Middle Low German
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OR:

Middle Low German or Middle Saxon (autonym: ''Sassisch'', i.e. "
Saxon The Saxons ( la, Saxones, german: Sachsen, ang, Seaxan, osx, Sahson, nds, Sassen, nl, Saksen) were a group of Germanic peoples, Germanic * * * * peoples whose name was given in the early Middle Ages to a large country (Old Saxony, la, Saxo ...

Saxon
", Standard High German: ',
Modern Dutch Dutch ( ) is a West Germanic language spoken by about 25 million people as a first language and 5 million as a second language. It is the third most widely spoken Germanic language The Germanic languages are a branch of the Indo-Europea ...
: ') is a developmental stage of
Low German : : : : : (70,000) (30,000) (8,000) , familycolor = Indo-European , fam2 = Germanic , fam3 = West Germanic , fam4 = North Sea Germanic , ancestor = Old Saxon Old Saxon, also known as ...
. It developed from the
Old Saxon Old Saxon, also known as Old Low German, was a Germanic language and the earliest recorded form of Low German (spoken nowadays in Northern Germany Northern Germany (german: link=no, Norddeutschland) is a linguistic, geographic, socio-cultura ...
language in the
Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted approximately from the late 5th to the late 15th centuries, similar to the Post-classical, post-classical period of World history (field), global history. It began with t ...
and has been documented in writing since about 1225/34 (''
Sachsenspiegel The (; gml, Sassen Speyghel; modern nds, Sassenspegel; all literally "Saxon Mirror") is one of the most important law books and custumals compiled during the Holy Roman Empire. Originating between 1220 and 1235 as a record of existing local ...

Sachsenspiegel
''). During the
Hanseatic
Hanseatic
period (from about 1300 to about 1600), Middle Low German was the leading written language in the north of
Central Europe Central Europe is an area of Europe between Western Europe and Eastern Europe, based on a common History, historical, Society, social and cultural identity. The Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) between Catholic Church, Catholicism and Protestanti ...

Central Europe
and served as a
lingua franca A lingua franca (; ; for plurals see ), also known as a bridge language, common language, trade language, auxiliary language, vehicular language, or link language, is a Natural language, language systematically used to make communication possib ...
in the northern half of Europe. It was used parallel to
medieval Latin Medieval Latin was the form of Literary Latin used in Roman Catholic Church, Roman Catholic Western Europe during the Middle Ages. In this region it served as the primary written language, though local languages were also written to varying deg ...
also for purposes of
diplomacy Diplomacy comprises spoken or written communication by representatives of states (such as leaders and diplomats) intended to influence events in the international system.Ronald Peter Barston, ''Modern diplomacy'', Pearson Education, 2006, p. 1 ...

diplomacy
and for
deed In common law, a deed is any legal instrument in writing which passes, affirms or confirms an interest, right, or property and that is signed, attested, delivered, and in some jurisdiction (area), jurisdictions, seal (emblem), sealed. It is com ...

deed
s.


Terminology

While ''Middle Low German'' (MLG) is a scholarly term developed in hindsight, speakers in their time referred to the language mainly as (Saxon) or (the Saxon language). This terminology was also still known in
Luther
Luther
's time in the adjacent
Central German Central German or Middle German (german: mitteldeutsche Dialekte, mitteldeutsche Mundarten, Mitteldeutsch) is a group of High German languages, High German dialects spoken from the Rhineland in the west to the former eastern territories of Germ ...
-speaking areas. Its Latin equivalent was also used as meaning 'Low German' (among other meanings). Some languages whose first contacts with Germany were via Low German-speaking 'Saxons', took their name as meaning 'German' in general, e.g. Finnish 'German'. In contrast to Latin as the primary written language, speakers also referred to discourse in Saxon as speaking/writing , i.e. 'clearly, intelligibly'. This contains the same root as 'German' (cf.
High German The High German dialects (german: hochdeutsche Mundarten), or simply High German (); not to be confused with Standard German, Standard High German which is commonly also called ''High German'', comprise the variety (linguistics), varieties of G ...
: , Dutch ( archaically ''N(i)ederduytsche'' to mean the contemporary version of the
Dutch language Dutch ( ) is a West Germanic language spoken by about 25 million people as a first language and 5 million as a second language. It is the third most widely spoken Germanic language, after its close relatives German and English. '' Afrikaans' ...
) both from
Proto-Germanic Proto-Germanic (abbreviated PGmc; also called Common Germanic) is the linguistic reconstruction, reconstructed proto-language of the Germanic languages, Germanic branch of the Indo-European languages. Proto-Germanic eventually developed from ...
"of the people"; 'popular, vernacular') which could also be used for
Low German : : : : : (70,000) (30,000) (8,000) , familycolor = Indo-European , fam2 = Germanic , fam3 = West Germanic , fam4 = North Sea Germanic , ancestor = Old Saxon Old Saxon, also known as ...
if the context was clear. Compare also the modern colloquial term (from 'plain, simple') denoting Low (or West Central)
German dialects German dialects are the various traditional local varieties of the German language. Though varied by region, those of the southern half of Germany beneath the Benrath line are dominated by the geographical spread of the High German consonant s ...
in contrast to the written standard. Another medieval term is (lit. 'East-ish') which was at first applied to the
Hanseatic
Hanseatic
cities of the
Baltic Sea The Baltic Sea is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that is enclosed by Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Sweden and the North European Plain, North and Central European Plain. The sea stretches from 53°N to 66° ...

Baltic Sea
(the 'East Sea'), their territory being called ('East-land'), their inhabitants ('Eastlings'). This appellation was later expanded to other German Hanseatic cities and it was a general name for Hanseatic merchants in the Netherlands, e.g. in
Bruges Bruges ( , nl, Brugge ) is the capital and largest city A city is a human settlement of notable size.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Scienc ...

Bruges
where they had their (office; see
Kontor A ''kontor'' () was a foreign trading post of the Hanseatic League. In addition to the major ''kontore'' in London (the Steelyard), Bruges, Bergen, Norway, Bergen (Bryggen), and Novgorod (Peterhof), some ports had a representative merchant and ...

Kontor
). In the 16th century, the term (lit. 'Lowland-ish,
Netherlandish The Low Countries comprise the coastal Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt delta region in Western Europe, whose definition usually includes the modern countries of Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands. Both Belgium and the Netherlands derived their n ...
') gained ground, contrasting Saxon with the German dialects in the uplands to the south. It became dominant in the High German dialects (as ENHG , which could also refer to the modern
Netherlands ) , anthem = ( en, "William of Nassau") , image_map = , map_caption = , subdivision_type = Sovereign state , subdivision_name = Kingdom of the Netherlands , established_title = Before independence , established_date = Spanish Neth ...

Netherlands
), while remained the most widespread term within MLG. The equivalent of 'Low German' ( NHG ) seems to have been introduced later on by High German speakers and at first applied especially to Netherlanders. ''Middle Low German'' is a modern term used with varying degrees of inclusivity. It is distinguished from
Middle High German Middle High German (MHG; german: Mittelhochdeutsch (Mhd.)) is the term for the form of German language, German spoken in the High Middle Ages. It is conventionally dated between 1050 and 1350, developing from Old High German and into Early New Hi ...
, spoken to the south, which was later replaced by
Early New High German Early New High German (ENHG) is a term for the period in the history of the German language generally defined, following Wilhelm Scherer, as the period 1350 to 1650. The term is the standard translation of the German (Fnhd., Frnhd.), introduce ...
. Though
Middle Dutch Middle Dutch is a collective name for a number of closely related West Germanic languages, West Germanic dialects whose ancestor was Old Dutch. It was spoken and written between 1150 and 1500. Until the advent of Modern Dutch after 1500 or c. 155 ...
is today usually excluded from MLG (although very closely related), it is sometimes, especially in older literature, included in MLG, which then encompasses the
dialect continuum A dialect continuum or dialect chain is a series of language varieties spoken across some geographical area such that neighboring varieties are mutually intelligible, but the differences accumulate over distance so that widely separated vari ...
of all high-medieval Continental Germanic dialects outside MHG, from
Flanders Flanders (, ; Dutch language, Dutch: ''Vlaanderen'' ) is the Dutch language, Flemish-speaking northern portion of Belgium and one of the communities, regions and language areas of Belgium. However, there are several overlapping definitions, in ...

Flanders
in the West to the eastern Baltic.


Extent

Middle Low German covered a wider area than the
Old Saxon Old Saxon, also known as Old Low German, was a Germanic language and the earliest recorded form of Low German (spoken nowadays in Northern Germany Northern Germany (german: link=no, Norddeutschland) is a linguistic, geographic, socio-cultura ...
language of the preceding period, due to expansion to the East and, to a lesser degree, to the North. In the East, the MLG-speaking area expanded greatly as part of the ''
Ostsiedlung (, literally "East-settling") is the term for the Early Middle Ages, Early Medieval and High Middle Ages, High Medieval migration-period when ethnic Germans moved into the territories in the eastern part of Francia, East Francia, and the Hol ...

Ostsiedlung
'' (settlement of the East) in the 12th to 14th century and came to include
Mecklenburg Mecklenburg (; nds, label=Mecklenburgisch dialect, Low German, Mękel(n)borg ) is a historical region in northern Germany comprising the western and larger part of the federal-state Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The largest cities of the regi ...

Mecklenburg
,
Brandenburg Brandenburg (; nds, Brannenborg; dsb, Bramborska ) is a states of Germany, state in the northeast of Germany bordering the states of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Saxony, as well as the country of Poland. With an ar ...

Brandenburg
,
Pomerania Pomerania ( pl, Pomorze; german: Pommern; Kashubian: ''Pòmòrskô''; sv, Pommern) is a historical region on the southern shore of the Baltic Sea in Central Europe, split between Poland and Germany. The western part of Pomerania belongs to ...

Pomerania
and (Old)
Prussia Prussia, , Old Prussian: ''Prūsa'' or ''Prūsija'' was a Germans, German state on the southeast coast of the Baltic Sea. It formed the German Empire under Prussian rule when it united the German states in 1871. It was ''de facto'' dissolved ...
, which were hitherto dominated by Slavic and Baltic tribes. Some pockets of these native peoples persisted for quite some time, e.g. the ''
Wends Wends ( ang, Winedas ; non, Vindar; german: Wenden , ; da, vendere; sv, vender; pl, Wendowie, cz, Wendové) is a historical name for Slavs living near Germanic peoples, Germanic settlement areas. It refers not to a homogeneous people, but ...

Wends
'' along the lower Elbe until about 1700 or the
Kashubians The Kashubians ( csb, Kaszëbi; pl, Kaszubi; german: Kaschuben), also known as Cassubians or Kashubs, are a Lechites, Lechitic (West Slavs, West Slavic) ethnic group native to the historical region of Pomerania, including its eastern part calle ...
of Eastern Pomerania up to modern times. In the North, the Frisian-speaking areas along the North Sea diminished in favour of Saxon, esp. in
East Frisia East Frisia or East Friesland (german: Ostfriesland; ; stq, Aastfräislound) is a historic region in the northwest of Lower Saxony, Germany. It is primarily located on the western half of the East Frisia (peninsula), East Frisian peninsula, to ...
which largely switched to MLG since the mid-14th century. North of the
Elbe The Elbe (; cs, Labe ; nds, Ilv or ''Elv''; Upper and dsb, Łobjo) is one of the major rivers of Central Europe. It rises in the Giant Mountains of the northern Czech Republic The Czech Republic, or simply Czechia, is a landloc ...

Elbe
, MLG advanced slowly into
Sleswick The Duchy of Schleswig ( da, Hertugdømmet Slesvig; german: Herzogtum Schleswig; nds, Hartogdom Sleswig; frr, Härtochduum Slaswik) was a duchy A duchy, also called a dukedom, is a Middle Ages, medieval country, territory, fiefdom, fief, or ...
, against Danish and North Frisian, although the whole region was ruled by
Denmark ) , song = ( en, "King Christian stood by the lofty mast") , song_type = National and royal anthem , image_map = EU-Denmark.svg , map_caption = , subdivision_type = Sovereign state , subdivision_name = Danish Realm, Kingdom of Denmark ...

Denmark
. MLG exerted a huge influence upon Scandinavia (cf. ''History''), although native speakers of Low German were mostly confined to the cities where they formed colonies of merchants and craftsmen. It was an official language of Old Livonia, whose population consisted mostly of Baltic and Finnic tribes. In the West, at the
Zuiderzee The Zuiderzee or Zuider Zee (; old spelling ''Zuyderzee'' or ''Zuyder Zee'') was a shallow bay of the North Sea in the northwest of the Netherlands, extending about 100 km (60 miles) inland and at most 50 km (30 miles) wide, with an ov ...

Zuiderzee
, the forests of the
Veluwe The Veluwe () is a forest-rich ridge of hills (1100 km2) in the province of Gelderland in the Netherlands. The Veluwe features many different landscapes, including woodland, heath, some small lakes and Europe's largest sand drifts. The Ve ...

Veluwe
and close to the
Lower Rhine The Lower Rhine (german: Niederrhein; kilometres 660 to 1,033 of the river Rhine) flows from Bonn, Germany, to the North Sea at Hook of Holland, Netherlands (including the Nederrijn or "Nether Rhine" within the Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt delta); alt ...
, MLG bordered on closely related
Low Franconian Low Franconian, Low Frankish, NetherlandicSarah Grey Thomason, Terrence Kaufman: ''Language Contact, Creolization, and Genetic Linguistics'', University of California Press, 1991, p. 321. (Calling it "Low Frankish (or Netherlandish)".)Scott Shay ...

Low Franconian
dialects whose written language was mainly
Middle Dutch Middle Dutch is a collective name for a number of closely related West Germanic languages, West Germanic dialects whose ancestor was Old Dutch. It was spoken and written between 1150 and 1500. Until the advent of Modern Dutch after 1500 or c. 155 ...
. In earlier times, these were sometimes included in the modern definition of MLG (cf. ''Terminology''). In the South, MLG bordered on
High German The High German dialects (german: hochdeutsche Mundarten), or simply High German (); not to be confused with Standard German, Standard High German which is commonly also called ''High German'', comprise the variety (linguistics), varieties of G ...
dialects roughly along the northern borders of
Hesse Hesse (, , ) or Hessia (, ; german: Hessen ), officially the State of Hessen (german: links=no, Land Hessen), is a States of Germany, state in Germany. Its capital city is Wiesbaden, and the largest urban area is Frankfurt. Two other major histor ...
and
Thuringia Thuringia (; german: Thüringen ), officially the Free State of Thuringia ( ), is a states of Germany, state of central Germany, covering , the sixth smallest of the sixteen German states. It has a population of about 2.1 million. Erfurt is t ...
. The language border then ran eastwards across the plain of the middle Elbe until it met the (then more extensive) Sorb-speaking area along the upper Spree that separated it from High German. The border was never a sharp one, rather a continuum. The modern convention is to use the pronunciation of northern ''maken'' vs. southern ''machen'' ('to make') for determining an exact border. Along the middle
Elbe The Elbe (; cs, Labe ; nds, Ilv or ''Elv''; Upper and dsb, Łobjo) is one of the major rivers of Central Europe. It rises in the Giant Mountains of the northern Czech Republic The Czech Republic, or simply Czechia, is a landloc ...

Elbe
and lower
Saale The Saale (), also known as the Saxon Saale (german: Sächsische Saale) and Thuringian Saale (german: Thüringische Saale), is a river in Germany and a left-bank tributary of the Elbe. It is not to be confused with the smaller Fränkische Saale, ...

Saale
rivers, Low German began to retreat in favour of High German dialects already during Late Medieval times (cf. ''
Wittenberg Wittenberg ( , ; Low Saxon language, Low Saxon: ''Wittenbarg''; meaning ''White Mountain''; officially Lutherstadt Wittenberg (''Luther City Wittenberg'')), is the fourth largest town in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. Wittenberg is situated on the Ri ...
'' whose name is Low German but whose inhabitants already spoke mostly/exclusively High German when the
Reformation The Reformation (alternatively named the Protestant Reformation or the European Reformation) was a major movement within Western Christianity in 16th-century Europe that posed a religious and political challenge to the Catholic Church and in ...
set in).


History

Sub-periods of Middle Low German are: * Early Middle Low German (Standard High German: ): 1200–1350, or 1200–1370 * Classical Middle Low German (): 1350–1500, or 1370–1530 * Late Middle Low German (): 1500–1600, or 1530–1650 Middle Low German was the
lingua franca A lingua franca (; ; for plurals see ), also known as a bridge language, common language, trade language, auxiliary language, vehicular language, or link language, is a Natural language, language systematically used to make communication possib ...
of the
Hanseatic League The Hanseatic League (; gml, Hanse, , ; german: label=German language, Modern German, Deutsche Hanse) was a Middle Ages, medieval commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and market towns in Central Europe, Central and Norther ...

Hanseatic League
, spoken all around the
North Sea The North Sea lies between Great Britain, Norway, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. An epeiric sea, epeiric sea on the European continental shelf, it connects to the Atlantic Ocean through the English Channel in the south and the ...

North Sea
and the
Baltic Sea The Baltic Sea is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that is enclosed by Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Sweden and the North European Plain, North and Central European Plain. The sea stretches from 53°N to 66° ...

Baltic Sea
. It used to be thought that the language of
Lübeck Lübeck (; Low German also ), officially the Hanseatic City of Lübeck (german: Hansestadt Lübeck), is a city in Northern Germany. With around 217,000 inhabitants, Lübeck is the second-largest city on the German Baltic Sea, Baltic coast and ...

Lübeck
was dominant enough to become a normative standard (the so-called ) for an emergent spoken and written standard, but more recent work has established that there is no evidence for this and that Middle Low German was non-standardised. Middle Low German provided a large number of
loanword A loanword (also loan word or loan-word) is a word at least partly assimilated from one language (the donor language) into another language. This is in contrast to cognates, which are words in two or more languages that are similar because the ...
s to languages spoken around the Baltic Sea as a result of the activities of Hanseatic traders. Its traces can be seen in the
Scandinavian
Scandinavian
,
Finnic
Finnic
, and
Baltic languages The Baltic languages are a branch of the Indo-European languages, Indo-European language family spoken natively by a population of about 4.5 million people mainly in areas extending east and southeast of the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe. Toget ...

Baltic languages
, as well as Standard High German and
English
English
. It is considered the largest single source of loanwords in Danish, Estonian, Latvian,
Norwegian
Norwegian
and Swedish. Beginning in the 15th century, Middle Low German fell out of favour compared to Early Modern High German, which was first used by elites as a written and, later, a spoken language. Reasons for this loss of prestige include the decline of the Hanseatic League, followed by political heteronomy of Northern Germany and the cultural predominance of Central and Southern Germany during the
Protestant Reformation The Reformation (alternatively named the Protestant Reformation or the European Reformation) was a major movement within Western Christianity in 16th-century Europe that posed a religious and political challenge to the Catholic Church and in ...
and Luther's translation of the Bible.


Phonology and orthography

The description is based on Lasch (1914) which continues to be the authoritative comprehensive grammar of the language but is not necessarily up-to-date in every detail.


Consonants

* Square brackets indicate
allophone In phonology, an allophone (; from the Ancient Greek, Greek , , 'other' and , , 'voice, sound') is a set of multiple possible spoken soundsor ''phone (phonetics), phones''or signs used to pronounce a single phoneme in a particular language. Fo ...
s. * Round brackets indicate phonemes that do not have phoneme status in the whole language area or are marginal in the phonological system. It has to be noted that it is not rare to find the same word in MLG affected by one of the following phonological processes in one text and unaffected by it in another text because the lack of a written standard, the dialectal variation and ongoing linguistic change during the Middle Low German (MLG) era. General notes * Final devoicing: Voiced obstruents in the syllable coda are devoiced, e.g. ''geven'' (to give) but ''gift'' (gift). The change took place early in MLG but is not always represented in writing. Proclitic words like ''mid'' (with) might remain voiced before a vowel because they are perceived as one phonological unit with the following word. Also, as can already be seen in Old Saxon, lenited is devoiced to before syllabic nasals or liquids, e.g. ''gaffel'' (fork) from PG ''*gabalō''. *
Grammatischer Wechsel In historical linguistics Historical linguistics, also termed diachronic linguistics, is the scientific study of language change over time. Principal concerns of historical linguistics include: # to describe and account for observed change ...
: Because of sound changes in Proto-Germanic (cf.
Verner's law Verner's law describes a historical sound change in the Proto-Germanic language whereby consonants that would usually have been the voiceless fricatives , , , , , following an unstressed syllable, became the voiced fricatives , , , , . The law ...
), some words had different sounds in different grammatical forms. In MLG, there were only fossilised remnants of the "grammatischer wechsel" (grammatical change), namely for and , e.g. ''kêsen'' (to choose) but ''koren'' ((they) chose), and for and , e.g. ''vân'' < PG ''*fanhaną'' (to take hold, to catch) but ''gevangen'' < PG ''*fanganaz'' (taken hold of, caught). * Assimilation: A sound becoming more similar to a (usually) neighbouring sound, usually in place or manner of articulation, is very common across all languages. Early MLG mared assimilation much more often in writing than later periods, e.g. ''vamme'' instead of ''van deme'' (of the). *
Dissimilation In phonology, particularly within historical linguistics, dissimilation is a phenomenon whereby similar consonants or vowels in a word (linguistics), word become less similar. In English language, English, dissimilation is particularly common wi ...
: In MLG, it frequently happened with vs. or vs. , e.g. ''balbêrer'' < ''barbêrer'' (barber), or ''knuflôk'' < ''kluflôk'' (garlic). Both forms frequently co-existed. The complete loss of a sound in proximity to an identical sound can also be explained in such a way, e.g. the loss of in ''Willem'' (William) < ''Wilhelm''. * Metathesis: Some sounds tended to switch their places, especially the "liquids" and . Both forms may co-exist, e.g. ''brennen'' vs. (metathesised) ''bernen'' (to burn). *
Gemination In phonetics and phonology, gemination (), or consonant lengthening (from Latin 'doubling', itself from ''Gemini (constellation), gemini'' 'twins'), is an articulation of a consonant for a longer period of time than that of a singleton consonan ...

Gemination
: In MLG, geminate consonants, which came into being by assimilation or syncope, were no longer pronounced as such. Instead, geminate spelling marks the preceding vowel as short. Many variants exist, like combinations of voiced and voiceless consonants (e.g. letters, Sundays). Late MLG tended to use clusters of similar consonants after short as well as long vowels for no apparent reason, e.g. for (time). * h spellings: A mute ''h'' appeared sporadically after consonants already in Old Saxon. Its use greatly increased in MLG, first at the end of a word, when it often marked the preceding vowel as long, but it later appears largely randomly. In very late times, the use of ''h'' directly after the vowel is sometimes adopted from Modern High German as a sign of vowel length. Specific notes on nasals (Indented notes refer to orthography.) * had a tendency to shift to in the coda, e.g. ''dem'' > ''den'' (the (dat.sg.m.)). ** Intervocalic is sometimes spelled ''mb'' whether or not it developed from Old Saxon . * assimilated to before velars and . * Final often dropped out in unstressed position before consonants, e.g., (we have), cf. Modern Dutch for a similar process. Similarly, it often dropped from -clusters after unstressed vowels, especially in Westphalian, e.g. ''jârlix'' (annually) < ''jârlings''. * Furthermore, had been deleted in certain coda positions several centuries earlier (the so-called Ingvaeonic nasal spirant law), but there were many exceptions and restorations through analogy: the shifted form ''gôs'' (goose < PG ''*gans'') with an unshifted plural ''gense'' (geese) was quite common. Non-shifted forms have been common in the more innovative Eastern dialects. Specific notes on stops and fricatives * as a stop is always word-initially (''blôme'' flower, bloom), at the onset of stressed syllables (''barbêrer'' barber) and (historically) geminated (''ebbe'' ebb, low tide). Its allophones in other cases are word-internal and word-final (e.g. ''drêven'' to drive, vs. ''drêf'' drive (n.)). * Voiceless usually appeared word-initially (e.g. ''vader'' father), word-finally (merged with historical , see above), otherwise between short vowels and nasals/liquids (also from historical , e.g. ''gaffel'' fork) and in loans (e.g. ''straffen'' to tighten, from
High German The High German dialects (german: hochdeutsche Mundarten), or simply High German (); not to be confused with Standard German, Standard High German which is commonly also called ''High German'', comprise the variety (linguistics), varieties of G ...
). ** It was mostly written ''v'' in the syllable onset, in the coda. Exceptions include loans (''figûre''), some proper names (''Frederik''), cases like ''gaffel'' as mentioned earlier and sporadically before ''u'' (where ''v'' would be too similar graphically) and before ''l'' and ''r''. Sometimes, ''w'' is used for ''v'', and ''ph'' for ''f''. ** It has to be noted that in MLG (like in other medieval) texts, there is usually no clear graphic distinction between ''v'' and ''u''. The distinction between both (consonant value as ''v'', vocalic value as ''u'') is used in modern dictionaries, in grammars and in this article simply for better readability. Thus, in the manuscripts, e.g. ''auer'' is ''aver'' (but). * was originally an approximant but seems to have later shifted towards a fricative. Its exact articulation likely differed from dialect to dialect, and many of them merged word-internally with , an allophone of . ** In writing, ''w'' for word-internal was kept strictly separate from at first, but the use of ''w'' later also expanded to . ** The clusters , , , were originally often written with ''v''/''u'' (''svager'' brother-in-law) but later mostly shifted to a ''w''-spelling, except for , which kept ''qu'' from Latin influence. * The dentals and tended to drop out between unstressed vowels, e.g. ''antwēr'' (either) instead of ''antwēder'', and in word-final clusters like , or , e.g. often ''rech'' next to ''recht'' (law, right), ''schrîf'' next to ''schrîft'' ((he/she) writes). * Remnants of Old Saxon shifted via into in the early MLG era. After and , it was the case already in late Old Saxon. For , word-final and some frequent words like ''dat'' (that, the (neut.)), the change also happened very early. The changes happened earliest in Westphalian and latest in North Low Saxon. * was voiced intervocalically as . Whether it was voiced word-initially is not fully clear. There seems to have been dialectal variation, with voiceless more likely for Westphalian and voiced more likely for East Elbian dialects. ** Because of the variation, voiceless (for example in loans from Romance or Slavic) was often written ''tz'', ''cz'', ''c'' etc. for clarity. * The phonemic status of is difficult to determine because of the extremely irregular orthography. Its status likely differed between the dialects, with early MLG having (Westphalian keeping it until modern times) and no phonemic , and e.g. East Elbian and in general many later dialects had from earlier . If there is phonemic , it often replaces of in clusters like and . * Connected with the status of is the manner of articulation of . Orthographic variants and some modern dialects seem to point to a more retracted, more ''sh''-like pronunciation (perhaps ), especially if there was no need to distinguish and . That is shown up by modern Westphalian. * is at best a marginal role as a phoneme and appears in loans or develops because of compounding or
epenthesis In phonology Phonology is the branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds or, for sign languages, their constituent parts of signs. The term can also refer specifically to the sound or ...
. Note the palatalised (next point). ** In writing, it was often marked by copious clustering, e.g. ''ertzcebischope'' (archbishop). * before front vowels is strongly palatalised in Old Saxon (note the similar situation in the closely related
Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family, with its earliest forms spoken by the inhabita ...
) and at least some of early MLG, as can be seen from spellings like ''zint'' for ''kint'' (child) and the variation of placename spellings, especially in Nordalbingian and Eastphalian, e.g. ''Tzellingehusen'' for modern ''Kellinghusen''. The palatalisation, perhaps as or , persisted until the High Middle Ages but was later mostly reversed. Thus, for instance, the old affricate in the Slavic placename ''Liubici'' could be reinterpreted as a velar stop, giving the modern name ''
Lübeck Lübeck (; Low German also ), officially the Hanseatic City of Lübeck (german: Hansestadt Lübeck), is a city in Northern Germany. With around 217,000 inhabitants, Lübeck is the second-largest city on the German Baltic Sea, Baltic coast and ...

Lübeck
''. A few words and placenames completely palatalised and shifted their velar into a sibilant (''sever'' beetle, chafer, from PG ''*kebrô''; the city of ''Celle'' < Old Saxon ''Kiellu''). ** Early MLG frequently used ''c'' for (''cleyn'' small), which later became rarer. However, geminate ''k'' (after historically short vowels and consonants) continued to be written ''ck'' (e.g. ''klocke'' bell), more rarely ''kk'' or ''gk''. ** ''gk'' otherwise appeared often after nasal (''ringk'' ring, (ice) rink). ** was often written ''x'', especially in the West. ** usually came as ''qu'', under Latin influence (''quêmen'' to come). * Furthermore, after unstressed , often changed into , e.g. in the frequent derivational suffix ''-lik'' (''vrüntligen'' friendly (infl.)) or, with final devoicing, in ''sich'' instead of ''sik'' (him-/her-/itself, themselves). ** Sometimes, ''ch'' was used for a syllable-final (''ôch'' also, too). The ''h'' can be seen a sign of lengthening of the preceding vowel, not of spirantisation (see "''h''-spelling" below). * was a fricative. Its exact articulation probably differed by dialect. Broadly, there seems to have been dialects that distinguished a voiced palatal and a voiced velar , depending on surrounding vowels (: word-initially before front vowels, word-internally after front vowels; in those positions, but with back vowels), and dialects that always used word-initially and word-internally (Eastphalian, Brandenburgian, e.g. word-internally after a back vowel: Vogt, vogt, reeve). Nevertheless, was kept separate from old . In the coda position, came as a dorsal fricative (palatal or velar , depending on the preceding sound), which thus merging with . ** The spelling ''gh'' was at first used almost exclusively before ''e'' or word-finally but began to spread to other positions, notably before ''i''. It did not indicate a different pronunciation but was part of an orthographic pattern seen in many other parts of Europe. Furtherore, in early western traditions of MLG, sometimes ''ch'' was used for in all positions, also word-initially. ** Coda was mostly spelled ''ch'' because it completely merged with historic (see below). * After nasals and as a geminate, appeared as a stop , e.g. ''seggen'' "to say", ''penninghe'' "pennies". In contrast to modern varieties, it remained audible after a nasal. Pronouncing ''g'' word-initially as a stop is likely a comparatively recent innovation under High German influence. ** could be used for in older MLG, e.g. ''Dudiggerode'' for the town of :de:Düringerode, Düringerode. * frequently dropped between sonorants (except after nasals), e.g. ''bormêster'' (burgomaster, mayor) < ''borgermêster''. * was often epenthetised between a stressed and an unstressed vowel, e.g. ''neigen'' (to sew) < Old Saxon ''*nāian'', or ''vrûghe'' (lady, woman) < Old Saxon ''frūa''. In Westphalian, this sound could harden into [g], e.g. ''eggere'' (eggs). * in the onset was a glottal fricative , and it merged with historic in the coda (see above). Word-final after consonant or long vowel was frequently dropped, e.g. ''hôch'' or ''hô'' (high). In a compound or phrase, it often became silent (''Willem'' < ''Wilhelm'' William). ** Onset was written ''h'', while coda = was mostly written ''ch'' but also and the like because of its merger with . * Coda = frequently dropped between and , e.g. ''Engelbert'' (a first name) with the common component ''-bert'' < Old Saxon (bright, famous). In unstressed syllables, it could also occur between a vowel and , e.g. ''nit'' (not) < Old Saxon ''niowiht'' (not a thing). ** Often, ''h'' was used for other purposes than its actual sound value: to mark vowel length (see ''h''-spelling under "General Notes" above), to "strengthen" short words (''ghân'' to go), to mark a vocalic onset ( our (infl.)) or vowel hiatus (linguistics), hiatus (''sêhes'' (of the) lake). Specific notes on approximants * was a palatal approximant and remained separate from , the palatal allophone of . ** It was often spelled ''g'' before front vowels and was not confused with ''gh'' = . The variant ''y'' was sometimes used (''yöget'' youth). * was likely an alveolar trill or flap , like in most traditional Low German dialects until recently. Post-vocalic sometimes dropped, especially before . * was originally probably velarised, i.e. a "dark l" , at least in the coda, judging from its influence on surrounding vowels, but it was never extensively vocalised as Dutch was. During the MLG era, it seems to have shifted to a "clear l" in many dialects and tended to be dropped in some usually unstressed words, especially in Westphalian, e.g., , instead of (as).


Vowels

Modern renderings of MLG (like this article) often use circumflex or macron to mark vowel length (e.g. ''â'' or ''ā'') to help the modern reader, but original MLG texts marked vowel length not by accents but by doubling vowels, by adding a lengthening ''e'' or ''i'', by doubling the following consonants (after short vowels) or by adding ''h'' after the following consonants.


Morphology


Noun


Verb


Dialects

Lasch distinguished the following large dialect groups, emphasising that she based it strictly on the orthography, which may often omit strongly dialectal phenomena in favour of more prestigious/"standard" forms. Nevertheless, the dialect groups broadly correspond with modern ones. Westphalian (German language, HG: ''Westfälisch'', Dutch: ''Westfaals''): Broadly speaking, the area between the middle Weser and lower Rhine. Main cities: Münster, Paderborn, Dortmund, Bielefeld, Osnabrück. Some Saxon dialects in the modern
Netherlands ) , anthem = ( en, "William of Nassau") , image_map = , map_caption = , subdivision_type = Sovereign state , subdivision_name = Kingdom of the Netherlands , established_title = Before independence , established_date = Spanish Neth ...

Netherlands
(esp. modern Gelderland and Overijssel) belonged to this group. Dutch influence on them strongly increased since the 15th century. ''Some features'': In the West, strong influence from Low Franconian orthographic patterns (e.g. ''e'' or ''i'' as a sign of length, like ''oi'' = ). The "breaking" of old short vowels in open syllables and before was often marked in writing (e.g. ''karn'' instead of ''korn''). Old geminated and sometimes was hardened into ; frequently shifted to (sometimes reversed in writing); instead of (''sal'' vs ''schal''). The native present plural verbs was ''-et'' but the written norm often impressed ''-en''. Similarly, the participle prefix ''ge-'' was usually written, though probably only spoken in the Southwest. Lexically, strong connections with adjacent dialects further north (East Frisian and Oldenburgish), e.g. ('Wednesday') instead of . Westphalian was and is often thought to be altogether the most conservative dialect group. North Low Saxon (German language, HG: ''Nordniedersächsisch'', Dutch: ''Noord-Nedersaksisch''): Spoken in a long stretch of coastal regions from the
Zuiderzee The Zuiderzee or Zuider Zee (; old spelling ''Zuyderzee'' or ''Zuyder Zee'') was a shallow bay of the North Sea in the northwest of the Netherlands, extending about 100 km (60 miles) inland and at most 50 km (30 miles) wide, with an ov ...

Zuiderzee
in the West to East Prussia in the East. Its orthographic habits come closest to what was traditionally perceived as a MLG standard (the ''Lübeck standard'', nowadays disputed). Some features: Short and in open syllables are stretched into a -like vowel. The personal suffixes ''-er'' and ''-ald'' appear as ''-ar'' and ''-old''. The pronouns ''mî'' (1.sg.), ''dî'' (2.sg.) and ''jû'' (2.pl.) are used for both dative and accusative. Three subgroups can be distinguished: (1) ''East Frisian and Oldenburgish'', i.e. the areas west of the lower Weser, in the North including dialects on Frisian substrate. As can be expected, there is much Westphalian, Dutch and Frisian influence (''hem'' next to ''em'' 'him'; plurals in ''-s''; ''vrent'' next to ''vrünt'' 'friend'). (2) ''Nordalbingian'', between the lower Weser and the lower
Elbe The Elbe (; cs, Labe ; nds, Ilv or ''Elv''; Upper and dsb, Łobjo) is one of the major rivers of Central Europe. It rises in the Giant Mountains of the northern Czech Republic The Czech Republic, or simply Czechia, is a landloc ...

Elbe
, and also Holstein on the right bank of the lower
Elbe The Elbe (; cs, Labe ; nds, Ilv or ''Elv''; Upper and dsb, Łobjo) is one of the major rivers of Central Europe. It rises in the Giant Mountains of the northern Czech Republic The Czech Republic, or simply Czechia, is a landloc ...

Elbe
. main towns: Hamburg, Bremen, Lüneburg, Lunenburg, Kiel. (3) ''East Elbian'', including
Lübeck Lübeck (; Low German also ), officially the Hanseatic City of Lübeck (german: Hansestadt Lübeck), is a city in Northern Germany. With around 217,000 inhabitants, Lübeck is the second-largest city on the German Baltic Sea, Baltic coast and ...

Lübeck
and the areas further east, like
Mecklenburg Mecklenburg (; nds, label=Mecklenburgisch dialect, Low German, Mękel(n)borg ) is a historical region in northern Germany comprising the western and larger part of the federal-state Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The largest cities of the regi ...

Mecklenburg
,
Pomerania Pomerania ( pl, Pomorze; german: Pommern; Kashubian: ''Pòmòrskô''; sv, Pommern) is a historical region on the southern shore of the Baltic Sea in Central Europe, split between Poland and Germany. The western part of Pomerania belongs to ...

Pomerania
, northern
Brandenburg Brandenburg (; nds, Brannenborg; dsb, Bramborska ) is a states of Germany, state in the northeast of Germany bordering the states of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Saxony, as well as the country of Poland. With an ar ...

Brandenburg
(Prignitz, Uckermark, Altmark), Old Prussia, Livonia. Very close to ''Nordalbingian''. While the Eastern dialects are today clearly distinguished from the West by their uniform present plural verb ending in ''-en'' (against Western uniform ), in MLG times, both endings competed against each other in West and East. Main towns: Lübeck, Wismar, Rostock, Stralsund. High German influence was strong in the State of the Teutonic Order, Teutonic Order, due to the diverse regional origins of its chivalric elite, therefore MLG written culture was neglected early on. Eastphalian (German language, HG: ''Ostfälisch''): Roughly the area east of the middle Weser, north and partly west of the Harz mountains, reaching the middle
Elbe The Elbe (; cs, Labe ; nds, Ilv or ''Elv''; Upper and dsb, Łobjo) is one of the major rivers of Central Europe. It rises in the Giant Mountains of the northern Czech Republic The Czech Republic, or simply Czechia, is a landloc ...

Elbe
, but leaving out the Altmark region. In the north, the sparsely populated Lunenburg Heath forms something of a natural border. Main cities: Hannover, Hanover, Hildesheim, Braunschweig, Brunswick, Goslar, Göttingen, Magdeburg, Halle an der Saale, Halle (early times). The area within the Elbe's drainage was established by colonisation and is in many ways special. The southern part of this ''Elbe Eastphalian'' (German language, HG: ''Elbostfälisch'') area switched to High German already in Late Medieval times. ''Some features'': Germanic umlaut, Umlaut is more productive, occurring before ''-ich'' and ''-isch'' (e.g. 'Saxon, Low German') and shifting also ''e'' to ''i'' (e.g. ''stidde'' for ''stêde'' 'place'). Diphthongised short is rarely marked as such, contrary to other dialects. Before , ''e'' and ''a'' are frequently interchanged for each other. Unstressed ''o'' (as in the suffix ''-schop'') frequently changes into ''u'' (''-schup''). The modal verb for 'shall/should' features , not (i.e. ''schal''). The past participle's prefix was commonly spoken ''e-'' but mostly written ''ge-'' under prescriptive influence. The local form ''ek'' ('I' (pron. 1.sg.)) competed with "standard" ''ik''; in a similar way the oblique form ''mik'' ('me') with "standard" ''mî''. Unusually, there is also a dative pronoun (1.sg. ''mê''). Lexically, close connections with Nordalbingian. Unusual plural ''menne'' ('men'). (South) Brandenburgish (German language, HG: ''(Süd-)Brandenburgisch'') and ''East Anhaltish'' (German language, HG: ''Ostanhaltisch''): Roughly between the middle Elbe and the middle Oder, and along the middle Havel, bordering old Sorbs, Sorbian territory to the Southeast. Main cities: Berlin, Frankfurt/Oder, Zerbst. A colonial dialect strongly influenced by settlers speaking Low Franconian. Also strongly influenced by High German early on. ''Some features'': Old long ''ê'' and ''ô'' were diphthongised into and , written ''i'' and ''u''. Old Germanic coda is restored, contrary to Ingvaeonic nasal spirant law, Ingvaeonic sound changes, e.g. ''gans'' 'goose'. Present plural of verbs features the suffix ''-en''. Lack of negative determiner ''nên'' ('no' (attr.)), instead: ''keyn'', similar to High German. The past participle retains the prefix ''ge-''. Lack of ''gaderen'' ('to gather') and ''tőgen'' ('to show'); instead of them, forms close to High German, i.e. and . In East Anhaltish, distinction of dative and accusative pronouns (e.g. ''mi'' vs ''mik'', cf. German language, HG ''mir'' and ''mich'').


Literature

* Bible translations into German * The ''
Sachsenspiegel The (; gml, Sassen Speyghel; modern nds, Sassenspegel; all literally "Saxon Mirror") is one of the most important law books and custumals compiled during the Holy Roman Empire. Originating between 1220 and 1235 as a record of existing local ...

Sachsenspiegel
'' * ''Reynke de Vos'', a version of Reynard
at wikisource

Low German Incunable prints
in Low German as catalogued in the Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke, including the Low German
Ship of Fools
',

' and the novel

'


Sample texts


References


External links


A grammar and chrestomathy of Middle Low German by Heinrich August Lübben (1882)
(in German), at the Internet Archive
A grammar of Middle Low German (1914)
by Agathe Lasch (in German), at the Internet Archive
Schiller-Lübben
A Middle Low German to German dictionary by Schiller/Lübben (1875–1881) a

an
at the Internet Archive

Project TITUS
including texts i



* [http://germanic-studies.org/Middle-Low-German-loanwords-in-the-Scandinavian-languages.htm Middle Low German influence on the Scandinavian languages]
Middle Low German corpus
Still under construction, but the website contains a very concise sketch of MLG grammar also based on Lasch {{Authority control Low German German dialects Hanseatic League History of the German language Medieval languages, Low German, Middle Languages attested from the 12th century