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Northern German states pledge to protect vulnerable Low Saxon language

An estimated 3 million people in Germany speak Low Saxon. Several northern German states have now decided to ensure the language's long-term viability with a new initiative based in the city of Bremen.

Four northern German states agreed on Friday to set up a joint center in the northwestern city of Bremen to protect and promote the Germanic language known as Low Saxon, or "Plattdeutsch" in German.

"We want to establish a new, effective cross-state coordination authority. To this end, four northern states have closely liaised with everyone who has been actively engaged in promoting Low Saxon," the State Minister for Science and Culture in Lower Saxony, Gabriele Heinen-Kljajić, said.

The states of Hamburg, Lower Saxony, Bremen, and Schleswig-Holstein will provide the center with €271,000 ($321,000) a year once it opens its doors on January 1, 2018.

A sign in Ostfriesland

This sign in the northwestern region of East Frisia is in Low Saxon and German

Endangered language

Lower Saxony had already provided €117,000 euros in its state budget to maintain Low Saxon, also known as Low German, and the latest effort will combine those funds with an additional €154,000 from the other three states.

The center is intended to represent the minority language's interests and work closely with organizations and academic institutes that are already active in promoting Low Saxon. According to the Lower Saxony Ministry for Science and Culture, the center will have a general manager, a research associate and several general administration personnel.

Low Saxon is primarily spoken in northern Germany and in the western provinces of the Netherlands. The UN's cultural agency, UNESCO, considers it a "vulnerable" language.

There are around 4.8 million speakers, according to UNESCO's latest estimate, with around 3 million located in Germany.

amp/tj (epd, KNA)

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