Old Saxon
Old Saxon, also known as Old Low German, is the earliest recorded form of Low German
Low German
Low German or Low Saxon is an Ingvaeonic West Germanic language spoken mainly in northern Germany and the eastern part of the Netherlands...

, documented from the 8th century until the 12th century, when it evolved into Middle Low German
Middle Low German
Middle Low German is a language that is the descendant of Old Saxon and is the ancestor of modern Low German. It served as the international lingua franca of the Hanseatic League...

. It was spoken on the north-west coast of Germany and in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 by Saxon peoples. It is close enough to Old Anglo-Frisian (Old Frisian
Old Frisian
Old Frisian is a West Germanic language spoken between the 8th and 16th centuries in the area between the Rhine and Weser on the European North Sea coast. The Frisian settlers on the coast of South Jutland also spoke Old Frisian but no medieval texts of this area are known...

, Old English) that it partially participates in the Ingvaeonic nasal spirant law
Ingvaeonic nasal spirant law
In historical linguistics, the Ingvaeonic nasal spirant law is a description of a phonological development in some dialects of West Germanic, which is attested in Old English, Old Frisian, and Old Saxon...

; it is also closely related to Old Low Franconian ("Old Dutch"). It was mutually intelligible with Old English.


Old Saxon does not participate in the High German consonant shift
High German consonant shift
In historical linguistics, the High German consonant shift or second Germanic consonant shift is a phonological development that took place in the southern parts of the West Germanic dialect continuum in several phases, probably beginning between the 3rd and 5th centuries AD, and was almost...

, and thus preserves stop consonants p, t, k that have been shifted in Old High German
Old High German
The term Old High German refers to the earliest stage of the German language and it conventionally covers the period from around 500 to 1050. Coherent written texts do not appear until the second half of the 8th century, and some treat the period before 750 as 'prehistoric' and date the start of...

 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. "savior" . Germanic umlaut
Germanic umlaut
In linguistics, umlaut is a process whereby a vowel is pronounced more like a following vowel or semivowel. The term umlaut was originally coined and is used principally in connection with the study of the Germanic languages...

, when it occurs with short a, is inconsistent, e.g. or "to have" . This feature was carried over into the descendant-language of Old Saxon, Middle Low German
Middle Low German
Middle Low German is a language that is the descendant of Old Saxon and is the ancestor of modern Low German. It served as the international lingua franca of the Hanseatic League...

, where e.g. the adjective krank (sick/ill) had the comparative forms krenker and kranker. Apart from the E, however, the Umlaut is not marked in scripture.


Only a few texts survive, predominantly in baptismal vows the Saxons were required to perform at the behest of Charlemagne
Charlemagne was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800...

. The only literary text preserved is Heliand
The Heliand is an epic poem in Old Saxon, written in the first half of the 9th century. The title means saviour in Old Saxon , and the poem is a Biblical paraphrase that recounts the life of Jesus in the alliterative verse style of a Germanic saga...

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