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Low Prussian
(Prussian and Saxon subgroups)
Language codes
ISO 639-3

Low Prussian (German: Niederpreußisch),[1] sometimes known simply as Prussian (Preußisch), is a moribund dialect of East Low German that developed in East Prussia. Low Prussian was spoken in East and West Prussia and Danzig up to 1945. In Danzig it formed the particular city dialect of Danzig German. It developed on a Baltic substrate through the influx of Dutch- and Low German-speaking immigrants. It supplanted Old Prussian, which became extinct in the 18th century.

Simon Dach's poem Anke van Tharaw was written in Low Prussian.


Geopgrahical distribution of Low Prussian in the eastern periphery of the Low German linguistic area before 1945.
German and Dutch dialects in 1910. The geographical spread of Low Prussian language (Niederpreußisch) can be seen in the East

Low Prussian is a Low German dialect formerly spoken in Prussia. It is separated from its only adjacent German dialect, High Prussian, by the Benrath line and the Uerdingen line, the latter dialect being Central German. This was once one of the, if not the hardest linguistic border within the German dialects.

Plautdietsch, a Low German variety, is included within Low Prussian by some observers. Excluding Plautdietsch, Low Prussian can be considered moribund due to the evacuation and forced expulsion of Germans from East Prussia after World War II. Plautdietsch, however, has several thousand speakers throughout the world, most notably in South America, Canada and Germany.


Fate after 1945

Almost all Low Prussian speakers were evacuated or expelled from Prussia after 1945. Since the expellees scattered throughout Western Germany the dialects are now moribund. Most of the Low Prussian speakers not expelled after World War II relocated from Poland to Western Germany in the 1970s and 1980s and from Russia in the 1990s as so-called late repatriates (Spätaussiedler). Today, the language is almost extinct, as its use is restricted to communication within the family and gatherings of expellees, where they are spoken out of nostalgia. In Poland, the language of the few non-displaced people was subjected to severe repression after 1945, which meant that the active use of the language was even lower than in Germany. In both countries, the High Prussian dialects were not transmitted to the next generation, therefore, few elderly speakers remain. The German minority in Poland, recognized since 1991, uses Standard German.

Common Prussian features

It shares some features with High Prussian, differentiating it from other Eastern Low German dialects.

Those Borussisms are:[2]: 79 


According to one summary of Low German dialects, words very characteristic of Low Prussian are doa ('dor', there), joa ('jo', yes), goah ('goh', go) and noa ('nober', neighbor), which feature the diphthong "oa" instead of the usual "o" or "a". Further diphthong digressions include such examples as "eu" (pronounced as ei as in Heiser ('Häuser', houses)), as well as "ei" (pronounced as ee as in Beene ('Beine', legs)). Betcke also notes the tendency to transform the long "u" with an umlaut as in ('du', you), ('nun', now) and Ühr ('Uhr', watch).[3]

The dialect is also marked by a loan of High German-like words, such as zwei ('twee', two). Words are often shortened, in a manner similar to that of the neighboring East Pomeranian dialect, giving beet (beten, little bit) and baakove ('bakåben', bake oven).

Some observers argue that it resembles Dutch and Flemish because of these features. Low Prussian also has a number of words in common with Plautdietsch, such as Klemp (cow), Klopps (lump, ball of earth), and Tsoagel (tail).

Some other words[4] are:


[citation needed]

Low and Old Prussian

Low Prussian had patalization of /g, k/, which Latvian had since its contact to Low German.[5]

After the assimilation of the Old Prussians, many Old Prussian words were preserved within the Low Prussian dialect.[6]

Low Prussian Old Prussian Latvian Lithuanian Standard German English
Flins plīnksni plācenis blynas Pfannkuchen pancake, scone, biscuit
Kaddig kaddegs kadiķis kadagys Wacholder juniper
Kurp kurpe, -i kurpe kurpė Schuh shoe
Kujel kūilis cūka, mežacūka, kuilis kuilys, šernas Wildschwein boar
Margell, Marjell mērgā meitene, meiča merga, mergelė, mergaitė Magd, Mädchen, Mädel maiden, girl
Paparz papartis paparde papartis Farn fern
Pawirpen (from pawīrps) algādzis, strādnieks padienis Losmann freelancer
Zuris sūris siers sūris Käse cheese

Low Prussian and Lithuanian

In addition to the words of Old Prussian origin, another source of Baltic loans [lt; lv] was Lithuanian. After the migration of Lithuanians in the 15th century, many Lithuanian loanwords appeared in the Low Prussian dialect.[6]

Low Prussian Lithuanian Standard German English
Alus alus Bier beer, ale
Burteninker burtininkas Wahrsager, Zauberer, Besprecher magician, soothsayer, sorcerer
kalbeken kalbėti sprechen to talk, to speak
Kausche, Kauszel kaušas Schöpfkelle, Trinknapf dipper
Krepsch, Krepsche, Krepsze krepšys, krepšas Sack, Handsack, Ranzen basket
Lorbas liurbis Tölpel, Tolpatsch, Waschlappen loser, fumbler
Packrant krantas, pakrantė, pakraštys Rand, Küste edge, coast
Pirschlis piršlys Brautwerber matchmaker
Wabel, Wabbel vabalas Käfer bug

Sample text: Klingelschleede

The writer Erminia von Olfers-Batocki (1876-1954) from Natangia wrote the following poem in Low Prussian:[7]

See also


  1. ^ Mitzka, Walther (1921). "Niederpreuſsisch" [Lower Prussian]. Zeitschrift für deutsche Mundarten (in German). Franz Steiner Verlag. 16: 151–154. JSTOR 40498264.
  2. ^ Ziesemer, Walther (1926). "Die ostpreußischen Mundarten" [The Eastern Prussian dialects]. Ostpreußen. Land und Leute in Wort und Bild [Eastern Prussia. The land and its inhabitants in description and pictures] (3rd ed.). Königsberg (Preußen): Gräfe und Unzer o. J.
  3. ^ "Betcke Bruno Sammlung Ostpreussisch Koenigsbergische3r Ausdruecke Durchsuchbar | PDF". Scribd. Retrieved 2021-12-12.
  4. ^ Found in Riemann, Erhard (ed.): Preußisches Wörterbuch, Vol. 1, Issue 1. Neumünster (Wachholtz) 1974.
  5. ^ Siemens, Heinrich (2012). Plautdietsch: Grammatik, Geschichte, Perspektiven (in German). Bonn: Tweeback Verlag. ISBN 9783981197853. p. 94
  6. ^ a b Bauer, Gerhard (2005). "Baltismen im ostpreußischen Deutsch: Hermann Frischbiers „Preussisches Wörterbuch" als volkskundliche Quelle" [Baltisms in Eastern Prussian German: Hermann Frischbier's "Prussian Dictionary" as ethnological source]. Annaberger Annalen (PDF) (in German). pp. 5–82.
  7. ^ Wir Ostpreußen, Folge 04 vom 20. Februar 1950