Low Franconian
Lower Franconian, Low Frankish; Netherlandic, Netherlandish
Dutch: Nederfrankisch; High German: Niederfränkisch
Netherlands, northern Belgium, northern France, western Germany, Suriname, Netherlands Antilles, Aruba, Namibia and South Africa
Linguistic classificationIndo-European
Early form
Glottologwese1235  (Macro-Dutch)
Distribution of Low Franconian, including the Low Franconian–Ripuarian transition area in Limburg and West Germany.

In historical and comparative linguistics, Low Franconian is a linguistic category used to classify a number of historical and contemporary West Germanic varieties closely related to, and including, the Dutch language. Most dialects and languages included within this category are spoken in the Netherlands, northern Belgium (Flanders), in the Nord department of France, in western Germany (Lower Rhine), as well as in Suriname, South Africa and Namibia.


Low Frankish is a purely linguistic category and isn't used as a term of self-designation among any of the speakers of the Germanic dialects traditionally grouped within it.

Within the field of historical philology the terminology for the historical phases of Low Franconian is not analogous to the traditional Old High German / Middle High German and Old Low German / Middle Low German dichotomies, with the terms Old Dutch and Middle Dutch commonly being preferred to Old Low Franconian and Middle Low Franconian in most contexts. Due to the category's strong interconnection with the Dutch language and its historical forms, Low Franconian is occasionally used interchangeably with Dutch, though the latter term can have a broader as well as narrower meaning depending on the specific context. English publications alternatively use Netherlandic as a synonym of Low Franconian at its earlier historical stages, thereby signifying the category's close relation to Dutch, without using it as a synonym.[1][2]

Low Franconian is sometimes, and especially was historically, grouped together with Low Saxon, referred to as Low German. However, this grouping is not based on common linguistic innovations, but rather on the absence of the High German consonant shift.[3][4] In fact, in nineteenth century literature this grouping could also include English, another a West Germanic language that did not undergo the consonant shift.[5][6] The term Frankish or Franconian as a modern linguistic category was coined by the German linguist Wilhelm Braune (1850–1926). He divided Franconian which contained both Germanic dialects which had and had not experienced the Second Germanic consonant shift into Low, Middle and High Franconian, with the use of Low signifying that this category did not participate in the sound shift.[7][8]


Main article: Frankish language

Frankish settlement areas by the 5th century:

Despite the name, the diachronical connection to Old Frankish, the unattested language spoken by the Franks, is unclear for most of the varieties grouped under the broad "Franconian" category, mainly due to the heavy influence of Elbe Germanic/High German features in the Middle and High Franconian varieties following the Migration Period.[9][8] The dialects of the Low Franconian grouping form an exception to this, with the dialects generally being accepted to be the most direct descendants of Old Frankish. As such, Old Dutch and Middle Dutch, together with loanwords in Old French, are the principal languages used to reconstruct Old Frankish using the comparative method.[10][11]

Within historical linguistics Old Low Franconian is synonymous with Old Dutch.[12][13] Depending on the author, the temporal boundary between Old Dutch and Old Frankish is either defined by the onset of the Second Germanic consonant shift in Eastern Frankish, the assimilation of an unattested coastal dialect showing North Sea Germanic features by West Frankish in the late 9th century, or a combination of both.[14]

Old Low Franconian is divided into Old West Low Franconian (spoken in Flanders, Brabant and Holland) and Old East Low Franconian (spoken in Limburg and the Rhineland).[15] Old West Low Franconian "is the ancestor ultimately of Dutch".[16]

Modern classification

Low Franconian includes:[17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24]

South Low Franconian occupies a special position among the Low Franconian subgroups, since it shares several linguistic features with Ripuarian dialects spoken to the southeast, such as the conditioned split of the West Germanic diphthongs *ai and *au (e.g. in Roermonds *ai splits to /eː/ and /ɛi/, *au to /oː/ and /ɔu/), which apart from Ripuraian is also found in all other High German dialects, and the characteristic pitch accent, which is exclusively shared with Ripuarian and Moselle Franconian.[25][a]

Area loss

Until the Early Modern Period all speakers of varieties of Low Franconian used Middle Dutch or Early Modern Dutch as their literary language and Dachsprache. There was a marked change in the 19th century, when the historically Dutch-speaking region of French Flanders underwent a period of Francisation under the auspices of the French government.[28] Similarly, in the Lower Rhine region (then part of Prussia), there was extensive Germanisation, and public and official use of the Dutch language was forbidden, leading to a decline in the use of Dutch and Limburgish.[29][30][31] In addition, the historically Dutch-speaking Brussels Capital Region is officially bilingual, but now largely francophone.

See also


  1. ^ Traditionally, the Uerdingen line (separating ik and ich 'I') and the Benrath line (separating maken and machen 'to make') have been considered respectively the northern and southern borders of South Low Franconian. However, both Dutch and German scholars have questioned the classificatory value of the Uerdingen line: in the (north-)west, it is too inclusive, while in the north in Dutch Limburg and in the northeast in the Rhineland, the scope of South Low Franconian extends beyond the Uerdingen line when considering structural features such as the occurrence of pitch accent and the reflexes of West Germanic vowels.[25][26][27]


  1. ^ Sarah Grey Thomason, Terrence Kaufman: Language Contact, Creolization, and Genetic Linguistics, University of California Press, 1991, p. 321. (Calling it "Low Frankish (or Netherlandish)".)
  2. ^ Scott Shay: The History of English: A Linguistic Introduction, Wardja Press, 2008, p. 73. (Having "Old Low Franconian" and mentioning "Old Low Frankish" and "Old Netherlandic".)
  3. ^ Glück, H. (ed.): Metzler Lexikon Sprache, Stuttgart, Weimar: Metzler, 2000, pages 472, 473 (entries Niederdeutsch and Niederfränkisch)
  4. ^ Gabriele Graefen & Martina Liedke-Göbel: Germanistische Sprachwissenschaft: Deutsch als Erst-, Zweit- oder Fremdsprache, 3. ed., 2020, p. 31.
  5. ^ Chambers W. and R., ltd, Outline of the History of the English Language and Literature (Oxford, 1882) p. 9
  6. ^ Alexander J. Ellis, On Early English Pronouncation, Part IV (New York, 1874) p. 1369
  7. ^ Strong, Herbert Augustus; Meyer, Kuno (1886). Outlines of a History of the German language. London: Swan Sonnenschein, Le Bas & Lowrey. p. 68.
  8. ^ a b Alfred Klepsch: Fränkische Dialekte, published on 19 October 2009; in: Historisches Lexikon Bayerns (accessed 21 November 2020)
  9. ^ Harbert, Wayne Eugene (2007). The Germanic Languages. Cambridge Language Surveys. Cambridge / New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 15–17.
  10. ^ M. De Vaan: The Dawn of Dutch: Language contact in the Western Low Countries before 1200, John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2017
  11. ^ R. Noske: Romance Languages and Linguistic Theory: Selected papers from Going Romance, Amsterdam 2007, John Benjamins Publishing, 2017
  12. ^ Alderik H. Blom: Glossing the Psalms: The Emergence of the Written Vernaculars in Western Europe from the Seventh to the Twelfth Centuries, Walter de Gruyter GmbH, 2017, p. 134-135.
  13. ^ Hans Frede Nielsen: The Germanic Languages: Origins and Early Dialectal Interrelations, University of Alabama Press, 1989, p.2
  14. ^ M. De Vaan: The Dawn of Dutch: Language contact in the Western Low Countries before 1200, John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2017, p. 32.
  15. ^ Oliver M. Traxel, Languages, in: Albrecht Classen (ed.), Handbook of Medieval Culture: Fundamental Aspects and Conditions of the European Middle Ages: Volume 2, 2015, here p. 810
  16. ^ Benjamin W. Fortson IV, Indo-European Language and Culture: An Introduction, series: Blackwell Textbooks in Linguistics, 2nd ed., 2010 (originally 2004), p. 371
  17. ^ Jan-Wouter Zwart, The Syntax of Dutch, Cambridge University Press, 2011, p. 4: "The Low Franconian dialects include Brabantish, East Flemish, West Flemish, Zeeuws, Hollands-Utrechts, and the dialect of North-Noordholland and the North Sea Coast ([..]; the North-Noordholland dialect is confusingly called Westfries 'West Frisian')."
  18. ^ Anne Pauwels, Immigrant Dialects and Language Maintenance in Australia: The Case of the Limburg and Swabian Dialects, 1986, p. 23: "The Franconian dialects include Hollands, Zeeuws, Flemish (East and West), Brabants and Limburgs. [...] Limburgs is the only East Franconian dialect spoken in the Netherlands. All other Franconian dialects in the Netherlands are West Franconian."
  19. ^ Magda Devos, Genese en structuur van het Vlaamse dialectlandschap, in: Johan De Caluwe, Magda Devos (eds.), Structuren in talige variatie in Vlaanderen, 2006, p. 35ff., here p. 36 [about the Low Franconian dialects in Belgium, shortly also mentioning situations beyond the border (like West-Vlaams in northern France)]
  20. ^ Jürgen Erich Schmidt, Robert Möller, Historisches Westdeutsch/Rheinisch (Moselfränkisch, Ripuarisch, Südniederfränkisch); in: Sprache und Raum: Ein internationales Handbuch der Sprachvariation. Band 4: Deutsch. Herausgegeben von Joachim Herrgen, Jürgen Erich Schmidt. Unter Mitarbeit von Hanna Fischer und Birgitte Ganswindt. Volume 30.4 of Handbücher zur Sprach- und Kommunikationswissenschaft (Handbooks of Linguistics and Communication Science / Manuels de linguistique et des sciences de communication) (HSK). Walter de Gruyter, Berlin/Boston, 2019, p. 515ff., here p. 528.
  21. ^ Johannes Venema, Zum Stand der zweiten Lautverschiebung im Rheinland: Diatopische, diachrone und diastratische Untersuchungen am Beispiel der dentalen Tenuis (voralthochdeutsch /t/) (= Mainzer Studien zu Sprach- und Volksforschung 22), Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart, 1997, p. 12
  22. ^ Jan Goossens, Die Gliederung des Südniederfränkischen, in: Rheinische Vierteljahrsblätter. Jahrgang 30  1965, Ludwig Röhrscheid Verlag, Bonn, 1965, p. 79-94, esp. p. 79
  23. ^ Jan Goossens, edited by Heinz Eickmans, Loek Geeraedts, Robert Peters, Ausgewählte Schriften zur niederländischen und deutschen Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaft (series: Niederlande-Studien Band [22]), Waxmann, Münster / New York / München / Berlin, 2000, p. 202 [a map showing Friesisch and Niedersächsisch in the Netherlands as well as Nordniederfränkisch and Südniederfränkisch in the Netherlands and Germany]
  24. ^ Jan Goossens, Die gerundeten Palatalvokale im niederländischen Sprachraum, in: Ludwig Erich Schmitt (ed.), Zeitschrift für Mundartforschung, XXIX. Jahrgang 1962, Franz Steiner Verlag, Wiesbaden, 1962, p. 312–328, here p. 313 [equating West Low Franconian and North Low Franconian as well as East Low Franconian and South Low Franconian, calling the West/East terminology Netherlandic technical language]
  25. ^ a b Hermans, Ben (2013). "Phonological features of Limburgian dialects". In Frans Hinskens; Johan Taeldeman (eds.). Dutch. Language and Space: An International Handbook of Linguistic Variation, Volume 3. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. pp. 336–355. doi:10.1515/9783110261332.336.
  26. ^ Bakker, Frens; van Hout, Roeland (2017). "De indeling van de dialecten in Noord-Limburg en het aangrenzende Duitse gebied: Hoe relevant is de Uerdingerlijn als scheidslijn?". Nederlands Taalkunde. 22 (3): 303–332. doi:10.5117/NEDTAA2017.3.BAKK.
  27. ^ Wiesinger, Peter (1983). "Die Einteilung der deutschen Dialekte". In Besch, Werner (ed.). Dialektologie: Ein Handbuch zur deutschen und allgemeinen Dialektforschung. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. pp. 807–900..
  28. ^ "Histoire du français: Le français contemporain". www.axl.cefan.ulaval.ca. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  29. ^ Heinz Eickmans, Aspekte einer niederrheinischen Sprachgeschichte, in: Werner Besch, Anne Betten, Oskar Reichmann, Stefan Sonderegger (eds.), Sprachgeschichte: Ein Handbuch zur Geschichte der deutschen Sprache und ihrer Erforschung, 2nd ed., 3. Teilband (series: HSK 2.3), Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York, 2003, p. 2629ff., here p. 2636.
  30. ^ Georg Cornelissen: Das Niederländische im preußischen Gelderland und seine Ablösung durch das Deutsche, Rohrscheid, 1986, S. 93.
  31. ^ "Historische Sprachverhältnisse - Institut für Landeskunde und Regionalgeschichte". 21 June 2019. Archived from the original on 21 June 2019. Retrieved 29 September 2022.

Further reading