Low German

Low German
Low Saxon
Plattdütsch, Plattdüütsch, Plattdütsk, Plattdüütsk, Plattduitsk (South-Westphalian), Plattduitsch (Eastphalian), Plattdietsch (Prussian); Neddersassisch; Nedderdüütsch German: Plattdeutsch, Niedersächsisch, Niederdeutsch (in a stricter sense)
Dutch: Nedersaksisch and Danish: Plattysk
Native toNorthern Germany
Western Germany
Eastern Netherlands
Southern Denmark
Germans (including East Frisians);
Historically Saxons
(both the ethnic group and modern regional subgroup of Germans)
Native speakers
Estimated 6.7 million[a][1][2]
Up to 10 million second-language speakers (2001)[3]
Early forms
Official status
Official language in
 Lower Saxony
Recognised minority
language in
 Mexico (100,000)[9]

 Bolivia (70,000)[10]

 Paraguay (30,000)[11]
Language codes
ISO 639-3nds (Dutch varieties and Westphalian have separate codes)
lowg1239  Low German[12]
Low Saxon Dialects.svg
Approximate area in which Low German/Low Saxon dialects are spoken in Europe (after the expulsion of Germans).
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Low German or Low Saxon[b] is a West Germanic language spoken mainly in Northern Germany and the northeastern part of the Netherlands. It is also spoken to a lesser extent in the German diaspora worldwide (e.g. Plautdietsch).

Low German is most closely related to Frisian and English, with which it forms the North Sea Germanic group of the West Germanic languages. Like Dutch, it is spoken north of the Benrath and Uerdingen isoglosses, while (Standard) German is spoken south of those lines. Like Frisian, English, Dutch and the North Germanic languages, Low German has not undergone the High German consonant shift, as opposed to German, which is based upon High German dialects. Low German evolved from Old Saxon (Old Low German), which is most closely related to Old Frisian and Old English (Anglo-Saxon).

The Low German dialects spoken in the Netherlands are mostly referred to as Low Saxon, those spoken in northwestern Germany (Lower Saxony, Westphalia, Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Bremen, and Saxony-Anhalt west of the Elbe) as either Low German or Low Saxon, and those spoken in northeastern Germany (Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Brandenburg, and Saxony-Anhalt east of the Elbe) mostly as Low German. This is because northwestern Germany and the northeastern Netherlands were the area of settlement of the Saxons (Old Saxony), while Low German spread to northeastern Germany through eastward migration of Low German speakers into areas with a Slavic-speaking population (Germania Slavica).

It has been estimated that Low German has approximately 6.7 million native speakers – 5 million in Germany, primarily Northern Germany,[1] and 1.7 million in the Netherlands.[2] A 2005 study by H. Bloemhof, Taaltelling Nedersaksisch, showed 1.8 million spoke it daily to some extent in the Netherlands.[13]

Geographical extent

Inside Europe

City limit sign in Lower Saxony:
(Low German)

It has been estimated that Low German has approximately 6.7 million native speakers – 5 million in Germany, primarily Northern Germany,[1] and 1.7 million in the Netherlands.[2]

Dialects of Low German are spoken in the northeastern area of the Netherlands (Dutch Low Saxon) and are written there with an unstandardised orthography based on Standard Dutch orthography. The position of the language is, according to UNESCO, vulnerable.[14] Between 1995 and 2011 the numbers of speakers of parents dropped from 34% in 1995 to 15% in 2011. Numbers of speakers of their children dropped in the same period from 8% to 2%.[15]

Variants of Low German are spoken in most parts of Northern Germany, for instance in the states of Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, Hamburg, Bremen, Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Saxony-Anhalt, and Brandenburg. Small portions of northern Hesse and northern Thuringia are traditionally Low Saxon-speaking too. Historically, Low German was also spoken in formerly German parts of Poland as well as in East Prussia and the Baltic States of Estonia and Latvia. The Baltic Germans spoke a distinct Low German dialect, which has influenced the vocabulary and phonetics of both Estonian and Latvian. The historical Sprachraum of Low German also included contemporary northern Poland, East Prussia (the modern Kaliningrad Oblast of Russia), a part of western Lithuania, and the German communities in the Baltic states, most notably the Hanseatic cities of modern Latvia and Estonia. German speakers in this area fled the Red Army or were forcibly expelled after the border changes at the end of World War II.

The language was also formerly spoken in the outer areas of what is now the city-state of Berlin, but in the course of urbanisation and national centralisation in that city, the language has vanished (the Berlin dialect itself is a northern outpost of High German, though it has some Low German features). Under the name Low Saxon, there are speakers in the Dutch north-eastern provinces of Groningen, Drenthe, Stellingwerf (part of Friesland), Overijssel, and Gelderland, in several dialect groups per province.

Today, there are still speakers outside Germany and the Netherlands to be found in the coastal areas of present-day Poland (minority of ethnic German East Pomeranian speakers who were not expelled from Pomerania, as well as the regions around Braniewo).[citation needed] In the Southern Jutland region of Denmark there may still be some Low German speakers in some German minority communities, but the Low German and North Frisian dialects of Denmark can be considered moribund at this time.[citation needed]

Outside Europe and the Mennonites

There are also immigrant communities where Low German is spoken in the Western hemisphere, including Canada, the United States, Mexico, Belize, Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. In some of these countries, the language is part of the Mennonite religion and culture.[16] There are Mennonite communities in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Kansas and Minnesota which use Low German in their religious services and communities. These Mennonites are descended from primarily Dutch settlers that had initially settled in the Vistula delta region of Prussia in the 16th and 17th centuries before moving to newly-acquired Russian territories in Ukraine in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and then to the Americas in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The types of Low German spoken in these communities and in the Midwest region of the United States have diverged since emigration. The survival of the language is tenuous in many places, and has died out in many places where assimilation has occurred. Members and friends of the Historical Society of North German Settlements in Western New York (Bergholz, NY), a community of Lutherans who trace their immigration from Pomerania in the 1840s, hold quarterly "Plattdeutsch lunch" events, where remaining speakers of the language gather to share and preserve the dialect. Mennonite colonies in Paraguay, Belize, and Chihuahua, Mexico have made Low German a "co-official language" of the community.[citation needed]

A public school in Witmarsum Colony (Paraná, Southern Brazil), teaches in the Portuguese language and in Plautdietsch.[17]

East Pomeranian is also spoken in parts of Southern and Southeastern Brazil, in the latter especially in the state of Espírito Santo, being official in five municipalities, and spoken among its ethnically European migrants elsewhere, primarily in the states of Rio de Janeiro and Rondônia. East Pomeranian-speaking regions of Southern Brazil are often assimilated into the general German Brazilian population and culture, for example celebrating the Oktoberfest, and there can even be a language shift from it to Riograndenser Hunsrückisch in some areas. In Espírito Santo, nevertheless, Pomeranian Brazilians are more often proud of their language, and particular religious traditions and culture,[18] and not uncommonly inheriting the nationalism of their ancestors, being more likely to accept marriages of its members with Brazilians of origins other than a Germanic Central European one than to assimilate with Brazilians of Swiss, Austrian, Czech, and non-East Pomeranian-speaking German and Prussian heritage[clarification needed] – that were much more numerous immigrants to both Brazilian regions (and whose language almost faded out in the latter, due to assimilation and internal migration)[clarification needed], by themselves less numerous than the Italian ones (with only Venetian communities in areas of highly Venetian presence conserving Talian, and other Italian languages and dialects fading out elsewhere).[clarification needed]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Nederduits
asturianu: Baxu alemán
Bân-lâm-gú: Kē-tē Tek-gí
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Ніжненямецкая мова
català: Baix alemany
čeština: Dolnoněmčina
Cymraeg: Sacsoneg Isel
dansk: Plattysk
davvisámegiella: Saksigiella
Deitsch: Blattdeitsch
euskara: Behe-aleman
français: Bas allemand
客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: Tâi-thi Tet-ngî
한국어: 저지 독일어
íslenska: Lágþýska
Lingua Franca Nova: Platdeutx
Livvinkarjala: Alasaksin kieli
Nederlands: Nederduits
Nedersaksies: Nedersaksies
Nordfriisk: Plaatschiisk
norsk: Nedertysk
norsk nynorsk: Plattysk
occitan: Bas-saxon
Papiamentu: Plattdüütsch
Plattdüütsch: Plattdüütsch
português: Baixo-alemão
română: Germana de jos
Runa Simi: Ura sahun simi
Seeltersk: Läichdüütsk
slovenčina: Dolná nemčina
slovenščina: Nizka nemščina
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Donjonjemački jezik
suomi: Alasaksa
svenska: Lågtyska
vepsän kel’: Alasaksonijan kel'
Tiếng Việt: Tiếng Hạ Đức
粵語: 低地德文
中文: 低地德语