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I’m curious to know whether Low German dialect is still used in Germany or not.

If so, in which areas? Is it both either spoken and written or only as a colloquial spoken language?

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The Low German dialects are still spoken in northen parts of German, and in eastern parts of the The Netherlands. These dialects are not reflected in everyday writing.

There is a map on Wikipedia depicting regional distributions of Low German dialect variants:

enter image description here Source: Wikimedia

There even are radio and TV shows in Low German (Platt). Mostly for documentation, and to preserve the dialect, we may also find written text in Low German. However these text are not officially used.

  • Thanks for illustrating map @Takkat ! Is it either as a formal written language in these areas?! – Armin Nov 2 '16 at 9:21
  • No it is spoken only... some people do write it down but it is not an officially valid spelling. – Takkat Nov 2 '16 at 9:33
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    Be warned that not every dialect indicated on the map is still actively used (or even understood) by the average person on the street. In particular, the Westphalian dialects have died out during the last 100 years in most of the orange colored regions of the map. – Uwe Nov 2 '16 at 13:10
  • It is not so hard to find books written in these dialects. Hence, the dialects are also used in writing. – Martin Peters Nov 2 '16 at 13:47
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    These dialects are not reflected in everyday writing Is that true though? What about SMS or messaging services? Don't people write in their dialects there, and aren't those the most representative kinds of everyday writing? – sgf Oct 2 at 11:39
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The low German dialects, collectively often termed Plattdeutsch, have been declining for quite a few centuries but they never became fully extinct. This had to do with the perception of dialect speakers having a lower social status, being from the countryside, enjoying lesser education and all sorts of other prejudices. For some reason, these always affected the North more than it did the South where dialects are more often perceived solely as regiolects and not as sociolects. An anecdotocal case in point is a former colleague of mine whose parents live in a village where occasionally Platt is still spoken. She said she understood it but couldn’t speak it herself.

On the other hand, more modernised if you wish versions of Low German dialects are and have been emerging across northern Germany. These dialects are much closer to what is taught as Standard German but still contain marked phonetic and semantic influences of the older Plattdeutsch dialects — for example the use of lütt instead of klein for small. These newer dialects have a much stronger speaker base and will probably survive.

In recent years, however, there have been marked efforts to preserve the old Plattdeutsch and to teach it to the young generation; including staging theatre performances in Platt and more. One of the key players here is the Ohnsorg-Theater in Hamburg, which exclusively stages plays in Platt.


Concerning the question about written versus spoken: Since the establishment of a more or less common spelling of German, influenced largely but not solely by Luther’s bible translation, written German was always more or less a variant of Standard German and rather far away from most actually spoken dialects. No official writing system for any dialect ever truly existed. However, in all parts of Germany traditional stories such as fairy tales were often told in dialects and thus sometimes written in them as well; one of the most well-known examples of a text written in Plattdeutsch is Von dem Fischer un syner Fru (Of the Fisherman and his wife). The late 19th century saw a rise of dialect literature in many parts of the country and though I would know most about the Bavarian examples (see my current avatar) I would be very surprised if there weren’t also marked and well-known (across the North) Plattdeutsch examples, too.

The principal difficulty with writing in Platt is that every village has their own forms, pronounce at least some word slightly differently such that there is no common codification system in use. Also, some phonemic features of northern German are very hard to codify into writing — arguably, getting the Bavarian Stoa or even Huosi correct from scratch is much easier than producing something that renders the Hamburg pronunciation of Stein well. Official documents have probably not been written in anything Platt-like since the fall of the Hanse.


The areas associated with Platt are well shown in the map in Takkat’s answer. Traditionally, the Uerdingen line is associated with the border between Low and Central German; ‘Low’ being the northern dialects. The common feature of all of these is the usage of i(c)k and related forms for I rather than i(s)ch (or i in the very far South).

Isoglossal line of Uerdingen separating *ik* from *ich*.

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    The en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ohnsorg-Theater shows have gained some popularity in the 1970..80ies as they were broadcasted by the NDR (which had ~20% TV market share in the north back then). Especially en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heidi_Kabel playing breezy grannies and de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Vahl playing a shrewd gramps for making the youngsters on the stage do what they want (usually: marry each other/save the family business etc) have become iconic. – Janka Nov 2 '16 at 17:20
  • @Janka That was the one I was looking for! Thanks! I remember reading a newspaper article about it (either in the Zeit or in the Süddeutsche) but I couldn’t find the article in a quick Google search … – Jan Nov 2 '16 at 17:26
  • Frisians call their Language Platt, Limburgish etc is called Platt, but that's clearly not Low German. Aren't both terms historically distinct? That it's bad advise to use them synonymously (whereas "Plattdeutsch" maybe an admissible edge case, but I'm not here to compromise). Asking how a prejudice had come about is ill-advised and uncalled for; How old are Friesenwitze? The note about the south is also misguided, Austria is its own state, the Eidgenossen are too south or reclused to be included at all, and the prejudice between Swabi and Franks is stereotypical. Otherwise nice A – vectory Oct 2 at 14:41
  • @vectory Platt when used to describe languages indeed has two different meanings: the low German dialects collectively and, north of a line that goes somewhere through the middle German dialect area, an individual local dialect. The former term is a generalisation and derives from the latter. The distinction in modern German is that Platt by itself refers to the low German dialects whereas the individual dialects need a location distinction (Limburger Platt) if its not clear from context. (Being in an area whose local dialect is called Platt can serve as sufficient context.) – Jan Oct 2 at 16:35
  • Frisian, while not being classified as German, still is closely related and many Germans will not know that Frisian isn’t actually a German dialect. So them calling their language Platt confirms the rule rather than constitutes an exception. – Jan Oct 2 at 16:38

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