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ISOJAC  April 2000

ISOJAC April 2000

Subject:

Re: New ISO 639-2 code (fwd)

From:

Michael Everson <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

ISO 639 Joint Advisory Committee <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 27 Apr 2000 19:10:29 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (298 lines)

Response from my expert. The recommendation is to use "nds" and that Low
Saxon and Low German are the same.

> =====
> In reviewing the information gathered so far, there are the following
> issues concerning the definition of Low German as a language in ISO
> 639.
> Since the request was only to define in ISO 639-2 that is what we are
> considering.
>
> 1. Low German as dialect or as separate language
>
> If we consider Low German against the proposed list of criteria to
> establish a separate language code for a dialect, we could say:
> definitely yes to 1, 5, and 7. For 2, the name is somewhat
> distinctive,
> although the term is used for the dialects of Germany as well as the
> wider
> grouping of West Germanic languages that includes Dutch and English.
> The
> latter usage is in contrast with the High German dialects.  We have
> no
> information on standardization or educational status.

There are standardization attempts, but they are at present still split
into factions/schools, and so far these are attempts to standardize the
orthographic system, not as yet to create a standard spoken and written
variety.  The aim is to create an orthographic system that can be used
to write any of the dialects and facilitate inter-dialect reading
comprehension.  In Germany they utilize German devices but also draw
from language-specific conventions as used in Middle Low German and as
still used in Dutch and Afrikaans.  On the Netherlands side of the
border, the situation is similar, only that Dutch devices predominate
there, even though "ö" (umlauted "o") and sometimes other German
devices are used as well.  On the German side, two schools absolutely
predominate: the Fehrs Guild and the Loccum Guidelines school, the
latter being dominated by the churches and their followers.  Both
schools aim at creating orthographies that are close to the German one,
and both capitalize nouns as in German.  The main difference is that
the Fehrs Guild follows the Lowlandic system (as also preserved in
Dutch and Afrikaans) of writing a long vowel double in a closed
syllable and single in an open syllable, while the Loccum people write
it double in all environments (as is done in the Frisian varieties of
Germany).  Inconsistency is introduced where both use the German-type
lengthening "h" wherever a word has a German cognate with this
lengthening "h".  For example, there are homophones that are not
homographs, such as /paal/ _Pahl_ ~ _Pohl_ 'pole' (cf. German _Pfahl_)
vs /paal/ _Paal_ ~ _Pool_ '(pea) pod' (with no German cognate).  More
and more younger writers (and not so young "rebels" like myself) are
doing away with some of the German devices, for example omitting the
lengthening "h" (thus, _Paal_ or _paal_ in both instances above) and
/ai/ as "ai" rather than as German-style "ei".  I predict that this
movement will gain strength as the speaker community regains a stronger
sense of independence following official recognition.  The struggle is
less arduous on the Netherlands side, since the inherited Low Saxon
orthographic system is very similar to the Dutch one to start with.
There are definite moves in the direction of standardizing the
orthographies for each dialect group (e.g., Tweants of Twente, and
Grunnens of Groningen), and they seem to be operating on more or less
identical bases.

> It does seem
> to
> have a tradition of literary usage, and there is a radio station in
> Germany that broadcasts in Low German.

It has an uninterrupted literary tradition of over a thousand years.
After Germanization and Netherlandization (i.e., after the demise of
the Hanseatic Trading League that used LG/LS as an international
language), there was a bit of a lull, but the language never totally
ceased to be written.  It experienced a renaissance in the middle of
the 19th century, often seen as the beginning of a new Modern Low
German/Saxon writing tradition that brought forth a number of authors
whose fame transcends the actual community of speakers, now seen as
famous "German" and "Dutch" writers, depending on their citizenship.
Many of their works have been translated into other languages, not only
into German and Dutch but also into English, French and Japanese (e.g.,
Fritz Reuther's works).  There is now a great flurry of literary
activities, in part boosted by increased confidence as a result of
official language status having been granted.  This includes "modern"
and experimental writing, especially poetry, short stories and radio
plays.

LG/LS broadcasting goes back to the early days of radio in both
Northern Germany and the Eastern Netherlands, although time given to it
tends to be limited.  Particularly "contemplative talks" (mostly
religious sermons) and radio plays have long histories.  However,
occasional LG/LS theater plays have been televised since the early days
of television.  Lately there has been an emergence of daily radio news
broadcasting (like the one recorded on the Internet by Radio Bremen <
http://www.radiobremen.de/rbtext/rb3/_platt/ >) and TV talk shows, like
"Talk op Platt" of North German Radio/TV Corporation.

> 1) Does the required number of documents exist?  (This is, of
> course, mandatory)

???

> 2) Does the dialect have a distinctive name?  A name such as
> Parisian French isn't particularly distinctive, being based on
> the combination of a place name with the name of the language.

Yes, "Nedderdüütsch" ~ "Plattdüütsch" (~ "Platt") in Germany,
collectively "Nedersaksisch" ~ "Nedersassies" ~ "Neersassies" etc. in
the Netherlands (depending on dialect pronunciation).  "Low Saxon"
("Niedersächsisch" 'Low Saxon' is considered an optional "technical"
term among German linguists.)  There is no doubt in the minds of
researchers and activists that technically it is "Modern Saxon," the
descendant of Old Saxon, though in Germany "Sächsisch" is now the name
used for the German dialects of the state of Saxony.  Speakers in the
Netherlands will often refer to the LG/LS dialects of Germany as
"Nederduuts" etc. or as "Platduuts" etc. ('Low German').  However,
they, as all Netherlanders, are aware that also their dialects as well
as Dutch itself used to be referred to as "nederduytsch" or even just
"duytsch" (> English "Dutch") in former time, competing with the older
names "saksysch" ("Saxon") and "nedersaksysch" ("Low Saxon") on both
sides of what is now the border.  Reluctance to use "Low German" in
reference to their own dialects nowadays appears to be based on a need
not to appear ethnically "German" but as something like "Saxon
Netherlanders", and especially WW II and its aftermath have
strengthened this reluctance.  Yet, speakers on the Netherlands side
will readily admit that their dialects are related to "Nederduuts" on
the German side of the border.

> 3) Does the dialect have a degree of standardization, such as a
> consistent orthography?

See above.

> 4) Is the dialect taught separately in schools?

Yes, wherever it is included in the curricula.  I still had one hour of
LG in primary school.  This was scrapped due to lacking funding.  It is
reemerging now.  There is a great flurry of publishing LG/LS texts for
schools.  There is a growing number of bilingual German-LG
kindergartens, especially in Eastern Friesland (one of the great
strongholds of the language), apparently with great success (e.g.,
youngsters rekindling the use of LG in their homes).

> 5) Is there significant variation from the standard language?

If "standard language" is supposed to mean "Dutch" and "German," then
yes, there is significant variation.  Speakers of Dutch understand LS
fairly to very well, depending on the extent of exposure to it.
Obviously, this is because the two languages are closely related, and
LS contributed to the development of Standard Dutch (which is
essentially Low Franconian).  German speakers do not understand it
unless they learn it as a foreign language or are extensively exposed
to it.  (E.g., while I grew up more or less as a native speaker, my
sister, who is 15 years younger and grew up in an era with little or no
exposure, cannot follow a LG conversation at all and only understands
bits when she sees it written.)  Speakers of Missingsch (a type of
"low-class" creole, i.e., basically German on a LG substrate),
understand LG better but not perfectly.

> 6) Is the dialect sometimes considered a separate language?

It is so officially now.  It has been officially recognized as a
"regional language" in all within the framework of the European
Language Charter.  Mennonite LG ("Plautdietsch") is recognized as one
of Canada's main minority languages.

> 7) Is there a tradition of literary usage or is the dialect used
> in media such as radio, motion pictures, television?

See above.

> The more "yes" answers that occur for a dialect, the more likely
> it is that a separate code would be useful.
>
> (I do realize that Sten made some thoughtful comments about these
> yesterday that I am thinking about.)
>
> --------------------------------------------------------------------
>
> 2. What code to assign.

> In this case, there is some evidence that Low Saxon and Low German
> are the
> same language.

Yes, they are, although some people in Germany appear to reluctant to
admit this for apparently "administrative" reasons.

> If these are the same, our sources at the Library of
> Congress primarily use Low German; we also don't feel certain that
> they
> are the same. In any case, it is not clear what the vernacular name
> of Low
> Saxon is (Neddersassisch or Nedersaksisch in Ethnologue?). The
> vernacular
> for Low German seems to be Plattduutsch (umlauts over each "u")

Also "Nedderdüütsch," though many perceive it as more formal,
scientific.  Vernacular "Platt" in Germany and "Plat" in the
Netherlands are highly ambiguous in that they are not linguistically
based but are extensively used to refer not only to LG/LS but also to
non-standard varieties of Dutch and German.  In the case of Germany,
you will even hear Alemannic (southwestern) German dialects referred to
as "Platt."  On top of it, "Nedderdüütsch" ~ "Plattdüütsch" in Germany
includes non-Saxon dialects, namely a few Low Franconian dialects that
fall onto the German side of the border (just east of the
Netherlands-Belgian-German border), dialects that technically belong to
Dutch (though they have been somewhat Germanized).  Technically
speaking, therefore, "Low Saxon" is correct in referring to the *Saxon*
language of the Lowlands, while "Low German" and certainly "Platt" are
catchall names.  However, it has to be borne in mind that "Low Saxon"
(and its equivalents) are perceived as alien (and as pertaining to the
state of Lower Saxony) by the majority of speakers in Germany nowadays
(estimated up to 10 million), while speakers in the Netherlands
(estimated 1.5-2 million) tend to consider their dialects minority
appendages and have a sense of "Low German" affiliation.  Thus, if no
code can be found that accommodates both "Low German" and "Low Saxon,"
I would suggest "erring" on the side of "Low German" (e.g., ND).

> with
> varying other spellings in other places (e.g. Mennonite German is
> Plautdietsch; also saw Plattduetsche). It seems also to be spoken in
> other
> places, such as the U.S., Latin America, Canada, Russia, etc.

Yes, indeed (though it is "Mennonite LOW German" as opposed to
"Mennonite German", dialect groups of two different languages).

Thanks to the power of Internet communication there are now
considerable activities that bring together speakers of Plautdietsch
and speakers of other dialects.

> The submitter of the request did not represent the country using the
> language. He did suggest a code that had already been used, but said
> they
> could change to whatever we chose.
>
> The choices seem to be:
>   - pld (based on Plattduutsch or some other variant)
>   - sak (based on Saksysch? but we aren't sure that these are the
> same
> and the request was for Low German)
>   - nds (based on Nedersksisch or other variant; same comment as
> above)
>   - gml (based on German, Low; proposed code by submitter)

It is not wise to treat it as a subset of German.  This would be as
offensive to many as e.g. considering Catalan or Galician subsets of
Spanish (= Castilian), e.g., "esc" and "esg" respectively, or Occitan
"fro" as a subset of French.  The language we are talking about is
Germanic but not German.  Especially speakers in the Netherlands would
distance themselves if it were presented as a type of German.

At this point, considering my arguments above, I feel that "nds" would
be acceptable to all (though personally I consider it a compromise). It can
be read as "NeDderdüütSch" or as "NeDderSassisch" in Germany and as
"Ne(d)erDuutS"
or as "NeDerSassies" in the Netherlands -- in German as "NiederDeutSch"
or as "NieDerSächsisch", in Dutch as "NederDuitS" or as "NeDerSaksisch".

> Please comment. I would like to send out the vote by next week. I do
> hope
> that all of you on the JAC who have not participated in this
> discussion
> will vote.

Thanks again for giving me an opportunity to comment.  My comments are
not only based on my personal opinions but also on many exchanges I
have had about these topics with other people.

I hope you will inform me of your decision.  I know that numerous
subscribers to Lowlands-L have been eagerly awaiting news of the
development.

Please bear in mind that there is a fast growing number of web
publications in the language.  Selections can be conveniently accessed
here:

http://www.geocities.com/sassisch/rhahn/lowlands/links_neddersassisch.htm
http://www.geocities.com/sassisch/rhahn/low-saxon/po-sites.htm

To get an idea about LG/LS organizations throughout the world, please
visit this emerging site:
http://www.geocities.com/sassisch/rhahn/low-saxon/plattewelt.htm

I wonder why you are considering ISO-8859-2 (Latin2) for this language.
 It does not contain "'" and "œ" that are used by many for the [ø:]
sound.  ISO-8859-1 (Latin1) contains all needed characters except "e"
ogonek" and "ö" ogonek that are used by some.  Please also bear in mind
that many speakers in Germany also use the "ß" (es-zet).

Thanks and best regards,

Reinhard "Ron" Hahn
Lowlands-L
http://www.geocities.com/sassisch/rhahn/lowlands/

Michael Everson  **  Everson Gunn Teoranta  **   http://www.egt.ie
15 Port Chaeimhghein Íochtarach; Baile Átha Cliath 2; Éire/Ireland
Vox +353 1 478 2597 ** Fax +353 1 478 2597 ** Mob +353 86 807 9169
27 Páirc an Fhéithlinn;  Baile an Bhóthair;  Co. Átha Cliath; Éire

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