East Frisian Low Saxon

Not to be confused with East Frisian language.
East Frisian Low Saxon
Native to Germany
Region East Frisia
Native speakers
(undated figure of 230,000 in East Frisia (Lower Saxony) Germany,
3,000 in other countries)[1]
mainly older adults
Language codes
ISO 639-2 frs
ISO 639-3 frs
Glottolog east2288[2]

East Frisian Low Saxon is one of the Friso-Saxon dialects, a West Low German dialect spoken in the East Frisian peninsula of northwestern Lower Saxony. It is used quite frequently in everyday speech there. About half of the East Frisian population in the coastal region uses Platdüütsk. A number of individuals, despite not being active speakers of Low Saxon, are able to understand it to some extent. However, both active and passive language skills are in a state of decrease.

East Frisian Low Saxon is not to be confused with the Eastern Frisian language; the latter, spoken by about 2,000 individuals in the Saterland region, is a Frisian language, not Low German.

There are several dialects in East Frisian Low Saxon. There are two main groups of dialects. The dialects in the east, called Harlinger Platt, are strongly influenced by Northern Low Saxon of Oldenburg. The western dialects are closer to the Low Saxon Language spoken in the Dutch province of Groningen, Gronings.[3]

East Frisian Low Saxon differs from Northern Low Saxon in several aspects, which are often linked to Frisian heritage. The language originally spoken in East Frisia and Groningen was Frisian, so the current Low Saxon dialects build on a Frisian substrate, which has led to a large amount of unique lexical, syntactic, and phonological items which differ from other Low Saxon variants.

East Frisian features frequent use of diminutives, as in the Dutch language, e.g. Footjes ‘little feet’, Kluntje ‘lump of rock sugar’. In many cases, diminutives of names, especially female ones, have become names of their own. For example: Antje (from Anna), Trientje (from Trina = Katharina) etc.

The dialects spoken in East Frisia are closely related to those spoken in the Dutch province of Groningen (Grunnegs, Grünnigs) and in Northern Drenthe (Noordenvelds). The biggest difference seems to be that of loanwords (from Dutch or German, resp.).

East Frisian Low SaxonGroningsNorthern Low SaxonEnglish
hör [høːə]heur [høːə]ehr [eə]her
moi [moːi]mooi [moːi]scheun [ʃœːin]beautiful, nice, fine
was [vas]was [vas]wer [vɛ.iə]was
geböhren [ɡebøːrɪn]gebeurn [ɣəbøːrɪn]passeern [passe.rn]to happen
proten [prɔ.tɪn, proːtɪn]proaten [pro.tɪn]snakken [snakɪn]to talk

The standard greeting is Moin (moi in Gronings), used 24 hours a day. Its use has spread from East Frisia to the whole of northern Germany, and it is heard more and more in the rest of Germany as well.

External links


  1. East Frisian Low Saxon at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "East Frisian Low Saxon". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. http://www.bis.uni-oldenburg.de/bisverlag/hv1/9a2-fort.pdf
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