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The varieties of standard German refer to the different local varieties of the pluricentric standard German. They differ only slightly in lexicon and phonology.
In certain regions, they have replaced the traditional German dialects, especially in Northern Germany. Swiss Standard German is used in the Swiss education system, whereas Austrian Standard German is officially used in the Austrian education system.
A mixture of dialect and standard does not normally occur in Northern Germany either. Because their linguistic distance to it is greater, they do not mesh with Standard German the way that High German dialects such as Bavarian, Swabian, Hessian can.
German is a member of the West Germanic language of the Germanic family of languages , which in turn is part of the Indo-European language family.
The German dialects are the traditional local varieties; many of them are hardly understandable to someone who knows only standard German, and they have great differences in lexicon , phonology and syntax.
If a narrow definition of language based on mutual intelligibility is used, many German dialects are considered to be separate languages for instance in the Ethnologue.
However, such a point of view is unusual in German linguistics. The variation among the German dialects is considerable, with often only neighbouring dialects being mutually intelligible.
Some dialects are not intelligible to people who know only Standard German. Middle Low German was the lingua franca of the Hanseatic League.
It was the predominant language in Northern Germany until the 16th century. In , the Luther Bible was published. The translation is considered to be an important step towards the evolution of the Early New High German.
It aimed to be understandable to a broad audience and was based mainly on Central and Upper German varieties. The Early New High German language gained more prestige than Low German and became the language of science and literature.
Around the same time, the Hanseatic League, based around northern ports, lost its importance as new trade routes to Asia and the Americas were established, and the most powerful German states of that period were located in Middle and Southern Germany.
The 18th and 19th centuries were marked by mass education in Standard German in schools. Gradually, Low German came to be politically viewed as a mere dialect spoken by the uneducated.
Today, Low Saxon can be divided in two groups: Low Saxon varieties with a reasonable Standard German influx [ clarification needed ] and varieties of Standard German with a Low Saxon influence known as Missingsch.
Sometimes, Low Saxon and Low Franconian varieties are grouped together because both are unaffected by the High German consonant shift. However, the proportion of the population who can understand and speak it has decreased continuously since World War II.
The largest cities in the Low German area are Hamburg and Dortmund. The Low Franconian dialects are the dialects that are more closely related to Dutch than to Low German.
Most of the Low Franconian dialects are spoken in the Netherlands and in Belgium , where they are considered as dialects of Dutch, which is itself a Low Franconian language.
These dialects are more closely related to Dutch also North Low Franconian than the South Low Franconian dialects also referred to as East Limburgish and, east of the Rhine , Bergish , which are spoken in the south of the German Low Franconian language area.
The High German varieties spoken by the Ashkenazi Jews have several unique features, and are considered as a separate language, Yiddish , written with the Hebrew alphabet.
Modern Standard German is mostly based on Central German dialects. These dialects are considered as. Luxembourgish as well as the Transylvanian Saxon dialect spoken in Transylvania are based on Moselle Franconian dialects.
They consist of the East- and South Franconian dialects. The East Franconian dialect branch is one of the most spoken dialect branches in Germany.
These dialects are spoken in the region of Franconia and in the central parts of Saxon Vogtland. The largest cities in the South Franconian area are Karlsruhe and Heilbronn.
The Upper German dialects are the Alemannic dialects in the west, and the Bavarian dialects in the east. The Alemannic dialects are considered as Alsatian in Alsace.
The largest cities in the Bavarian area are Vienna and Munich. German is a fusional language with a moderate degree of inflection , with three grammatical genders ; as such, there can be a large number of words derived from the same root.
German nouns inflect by case, gender and number:. This degree of inflection is considerably less than in Old High German and other old Indo-European languages such as Latin , Ancient Greek and Sanskrit , and it is also somewhat less than, for instance, Old English , modern Icelandic or Russian.
The three genders have collapsed in the plural. In nouns, inflection for case is required in the singular for strong masculine and neuter nouns only in the genitive only in archaic use in the dative , and even this is losing ground to substitutes in informal speech.
Weak masculine nouns share a common case ending for genitive, dative and accusative in the singular. Feminine nouns are not declined in the singular.
The plural has an inflection for the dative. In total, seven inflectional endings not counting plural markers exist in German: In German orthography, nouns and most words with the syntactical function of nouns are capitalised to make it easier for readers to determine the function of a word within a sentence Am Freitag ging ich einkaufen.
Like the other Germanic languages, German forms noun compounds in which the first noun modifies the category given by the second,: Unlike English, whose newer compounds or combinations of longer nouns are often written in "open" with separating spaces, German like some other Germanic languages nearly always uses the "closed" form without spaces, for example: Like English, German allows arbitrarily long compounds in theory see also English compounds.
However, examples like this are perceived by native speakers as excessively bureaucratic, stylistically awkward or even satirical.
The meaning of basic verbs can be expanded and sometimes radically changed through the use of a number of prefixes. Other prefixes have only the vaguest meaning in themselves; ver- is found in a number of verbs with a large variety of meanings, as in ver suchen to try from suchen to seek , ver nehmen to interrogate from nehmen to take , ver teilen to distribute from teilen to share , ver stehen to understand from stehen to stand.
Other examples include the following: Many German verbs have a separable prefix, often with an adverbial function. In finite verb forms, it is split off and moved to the end of the clause and is hence considered by some to be a "resultative particle".
For example, mitgehen , meaning "to go along", would be split, giving Gehen Sie mit? German word order is generally with the V2 word order restriction and also with the SOV word order restriction for main clauses.
For polar questions, exclamations and wishes, the finite verb always has the first position. In subordinate clauses, the verb occurs at the very end.
German requires for a verbal element main verb or auxiliary verb to appear second in the sentence. The verb is preceded by the topic of the sentence.
The element in focus appears at the end of the sentence. For a sentence without an auxiliary, these are some possibilities:. The position of a noun in a German sentence has no bearing on its being a subject, an object or another argument.
In a declarative sentence in English, if the subject does not occur before the predicate, the sentence could well be misunderstood.
The flexible word order also allows one to use language "tools" such as poetic meter and figures of speech more freely. When an auxiliary verb is present, it appears in second position, and the main verb appears at the end.
This occurs notably in the creation of the perfect tense. Many word orders are still possible:. The main verb may appear in first position to put stress on the action itself.
The auxiliary verb is still in second position. Sentences using modal verbs place the infinitive at the end. For example, the English sentence "Should he go home?
Thus, in sentences with several subordinate or relative clauses, the infinitives are clustered at the end.
Compare the similar clustering of prepositions in the following highly contrived English sentence: German subordinate clauses have all verbs clustered at the end.
Given that auxiliaries encode future , passive , modality , and the perfect , very long chains of verbs at the end of the sentence can occur.
In these constructions, the past participle in ge- is often replaced by the infinitive. Most German vocabulary is derived from the Germanic branch of the European language family.
Latin words were already imported into the predecessor of the German language during the Roman Empire and underwent all the characteristic phonetic changes in German.
Their origin is thus no longer recognizable for most speakers e. Borrowing from Latin continued after the fall of the Roman Empire during Christianization, mediated by the church and monasteries.
Another important influx of Latin words can be observed during Renaissance humanism. In a scholarly context, the borrowings from Latin have continued until today, in the last few decades often indirectly through borrowings from English.
During the 15th to 17th centuries, the influence of Italian was great, leading to many Italian loanwords in the fields of architecture, finance, and music.
The influence of the French language in the 17th to 19th centuries resulted in an even greater import of French words. The English influence was already present in the 19th century, but it did not become dominant until the second half of the 20th century.
At the same time, the effectiveness of the German language in forming equivalents for foreign words from its inherited Germanic stem repertory is great.
The tradition of loan translation was revitalized in the 18th century, with linguists like Joachim Heinrich Campe , who introduced close to words that are still used in modern German.
Even today, there are movements that try to promote the Ersatz substitution of foreign words deemed unnecessary with German alternatives. As in English, there are many pairs of synonyms due to the enrichment of the Germanic vocabulary with loanwords from Latin and Latinized Greek.
These words often have different connotations from their Germanic counterparts and are usually perceived as more scholarly.
The size of the vocabulary of German is difficult to estimate. The modern German scientific vocabulary is estimated at nine million words and word groups based on the analysis of 35 million sentences of a corpus in Leipzig, which as of July included million words in total.
The Duden is the de facto official dictionary of the German language, first published by Konrad Duden in The Duden is updated regularly, with new editions appearing every four or five years.
As of August [update] , it is in its 27th edition and in 12 volumes, each covering different aspects such as loanwords , etymology , pronunciation , synonyms , and so forth.
The first of these volumes, Die deutsche Rechtschreibung German Orthography , has long been the prescriptive source for the spelling of German.
The Duden has become the bible of the German language, being the definitive set of rules regarding grammar, spelling and usage of German.
It is the Austrian counterpart to the German Duden and contains a number of terms unique to Austrian German or more frequently used or differently pronounced there.
The most recent edition is the 42nd from The dictionary is also officially used in the Italian province of South Tyrol. This is a selection of cognates in both English and German.
Instead of the usual infinitive ending -en German verbs are indicated by a hyphen "-" after their stems. Words that are written with capital letters in German are nouns.
German is written in the Latin alphabet. Because legibility and convenience set certain boundaries, compounds consisting of more than three or four nouns are almost exclusively found in humorous contexts.
In contrast, although English can also string nouns together, it usually separates the nouns with spaces. For example, "toilet bowl cleaner".
Some operating systems use key sequences to extend the set of possible characters to include, amongst other things, umlauts; in Microsoft Windows this is done using Alt codes.
German readers understand these transcriptions although they appear unusual , but they are avoided if the regular umlauts are available because they are a makeshift, not proper spelling.
In Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein, city and family names exist where the extra e has a vowel lengthening effect, e.
There is no general agreement on where letters with umlauts occur in the sorting sequence. Telephone directories treat them by replacing them with the base vowel followed by an e.
Some dictionaries sort each umlauted vowel as a separate letter after the base vowel, but more commonly words with umlauts are ordered immediately after the same word without umlauts.
These variants of the Latin alphabet are very different from the serif or sans-serif Antiqua typefaces used today, and the handwritten forms in particular are difficult for the untrained to read.
The printed forms, however, were claimed by some to be more readable when used for Germanic languages. The Nazis initially promoted Fraktur and Schwabacher because they were considered Aryan , but they abolished them in , claiming that these letters were Jewish.
The Fraktur script however remains present in everyday life in pub signs, beer brands and other forms of advertisement, where it is used to convey a certain rusticality and antiquity.
Many Antiqua typefaces include the long s also. A specific set of rules applies for the use of long s in German text, but nowadays it is rarely used in Antiqua typesetting.
The long s only appears in lower case. The orthography reform of led to public controversy and considerable dispute. After 10 years, without any intervention by the federal parliament, a major revision was installed in , just in time for the coming school year.
In , some traditional spellings were finally invalidated, whereas in , on the other hand, many of the old comma rules were again put in force. Traditionally, this letter was used in three situations:.
In German, vowels excluding diphthongs; see below are either short or long , as follows:. In general, the short vowels are open and the long vowels are close.
Whether any particular vowel letter represents the long or short phoneme is not completely predictable, although the following regularities exist:.
Both of these rules have exceptions e. For an i that is neither in the combination ie making it long nor followed by a double consonant or cluster making it short , there is no general rule.
In some cases, there are regional differences: In central Germany Hessen , the o in the proper name "Hoffmann" is pronounced long, whereas most other Germans would pronounce it short; the same applies to the e in the geographical name " Mecklenburg " for people in that region.
With approximately 25 phonemes, the German consonant system exhibits an average number of consonants in comparison with other languages.
The consonant inventory of the standard language is shown below. German does not have any dental fricatives as English th. The th sounds, which the English language still has, disappeared on the continent in German with the consonant shifts between the 8th and the 10th centuries.
Likewise, the gh in Germanic English words, pronounced in several different ways in modern English as an f , or not at all , can often be linked to German ch: The German language is used in German literature and can be traced back to the Middle Ages , with the most notable authors of the period being Walther von der Vogelweide and Wolfram von Eschenbach.
The Nibelungenlied , whose author remains unknown, is also an important work of the epoch. The fairy tales collections collected and published by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in the 19th century became famous throughout the world.
Reformer and theologian Martin Luther , who was the first to translate the Bible into German, is widely credited for having set the basis for the modern "High German" language.
Thirteen German-speaking people have won the Nobel Prize in literature: English has taken many loanwords from German, often without any change of spelling aside from, often, the elimination of umlauts and not capitalizing nouns:.
The government-backed Goethe-Institut  named after the famous German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe aims to enhance the knowledge of German culture and language within Europe and the rest of the world.
This is done by holding exhibitions and conferences with German-related themes, and providing training and guidance in the learning and use of the German language.
The Dortmund-based Verein Deutsche Sprache VDS , which was founded in , supports the German language and is the largest language association of citizens in the world.
The VDS has more than thirty-five thousand members in over seventy countries. Its founder, statistics professor Dr. The German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle is the equivalent of the British BBC World Service and provides radio and television broadcasts in German and 30 other languages across the globe.
Deutsche Welle also provides an e-learning website to learn German. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
For other uses, see Deutsch disambiguation and German disambiguation. Not to be confused with Germanic languages. Co- Official and majority language.
Co-official, but not majority language. Early New High German. Geographical distribution of German speakers. Italy South Tyrol 0.
German is official language de jure or de facto and first language of the majority of the population. German is a co-official language, but not the first language of the majority of the population.
German or a German dialect is a legally recognized minority language Squares: German or a variety of German is spoken by a sizeable minority, but has no legal recognition.
List of territorial entities where German is an official language. German language in Namibia. Brazilian German and Colonia Tovar dialect.
Grammatical gender in German. German orthography and German braille. Listen to a German speaker recite the alphabet in German. German orthography reform of High German consonant shift.
Outline of German language Deutsch disambiguation German family name etymology German toponymy Germanism linguistics List of German exonyms List of German expressions in English List of German words of French origin List of pseudo-German words adapted to English List of terms used for Germans List of territorial entities where German is an official language Names for the German language.
Die Stellung der deutschen Sprache in der Welt in German 1st ed. Retrieved 24 July Europeans and their languages" PDF report.
Archived from the original PDF on 6 January Retrieved 11 October Retrieved 3 May Retrieved 7 July Retrieved 28 September Retrieved August 6, Old English and its closest relatives: An Anthology of German Literature.
Zur Geschichte der Deutschen Sprache. A history of the German language: University of Washington Press. A history of German: Geschichte der deutschen Sprache.
The Encyclopedia of Christianity. This is because northwestern Germany and the northeastern Netherlands were the area of settlement of the Saxons Old Saxony , while Low German spread to northeastern Germany through eastward migration of Low German-speakers into areas with a Slavic-speaking population Germania Slavica.
It has been estimated that Low German has approximately 6. Bloemhof, Taaltelling Nedersaksisch , showed 1. Dialects of Low German are spoken in the northeastern area of the Netherlands Dutch Low Saxon and are written there with an unstandardised orthography based on Standard Dutch orthography.
Small portions of northern Hesse and northern Thuringia are traditionally Low Saxon-speaking too. The Baltic Germans spoke a distinct Low German dialect, which has influenced the vocabulary and phonetics of both Estonian and Latvian languages.
The historical Sprachraum of Low German also included contemporary northern Poland , East Prussia the modern Kaliningrad Oblast of Russia , a part of western Lithuania , and the German communities in the Baltic states, most notably the Hanseatic cities of modern Latvia and Estonia.
German speakers in this area fled the Red Army or were forcibly expelled after the border changes at the end of World War II. The language was also formerly spoken in the outer areas of what is now the city-state of Berlin , but in the course of urbanisation and national centralisation in that city, the language has vanished the Berlin dialect itself is a northern outpost of High German , though it has some Low German features.
Under the name Low Saxon , there are speakers in the Dutch north-eastern provinces of Groningen , Drenthe , Stellingwerf part of Friesland , Overijssel , and Gelderland , in several dialect groups per province.
Today, there are still speakers outside Germany and the Netherlands to be found in the coastal areas of present-day Poland minority of ethnic German East Pomeranian speakers who were not expelled from Pomerania , as well as the regions around Braniewo.
In some of these countries, the language is part of the Mennonite religion and culture. These Mennonites are descended from primarily Dutch settlers that had initially settled in the Vistula delta region of Prussia in the 16th and 17th centuries before moving to newly-acquired Russian territories in Ukraine in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and then to the Americas in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The types of Low German spoken in these communities and in the Midwest region of the United States have diverged since emigration.
The survival of the language is tenuous in many places, and has died out in many places where assimilation has occurred.
Members and friends of the Historical Society of North German Settlements in Western New York Bergholz, NY , a community of Lutherans who trace their immigration from Pomerania in the s, hold quarterly "Plattdeutsch lunch" events, where remaining speakers of the language gather to share and preserve the dialect.
Mennonite colonies in Paraguay , Belize , and Chihuahua , Mexico have made Low German a "co-official language" of the community.
In the Netherlands, native speakers refer to their language as dialect , plat , nedersaksies , or the name of their village, town or district.
Plattdeutsch , Niederdeutsch and Platduits , Nedersaksisch are seen in linguistic texts from the German and Dutch linguistic communities respectively.
In Danish it is called Plattysk , Nedertysk or, rarely, Lavtysk. Mennonite Low German is called Plautdietsch. In Dutch and German, the word Plat can also mean "improper", "rude" or "too simple" which is why the term is not popular in the Netherlands.
The colloquial term Platt denotes both Low German dialects and any non- standard Western variety of German ; this use is chiefly found in northern and Western Germany and is not considered to be linguistically correct.
Low German is a part of the continental West Germanic dialect continuum. To the West, it blends into the Low Franconian languages , including Dutch.
A distinguishing feature between the Southern Low Franconian varieties and Low German varieties is the plural of the verbs.
Low German varieties have a common verbal plural ending, whereas Southern Low Franconian varieties have a different form for the second person plural.
Northern Low Franconian varieties, including standard Dutch , have also developed a common verbal plural ending.
The division is usually drawn at the Benrath line that traces the maken — machen isogloss. To the East, it abuts the Kashubian language the only remnant of the Pomeranian language and, since the expulsion of nearly all Germans from the Polish part of Pomerania following the Second World War, also by the Polish language.
To the North and Northwest, it abuts the Danish and the Frisian languages. Note that in Germany, Low German has replaced the Frisian languages in many regions.
Saterland Frisian is the only remnant of East Frisian language and is surrounded by Low German, as are the few remaining North Frisian varieties, and the Low German dialects of those regions have influences from Frisian substrates.
The question of whether Low German, as spoken today, should be considered a separate language, rather than a dialect of German or even Dutch , has been a point of contention.
Linguistics offers no simple, generally accepted criterion to decide this question. Scholarly arguments have been put forward in favour of classifying Low German as a German dialect.
The situation of Low German may thus be considered a "pseudo-dialectized abstand language " "scheindialektisierte Abstandsprache". Since Low German has undergone a strong decline since the 18th century, the perceived similarities with High German or Dutch may often be direct adaptations from the dominating standard language, resulting in a growing incapability of speakers to speak correctly what was once Low German proper.
Low German has been recognized by the Netherlands and by Germany since as a regional language according to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.
Within the official terminology defined in the charter, this status would not be available to a dialect of an official language as per article 1a , and hence not to Low German in Germany if it were considered a dialect of German.
Advocates of the promotion of Low German have expressed considerable hope that this political development will at once lend legitimacy to their claim that Low German is a separate language, and help mitigate the functional limits [ clarification needed ] of the language that may still be cited as objective criteria for a mere dialect such as the virtually complete absence from legal and administrative contexts, schools, the media, etc.
At the request of Schleswig-Holstein , the German government has declared Low German as a regional language.
German offices in Schleswig-Holstein are obliged to accept and handle applications in Low German on the same footing as Standard High German applications.
The Dutch Low Saxon varieties, which are also defined as Dutch dialects, consist of:. It is documented from the 9th century until the 12th century, when it evolved into Middle Low German.
Only a few texts survive, predominantly in baptismal vows the Saxons were required to perform at the behest of Charlemagne.
The only literary texts preserved are Heliand and the Old Saxon Genesis. It was spoken from about to After mass education in Germany in the 19th and 20th centuries, the slow decline which Low German had been experiencing since the end of the Hanseatic League turned into a free fall.
The decision to exclude Low German in formal education was not without controversy, however. On one hand, proponents of Low German advocated that since it had a strong cultural and historical value and was the native language of students in northern Germany, it had a place in the classroom.
On the other hand, High German was considered the language of education, science, and national unity, and since schools promoted these values, High German was seen as the best candidate for the language of instruction.
Initially, regional languages and dialects were thought to limit the intellectual ability of their speakers. Nevertheless, the opponents claimed that it should simply remain a spoken and informal language to be used on the street and in the home, but not in formal schooling.
According to them, it simply did not match the nationally unifying power of High German. As a result, while Low German literature was deemed worthy of being taught in school, High German was chosen as the language of scholarly instruction.
With High German the language of education and Low German the language of the home and daily life, a stable diglossia developed in Northern Germany.
Total users in all countries are , Open-source software has been translated into Low German; this used to be coordinated via a page on Sourceforge,  but as of , the most active project is that of KDE.
In the early 20th century, scholars in the Netherlands argued that speaking dialects hindered language acquisition, and it was therefore strongly discouraged.
As education improved, and mass communication became more widespread, the Low Saxon dialects further declined, although decline has been greater in urban centres of the Low Saxon regions.
Therefore, a lot of Low German words sound similar to their English counterparts. This is a characteristic of Dutch and German as well and involves positional neutralization of voicing contrast in the coda position for obstruents i.
This is not used in English except in the Yorkshire dialect , where there is a process known as Yorkshire assimilation.
The table below shows the relationship between Low German consonants which were unaffected by this chain shift and their equivalents in other West Germanic languages.
Generally speaking, Low German grammar shows similarities with the grammars of Dutch , Frisian , English , and Scots , but the dialects of Northern Germany share some features especially lexical and syntactic features with German dialects.
Low German declension has only two morphologically marked noun cases, where accusative and dative together constitute an oblique case , and the genitive case has been lost.
In most modern dialects, the nominative and oblique cases are primarily distinguished only in the singular of masculine nouns.
In some Low German dialects, the genitive case is distinguished as well e. By contrast, German distinguishes four cases: So, for example, the definite article of the masculine singular has the forms: Thus case marking in Low German is simpler than in German.
In Low German verbs are conjugated for person, number, and tense. Verb conjugation for person is only differentiated in the singular.
There are five tenses in Low German: For example, "Ekj sie jekomen", "I am come", means that the speaker came and he is still at the place to which he came as a result of his completed action.
Unlike Dutch , German , and southern Low German, the northern dialects form the participle without the prefix ge- , like the Scandinavian languages , Frisian and English.
Compare to the German past participle ge schlafen.