East Frisian Low German

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Distribution of the East Frisian plateau

East Frisian Low or Low German (own name: oostfreesk Platt ), also called East Frisian Platt , is the Low German vernacular in East Frisia . East Frisia is one of the regions in which Low German still has a relatively strong position. Under the influence of Standard German , however, a decline in language skills among the younger speakers can also be observed. In common usage today, the term East Frisian mostly refers to East Frisian Low German and only rarely to the East Frisian language , which has become extinct in East Frisia proper and which is only spoken by around 2000 people in the Oldenburg Saterland ( Sater Frisian language ).


The East Frisian Platt belongs to the West Low German branch of Low German (Lower Saxon). However, it is not a dialect that goes back directly to Old Saxon , but only emerged from around 1400 on a Frisian substrate. Like Schleswig and almost all of East Low German, it is a “colonial dialect”. The East Frisian Platt is usually assigned to the North Lower Saxon within West Low German . It is rarely treated separately from it.

For the Middle Low German period, a dialect structure is only possible on the basis of the traditional written language. In 1914, Agathe Lasch arranged East Frisian Middle Low German with Oldenburg as the East Frisian-Oldenburg written language. Robert Peters, on the other hand, summarized the Groningen-East Frisian into a Middle Low German dialect in 1984 .

In particular, the older Dutch literature knows the term friso-saksisch ("Frisian-Saxon") for Low German dialects on Frisian substratum, under which the East Frisian Platt was classified. In particular, the western East Frisian dialects were often combined with the Groninger dialects to form the Gronings East Fries .

Adjacent dialects

The surrounding Lower Saxon dialects are close to East Frisian Platt: in the east East Frisian merges into Jeverland and North Oldenburg Platt , in the west it is still very similar to Groninger Platt , despite the recent increasing influence of the various umbrella languages . The Frisian substrate also has in common with most of the local dialects in Groningen and North Oldenburg.

The related dialects of Emsland, Hümmlinger and Südoldenburger Platts are spoken in the south and south-east. These have no Frisian substrate. In addition, the strong denominational boundary between Protestant East Friesland and the Catholic Ems- and Münsterland has slowed down dialect contact for a long time.


The original vernacular between Lauwers and Weser was the East Frisian language . In East Frisia, this was gradually replaced by Middle Low German from around 1400 , but it also influenced the new language. The Middle Low German that came into use in East Frisia also had not only a Frisian substrate , but also a conservative Low German special vocabulary that was not preserved in other dialects. The differences to the surrounding Low German dialects are based in part on these two special developments to this day. Traces of the distinction between the Ems and Weser Frisian variants of Old East Frisian can still be found in East Frisian Platt. Middle Low German, which found its way into East Frisia, was a western-style dialect, which is why Westphalian influences can still be found in the language to this day.

In the course of time, influences from the Dutch language and thus also from French were added, which culminated in East Frisia as part of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Holland . Dutch was particularly widespread in the Calvinist south-west of East Frisia and was used as a church language until the 19th century. This interrelationship was reinforced by the lively immigration and emigration to and from the Netherlands.


The East Frisian Platt knows numerous local dialects , which differ from each other mainly due to a different pronunciation and vocabulary. There are two main groups. The smaller group is called Harlingerländer Platt and includes the eastern dialects that are roughly spoken in today's Wittmund district . These dialects are already closer to the neighboring North Lower Saxon dialects and flow smoothly into the Jeverland and North Oldenburger Platt . The western dialects, on the other hand, are more distinct from Oldenburg. These dialects, especially the Rheiderländer Platt and the Borkumer Platt, are already very close to the Groninger Platt .

An outwardly noticeable difference between the Harlinger Platt and the rest of East Frisian is the word for speak / speak : the Harlingerlanders chatter like most other dialect speakers between Oldenburg and Schleswig. The other East Frisians proten (see Dutch praten ). The language border between these two groups corresponds roughly to that of the Ems-Frisian and Weser-Frisian dialects of the old East Frisian language.

In a work by the linguist Marron Curtis Fort on the Lower Saxon and Sater Frisian dialects between Lauwers and Weser, language samples for the different dialects of the following places within East Frisia are examined: Insel Borkum , Bunde im Rheiderland , Aurich , Insel Baltrum , Wittmund im Harlingerland and Rhauderfehn . This may count as a choice of dialect diversity.

In the past, the language of the (often Jewish ) cattle traders, which has since been lost, formed a very specific idiom typical of the group within the East Frisian Platts, in which an idiosyncratic Platt mixed with Yiddish and other linguistic elements.


East Frisian Platt differs in a number of features from the rest of North Lower Saxony, as it is spoken east of Bremen to Schleswig-Holstein. Similar to the Dutch language or the Alemannic dialects, use is often made of the diminutive (the diminutive form). The diminutive suffix is -je and -tje or -ke , for example Footjes = little feet, Kluntje = piece of rock candy for tea, Lüüntje = sparrow, sparrow (Passer domesticus), Tüütje = chicken. The same words are used in Groninger Platt: Voutjes (vout) , Klontje (klont). Luntje (lunt). Tuutje (tuut) .

The diminutive is also often found in East Frisian first names , especially female ones, which have then become independent names.

Important differences to the neighboring Low German dialects can also be found in the grammar: East Frisian has the unit plural in -en (otherwise mostly -et ), and knows the consistent implementation of the Ingwaeon (North Sea Germanic) metathesis of the Germanic pronouns: listen for you (otherwise also Low German eer ) and Hum or hum for him / it (otherwise also Low German eem , despite Low German he for the third person singular male).

Phonetics and Phonology

The phoneme inventory of the Low German language of East Frisia cannot be described in general, as the realization of the vowels in the various local dialects in particular can vary considerably. The following description may serve as an example that is not absolutely, but is largely valid.



In addition to the vowels listed below, there is also the long vowel [ o: ], which only occurs in the diphthong [ o: ɪ ]. The consonant / r / is in Silbenauslaut frequently [⁠ ɐ ⁠] .

Short vowels:

phoneme According to example comment
/ i / [⁠ ɪ ⁠] i k ( i )
/ e / [⁠ ɛ ⁠] h e lpen ( help )
/ ä / [⁠ æ ⁠] r e CHT ( right )
/ a / [⁠ a ⁠] G a tt ( hole )
/ ü / [⁠ ʏ ⁠] S u ster ( sister )
/ ö / [⁠ œ ⁠] f ö r ( for )
/ ə / [⁠ ə ⁠] Ack er ( field ) In contrast to standard German, the adjacent syllable -er is not implemented as [ɐ] but as [ə].
/ u / [⁠ ʊ ⁠] v u ll ( full )
/ å / [⁠ ɔ ⁠] S a lt ( salt )

Long vowels:

phoneme According to example
/ ii / [ i :] r ie k ( rich )
/ ee / [ E : eˑə ] P ee ren ( pears )
/ ää / [ æ :] D ee r ( animal )
/ aa / [ a :] T ah n ( tooth )
/ üü / [ y: ] F üü r ( fire )
/ uu / [ u :] u t ( off )
/ åå / [ ɔ :] m a ken ( make )

Diphthongs and triphthongs

The Low German of East Frisia is rich in diphthongs and also has triphthongs in many local dialects .

phoneme According to example comment
/egg/ [ ɛɪ ] s ee ( said )
/ eäi / [ ɛæɪ ] n eei ( new )
/ öəi / [ œəɪ ] m ööi ( tired )
/ äi / [ æɪ ] n ee t ( not )
/ ai / [ ] t eih n ( ten )
/ aai / [ a: ɪ ] Egg ( egg )
/ ui / [ ] l u ntjen (to light )
/ ooi / [ o: ɪ ] n ooi t ( never )
/ öu / [ œʊ ] Dr oo m ( dream )
/ au / [ ] Sch oo l ( school ) "School" in the Krummhörn realized as [ʃgaʊl], in Rheiderland z. B. as [ʃgeaʊl].
/ aau / [ a: ʊ ] h au (n beat )
/ ou / [ ] B oo m ( tree )
/ iə / [ ] d i cht ( closed )
/ üə / [ ] S ü nn ( sun )
/ öə / [ œə ] Br öör ( brother )
/ uə / [ ] T u ng ( tongue )
/ åə / [ ɔə ] k o ll ( cold )
/ eä / [ ɛæ ] s e ggen ( say )
/ äü / [ æy ] f öh lt ( feels )


Voiced plosives are usually hardened at the end . If a vowel is omitted in the final, the voicing of the consonant can be retained, for example: De dode Mann. / De doo d man.


phoneme According to example
/ p / [⁠ p ⁠] P ogg ( frog )
/ t / [⁠ t ⁠] T iek ( beetle )
/ k / [⁠ k ⁠] K ööken ( kitchen )
/ b / [⁠ b ⁠] B een ( leg )
/ d / [⁠ d ⁠] D iek ( dike )
/G/ [⁠ g ⁠] g eel ( yellow )


phoneme According to example comment
/ f / [⁠ f ⁠] V Oegel ( Vogel )
/ w / [⁠ v ⁠] W ater ( water )
/ s / [⁠ s ⁠] wa s ( was )
/ z / [⁠ z ⁠] S ess ( six )
/ ch / [⁠ ç ⁠] Tüü g ( stuff ) The "I-sound" usually appears after a brief [⁠ i ⁠] and [ y: ]
/ ch / [⁠ x ⁠] hoo g ( high ) The "Ach-Laut" also appears in other positions than in standard German, e.g. B. according to [⁠ ʏ ⁠] in Lücht (dt. Light ).
/ sch / [⁠ ʃ ⁠] S choh ( shoes )
/H/ [⁠ h ⁠] h eten ( hot )

Other consonants:

phoneme According to example comment
/ tj / [ , ] Klun tj e ( rock candy )
/ ts / [⁠ ts ⁠] z ümtig ( seventy ) Rare affricates, mainly found in loan words.
/ y / [⁠ j ⁠] J ier ( manure )
/ m / [⁠ m ⁠] M ann ( man )
/ n / [⁠ n ⁠] n argens ( nowhere )
/ ng, nk / [⁠ ŋ ⁠] Ri ng ( Ring )
/ l / [⁠ l ⁠] l (ata blank )
/ r / [ r, ʀ ] R ook ( smoke ) The rolled or simple tongue tip r [⁠ r ⁠] is the traditional realization that slowly among the younger generation through the rolled uvula-r [⁠ ʀ ⁠] is replaced. The fricative most commonly used in standard German [⁠ ʁ ⁠] one finds however, hardly.

As with other regional and minority languages, it can also be observed with East Frisian Platt that the phoneme inventory slowly assimilates the dominant standard language.


There are also differences to standard German in terms of vocabulary, a number of words have their closest equivalent in Dutch or English.


East Frisian Gronings Northern Lower Saxony Dutch West Frisian English German
listen heur Ehr / eer hair har here her
moi mooi, sheer shy mooi, schoon moai, skoan beautiful, nice, fine beautiful
due give fail give barre to happen happen
proten proaten snack praten prate prate, prattle talk
neet nait not rivet net not Not
What What who What how What was

In addition, there are terms that have a common root that have developed differently from German and come closer to English or Dutch. An example:

East Frisian Dutch West Frisian English German
Klock 'clock, bell' klok 'clock' klok 'clock' clock 'clock' Bell jar
't is klock teihn 't is tien uur it is tsien oere it is ten o 'clock it is ten o'clock
O'clock 'hour' uur 'hour' oere 'hour' hour 'hour' Clock
A map of Ührs een kwartier in kertier a quarter-hour a quarter hour

The standard East Frisian greeting is Moin . The greeting is known in large parts of northern Germany and beyond, but its exact derivation is still not entirely clear. Despite its alleged origin from "Guten Morgen", it is not an explicit morning greeting. Instead it is used in East Friesland, as well as in Schleswig-Holstein and other regions, at any time of the day or night, which suggests its origins in Dutch (mooi = beautiful, meaning "a beautiful" short for "a beautiful day") .

The Frisian substrate

Even if it is undisputed that the old East Frisian language influenced the Low German vernacular in East Frisia, it is difficult to clearly identify an old East Frisian relic as such. In linguistics, the Frisian substratum is only one of several reasons for the special position of East Frisian Low German within North Lower Saxony. The influences of the dialects from today's Dutch provinces of Groningen and Drenthe as well as from the standard Dutch language have been much greater. A methodological problem arises for the determination of Frisian substrate elements in the East Frisian Platt. A characteristic identified as possibly Frisian cannot be clearly assigned to the old Frisian substrate layer. Since the Groninger Platt was also created on East Frisian substrate, such an element could also have been conveyed through this dialect. Likewise, Dutch originally adopted Frisian or North Sea Germanic elements and may have passed these on to the East Frisian dialect. Finally, the Low German basis of the East Frisian Platts is also considered to be very conservative. Since Low German was originally influenced by North Sea Germanic, a presumed Frisian relic in East Frisian can also be a preserved Low German Ingwaeonism.

Accordingly, the research is divided on the classification of the individual cases. The most extensive study on the subject was published by Arend Remmers . However, numerous of his examples have already been questioned by other researchers, for example because they are too widespread in other Low German dialects or because they are more recent phenomena.

Studies of the relic words were mostly carried out on the local dictionaries of Böning, ten Doornkaat and Stürenburg, which document the vocabulary of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Frisian relic words can be found above all in the "well-known areas of 'rural vocabulary, plant and animal names, affective vocabulary'".

The following examples together with their comparative evidence from Wangeroogic , Harlinger Frisian and Old Frisian are taken from the word and phonetic geographic example lists from the overview article on the subject by Ulrich Scheuermann from 2001.

East Frisian Low German Standard German Harlingerland Frisian Wangeroog Frisian Old Frisian
Babbe father babbe bab
Build Gadfly bawen
Bebbe / Beppe grandmother
egg Ewe ai
Oaths harrow eyde / ihde oath
to whisper move whisper
Hairdryer hairdryer faun fámne
grin pain gryon grin grinda
Grōm Fish guts gray
Brighter Outer dike land
hemmel clean
Hemmel cleaning
uncomfortable clean
hamper clean
hemming clean
Hokke coat hokka
Hüdel Dumpling hühdels
Jire Manure jere
Kabbe / Kobbe gull kâb
Kçl curdled milk throat kêl Guy
Cleat web cleat klamp
Krubbe Bricklayer
leien flash
Suffer Biltz layde leith / sorry
Lēp lapwing leep
Līwe Oystercatcher lîv
Laug / Lōg Village leek lōch / lōch
Mêm / Memme mother mem mam
Bounce / bounce Testicles bouncing
quinken / quinkōgen to wink quink quinka
Rēve device rêv
Rīve rake Hrīve
Junk leg skunk / skunka
Schūrschott dragon-fly Schûrschot
Beddeselm Front edge of the wall bed beddeselma
Schmeent small duck
Stōm steam
Greats Buttermilk suhpe
Tōm Offspring tâm
To do garden do tûnn to do
Tūsk tooth tusck tusk tusk
Weigh wall Libra week wâg / wâch
Wāle Welts
White whey wôi hwajja / hwajjô
Wīke channel
We se Row of mowed grass we were
Heff the sea yeast
Inge Meadow
Jadder udder Yes the
Gunder Ganter / gander gôner gunder / gonder
Tulg Branch / branch tulg
Woof / Wīf woman woof wīf
Māt Slice of meat māte
Gaspe buckle
guest Geest guest
Mande / Mānde Community manda
Aak / Ake additional piece of land âka
Mār Border ditch mâr
Ees Carrion / bait it
Eet food ēt
Meyde / Mēde / Mēë Meadow tired
Teek Treibsel / washed up
Wēl Kolk / Brake
Grēde Grassland grēd
tēmen / temmen Shoving hay into piles
nitel abusive nîtel
kīwer lively quîver
quiver thrive
Strap / Rimm Edging rima
stīkel steep
stīkel Sting stîkel
Tike Beetle
Trīme Ladder rung
You awn
Hiele heel hiell hîl Heila
Diemath / Dimt a measure of area deimēth / dîmēth
Lone alley lone
Rōp rope raap rap
Rof a measure of yarn
pagan skin heude haid hēd / heid / heide
Seats first calving cow stirtze / sterkiō
Please Xanthippe bitze
Bletz dirt bletz blets bletza
Tille bridge till thille
Tīling Plank layer
Tjāde Water draft tiā
Tjäpkes Whitberries
Tjüche (in field names) tioche / tioche
tjukken bump
tjukseln hit / stumble
tjüddern peck

A comparison of the Low German East Frisian Platts with the last surviving dialect of the East Frisian language, Sater Frisian , illustrates the different development on the phonetic level since the language change from Frisian to Low German, but also parallels in vocabulary.

East Frisian Platt week Fack country Listen söken For bad Dag Kark think broke
Sater Frisian w oo k F ä k L ou nd h ee re s ai ke F juu r sl ju cht Since i Sää rke t oank e braid ever


Ostfriesisches Platt, in which there is considerable regional literature, is written mainly in the "Schrievwies Oostfreeske Landskupp", a spelling based on Lindow's orthography rules. This was developed from the East Frisian landscape . It represents a cross-dialect compromise spelling and is used as the "official spelling".


See also:


  • Lars-Erik Ahlsson: Studies on East Frisian Middle Low German. Uppsala 1964.
  • William Foerste : The influence of Dutch on the vocabulary of the younger Low German dialects of East Frisia. 1938. (Reprint: Leer 1975)
  • J. Hobbing: The sounds of the dialect of Greetsiel in East Friesland. Nienburg 1879.
  • E. Isakson Biehl: Norderneyer protocols. Observations on a Low German dialect in decline. Dissertation . Stockholm 1996.
  • Hans Janßen: The structure of the dialects of East Frisia and the adjacent areas. 1937. (Reprint: Walluf, 1973)
  • A. Kruse: On the situation of Low German in northwestern East Friesland. Results of a survey of school students from Emden and the surrounding area. In: Quickborn. 83, No. 3, 1993, pp. 64-83.
  • Wilko Lücht: East Frisian grammar. Ostfriesische Landschaftliche Verlags- und Vertriebsgesellschaft, Aurich 2016.
  • Y. Matras, Gertrud Reershemius: Low German (East Frisian dialect). Lincom, Munich 2003.
  • Arend Remmers : On the East Frisian Low German. In: Yearbook of the Association for Low German Language Research. 117, 1994, pp. 130-168; 118, 1995, pp. 211-244; 119, 1996, pp. 141-177.
  • Arend Remmers: Low German in East Friesland - The dialect of Moormerland-Warsingsfehn. Leer 1997.
  • Tjabe Wiesenhann: Introduction to East Frisian Low German. 1936. (Reprint: Leer 1977)
  • Otto Buurman : High German-Low German dictionary. Based on East Frisian dialect in 12 volumes. 1993 newly published by the association "Oostfreeske Taal"
  • Jürgen Byl, Elke Brückmann: "East Frisian Dictionary - Low German / High German". Schuster publishing house, Leer.
  • Jan ten Doornkaat Koolman: Dictionary of the East Frisian language. 3 volumes. 1879/1884. (Reprint: Wiesbaden, 1968)
  • Stürenburg, Cirk Heinrich: East Frisian dictionary. 1857. (Reprint: Leer 1972)
  • Gernot de Vries: East Frisian Dictionary - High German / Low German. Schuster Verlag, Leer 1992.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Gertrud Reershemius: Low German in East Friesland. Between language contact, language change and language change. Stuttgart 2004.
  2. Agathe Lasch: Middle Low German Grammar. Hall 1914.
  3. Robert Peters: Thoughts on a map of the Middle Low German language area. In: Low German word. 24, 1984, pp. 51-59.
  4. For example: Johan Winkler: Algemeen Nederduitsch en Friesch dialecticon. The Hague 1874.
  5. Ethnologue also knows Gronings-Oostfries : http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=gos
  6. See e.g. B. to the Low German used in Saterland: Dieter Stellmacher: Das Saterland and the Saterlandic. Oldenburg 1998.
  7. Lars-Erik Ahlsson: studies on the East Frisian Middle Low German. Uppsala 1964.
  8. Marron C. Fort: Low German and Frisian between Lauwerzee and Weser. (PDF; 115 kB). In: Hans-Joachim Wätjen (Ed.): Between writing and reading: Perspectives for libraries, science and culture; Festschrift for the 60th birthday of Hermann Havekost. Oldenburg 1995.
  9. ^ Gertrud Reershemius: The Jewish ethnolect in the 20th century in relation to the technical language of the butchers and cattle dealers. In: Gertrud Reershemius: The language of the Aurich Jews: For the reconstruction of West Yiddish language remnants in East Friesland. (= Jewish culture. Studies on intellectual history, religion and literature. Volume 16). Wiesbaden 2007, ISBN 978-3-447-05617-5 , p. 111ff.
  10. ^ Based on the study by Gertrud Reershemius: Low German in Ostfriesland. Between language contact, language change and language change. Stuttgart 2004, in which the local dialect of camping in the Krummhörn is the focus.
  11. cf. Scheuermann, Ulrich (2001): Frisian relics in East Frisian Low German. In: Munske, Horst Haider u. a. (Ed.): Handbuch des Frisian. Niemeyer. Tübingen, pp. 443-448.
  12. Remmers, Arend (1994–1996): Zum Ostfriesischen Niederdeutsch. In: Yearbook of the Association for Low German Language Research. 117, 1994, pp. 130-168; 118, 1995, pp. 211-244; 119, 1996, pp. 141-177.
  13. cf. Scheuermann, Ulrich (2001): Frisian relics in East Frisian Low German. P. 443 and S. 444. In: Munske, Horst Haider u. a. (Ed.): Handbuch des Frisian. Niemeyer. Tübingen, pp. 443-448.
  14. cf. Scheuermann, Ulrich (2001): Frisian relics in East Frisian Low German. S. 444. In: Munske, Horst Haider u. a. (Ed.): Handbuch des Frisian. Niemeyer. Tübingen, pp. 443-448.
  15. cf. Scheuermann, Ulrich (2001): Frisian relics in East Frisian Low German. Pp. 444-446. In: Munske, Horst Haider u. a. (Ed.): Handbuch des Frisian. Niemeyer. Tübingen, pp. 443-448.
  16. Writing rules of the East Frisian landscape