Lowlands-L is a “discussion list for people who share an interest in the languages & cultures of the Lowlands”:

“Lowlands languages” are those Germanic languages that developed in the “Lowlands”: the low-lying areas adjacent to the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. These are primarily Dutch, Zeelandic (Zeeuws, West Flemish), Frisian, Limburgish and Low Saxon (Low German). Also included are those languages that descended from autochtonous Lowlands languages and are used elsewhere; for example, Afrikaans, Lowlands-based emigrant languages, pidgins and creoles, and also English and Scots. “Lowlands cultures” are those cultures that utilize Lowlands languages or are clearly derived from such cultures.
Lowlands-L is dedicated to discussion, exchange and dissemination of information as well as to networking among persons who have certain interests in common;
Lowlands-L is a moderated discussion group, not a ‘chat room’;
Lowlands-L does not focus on one specific language or culture but on a group of closely related linguistic and cultural varieties (which does not include German, North Germanic and Celtic);
Persons who study one or more of these language varieties are likely to benefit from supplementary information and resources shared on Lowlands-L. However, Lowlands-L does not offer actual language courses, nor is it intended to serve as a substitute for regular, structured language teaching…

Via aldiboronti on Wordorigins.


  1. I have been a member of Lowlands-L and found it of little use. An interesting topic, but the way the list is moderated makes it impossible to keep track of any discussion. And I couldn’t make sense of the reason for banishing German and any German dialects but Low Saxon, and at the same time including English as a topic.

  2. John Jainschigg says

    British sea-chanteys of the 18th & 19th centuries (e.g., songs such as ‘To the Lowlands Low’) spoke of a semi-mythical ‘Lowlands’ that included Holland and the Carolinas. Connection?

  3. Peter: Sorry to hear that. I did think it was odd that they’d include English but not German. Ah well, it’s an interesting idea. Maybe the site will improve.

  4. John: I suspect it’s just a comparable use of the word “lowlands” rather than a reminiscence of the Old Country.

  5. Semi-related to the topic: how sharp are the divides between, Dutch, Danish, and Saxon?
    Not knowing the facts **at all**, one theory I’ve framed in my mind is that the divides are purely political, and that if Denmark, Holland, and the intervening areas of Germany had had 500 years of political unity, there would exist a national language with elements of all three, with the present languages being “dialect forms” (as Saxon is now).
    Against this is the idea that there is a “Scandinavian/German” divide and that everything on one side of the divide is distinctly different than everything on the other, with possibly a blurry area at the border.
    Sometimes it seems that linguists like that kind of typology too much, dividing everything (usually) into threes or (sometimes) fours just from professional habit. I’ve also wondered whether the Mongol-Turk-Tungus triptych is the same kind of thing, especially because the Tungus languages are spoken by so few. (The alternative would be just to have a continuum.)

  6. “Against this is the idea that there is a “Scandinavian/German” divide and that everything on one side of the divide is distinctly different than everything on the other, with possibly a blurry area at the border.”
    I’d say that it is indeed a fundamental divide. Although Danish and the other Scandinavian languages have borrowed a great deal of *vocabulary* from the various varieties of Low German, in large part through participation in the Hanseatic League, a cursory examination of their grammar should be enough to see that Danish clusters with Swedish and Norwegian rather than than with the Low German group. Take a look at the definite article for instance, which is denoted by a suffix in the Scandinavian languages (“bord-et”, “banan-en”), and only precedes nouns as a distinct word in the West Germanic manner when the nouns are qualified by adjectives (“det nye hus” instead of “huset”).
    On the other hand, if you were to say that the divide between Danish, Swedish and Norwegian, or that between “Dutch” and “Low German”, were driven more by politics than anything else, you’d be on rather firm ground.

  7. What Abiola said. Although there’s plenty of unacknowledged political bias in a lot of linguistic work, the divisions between language families (if not between individual languages) are pretty clear. That said, I have no idea about the Mongol-Turk-Tungus thing.

  8. I learned the classic division of germanic languages into three groups: eastern (extinct), western (with German, Dutch and English), and northern (Scandinavian). Interesting is a (small) study of perceptions of language differences. This identifies English as the odd one out. In this test, Dutch and German are perceived to be more similar to Scandinavian languages than to English:
    That makes it even seem more odd for lowlands-l, to put English in the mix

  9. Let me rephrase it. The tripartite division was East Germanic (Gothic and other extinct languages), West Germanic (German, Dutch, English), and North Germanic (Danish and the other Scandinavian languages.)
    Is the Danish / Saxon threshold steeper than any threshold within the “West German Group”? Are all differences within West German accountable in terms of evolution since the tripartite division was historically formed, or could there have been languages lumped within West German which might have been different enough to be separate groups way back then, even though they cluster with German in terms of distinctions basically customized for the purpose of distinguishing the Scandinavian languages from the West German languages.
    Alternatively, would a monolingual Saxon (ignorant of the standard language) be able to fake it more easily with a monolingual Dane or with a monolingual Swabian or Viennese?

  10. The lowlands folks (I was on the list for a long time) don’t much discuss English except for the places where it rubs us against its neighbors. What they do discuss a great deal is things like Lowlands Saxon and Scottish. Some of the discussion is quite technical. And, as someone’s mentioned, the format/moderating of the list leaves something to be desired.
    So, the list turned out to be a bad fit for me. I wouldn’t mind finding something where one could take baby steps in German and in Dutch without being distracted by long analyses of (and in!) Luxembourgish.

  11. Lowlands-L deals with the languages of the Lowlands, of which German is not originally a part. However, the list routinely discusses German (and other Germanic varieties) within this context, for instance in etymology, as it relates to the Lowlands verieties, and it’s Lowlands-specific varieties, such as Missingsch and “typically” North German varieties. The view that Low Saxon and German are inseparable is based on the old Germanization doctrine that until recently denied Low Saxon separate status (despite its origin in Old Saxon), and many people are not yet ready to think outside that box. If German were officially included, then we would also need to include Yiddish, Luxembourgish (which is *not* included despite the claim above), the North Germanic varieties and the East Germanic varieties. The list would then need to be renamed to “Germanic-L,” and there are plenty of lists of that sort around already.
    While some people may not have the mental and attitudinal fortitude, flexibility and openness for a focus that departs from the predigested norm, nearly five hundred people all over the world enjoy the list, and many of these have been with it for the entire ten years so far, most of them at least long enough to overcome preconceived ideas and open themselves up for alternative perspectives.
    Reinhard “Ron” Hahn,
    Founder and Administrator,

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