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Low Franconian
Low Frankish
Netherlands, northern Belgium, northern France, western Germany, Suriname, Netherlands Antilles, Aruba, Namibia and South Africa
  West Germanic
   Low Franconian
The European Low Franconian language area (Southeast Limburgish around Aachen and Low Dietsch area in Belgium excluded)

Low Franconian, or Low Frankish, is a group of several West Germanic languages spoken in the Netherlands, northern Belgium (Flanders), in the northern department of France, in western Germany (Lower Rhine), as well as in Suriname, South Africa and Namibia that originally descended from Old Frankish.


The Frankish language

The Frankish Kingdom and the political divisions of Gaul at the inception of Clovis' career (481). Frankish was spoken only in the original Austrasian kingdom in yellow. Other Germanic idioms were spoken in Alamannia in green.

The Frankish language, also Old Frankish, was the language of the Franks. Classified as a West Germanic language, it was spoken in Merovingian times, preceding the 6th/7th century. Austrasia formed the north-eastern portion of the Kingdom of the Merovingian Franks, comprising parts of the territory of present-day western Germany, eastern and northern France, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The Franks first established themselves in the Netherlands and Flanders before they started to fight their way down south and east. The language had a significant impact on Old French. It evolved into Old Low Franconian in the north and it was replaced step by step by Langue d'oïl in the south.

Old Frankish is not directly attested. It has been reconstructed from loanwords in Old French and from Old Dutch (see also Comparative method).

Old Low Franconian (also Old Low Frankish) was a group of dialects spoken in the Low countries. It was a daughter language of the Old Frankish language.



Old Low Franconian was divided in two groups, Old Dutch (also Old West Low Franconian) and Old East Low Franconian. East Low Franconian was eventually "absorbed" by Dutch as it became the dominant form of Low Franconian, although it remains a noticeable substrate within Limburgish.[1] Because the two groups were so similar it is often very hard to determine whether a text is Old Dutch or Old East Low Franconian, hence most linguists will generally use Old Dutch synonymously with Old Low Franconian and most of the time do not differentiate.

Development of Dutch

The 17 Netherlands Provinces prior to the Dutch rebellion. Peoples of the most periphere regions (e.g. Cambrai or Eastern Frisia) never spoke Frankish or Dietsch

Dutch, like other Germanic languages, is conventionally divided into three phases. In the development of Dutch these phases were:

  • 600/650–1150: Old Dutch
  • 1150–1500: Middle Dutch (also called Dietsch in popular use, though not by linguists)
  • 1500–present: Modern Dutch (saw the creation of the Dutch standard language and includes contemporary Dutch)

Low-Franconian varieties are also spoken in the German area along the Rhine between Cologne and the border between Germany and the Netherlands. During the 19th and 20th centuries these dialects have partly and gradually been replaced by today's Standard German. Sometimes, Low Franconian is grouped together with Low German. However, since this grouping is not based on common linguistic innovations, but rather on the absence of the High German consonant shift and Anglo-Frisian features, modern linguistic reference books do not group them together. [2]


It is common to consider the Limburgish varieties as belonging to the Low Franconian languages; in the past, however, all these Limburgish dialects were sometimes seen as West Central German, part of High German. This difference is caused by a difference in definition: the latter stance defines a High German variety as one that has taken part in any of the first three phases of the High German consonant shift. Limburgish is also spoken in a considerable part of the German Lower Rhine area, in what could be called German-administered Limburg: from the border regions of Kleve, Aachen, Viersen, Heinsberg stretching out to the Rhine river. At the Rhine near Duisburg, it adjoins a smaller strip of other Low Franconian varieties called Bergisch. Depending on the city in Germany, 50% to 90% of the population speak it (A. Schunck 2001). Together these distinct varieties, now often combined with the Kleve dialects (Kleverländisch) as Meuse-Rhenish ('Rheinmaasländisch'), belong to the greater Low Franconian area between the rivers Meuse and Rhine (A. Welschen 2002). Limburgish straddles the borderline between 'Low Franconian' and 'Middle Franconian' varieties. They are more-or-less mutually intelligible with the Ripuarian dialects, but show fewer 'High German shifts' (R. Hahn 2001). In a number of towns and villages in the north-east of the Belgian province of Liege, such as Homburg, Welkenraedt, and Eupen, a transitional Limburgish-Ripuarian dialect is spoken, called Low Dietsch (Dutch: Platdiets, Limburgish: Platduutsj, French: Thiois or Platdutch).

Modern Low Franconian languages

Contemporary continental Low Franconian language area. French Flanders however has become more and more francophone during the last century. Brussels Capital Region is officially bilingual, but largely francophone. In Germany, Low Franconian only exists as Meuse-Rhenish regiolects and dialects

The modern Low Franconian languages are:


The main dialects of Dutch Low Franconian are:

Limburgish and Zeelandic are sometimes also considered to be Dutch dialects. Because of their many distinctive features in comparison with Standard Dutch, however, it is more logical from a linguistic point of view to classify these varieties as regional languages.

Niederfränkisch in Germany:

  • Kleverlandish (Kleverländisch) or Cleves dialects, and Bergish (South Guelderish / Low Rhenish) dialects
  • Limburgish


Afrikaans is an Indo-European language, derived from Dutch and classified as Low Franconian Germanic, mainly spoken in South Africa and Namibia, with smaller numbers of speakers in Botswana, Angola, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Togo, and Zambia.

Afrikaans originated from the Dutch language. The dialect became known as "Cape Dutch". Later, Afrikaans was sometimes also referred to as "African Dutch" or "Kitchen Dutch", although these terms were mainly pejorative. Afrikaans was considered a Dutch dialect until the late 19th century, when it began to be recognised as a distinct language, and it gained equal status with Dutch and English as an official language in South Africa in 1925. Dutch remained an official language until the new 1961 constitution finally stipulated the two official languages in South Africa to be Afrikaans and English (although, curiously, the 1961 constitution still had a sub-clause stipulating that the word "Afrikaans" was also meant to be referring to the Dutch language). It is the only Indo-European language of significance that underwent distinct development on the African continent.

Low Franconian (Dutch) in the world


  1. ^ Welschen, Ad 2000-2005: Course Dutch Society and Culture, International School for Humanities and Social Studies ISHSS, University of Amsterdam
  2. ^ Glück, H. (ed.): Metzler Lexikon Sprache, pages 472, 473. Stuttgart, Weimar: Metzler, 2000 (entries Niederdeutsch and Niederfränkisch)

See also

External links


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