The Frisian /ˈfriːʒən/ languages are a closely related group of
Germanic languages, spoken by about 500,000 Frisian people, who live
on the southern fringes of the
North Sea in the
Frisian languages are the closest living language group
to the Anglic languages; the two groups make up the Anglo-Frisian
languages group. However, modern English and Frisian are not mutually
intelligible, nor are
Frisian languages intelligible among themselves,
due to independent linguistic innovations and foreign influences.
There are three different Frisian languages: West Frisian, by far the
most spoken of the three, is an official language in the Dutch
province of Friesland, where it is spoken on the mainland and on two
of the West Frisian Islands:
Terschelling and Schiermonnikoog.
Furthermore, it is spoken in four villages in the
the neighbouring province of Groningen.
North Frisian is spoken in the northernmost German district of
Nordfriesland in the state of Schleswig-Holstein: On the North Frisian
mainland, and on the
North Frisian Islands of Sylt, Föhr, Amrum, and
the Halligen. It is also spoken on the islands of
Düne, in the North Sea.
The third Frisian language,
Saterland Frisian, a variant of East
Frisan, is only spoken in four villages in the district of Cloppenburg
in the state of Lower Saxony. The four villages of the
Saterland/Seelterlound ironically lie just outside the borders of East
Frisia, where, apart from German, East Frisian Low Saxon, which is not
a Frisian language, but a variant of Low German/Low Saxon, is spoken.
Depending upon their location, the three
Frisian languages have been
heavily influenced by and bear similarities to Dutch and Low
German/Low Saxon. Additional shared linguistic characteristics between
Great Yarmouth area and
Friesland are likely to have resulted from
the close trading relationship these areas maintained during the
Hanseatic League of the Late Middle Ages.
2.1 Old Frisian
2.2 Middle West Frisian
2.3 Modern West Frisian
3 Family tree
4 Text samples
4.1 The Lord's Prayer
4.2 Comparative sentence
5 See also
6.2 General references
7 External links
There are three varieties of Frisian: West Frisian,
and North Frisian. Some linguists consider these three varieties,
despite their mutual unintelligibility, to be dialects of one single
Frisian language, whereas others consider them to be three separate
languages, as do their speakers. West Frisian is strongly influenced
by Dutch, and, like Dutch, is described as being "between" English and
German. The other Frisian languages, meanwhile, have been influenced
Low German and German. The
North Frisian language
North Frisian language especially is
further segmented into several strongly diverse dialects. Stadsfries
West Frisian Dutch
West Frisian Dutch are not Frisian, but Dutch dialects influenced
by West Frisian. Frisian is called Frysk in West Frisian, Fräisk in
Saterland Frisian, and Frasch, Fresk, Freesk, and Friisk in the
dialects of North Frisian.
The situation in the Dutch province of Groningen and the German region
East Frisia is more complex: The local Low German/Low Saxon
East Frisian Low Saxon are a mixture of
Frisian and Low Saxon dialects; it is believed that Frisian was spoken
there at one time, only to have been gradually replaced by Low Saxon.
This local language is now, in turn, being replaced by standard Dutch
Most Frisian speakers live in the Netherlands, primarily in the
province of Friesland, since 1997 officially using its West Frisian
name of Fryslân, where the number of native speakers is about
400,000, which is about 75% of the inhabitants of Friesland. An
increasing number of native Dutch speakers in the province are
learning Frisian as a second language.
In Germany, there are about 2,000 speakers of
Saterland Frisian in
Saterland region of Lower Saxony; the Saterland's marshy fringe
areas have long protected
Saterland Frisian speech there from pressure
by the surrounding
Low German and standard German,
Saterland Frisian still remains seriously endangered because of
its exclusion to agrarian community and its lack of a sizable and
educated community to help preserve and spread the language.
North Frisia (Nordfriesland) region of the German state of
Schleswig-Holstein, there were 10,000
North Frisian speakers in the
1970s. Although many of these live on the mainland, most are found
on the islands, notably Sylt, Föhr, Amrum, and Heligoland. The local
North Frisian dialects are still in use.
As a regional language in the Netherlands, West Frisian is only spoken
by a certain demographic, specifically rural, lower-income people
in contrast with the Dutch speaking upper-class.
West Frisian-Dutch bilinguals are split into two categories: Speakers
who had Dutch as their first language tended to maintain the Dutch
system of homophony between plural and linking suffixes when speaking
West Frisian, by using the West Frisian plural as a linking morpheme.
Speakers who had West Frisian as their first language often maintained
the West Frisian system of no homophony when speaking West Frisian.
Speakers of the many Frisian dialects may also be found in the United
States and Canada.
Saterland and North Frisian are officially recognised and protected
as minority languages in Germany, and West Frisian is one of the two
official languages in the Netherlands, the other being Dutch. ISO
639-1 code fy and
ISO 639-2 code fry were assigned to "Frisian", but
that was changed in November 2005 to "Western Frisian". According to
ISO 639 Registration Authority the "previous usage of [this] code
has been for Western Frisian, although [the] language name was
ISO 639 code stq is used for the
Saterland Frisian language, a
variety of Eastern Frisian (not to be confused with East Frisian Low
Saxon, a West
Low German dialect). The new
ISO 639 code frr is used
North Frisian language
North Frisian language variants spoken in parts of
The Ried fan de Fryske Beweging is an organization which works for the
preservation of the
West Frisian language
West Frisian language and culture in the Dutch
province of Friesland. The Fryske Academy also plays a large role,
since its foundation in 1938, to conduct research on Frisian language,
history, and society, including attempts at forming a larger
dictionary. Recent attempts have allowed Frisian be used somewhat
more in some of the domains of education, media and public
Saterland Frisian and most dialects
North Frisian are seriously endangered and West Frisian is
considered as vulnerable to being endangered. Moreover, for all
advances in integrating Frisian in daily life, there is still a lack
of education and media awareness of the Frisian language, perhaps
reflecting its rural origins and its lack of prestige Therefore,
in a sociological sense it is considered more a dialect than a
standard language, even though linguistically it is a separate
For L2 speakers, both the quality and amount of time Frisian is taught
in the classroom is low, concluding that Frisian lessons do not
contribute meaningfully to the linguistic and cultural development of
the students. Moreover, Frisian runs the risk of dissolving into
Dutch, especially in Friesland, where both languages are used.
Old Frisian text from 1345.
Main article: Old Frisian
Early Middle Ages
Early Middle Ages the Frisian lands stretched from the area
around Bruges, in what is now Belgium, to the river Weser, in northern
Germany. At that time, the Frisian language was spoken along the
North Sea coast. Today this region is sometimes
referred to as Great
Frisia Magna, and many of the areas
within it still treasure their Frisian heritage, even though in most
Frisian languages have been lost.
Frisian is the language most closely related to English and Scots, but
after at least five hundred years of being subject to the influence of
Dutch, modern Frisian in some aspects bears a greater similarity to
Dutch than to English; one must also take into account the
centuries-long drift of English away from Frisian. Thus the two
languages have become less mutually intelligible over time, partly due
to the marks which Dutch and
Low German have left on Frisian, and
partly due to the vast influence some languages (in particular Norman
French) have had on English throughout the centuries.
Old Frisian, however, was very similar to Old English.
Historically, both English and Frisian are marked by the loss of the
Germanic nasal in words like us (ús; uns in German), soft (sêft;
sanft) or goose (goes; Gans): see Anglo-Frisian nasal spirant law.
Also, when followed by some vowels, the Germanic k softened to a ch
sound; for example, the Frisian for cheese and church is tsiis and
tsjerke, whereas in Dutch it is kaas and kerk, and in High German the
respective words are Käse and Kirche. Contrarily, this did not happen
for chin and choose, which are kin and kieze.
One rhyme demonstrates the palpable similarity between Frisian and
English: "Butter, bread and green cheese is good English and good
Frisian," which is pronounced more or less the same in both languages
(West Frisian: "Bûter, brea en griene tsiis is goed Ingelsk en goed
One major difference between
Old Frisian and modern Frisian is that in
Old Frisian period (c.1150-c.1550) grammatical cases still
existed. Some of the texts that are preserved from this period are
from the 12th or 13th, but most are from the 14th and 15th centuries.
Generally, all these texts are restricted to legalistic writings.
Although the earliest definite written examples of Frisian are from
approximately the 9th century, there are a few examples of runic
inscriptions from the region which are probably older and possibly in
the Frisian language. These runic writings however usually do not
amount to more than single- or few-word inscriptions, and cannot be
said to constitute literature as such. The transition from the Old
Frisian to the
Middle Frisian period (c.1550-c.1820) in the 16th
century is based on the fairly abrupt halt in the use of Frisian as a
Middle West Frisian
Main article: Middle Frisian
Up until the 15th century Frisian was a language widely spoken and
written, but from 1500 onwards it became an almost exclusively oral
language, mainly used in rural areas. This was in part due to the
occupation of its stronghold, the Dutch province of Friesland
(Fryslân), in 1498, by Duke Albert of Saxony, who replaced West
Frisian as the language of government with Dutch.
Afterwards this practice was continued under the
Habsburg rulers of
Netherlands (the German Emperor Charles V and his son, the Spanish
King Philip II), and even when the
Netherlands became independent, in
1585, West Frisian did not regain its former status. The reason for
this was the rise of Holland as the dominant part of the Netherlands,
and its language, Dutch, as the dominant language in judicial,
administrative and religious affairs.
In this period the great Frisian poet
Gysbert Japiks (1603–66), a
schoolteacher and cantor from the city of Bolsward, who largely
fathered modern West Frisian literature and orthography, was really an
exception to the rule.
His example was not followed until the 19th century, when entire
generations of West Frisian authors and poets appeared. This coincided
with the introduction of the so-called newer breaking system, a
prominent grammatical feature in almost all West Frisian dialects,
with the notable exception of Southwest Frisian. Therefore, the Modern
West Frisian period is considered to have begun at this point in time,
Modern West Frisian
The revival of the West Frisian Language comes from the poet Gysbert
Japiks, who had begun to write in the language as a way to show that
it was possible, and created a collective West Frisian identity and
West Frisian standard of writing through his poetry. Later on,
Johannes Hilarides would build off Gysbert Japik's work by building on
West Frisian orthography, particularly on its pronunciation; he also,
unlike Japiks, set a standard of the
West Frisian language
West Frisian language that
focused more heavily on how the common people used it as an everyday
Perhaps the most important figure in the spreading of the West Frisian
language was J. H. Halbertsma (1789–1869), who translated many works
into the West Frisian language, such as the New Testament  He had
however, like Hilarides, focused mostly on the vernacular of the West
Frisian language, where he focused on translating texts, plays and
songs for the lower and middle classes in order to teach and expand
the West Frisian language. This had begun the effort to
continuously preserve the West Frisian language, which continues unto
this day. It was however not until the first half of the 20th century
that the West Frisian revival movement began to gain strength, not
only through its language, but also through its culture and history,
supporting singing and acting in West Frisian in order to facilitate
West Frisian speaking.
It was not until 1960 that Dutch began to dominate West Frisian in
Friesland; with many non-Frisian immigrants into Friesland, the
language gradually began to diminish, and only survives now due to the
constant effort of scholars and organisations. The province of
Friesland rather than the language itself has become in recent years a
more important part of West Frisian identity, so the language has
become less important for cultural preservation purposes. It is
especially written West Frisian that seems to have trouble surviving,
with only 30% of the West Frisian population competent in it; it
had disappeared in the 16th century and continues to be barely taught
Friesland (Netherlands) with the West
Frisian name above and the Dutch below
Bilingual sign in
North Frisia (Germany) with the German
name above and the
North Frisian name below
Bilingual sign in Ramsloh,
Saterland (Germany) with the German name
above and the East Frisian name below
Frisian languages belong to the West Germanic branch of the
Indo-European languages, the most widespread language family in Europe
and the world. Its closest living genealogical relatives are the
Anglic languages, i.e. English and Scots; the two groups make up the
Anglo-Frisian languages group.
West Frisian language, spoken in the Netherlands.
Clay Frisian (Klaaifrysk)
Wood Frisian (Wâldfrysk)
South Frisian (Súdhoeks)
Southwest Frisian (Súdwesthoeksk)
East Frisian language, spoken in Lower Saxony, Germany.
Saterland Frisian language
Several extinct dialects
North Frisian language, spoken in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.
Goesharde Frisian (Hoorning)
This is a small portion of the Frisian Family Tree.
The Lord's Prayer
Lord's Prayer in Standard West Frisian (Frysk) *
The English translation in the 1662 Anglican
Book of Common Prayer
Book of Common Prayer **
The Standard Dutch translation from the Dutch
Below is the
Lord's Prayer from the Frisian
Bible third edition,
published in 1995, with the corresponding English text from the 1662
Book of Common Prayer.
Us Heit, dy't yn de himelen is
jins namme wurde hillige.
Jins keninkryk komme.
Jins wollen barre,
allyk yn 'e himel
sa ek op ierde.
Jou ús hjoed ús deistich brea.
En ferjou ús ús skulden,
allyk ek wy ferjouwe ús skuldners.
En lied ús net yn fersiking,
mar ferlos ús fan 'e kweade.
Want Jowes is it keninkryk en de krêft
en de hearlikheid oant yn ivichheid. "Amen"
Our Father, which art in Heaven
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
in earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory,
For ever and ever. Amen.
Onze Vader die in de hemelen zijt,
Uw naam worde geheiligd;
Uw Koninkrijk kome;
Uw wil geschiede,
gelijk in de hemel alzo ook op de aarde.
Geef ons heden ons dagelijks brood;
en vergeef ons onze schulden,
gelijk ook wij vergeven onze schuldenaren;
en leid ons niet in verzoeking,
maar verlos ons van de boze.
Want van U is het Koninkrijk
"en de kracht en de heerlijkheid
in der eeuwigheid. Amen.
* See also West Frisian language#Sample text.
** Which was changed to "who", in earth to "on earth," and them that
to "those who" in the 1928 version of the Church of England prayer
book and used in other later Anglican prayer books too. However, the
words given here are those of the original 1662 book as stated.
Saterland Frisian: Die Wänt strookede dät Wucht uum ju Keeuwe un
oapede hier ap do Sooken.
North Frisian (Mooring dialect): Di dreng aide dåt foomen am dåt kan
än mäket har aw da siike.
West Frisian: De jonge streake it famke om it kin en tute har op 'e
Gronings: t Jong fleerde t wicht om kinne tou en smokte heur op wange.
East Frisian Low Saxon: De Jung (Fent) straktde dat Wicht um't Kinn to
un tuutjede hör up de Wangen.
German: Der Junge streichelte das Mädchen ums Kinn und küsste es
(sie) auf die Wange.
Dutch: De jongen aaide (streelde, streek) het meisje langs/over
haar/de kin en kuste/zoende haar op de wangen.
Afrikaans: Die seun streel die meisie oor haar/die ken en soen haar op
English: The boy stroked the girl around the chin and kissed her on
Danish: Drengen strøg/aede pigen på hagen og kyssede hende på
NB: These aren't always literal translations of each other.
^ a b West Frisian at
Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
North Frisian at
Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
Saterland Frisian at
Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds.
Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute
for the Science of Human History.
^ Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student’s Handbook, Edinburgh
^ Gooskens, Charlotte (2004). "The Position of Frisian in the Germanic
Language Area". On the Boundaries of Phonology and Phonetics.
^ a b c Extra, Guus; Gorter, Durk (2001-01-01). The Other Languages of
Europe: Demographic, Sociolinguistic, and Educational Perspectives.
Multilingual Matters. ISBN 9781853595097.
^ a b c Bremmer, Rolf Hendrik (2009-01-01). An Introduction to Old
Frisian: History, Grammar, Reader, Glossary. John Benjamins
Publishing. ISBN 9027232555.
^ "Gegenwärtige Schätzungen schwanken zwischen 1.500 und 2.500."
Marron C. Fort: Das Saterfriesische. In: Horst Haider Munske, Nils
Århammar: Handbuch des Friesischen – Handbook of Frisian Studies.
Niemayer (Tübingen 2001).
^ "Frisian language use and ethnic identity: International Journal of
the Sociology of Language". www.degruyter.com. Retrieved
^ Gesetz zur Förderung des Friesischen im öffentlichen Raum -
Wikisource (in German)
^ Christian Galinski; Rebecca Guenther; Håvard Hjulstad.
"Registration Authority Report 2004-2005" (PDF). p. 4. Archived
from the original (PDF) on 2007-10-20. Retrieved 2007-11-23.
^ a b Fishman, Joshua A. (2001-01-01). Can Threatened Languages be
Saved?: Reversing Language Shift, Revisited : a 21st Century
Perspective. Multilingual Matters. ISBN 9781853594922.
^ Matthias Brenzinger, Language Diversity Endangered, Mouton de
Gruter, The Hague: 222
^ "Atlas of languages in danger United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization". www.unesco.org. Retrieved
^ a b c Deumert, Ana; Vandenbussche, Wim (2003-10-27). Germanic
Standardizations: Past to Present. John Benjamins Publishing.
^ Gooskens, Charlotte; Heeringa, Wilbert (May 2012). "The Position of
Frisian in the Germanic Language Area" (PDF). Researchgate. Retrieved
25 August 2017.
^ "English to Frisian dictionary".
^ The History of English: A Linguistic Introduction. Scott Shay,
Wardja Press, 2008, ISBN 0-615-16817-5,
^ a b c d e Linn, Andrew R.; McLelland, Nicola (2002-12-31).
Standardization: Studies from the Germanic languages. John Benjamins
Publishing. ISBN 9789027283672.
^ a b Yngve, Victor; Wasik, Zdzislaw (2006-11-25). Hard-Science
Linguistics. A&C Black. ISBN 9780826492395.
^ Linn, Andrew Robert; McLelland, Nicola (2002-01-01).
Standardization: Studies from the Germanic Languages. John Benjamins
Publishing. ISBN 9027247471.
Omniglot links to various Frisian resources
Tresoar - Historical and Literary Centre of
Friesland Province of the
North Frisian edition of, the free encyclopedia
West Frisian edition of, the free encyclopedia
Saterland Frisian edition of, the free encyclopedia
Ferring Stiftung, a foundation from North Frisia
[PDF]Hewett, Waterman Thomas, The Frisian language and literature
'Hover & Hear' West Frisian pronunciations, and compare with
equivalents in English and other Germanic languages.
"Frisian: Standardisation in Progress of a Language in Decay"
(PDF). (231 KiB)
Radio in West Frisian
Radio news in North Frisian
East Frisian Low Saxon
West Frisian Dutch
Italics indicate extinct languages
Languages of Germany
German Sign Language
Germanic languages and dialects
East Pomeranian-West Prussian
Western East Pomeranian
Eastern East Pomeranian
West Central Pomeranian
Mennonite Low German
Dutch Low Saxon
Northern Low Saxon
East Frisian Low Saxon
Namibian Black German
Parana Volga German
German Standard German
Austrian Standard German
Swiss Standard German
Italics indicate extinct languages
Bold indicates languages with more than 3 million speakers
Languages between parentheses are varieties of the language on their