The Info List - Frisian Languages

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The Frisian /ˈfriːʒən/[3] 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
North Sea
in the Netherlands
and Germany. The Frisian languages
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
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 Westerkwartier
of the neighbouring province of Groningen. North Frisian
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
North Frisian
Islands of Sylt, Föhr, Amrum, and the Halligen. It is also spoken on the islands of Heligoland
and 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
Frisian languages
have been heavily influenced by and bear similarities to Dutch and Low German/Low Saxon. Additional shared linguistic characteristics between the Great Yarmouth
Great Yarmouth
area and Friesland
are likely to have resulted from the close trading relationship these areas maintained during the centuries-long Hanseatic League
Hanseatic League
of the Late Middle Ages.[4]


1 Division

1.1 Speakers 1.2 Status

2 History

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 References

6.1 Notes 6.2 General references

7 External links

Division[edit] There are three varieties of Frisian: West Frisian, Saterland
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 by Low German
Low German
and German. The North Frisian language
North Frisian language
especially is further segmented into several strongly diverse dialects. Stadsfries and 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 of East Frisia
East Frisia
is more complex: The local Low German/Low Saxon dialects of Gronings
and 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 and German. Speakers[edit] 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,[5] which is about 75% of the inhabitants of Friesland.[6] An increasing number of native Dutch speakers in the province are learning Frisian as a second language. In Germany, there are about 2,000[7] speakers of Saterland
Frisian in the 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
Low German
and standard German,[citation needed] but 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.[6] In the North Frisia
North Frisia
(Nordfriesland) region of the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, there were 10,000 North Frisian
North Frisian
speakers in the 1970s.[1] Although many of these live on the mainland, most are found on the islands, notably Sylt, Föhr, Amrum, and Heligoland. The local corresponding North Frisian
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[8] 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. Status[edit] Saterland
and North Frisian[9] 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 the ISO 639 Registration Authority the "previous usage of [this] code has been for Western Frisian, although [the] language name was 'Frisian'".[10] The new 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
Low German
dialect). The new ISO 639 code frr is used for the North Frisian language
North Frisian language
variants spoken in parts of Schleswig-Holstein. 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.[5] Recent attempts have allowed Frisian be used somewhat more in some of the domains of education, media and public administration.[11] Nevertheless, Saterland
Frisian and most dialects of North Frisian
North Frisian
are seriously endangered[12] and West Frisian is considered as vulnerable to being endangered.[13] 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[14] Therefore, in a sociological sense it is considered more a dialect than a standard language, even though linguistically it is a separate language.[14] 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.[5] Moreover, Frisian runs the risk of dissolving into Dutch, especially in Friesland, where both languages are used.[11] History[edit]

Old Frisian text from 1345.

Old Frisian[edit] Main article: Old Frisian In the 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 entire southern North Sea
North Sea
coast. Today this region is sometimes referred to as Great Frisia
or Frisia
Magna, and many of the areas within it still treasure their Frisian heritage, even though in most places the Frisian languages
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
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,[6] 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.[15][16] 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 Frysk.") [17] One major difference between Old Frisian and modern Frisian is that in the 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 written language. Middle West Frisian[edit] 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 the 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
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, around 1820. Modern West Frisian[edit] 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.[18] 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 language.[18] 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 [18] 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.[18] 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.[14] 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.[18] 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.[19] It is especially written West Frisian that seems to have trouble surviving, with only 30% of the West Frisian population competent in it;[19] it had disappeared in the 16th century and continues to be barely taught today.[20]

Frisian-language signs

Bilingual signs Hindeloopen
in Friesland
(Netherlands) with the West Frisian name above and the Dutch below

Bilingual sign in Niebüll
in North Frisia
North Frisia
(Germany) with the German name above and the North Frisian
North Frisian
name below

Bilingual sign in Ramsloh, Saterland
(Germany) with the German name above and the East Frisian name below

Family tree[edit] Frisian languages
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
Anglo-Frisian languages

West Frisian language, spoken in the Netherlands.

Clay Frisian (Klaaifrysk)


Wood Frisian (Wâldfrysk)


South Frisian (Súdhoeks) Southwest Frisian (Súdwesthoeksk) Schiermonnikoogs Hindeloopen
Frisian Aasters Westers

East Frisian language, spoken in Lower Saxony, Germany.

Frisian language Several extinct dialects

Wangerooge Frisian Wursten Frisian

North Frisian
North Frisian
language, spoken in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.

Mainland dialects

Mooring Goesharde Frisian
Goesharde Frisian
(Hoorning) Wiedingharde Frisian Halligen
Frisian Karrharde Frisian

This is a small portion of the Frisian Family Tree.

Island dialects

Söl'ring Fering Öömrang Heligolandic

Extinct dialects

Strand Frisian Eiderstedt Frisian

Text samples[edit] The Lord's Prayer[edit]

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 Bible

Below is the Lord's Prayer
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.

NB: * 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. Comparative sentence[edit]

Frisian: Die Wänt strookede dät Wucht uum ju Keeuwe un oapede hier ap do Sooken. North Frisian
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 wangen. 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 die wange. English: The boy stroked the girl around the chin and kissed her on the cheeks. Danish: Drengen strøg/aede pigen på hagen og kyssede hende på kinden.

NB: These aren't always literal translations of each other. See also[edit]

Frisia Frisian Islands Frisians

References[edit] Notes[edit]

^ a b West Frisian at Ethnologue
(18th ed., 2015) North Frisian
North Frisian
at Ethnologue
(18th ed., 2015) Saterland
Frisian at Ethnologue
(18th ed., 2015) ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Frisian". 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 2015-10-30.  ^ 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 2015-10-28.  ^ a b c Deumert, Ana; Vandenbussche, Wim (2003-10-27). Germanic Standardizations: Past to Present. John Benjamins Publishing. ISBN 9789027296306.  ^ 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, ISBN 978-0-615-16817-3 ^ 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. 

General references[edit]

Omniglot links to various Frisian resources Tresoar - Historical and Literary Centre of Friesland
Province of the Netherlands

External links[edit]

North Frisian
North Frisian
edition of, the free encyclopedia

West Frisian edition of, the free encyclopedia

Frisian edition of, the free encyclopedia

Ferring Stiftung, a foundation from North Frisia West-Frisian-English dictionary [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

v t e

Frisian languages

Old Frisian Middle Frisian

West Frisian

Aasters Clay Hindeloopens Molkwerums Noordhoeks Schiermonnikoogs Terschellings Wood (Westereendersk) Zuidwesthoeks

East Frisian




Wangerooge Wursten

North Frisian


Halligen Goesharde Karrharde Mooring (Bökingharde) Strand Wiedingharde


Eiderstedt Fering Heligolandic
(Halunder) Öömrang Söl'ring

Substratum dialects

Amelands East Frisian Low Saxon Gronings Midslands Stadsfries
dialects Bildts West Frisian Dutch

Italics indicate extinct languages

v t e

Languages of Germany

Official langage

Standard German

Regional/Minority languages


Danish Frisian

North Saterland

Low German Romani Sorbian

Upper Lower


Alemannic Bavarian German Sign Language Limburgish Low Rhenish Luxembourgish Ripuarian

v t e

Germanic languages
Germanic languages
and dialects

West Germanic

Anglo- Frisian



dialects Yola Fingallian



East Frisian

Frisian Wangerooge Frisian Wursten Frisian

North Frisian

Söl'ring Fering Öömrang Heligolandic Mooring Halligen
Frisian Strand Frisian Eiderstedt Frisian

West Frisian

Clay Frisian Wood Frisian

Low German

East Low German

Mecklenburg-Western Pomeranian

Mecklenburgish West Pomeranian

Brandenburgisch East Pomeranian-West Prussian

Western East Pomeranian Eastern East Pomeranian Bublitzisch Pommerellisch

Central Pomeranian

West Central Pomeranian

Low Prussian

Mennonite Low German

West Low German

Dutch Low Saxon

Stellingwarfs Tweants Gronings Drèents Gelders-Overijssels

Achterhooks Sallaans Urkers


Northern Low Saxon

East Frisian Low Saxon Schleswigsch Holsteinisch Hamburgisch Ollnborger North Hanoveranian Dithmarsch Emsländisch

Westphalian Eastphalian

Low Franconian

Standard variants

Dutch Afrikaans

West Low Franconian

Hollandic West Flemish

French Flemish

Zeelandic East Flemish Brabantian Surinamese Dutch Jersey Dutch Mohawk Dutch Stadsfries Bildts Yiddish

East Low Franconian



Southeast Limburgish

South Guelderish


Low Dietsch

High German



Namibian German Namibian Black German Brazilian German Unserdeutsch Barossa German Belgranodeutsch Parana Volga German


Eastern Western Litvish Poylish Ukrainish Galitzish Scots Yiddish Alsatian Yiddish Klezmer-loshn Ganovim Balagole Katsoves Lachoudisch

Yenish Rotwelsch


Central German

West Central German

Central Franconian



Moselle Franconian

Luxembourgish Transylvanian Saxon Hunsrückisch

Rhine Franconian

Lorraine Franconian Palatine

Volga German Pennsylvania German



East Central German

Thuringian Upper Saxon Lusatian-Neumarkish


Silesian High Prussian Wymysorys Pragerisch

High Franconian

South Franconian East Franconian

Main Franconian Vogtlandian

Upper German


Low Alemannic

Alsatian Coloniero

High Alemannic

Swiss German

Highest Alemannic

Walser German



Northern Bavarian Central Bavarian

Viennese German

Southern Bavarian

South Tyrolean Cimbrian Mòcheno Hutterite German


Standard German

German Standard German Austrian Standard German Swiss Standard German

North Germanic

West Scandinavian



Bergensk Kebabnorsk Sognamål Trøndersk Valdris Vestlandsk Vikværsk


Elfdalian Insular Scandinavian

Faroese Icelandic Gronlandsk Norn

East Scandinavian


Åland Estonian Finlandic Gotlandic Jamtlandic Kalix Kiruna Luleå Norrland Ostrobothnian Småländska South Swedish


Stockholm Rinkeby Uppländska Västgötska Westrobothnian


Bornholmsk Gøtudanskt Insular Danish Jutlandic South Jutlandic Perkerdansk


East Germanic


Crimean Gothic

Burgundian Vandalic

Italics indicate extinct languages Bold indicates languages with more than 3 million speakers Languages between parentheses are varieties of the language on their left.

Authority control

GND: 4120183-8 SUDOC: 02745