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About the story
What’s with this “Wren” thing?
   The oldest extant version of the fable we are presenting here appeared in 1913 in the first volume of a two-volume anthology of Low Saxon folktales (Plattdeutsche Volksmärchen “Low German Folktales”) collected by Wilhelm Wisser (1843–1935). Read more ...

Neddersassisch ("Nedderdüütsch", "Plattdüütsch")

Low Saxon (“Low German”)

Language information: The direct descendant of Old Saxon, Low Saxon—usually, with the inclusion of Low Franconian varieties, known as “Low German” (Niederdeutsch, Plattdeutsch) in Germany—is originally used in the eastern parts of the Netherlands and in the northern parts of Germany. It is closely related to both German and (especially) Dutch but is recognized as a separate regional language by the European Union and in most provinces and states in which it is used.

Klaus Groth (1819–1999),
participant in the Low Saxon
reassersion movement and
celebrated poet and lyricist in the
Dithmarschen dialect of Holstein

     Old Saxon (ca. –1200) is the primary ancestor of Low Saxon and one of the main ancestors of English. Its original region is Northern Albingia, an area north of the Lower Elbe. Old Saxon was later used from Southern Schleswig in the north to the Harz Mountains in the south, from close to the Ijssel Sea in the west to about Kiel and Lauenburg in the east. In some western and northern border regions it overlapped with Frisian, Low Franconian, Anglish and Jutish, in southern regions with German and in eastern regions with Western Slavonic. In more recent times, Old Saxon has been referred to as “Old Low German” (Altniederdeutsch) in Germany, the more accurate name “Old Saxon” (Altsächsisch) being confined to certain academic circles.

     Middle Saxon (ca. 1200–1650 C.E.) was a language of considerable power and influence. It served as the lingua franca of the Hanseatic Trading League and came to be used as a first or second languages in Hanseatic cities and trading posts around the Baltic Sea coast, also on the North Sea coast (e.g., in Bergen, Norway), in parts of Germany proper (i.e., south of the traditionally Saxon-speaking region) and in Hanseatic mercantile offices in the Netherlands, Belgium, Britain and Russia. It came to influence the Scandinavian languages to a degree of transforming them, thus alienating them from Old Norse and preserved varieties of Iceland and the Faeroe Islands. Furthermore, it exerted strong influences on languages of the Baltic coast, especially on Eastern Pomeranian (Kashubian, a Slavonic language of Northern Poland) and on Estonian (a Finnic language). In older texts, these Middle Saxon influences are often erroneously referred to as “German influences.”

Fritz Reuter (1810–1874),
participant in the Low Saxon
reassersion movement and
celebrated prose writer in
the Mecklenburg dialect

     Modern Low Saxon has numerous dialects but no standard variety and no standard spelling system that would connect dialect communities with each other, though some dialect groups in the Netherlands have created their regional standards. Due to a lack of general standards and thus a lack of cohesion, the language community is very much fragmented, and most speakers care more about their own dialects than about the language as a whole. Most speakers in Germany are uneducated about the language, are not even aware of the fact that related dialects are used in the Netherlands and in the Americas. Added to weakening as a result of centuries of suppression and denigration, remaining fragmentation and ignorance are serious obstacles to the survival of the language. Mennonite Low Saxon (“Plautdietsch”) originated at the Vistula Delta in Northern Poland as a local dialect adopted by Mennonite immigrants from the Netherlands and Northern Germany. ALL languages and dialects are beautiful, precious gifts. So cherish yours and others! Share them with the world!It was later exported to the Molochna and Khortitza regions of Ukraine where it developed further under Ukrainian, Russian and Turkic influences, with constant influences from German as a “high” and liturgical language. From there it was taken to Siberia and Central Asia by replaced “Germans” and especially to the Americas by emigrants. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, many Mennonite Low Saxon speakers have moved to Germany as repatriated Germans, and Germany now has the largest number of speakers, followed by Canada, the United States and Mexico and some South American countries. Centuries of geographic and religious separation have led to estrangement from speakers of other Low Saxon dialects.

Genealogy: Indo-European > Germanic > Western > Low German > (Low) Saxon

Historical Lowlands language contacts: Dutch, English, Frisian

Map of Low Saxon Dialect Groups

Major Modern Low Saxon dialect groups:

  • Schleswig Dialects
  • Holstein Dialects
    • Dithmarschen Dialects
    • Holstein-derived American Dialects
  • Northern Low Saxon Dialects
    • Elbe Marshes Dialects
      • Hamburg Dialects
      • Finkenwerder Dialect
      • Altes Land Dialect
    • Lunenburg Heath (Heidjer) Dialects
      • Southern Hamburg Dialects
    • Bremen Dialect
    • Northwestern Dialects [with Frisian substrates]
      • Oldenburg Dialects
        • Jeverland Dialects
      • Eastern Friesland Dialects
        • Emsland Dialects
      • Groningen Dialects
        • Northern Groningen Dialects
        • Westerwold Dialects
        • Groningen City and Noordenvelde Dialects
      • Kollummer Land Dialects
      • Northern Drenthe Dialects
  • Westphalian Dialects
    • General Westphalian Dialects
    • Münsterland Dialects
    • Stellingwerven/Steenwijkerland/Western Drenthe Dialects
      • Fen Colony Dialects
    • Central Drenthe Dialects
    • Southern Drenthe Dialects
    • Twente Dialects
    • Gelderland, Overijssel and Urk Dialects
      • Achterhoeks Dialects
      • Salland/Southeastern Drenthe Dialects
      • Urk Dialects
    • Veluwe Dialects
      • Northern Veluwe Dialects
      • Eastern Veluwe Dialect
  • Eastphalian Dialects
    • General Eastphalian
    • Elbe Eastphalian
    • Heath Eastphalian
    • Göttingen-Grubenhagen Dialects
  • Eastern Low Saxon Dialects
    • Brandenburg Dialects
    • Mecklenburg-Western Pomeranian Dialects
    • (Central) Pomeranian (West Prussian) Dialects [area now mostly in Poland, moribund and extinct except Mennonite dialects]
      • Mennonite Dialects
        • Old Colony Dialect (Khortitza Dialect)
        • New Colony Dialect (Molochna Dialect)
        • Bergthal Dialect
        • “Russian” (Russlända) Dialect
      • Pomerania-derived non-Mennonite American Dialects
    • East Prussian (“Low Prussian”) Dialects [area now in Poland and Kaliningrad; most speakers have emigrated; dialects moribund and extinct]

Further information: [Click]

Gerhard Willers writes about North Oldenburg Low Saxon:

North Oldenburg Low Saxon is spoken in the northern part of the former independent State of Oldenburg. This is to say it is spoken in the towns of Oldenburg and Delmenhorst, as well as in the Landkreise (districts) of Oldenburg, Ammerland, Wesermarsch and in the southern part of the Landkreis Friesland, where there are the communities of Varel, Zetel, Bockhorn, Neuenburg etc. It is not spoken in the Landkreise of Cloppenburg and Vechta, where they speak South Oldenburg Low Saxon which is closer to Westphalian Low Saxon, not surprising so since until 1803 that area belonged to the Roman Catholic bishopric of Münster. No North Oldenburg Low Saxon is spoken in the northern part of the Landkreis (district) Friesland either, where they speak Jeverländer Platt which many linguists consider a variant transitional to the East Frisian Low Saxon. On the other hand, east of the river Weser, that is in the former Duchy of Bremen-Verden and in the former county of Hoya-Diepholz, they speak varieties that are very similar to North Oldenburg Low Saxon. Linguists say that North Oldenburg Low Saxon is very conservative, which means that the condition of the sounds of the old Hanseatic Language has been preserved very accurately, so you can consider North Oldenburg Platt the purest Northern Low Saxon. Another very interesting feature of this variety is future tense marking with schall and will (and not with warren). If the future tense happens without your doing you say dat schast du noch sehn and not *dat warrst du noch sehn (German: Das wirst du noch sehen), but if your own intention is involved in a future action planned by you you would say dat will ek di noch wiesen and not *dat warr di noch wiesen (German; das werde ich dir noch zeigen). On the other hand, we have some grammatical “deficiencies” that lead a learner of our regional language to some misunderstandings. For instance, we have only one word for “to be” and “been”. There is only the word wäsen (~ wä’n ~ wään). Then there is only one word for the objective case where Englisch as “her” and “them”: ehr. Thus ek seh ehr ‘I see her’, ‘I see them’, also in the dative case: ek heff ehr dat Book gäven ‘I have given her the book’, ‘I have given them the book’. The other Low Saxon varieties have words like jem or jüm for “them”.

Click to open the translations: [Northern] [Hadeln] [Hamburg] [Oldenburg, North] [Olland] [Eastern Friesland] [Eastern] [Mecklenburg] [Khortitza Mennonite] [Molochna Mennonite (1)] [Molochna Mennonite (2)] [“Russian” Mennonite (1)] [“Russian” Mennonite (2)] [Western] [Westphalian] [Münsterland (1)] [Münsterland (2)] [Twente] [Achterhoek] [Zuidwolde, Drenthe] [Hoogeveen, Drenthe] [Norg, Drenthe] [Stellingwerven] [Norg] [Veendam, Groningen] [Middle Saxon] [Old Saxon]

Author: Reinhard F. Hahn

© 2011, Lowlands-L · ISSN 189-5582 · LCSN 96-4226 · All international rights reserved.
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