Last modified on 9 December 2012, at 20:44

Wiktionary talk:About German Low German

Return to "About German Low German" page.

Alternative forms and spellingsEdit

Copied from an entry of mine on sbd.'s user page, concerning the notation of different spellings as different forms. There has been a vote (10:3) for regarding alternative spellings as alternative forms. On that I said:

As far as I an see this vote was, because people confused Alternative Spellings and Alternative Forms. But I think in this case there should be consideration about what would be more disadvantageous. I only add alternative forms to the entries, "forms" being words with different pronunciation. (Because that's as much alternativity as you get in Low German.) Alternative spellings I then link to the most reasonable form of this pronunciation. One could argue that an alternative form would be also a word with the same pronunciation but held to another spelling standard...yet, there are no spelling standards. I could accept a Dutch spelling _listed as_ an alternative form, because it's a political thing. But since the template is "alternative spellings" and not "alternative forms" and the four admins reading my entries (including widsith, who voted for the unification) seem to be fine with the spellings-choice, I would prefer sticking with that instead of giving every alternative form. The effect of the form-linking could be devastating, p.e. for the word seven (7):
  • zeuven
  • zoeven
  • zeven
  • zöven
  • seven
  • söven
  • seben
  • söben
  • zeben
  • zöben
  • sewen
  • seeven
  • seewen
  • seeben
  • sööven
  • sööwen
  • sööben
  • söwen
  • soeben
  • soewen
  • soeven
  • sæwen
  • sæben
  • sœben
  • sœwen
  • sæven
  • sœven
  • säben
  • säwen
  • saeben
  • saewen
  • saeven
  • sääwen
  • sääben

[...] this is more or less what the crass cases would look like. While I would not object adding all those forms to the Wiktionary, I don't think they all need to appear on the page of every of this entries, especially given that there are only three pronunciations represented by those words. I think it would be better for the Wiktionary if the spellings-template was used for a language void of an actual regulated standard. There are, p.e. nouns, which have twice as many forms as given above and if you wait long enough, someone will find the word which has four times as many forms. (That's not that hard a task, believe me.) So I would prefer (maybe with a vote or discussion, if you deem it necessary), if we suspended the form-spelling-unity for Low German, again especially consindering, that the admins do not mind thus far, be it on Low German or other entries. ps.: The forms of seven above are those which my keyboard can produce easily. I have seen more.Dakhart 15:37, 15 July 2011 (UTC)

It's possible to use a collapsible box to hide these. I get the same thing with Old French; generally I list no more than seven, and let the user infer the rest. There are no hard and fast rules. An example of a collapsible box would be {{der-top}}{{der-mid}}{{der-bottom}}. --Mglovesfun (talk) 19:37, 15 July 2011 (UTC)

Well, on a more linguistic or practical note, of course zeven is another form of sæben, but another spelling it is only of seven, sewen etc., not of söven, not of seben. When I consider what I use a dictionary for, it is not only to find out the meaning of a word, but also the spelling. However, there never was "a spelling" of a word as proposed by an institute or law (p.e. the Duden in Germany). Thus finding a spelling is basically up to gusto. Technically you could write in old mongolian script if you had a funny bone. I could however imagine that people would like to find out what in dialect the text they are reading is written - or what word the dialect they write in uses. Those (greater) dialects are ca. 8 and fairly consistent among themselves. So I - listing stuff or not (still against it) - find it imperative that there is a differentiation between realisations of the same word (=of a single pronunciation) and several forms of a certain term (p.e. hör and er or fördem/fördęm). Hence sundering spelling from form would be quite viable to assign dialects to words and to...well, tell apart forms and spellings. If people (should we bring a greater part of the user base to this discussion?) insist on listing alternative spellings in every article, I propose a new standard header like 'spelling' with a collapse-box with a caption like "This word is from a language without standardised orthography. It might also be found in these spellings:" Where people can then enter forms they have seen. The table could also include a column for "Predominantly found in"...where one can add dialects or regions. Links should then only be given to other forms (pronunciations). Are there other non regulated official languages on Wiktionary?Dakhart 21:14, 15 July 2011 (UTC)

English would be one. :) —CodeCat 23:24, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
Huh? There is no official regulation of English? If so, then I should rather stress that the problem is not the lack of regulation but that in connection with the lack of considerable consensus. Dakhart 23:48, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
That's true, but there are languages that are similar. They are called 'pluricentric' languages... languages that have standards (official or just by consensus) in several different places. English is a pluricentric language, because of the differences between UK and US spellings. Serbo-Croatian would also be an example, and Chinese (PRC and Taiwan), Hindi-Urdu (different writing systems and vocabulary) and so on. —CodeCat 23:59, 15 July 2011 (UTC)

Timeline and vote infoEdit

I removed the following "timeline" and "vote info" from the main page because most of the timeline is better suited to the pages on Old Saxon, etc, and much of the vote info belongs on a talk page, not a policy page. - -sche (discuss) 03:54, 15 November 2012 (UTC)


The Low German timeline can be divided into these stages:

Old Saxon (~1000) - There might be some very old inscriptions in runes, but all longer texts - if not simply all texts - are written in the Latin alphabet. Old Saxon had some ingvaeonic features such as the loss of nasals in front of fricatives (*uns > us), and the development of one unified plural form in all three persons. It was also more conservative in some ways, as it retained Proto-Germanic -j- in suffixes (habjanan > hebbian) and also initial h- before a consonant (hring).

Old Low German (1100 ~ 1200) is rarely used and then usually synonymous with Old Saxon. But it is sometimes used to describe a migration period from Old Saxon to Early Middle Low German. In this time many of the nasals were regained. It also became more and more common to write e for the the umlaut of /a/. The two plural endings -ad and -un, one of which, depending on its class, an Old Saxon verb could have, were competing within the dialects, with each dialect using only one of them for all verbs eventually. Though which of the two endings was chosen by an author stayed ambivalent for several hundred years.

Early Middle Low German (1200 ~ 1400) - Early Middle Low German had lost many of the Old Saxon features. It had partially re-acquired the nasals. More pronounced, and shared in general with most languages of the 'Middle' stage, was the weakening of unstressed vowels: all unstressed vowels of Old Saxon came to be spelled e in Middle Low German, presumably representing /ə/. It retained the Germanic dental fricatives (/θ/, /ð/) in some dialects for some time, but they were gradually becoming less common and usually shifted to /d/. There was a relatively great dialectal variety. Under Scandinavian influence the dialects north and east of the river Elbe used Y and Ø, as well as their own systems, to mark umlaut regularly. Many other specific Low German sound changes occurred. In this period the final obstruent devoicing, which spread from the west, affected all dialects and was usually reflected in writing. (⟨old⟩ > ⟨olt⟩)

Middle Low German (1450 ~1650) in its prime showed a strong unification in the system of writing. This unification was merely of a written level and did not influence the spoken dialects, which could still differ vastly from the scriptura franca. The standard used the plural -en for verbs, uns instead of us and did - much to the ache of linguists - not mark umlaut.

Early Modern Low German (1650 ~ 1720) did not really differ from Early and Middle Low German but showed signs of descent. Under High German influence many silent and pointless consonants continued to be written in writing ("silent H" and "Letternhäufelung"). Marking the umlaut with Ö/Ü became more common. The vocabulary absorbed more regionalisms and a few High German words.

Contemporary Low German (from 1790) - After some 60-90 years of very scarce sources contemporary Low German emerged. It was marked by a relatively unstructured system of writing as authors tried to adapt their orthography to the emerging High German standard which did not fit the Low German grammar and phonology. The vocabulary and the syntax were considerably less varied compared to the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. Many words were either reformed after German examples or outright replaced with German words. (haten > hassen) This kind of Low German is in use until today, with its vocabulary and phonology being more and more replaced by German terms. An example is the loss of the fricative quality of the phoneme /g/, which was originally [ɣ] as in Dutch, but became [g] through German influence (which lacks this sound). This also furthered the spread of features existing, but not common in Low German dialects. (E.g. the replacement of more common /sk/ with less common /ʃ/ for ⟨sch⟩ in Mecklenburg)


At some point after 2005 there was a votum on the creation of a Wikipedia for the Low Germans of the Netherlands, apart from the then-existing nds.wikipedia. Both, Dutch and German users voted for it. Thus nds-nl was created. It is hence not an ISO-code. Why was this?
The Netherlands appeared on the political map in 1648. From that point on a strong demarcation was created between German and Dutch, politically and in language. The Low Germans, who lived from the Atlantic coast to the Russian border, were no longer just the Low Germans who lived in the northern bit of the Holy Roman Empire, but were suddenly the Low Germans in the Netherlands and the Low Germans in Germany. In both countries a strong and official written language was developed and spread. The now smaller community of Low Germans in each of the countries had to adapt more and more, as the newly developed Dutch and High German became the languages of education and fine literature. Low German was slowly driven from high education. The more German/Dutch were the languages of the educated, the more Low German scholars had to use words from those languages. Thus the usage of German/Dutch terms spread along Low Germans and German/Dutch forms and phrases appeared less and less foreign. With the imitation of the educated and classy people by the still Low German peasantry the German/Dutch forms spread among the Low German community. Due to the differences of Dutch and German it affected the language in both countries differently.
Dutch and Low German share many identical forms. This made the differentiation of Dutch and Low German more and more complicated without proper Low German education. Thus classical Low German occurrences as the ending -ing(e) could prevail in the Netherlands, since it is also used in Dutch. On the other hand native Dutch forms such as tegen began to replace native Low German forms which were (or were not) identical to German forms, like p.e. Low German gegen/jegen.
In Germany the native German forms were adapted and their form spread into other words, which did not have these forms naturally. For example the ending -ing(e) was replaced with German -ung. (Or, in other dialects, the ending -en.)
Thus "Dutch Low Saxon" (nds-nl) and "Low German" (nds) are foremost divided by how their speakers are unable to speak modern (not to confuse with contemporary) Low German as it had developed between 1600 and 1720. Due to the strong dominance of Dutch and Germany there is a division among Dutch and Germany by the creation of dialects adapting to the nation's language, slowly converging with it, creating mixture-dialects instead of linguistically proper Low German. It is hence depending on whether one rejects this convergence or accepts modern developments (and its causes) as natural development of speech, whether one considers nds-nl to exist or not. If one rejects these developments as un-Low German, modern Low German has to considered died out in the Netherlands and Germany.