Middle Low German language

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Middle Low German
Period 1150 or 1200 - 1600
Language codes
ISO 639-3

gml (from English German Middle Low )

The Middle Low German language is a developmental stage of Low German . It developed from the Old Saxon language in the Middle Ages and has been documented in writing since around 1225/34 ( Sachsenspiegel ).

A Middle Low German inscription on a half-timbered house in Hameln : "All the warlde herlicheyt is alse ene blome de huete wasset un tomorrow vorgheit. The word of the Lord blifts yn ewicheit" - All the world's glory is like a flower that grows today and goes away tomorrow. The word of the Lord remains forever. (Cf. 1 Petr 1,24-25  EU )

Term "Middle Low German"

The term Middle Low German is ambiguous:

  • The Middle Low German in the strict sense includes northern Germany and (only) to the northeast of the modern Netherlands, east of the IJssel .
  • The Middle Low German in the broader sense includes North Germany and the entire Middle Dutch language area.

The larger representations of Middle Low German (such as Lübben and Lasch ) treat Middle Low German exclusively in the narrower sense.


The Hanseatic League around 1400

The Middle Low German language was the leading written language in northern Central Europe during the Hanseatic period from around 1300 to around 1600 AD and served as the lingua franca in the northern half of Europe. It was used in parallel to Latin for diplomacy and documents . Most of the Hanseatic League's correspondence in Central and Northern Europe was carried out in Central Low German. There are Middle Low German documents from London in the west to Novgorod in the east and Bergen in the north to Westphalia in the south. Middle Low German was also communicated in Visby on Gotland, Riga , Reval and Dorpat . There is still a handwritten dictionary of Middle Low German-Russian by Tönnies Fonne from 1607 in the Danish Royal Library in Copenhagen. During this period in particular, Low German had a considerable influence on the Scandinavian languages Norwegian , Danish and Swedish , which is characterized by numerous loan words. Some Scandinavians believe that around half or even more of the Swedish vocabulary goes back to Low German. It should be noted, however, that these are less the most common words (pronouns, conjunctions, prepositions, etc.) and more rather rare nouns (job titles, etc.).

Regional expressions of the written language

The early Middle Low German texts were still clearly influenced by the spoken language. There were shortened, oral forms such as semme (instead of sineme , "his"), sir (instead of siner , "his"), eyr (instead of one , "one"). These texts were shaped by the landscape, but did not reproduce any dialect. In the later written language , the scribes tried to avoid these shortened forms and to use etymologically correct forms.

In the 15th and early 16th centuries, through the Devotio moderna, Eastern Middle Dutch exerted an influence on the Münsterland written Middle Low German.

In the Westphalian and in the East Westphalian there were central German influences, especially in the Elbe-East Westphalian. Standard German must have been familiar to the writers there.

Some linguists assume that southern Ostfälisch influenced the rest of the Ostfalen with written language influences . Southern Ostfalen is considered to be the strongest intellectual center of early Middle Low German.

From the second half of the 14th century, written Middle Low German became increasingly uniform. This Middle Low German written language arose from what was then East Low German and was particularly shaped by Lübeck. This supraregional written language requires a supraregional verbal lingua franca that has not been preserved but must be accepted.


Linguistic monuments

Lübeck Bible (1494), last page with printer's note

In addition to the Middle Low German documents, the following works in particular represent important linguistic monuments of the Middle Low German language:

Later language level

Modern Low German emerged from Middle Low German .


The vocabulary of Middle Low German is described in the Middle Low German Dictionary by Karl Schiller and August Lübben, in the Middle Low German Concise Dictionary by August Lübben and Christoph Walther and in another Middle Low German Concise Dictionary .

See also


  1. Jan Goossens: Low German Language: Attempting a Definition . In: Jan Goossens (Ed.): Low German: Language and Literature . Karl Wachholtz, Neumünster 1973, p. 9-27 .
  2. a b c d e Karl Bischoff : Middle Low German . In: Gerhard Cordes, Dieter Möhn (Hrsg.): Handbook for Low German Linguistics and Literature Studies . Erich Schmidt Verlag, Berlin 1983, ISBN 3-503-01645-7 , p. 98-118 (§ 3.2) .


  • Agathe Lasch : Middle Low German grammar . Niemeyer, Halle 1914. (2nd unchanged edition: Niemeyer, Tübingen 1974. ISBN 3-484-10183-0 ). First edition digitized
  • Robert Peters: Middle Low German Language . In: Jan Goossens (Ed.): Low German. Language and literature. An introduction. Volume 1: Language. Wachholtz, Neumünster 1973, pp. 66–115.

Web links

Wiktionary: Middle Low German  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations