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.
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.
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
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, translations and recording provided by Reinhard F. Hahn
Algemeyne Nedersaksische Schryvwyse - a General Low Saxon Orthography
Plattdüütsch Nahrichten (Low German news)
Poetry in Low Saxon with translations in Afrikaans, Dutch and German
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