Northern Low Saxon

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Northern Low Saxon
Native toGermany, Northeastern Netherlands
RegionLower Saxony, Bremen, Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Groningen, Drenthe
Native speakers
(1000 cited 1996)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-2nds
ISO 639-3nds (partial)
Glottologostf1234  North Low Saxon
nort2628  German Northern Low Saxon

Northern Low Saxon (in High German: Nordniedersächsisch, in Standard Dutch: Noord-Nedersaksisch) is a subgroup of West Low German dialects of Low German (also known as Low Saxon). As such, it covers a great part of the West Low German-speaking areas of northern Germany, with the exception of the border regions where Eastphalian and Westphalian are spoken, and Gronings dialect in the Netherlands.


Northern Low Saxon can be divided into Holsteinisch, Schleswigsch, East Frisian Low Saxon, Dithmarsisch, North Hanoveranian, Emsländisch, and Oldenburgisch in Germany,[2] with additional dialects in the Netherlands such as Gronings.[3]

Holsteinisch is spoken in Holstein, the southern part of Schleswig-Holstein in Germany, in Dithmarschen, around Neumünster, Rendsburg, Kiel and Lübeck. The Lübeck dialect ("Lübsch") was a lingua franca for the Hanseatic league in the Middle Ages.

Schleswigsch (German pronunciation: [ˈʃleːsvɪkʃ]) is spoken in Schleswig, which is divided between Germany and Denmark. It is mainly based on a South Jutlandic substrate. Therefore, it has some notable differences in pronunciation and grammar with its southern neighbour dialects. The dialects on the west coast of Schleswig (Nordfriesland district) and some islands show some North Frisian influences.

Oldenburg dialect (Low Saxon: Ollnborger Platt, German: Oldenburger Platt) is spoken around the city of Oldenburg. It is limited to Germany. The main difference between it and East Frisian Low Saxon, which is spoken in the Frisian parts of Lower Saxony, is the lack of an East Frisian substrate. Ollnborger Platt is spoken in the city of Bremen as Breemsch ("Bremian"), which is the only capital where Ollnborger Platt is spoken. Minden in Westphalia, where Ollnborger Platt is traditionally spoken, possibly belongs partially to the area.

Gronings dialect, Netherlands.


The most obvious common character in grammar is the forming of the perfect participle. It is formed without a prefix, as in all North Germanic languages, as well as English and Frisian, but unlike standard German, Dutch and some dialects of Westphalian and Eastphalian Low Saxon:

  • gahn [ɡɒːn] (to go): Ik bün gahn [ɪkbʏŋˈɡɒːn] (I have gone/I went)
  • seilen [zaˑɪln] (to sail): He hett seilt [hɛɪhɛtˈzaˑɪlt] (He (has) sailed)
  • kopen [ˈkʰoʊpm̩] (to buy): Wi harrn köfft [vihaːŋˈkœft] (We had bought)
  • kamen [ˈkɒːm̩] (to come): Ji sünd kamen [ɟizʏŋˈkɒːm̩] (You (all) have come/You came)
  • eten [ˈeːtn̩] (to eat): Se hebbt eten [zɛɪhɛptˈʔeːtn̩] (They have eaten/They ate)

The diminutive (-je) (Dutch and East Frisian Low Saxon -tje, Eastphalian -ke, High German -chen, Alemannic -le, li) is hardly used. Some examples are Buscherumpje, a fisherman's shirt, or lüttje, a diminutive of lütt, little. Instead the adjective lütt is used, e.g. dat lütte Huus, de lütte Deern, de lütte Jung.

There are a lot of special characteristics in the vocabulary, too, but they are shared partly with other languages and dialects, e.g.:

  • Personal pronouns: ik [ɪk] (like Dutch ik), du [du] (like German Du), he [hɛɪ] (like Dutch hij), se [zɛɪ] (like Dutch zij), dat [dat] (Dutch dat), wi [vi], ji [ɟi] (similar to English ye, Dutch jij), se [zɛɪ].
  • Interrogatives (English/High German): wo [voʊ], woans [voʊˈʔaˑns] (how/wie), wo laat [voʊˈlɒːt] (how late/wie spät), wokeen [voʊˈkʰɛˑɪn] (who/wer), woneem [voʊˈneːm] (where/wo), wokeen sien [voʊˈkʰɛˑɪnziːn] / wen sien [vɛˑnziːn] (whose/wessen)
  • Adverbs (English/High German): laat [lɒːt] (late/spät), gau [ɡaˑʊ] (fast/schnell), suutje [ˈzutɕe] (slowly, carefully/langsam, vorsichtig, from Dutch zoetjes [ˈzutɕəs] ‘nice and easy’, adverbial diminutive of zoet [ˈzut] ‘sweet’), vigeliensch [fiɡeˈliːnʃ] (difficult, tricky/schwierig)
  • Prepositions (English/High German): bi [biː] (by, at/bei), achter [ˈaxtɐ] (behind/hinter), vör [fœɐ̯] (before, in front of/vor), blangen [ˈblaˑŋ̍] (beside, next to, alongside/neben), twüschen [ˈtvʏʃn̩] (betwixt, between/zwischen), mang, mank [maˑŋk] (among/unter)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Northern Low Saxon at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Noble, Cecil A. M. (1983). Modern German dialects New York [et al.], Lang, p. 103-104
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forke, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2020). "North Low Saxon". Glottolog 4.3.

External links[edit]