|Middle Low German|
|Region||Southern Baltic littoral, south-eastern North Sea littoral|
|Era||13th to 16th centuries; evolved into Modern Low German and was gradually superseded by High German|
Northern Europe in 1400, showing the extent of the Hanseatic League
Middle Low German or Middle Saxon (Standard High German: Mittelniederdeutsch) is a developmental stage of Low German. It developed from the Old Saxon language in the Middle Ages and has been documented in writing since about 1225/34 (Sachsenspiegel). During the Hanseatic period (from about 1300 to about 1600), Middle Low German was the leading written language in the north of Central Europe and served as a lingua franca in the northern half of Europe. It was used parallel to medieval Latin also for purposes of diplomacy and for deeds.
Middle Low German is a term used with varying degrees of inclusivity. It is distinguished from Middle High German, spoken to the south, which was later replaced by Early New High German. It is sometimes taken to mean the dialect continuum of all the other high medieval Continental West Germanic dialects, from Flanders in the West to the eastern Baltic, but it is sometimes seen as separate from western varieties such as Middle Dutch.
Middle Low German provided a large number of loanwords to languages spoken around the Baltic Sea as a result of the activities of Hanseatic traders. It is considered the largest single source of loanwords in Danish, Estonian, Latvian, Norwegian and Swedish.
Middle Low German was the lingua franca of the Hanseatic League, spoken all around the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. It used to be thought that the language of Lübeck was dominant enough to become a normative standard (the so-called Lübecker Norm) for an emergent spoken and written standard, but more recent work has established that there is no evidence for this and that Middle Low German was non-standardised.
In the late Middle Ages, Middle Low German lost its prestige to Early New High German, which was first used by elites as a written and, later, a spoken language. Reasons for this loss of prestige include the decline of the Hanseatic League, followed by political heteronomy of Northern Germany and the cultural predominance of Middle and Southern Germany during the Protestant Reformation and Luther's translation of the Bible.