Middle Low German  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Middle Low German is a language that is the descendant of Old Saxon and is the ancestor of modern Low German. It served as the international lingua franca of the Hanseatic League. It was spoken from about 1100 to 1600.

Related languages

The neighbour languages within the dialect continuum of the West Germanic languages were Middle Dutch in the West and Middle High German in the South, later substituted by Early Modern High German.

Middle Low German provided a large number of loanwords to the Nordic languages as a result of the activities of Hanseatic traders. It is considered the largest single source of loanwords in Norwegian, as well as Swedish.


Middle Low German was the lingua franca of the Hanseatic League, spoken all around the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. Based on the language of Lübeck, a standardized written language was developing, though it was never codified.

Traces of the importance of Middle Low German can be seen by the many loans found in the Scandinavian, Finnic, and Baltic languages, but also in standard German or in English.

In the late Middle Ages, Middle Low German lost its prestige to Early Modern High German which the elites began to use first as a written language and later as a spoken language. Reasons for the loss of prestige of Low German were the decline of the Hanseatic League that was followed by political heteronomy of Northern Germany, but also the cultural predominance of Middle and Southern Germany for instance through the Protestant Reformation.


Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Middle Low German" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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