Old Saxon

Old Saxon
Spoken in northwest Germany, northeast Netherlands
Language extinction developed into Middle Low German in the 12th century
Language family Indo-European
Writing system Latin alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2 gem
ISO 639-3 osx

Old Saxon, also known as Old Low German, is the earliest recorded form of Low German,[1] documented from the 8th century until the 12th century, when it evolved into Middle Low German. It was spoken on the north-west coast of Germany and in the Netherlands by Saxon peoples. It is close enough to Old Anglo-Frisian (Old Frisian, Old English) that it partially participates in the Ingvaeonic nasal spirant law; it is also closely related to Old Low Franconian ("Old Dutch"). It is separated from Old High German by the High German consonant shift. It was mutually intelligible with Old English.[citation needed]



Old Saxon does not participate in the High German consonant shift, and thus preserves stop consonants p, t, k that have been shifted in Old High German to various fricatives and affricates. The Germanic diphthongs ai, au consistently develop into long vowels ē, ō, whereas in Old High German they appear either as ei, ou or ē, ō depending on the following consonant. Old Saxon, alone of the West Germanic languages, consistently preserves Germanic -j- after a consonant, e.g. hēliand "savior" (Old High German: heilant, Old English: hǣlend, Gothic: háiljands). Germanic umlaut occurs only with short a, and is inconsistent, e.g. hebbean or habbian "to have" (Old English: hebban).


Only a few texts survive, predominantly in baptismal vows the Saxons were required to perform at the behest of Charlemagne. The only literary text preserved is Heliand.

  • Heliand
  • Genesis fragment[2]
  • Trierer Blutsegen
  • Wurmsegen
  • Spurihalz
  • Old Saxon baptismal vow
  • Psalms commentary
  • Penitentiary
  • Beda homily
  • Credo
  • Essener Heberegister


  1. Old Saxon language at Encyclopædia Britannica
  2. On the basis of the edition by Burkhard Taeger, Max Niemeyer Verlag, Tübingen 1996 (10. Auflage) prepared by Jost Gippert, Frankfurt, 11.11.2003; TITUS version by Jost Gippert, Frankfurt a/M, 11.11.2003


  • Galleé, Johan Hendrik (1910). . Halle: Max Niemeyer.