˑm ʔʊˑn geˈveːtn̩ ˈmɪtkreːgŋ ʔʊˑn dat bœˑɪɝt ɟʏˑm dat zɛˑɪ ʔɛɪˈnaˑnɝ ʔɪˑnː gɛˑɪst fʊˑn ˈbrœˑɪdɝʃʊp ˈʔɪˑne mœˑɪt kʰɒːmt

A recording of this text by Reinhard F. Hahn

Translation

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Information about Low German | Low German phrases | Tower of Babel in Low German

Information, translations and recording provided by Reinhard F. Hahn

Links

Information about Low German
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low_German
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low_Saxon
http://www.lowlands-l.net/anniversary/nds-info.php
http://lowlands-l.net/grammar/

Algemeyne Nedersaksische Schryvwyse - a General Low Saxon Orthography
http://www.ans.phileon.nl

Plattdüütsch Nahrichten (Low German news)
http://www.radiobremen.de/bremeneins/platt/news/

Poetry in Low Saxon with translations in Afrikaans, Dutch and German
http://www.sassisch.net

Low German Dictionaries
http://plattmakers.de
http://plautdietsch.22web.org/lexicon/
http://www.mennolink.org/doc/lg/

Germanic languages

Afrikaans, Alsatian, Bavarian, Cimbrian, Danish, Dutch, Elfdalian, English, Faroese, Flemish, German, Gothic, Icelandic, Low German / Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, Norn, North Frisian, Norwegian, Old English, Old Norse, Pennsylvania German, Saterland Frisian, Scots, Shetland(ic), Swedish, Swiss German, West Frisian, Yiddish

Other languages written with the Latin alphabet


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