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Old Frisian was a West Germanic language spoken between the 8th and 16th centuries in the area between the
Rhine ), Surselva, Graubünden, Switzerland ,german: Schweizer(in),french: Suisse(sse), it, svizzero/svizzera or , rm, Svizzer/Svizra , government_type = Federalism, Federal semi-direct democracy under a multi-party assembly-independent Director ...

Rhine
and
Weser The Weser () is a river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its course without reachin ...
on the European
North Sea The North Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean located between Great Britain (England and Scotland), Denmark, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and France. An epeiric sea, epeiric (or "shelf") sea on the European continental shelf, it conn ...

North Sea
coast. The Frisian settlers on the coast of South Jutland (today's Northern
Friesland Friesland ( , also , ; official fry, Fryslân, ), historically known as Frisia, is a Provinces of the Netherlands, province of the Netherlands located in the northern part of the country. It is situated west of Groningen (province), Groningen, ...

Friesland
) also spoke Old Frisian, but there are no known medieval texts of this area. The language of the earlier inhabitants of the region between the
Zuiderzee The Zuiderzee or Zuider Zee ( , also , ; old spelling ''Zuyderzee'' or ''Zuyder Zee'') was a shallow bay of the North Sea The North Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean located between Great Britain (England and Scotland), Denmark, Norway, Ger ...

Zuiderzee
and Ems River (the
Frisians The Frisians are a Germanic people, West Germanic ethnic group indigenous to the German Bight, coastal regions of the Netherlands and northwestern Germany. They inhabit an area known as Frisia and are concentrated in the Dutch provinces of Friesl ...
mentioned by
Tacitus Publius Cornelius Tacitus ( , ; – ) was a Roman historian and politician. Tacitus is widely regarded as one of the greatest Roman historians by modern scholars. He lived in what has been called the Silver Age of Latin literature Classic ...

Tacitus
) is attested in only a few personal names and place-names. Old Frisian evolved into
Middle Frisian Middle Frisian evolved from 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 Jutlan ...
, spoken from the 16th to the 19th century. In the early Middle Ages,
Frisia Frisia (, ; ; ) is a cultural region in Germany and the Netherlands, along the southeastern corner of the North Sea. The region is traditionally inhabited by the Frisians, a Germanic peoples, West Germanic ethnic group. Names The names for "Fris ...

Frisia
stretched from the area around
Bruges Bruges ( , nl, Brugge ; ; german: Brügge ) is the capital and largest city of the province A province is almost always an administrative division within a country or state. The term derives from the ancient Roman '' provincia'', which was ...
, in what is now
Belgium Belgium, ; french: Belgique ; german: Belgien officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe Western Europe is the region of Europe Europe is a continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. G ...
, to the
Weser The Weser () is a river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its course without reachin ...
River in northern
Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin , coordinates = , largest_city = capital , languages_type = Official language , languages = German language, German , demonym = Germans, German , government_ ...

Germany
. At the time, the Frisian language was spoken along the entire southern
North Sea The North Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean located between Great Britain (England and Scotland), Denmark, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and France. An epeiric sea, epeiric (or "shelf") sea on the European continental shelf, it conn ...

North Sea
coast. This region is referred to as Greater Frisia or
Magna Frisia
Magna Frisia
, and many of the areas within it still treasure their Frisian heritage. However, by 1300, their territory had been pushed back to the Zuiderzee (now the
IJsselmeer The IJsselmeer (, also , , ; fy, Iselmar, nds-nl, Iesselmeer), also known as Lake IJssel in English, is a closed off inland bay in the central Netherlands The Netherlands ( nl, Nederland ), informally referred to as Holland, is a country p ...

IJsselmeer
), and the Frisian language survives along the coast only as a substrate. A close relationship exists between Old Frisian and
Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventu ...
; this is due to a shared history, language and culture of the people from Northern Germany and Denmark who came to settle in England from around 400 A.D. onwards.


Phonology


Early sound developments

Generally, Old Frisian phonologically resembles Old English. In particular, it shares the palatalisation of velar consonants also found in Old English. For example, whereas the closely related
Old Saxon Old Saxon, also known as Old Low German, was a Germanic language The Germanic languages are a branch of the Indo-European language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( spoken lan ...
and
Old Dutch In linguistics, Old Dutch or Old Low Franconian is the set of Franconian dialects (i.e. dialects that evolved from Frankish Frankish may refer to: * Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of Germanic peoples The historical ...

Old Dutch
retain the velar in ''dag'', Old Frisian has ''dei'' and Old English has ''dæġ'' . When followed by front vowels the Germanic changed to a sound. The Old Frisian for ''church'' was ''tzirke'' or ''tzerke'', in Old English it was ''ċiriċe'' , while Old Saxon and Old Dutch have the unpalatalised ''kirika''. Another feature shared between the two is Anglo-Frisian brightening, which fronted ''a'' to ' under some circumstances. In unstressed syllables, ''o'' merges into ''a'', and ''i'' into ''e'' as in Old English. The old Germanic diphthongs *''ai'' and *''au'' become ''ē''/''ā'' and ''ā'', respectively, in Old Frisian, as in ''ēn''/''ān'' ("one") from Proto-Germanic *''ainaz'', and ''brād'' from *''braudą'' ("bread"). In comparison, these diphthongs become ''ā'' and ''ēa'' (''ān'' and ''brēad'') in Old English, and ''ē'' and ''ō'' (''ēn'' and ''brōd'') in Old Saxon. The diphthong *''eu'' generally becomes ''ia'', and Germanic *''iu'' is retained. These diphthongs initially began with a syllabic (stressed) ''i'', but the stress later shifts to the second component, giving to ''iā'' and ''iū''. For example, ''thiād'' ("people") and ''liūde'' from Proto-Germanic *''þeudō'' and *''liudīz''. Between vowels, ''h'' generally disappears (''sian'' from *''sehwaną''), as in Old English and Old Dutch. Word-initial ''h-'' on the other hand is retained. Old Frisian retains ''th'' in all positions for longer than Old Dutch and Old Saxon do, showing the gradual spread of the shift from ''th'' to ''d'' from south to north, beginning in southern Germany in the 9th century as part of the
High German consonant shift In historical linguistics Historical linguistics, also termed diachronic linguistics, is the scientific study of language change over time. Principal concerns of historical linguistics include: # to describe and account for observed changes ...
, but not reaching Frisian until the 13th or 14th century.


Grammar

Old Frisian (c. 1150–c. 1550) retained
grammatical cases Grammatical case is a linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguist ...
. Some of the texts that are preserved from this period are from the 12th or 13th centuries, but most are from the 14th and 15th centuries. Generally, all these texts are restricted to legal writings. Although the earliest written examples of Frisian—stray words in a Latin context—are from approximately the 9th century, there are a few examples of
runic Runes are the letter (alphabet), letters in a set of related alphabets known as runic alphabets, which were used to write various Germanic languages before the adoption of the Latin alphabet and for specialised purposes thereafter. The Scandinav ...

runic
inscriptions from the region which are older and in a very early form of the Frisian language. These runic writings however usually consist of no more than inscriptions of a single or few words.


Text sample

The Creation of Adam. God scop thene eresta meneska - thet was Adam - fon achta wendem: thet benete fon tha stene, thet flask fon there erthe, thet blod fon tha wetere, tha herta fon tha winde, thene thogta fon tha wolkem, thet swet fon tha dawe, tha lokkar fon tha gerse, tha agene fon there sunna, and tha ble'r'em on thene helga om. And tha scop'er Eva fon sine ribbe, Adames liava. English translation: God created the first man, that was Adam, from eight things: the bones from the rock, the flesh from the earth, the blood from the water, the heart from the wind, the thoughts from the clouds, the sweat from the dew, the (hair)locks from the grass, the eyes from the sun, and then He breathed holy breath on it, and then He created Eve from his rib, Adam's beloved.


Corpus

There are some early Frisian names preserved in Latin texts, and some
runic Runes are the letter (alphabet), letters in a set of related alphabets known as runic alphabets, which were used to write various Germanic languages before the adoption of the Latin alphabet and for specialised purposes thereafter. The Scandinav ...

runic
(
Futhorc Anglo-Saxon runes ( ang, rūna) are runes used by the early Anglo-Saxons as an alphabet in their writing system. The characters are known collectively as the futhorc (''fuþorc'') from the Old English sound values of the first six runes. The ...
) inscriptions, but the oldest surviving texts in Old Frisian date from the 13th century, in particular official and legal documents. They show a considerable degree of linguistic uniformity. *
Westeremden yew-stick The Westeremden yew-stick is a yew-wood stick found in Westeremden in the Groningen province of the Netherlands The Netherlands ( nl, Nederland ), informally referred to as Holland, is a country primarily located in Western Europe and partly ...
(c. 750–900) * ''Fon Alra Fresena Fridome'' (at
TITUS Titus ( ; Titus Caesar Vespasianus; 30 December 39 – 13 September 81 AD) was Roman emperor The Roman Emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used ...

TITUS
* Ten Commandements

* 17 ''petitiones''

* ''Londriucht''

* ''Thet Freske Riim''
ed. E. Epkema, Google Books
* ''Skeltana Riucht'' law code


Notes


References

* Rolf H. Bremmer Jr., ''An Introduction to Old Frisian. History, Grammar, Reader, Glossary''. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 2009. {{Germanic philology Frisian languages Languages of the Netherlands Languages of Germany Frisian, Old Languages attested from the 8th century North Sea Germanic