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Low Saxon (in Low Saxon, Plattdüütsch, Nedderdüütsch or Neddersassisch) is any of a variety of Low German dialects spoken in northern Germany and the Netherlands. It also includes Plautdietsch, which is spoken by Mennonites in North America.
Since 1994 Low Saxon has been recognised by the European Union as an independent regional lanugage. Since 1999 Low Saxon is under protection of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. The ISO 639-2 language code is nds since May 2000. Although often considered a variation of German, in many respects it is more like Dutch, which is based on closely related Low Franconian dialects. Low Saxon and Low Franconian are classified together as Low German.
The distinction between Low Saxon and Low Franconian (on one side) or High German (on the other side) is not precisely defined; there are several clines[?] that vary smoothly from one dialect to another. The Northern Low Saxon language serves as a common intelligible language in TV and Wireless programms.
The Low Saxon language has in common with the English language, the Scandinavian languages and Frisian that it has not been influenced by the High German sound shift[?]. Therefore a lot of Low Saxon words sound similar to their English counterparts. For instance: Water/water, later, bit, Disch/dish, Schipp/ship, pull/pull, good/good, Klock/clock, Seil/sail, he/he, Storm/storm.
The grammar also shows similarities to the English language. Low Saxon declination has only three cases. In the northern dialects the participle is formed without the prefix ge-, like the Scandinavian languages and English, but unlike Dutch and German. The syntax on the other hand is more like German syntax, though there are some differences.
Low Saxon was once much more widespread than today, being used as a lingua franca throughout the Baltic region, under the influence of the Hanseatic League. It served as a standard language[?] in many regions of northern Germany until it was replaced for that purpose by Standard German (a High German dialect) during the unification of Germany under Otto von Bismarck in 1870.
A Low Saxon Wikipedia has recently been started at http://nds.wikipedia.org.
Note that divisions between subfamilies of Germanic are rarely precisely defined; most form continuous clines[?], with adjacent dialects being mutually intelligible and more distantly separated ones being less so. However, most Low Saxon dialects are thought to be descended from, or to have been strongly influenced by Old Saxon[?].
Dialects in northern Germany:
Dialects in the eastern Netherlands:
This list is not complete.
See also: Common phrases in different languages.