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About the story
What’s with this “Wren” thing?
   The oldest extant version of the fable we are presenting here appeared in 1913 in the first volume of a two-volume anthology of Low Saxon folktales (Plattdeutsche Volksmärchen “Low German Folktales”) collected by Wilhelm Wisser (1843–1935). Read more ...

Frysk, Freesk, Freesch, Frasch, Seeltersk, Halunner, Fering, Öömrang, Söl’ring


Gysbert Japicx (1603-1666),
pioneer in using and promoting
Frisian as a literature language

Language information: The Frisians may well be called “the North Sea People.” Most of their early history remains a mystery. However, their physical survival under the onslaughts of the frequently stormy North Sea and their faithfulness to their ethnicity as a long-time minority is generally regarded as nothing short of remarkable. Their ancestors are widely considered associated with the Bronze Age Elp Culture (1800–800 BCE). Frisians used to inhabit the European Lowlands coast from just south of what is today’s Netherlands-Belgian border to the mouth of River Elbe in what is now Northern Germany. Even though their language and culture, technically speaking, became extinct in most areas, they left marked imprints on the Dutch and Low Saxon languages and cultures that replaced them.
     The traditional Frisian area later came to be extended along the west coast of the Jutish peninsula to just north of today’s German-Danish border. Simply speaking, this extension from western regions occurred in two stages: around 700 CE and around 1100 CE. The Frisian dialect spoken by the first group of settlers survived and further developed on the islands while the mainland and its tideflats islands came to be dominated by the Frisian dialect imported by the second wave of immigrants.
     This and relatively little communication between islanders and mainlanders account for marked differences between the insular and continental dialects of North Frisian.
     Within the other, previously contiguous Frisian language area there used to be a dialect continuum. This once smooth continuum came to be disrupted when the area came to be devided up into enclaves due to Dutch and Saxon encroachment. Dialect islands now developed with little communication with each other, and dialectical divergence increased.
      Surviving Frisian varieties are the following:

· WEST FRISIAN ((Westerlauwersk) Frysk)*
  · Standard Frisian (Standertfrysk)
  · Clay Soil Frisian (Klaaifrysk)
  · Woodlands Frisian (Wâldfrysk)
      · North Woodlands Frisian (Noardhoeks)
  · South Frisian (Súdhoeks)
  · Southwest Frisian (Súdwesthoeksk)
  · Schiermonnikoog Frisian (Skiermûntseagersk)
  · Hindeloopen Frisian (Hynljippen)
  · Terschelling (Skylge) Frisian
      · East Terschelling Frisian (Aasters)
      · West Terschelling Frisian (Schyllingers)
· EAST FRISIAN (mostly extinct)
  · Sater Frisian (Seeltersk)*
  · Mainland North Frisian*
      · Mooring/Bökingharde Frisian (Böökinghiirderfrasch)
      · Goesharde Frisian (Gooshiirderfreesch)
          · South Goesharde Frisian (Sud-Gooshiirder)
          · Central Goesharde Frisian (Middel-Gooshiirder)
          · North Goesharde Frisian (Noard-Gooshiirder)
      · Karrharde Frisian (Karrhiirderfreesch)
      · Wiedingharde Frisian (Wiringhiirderfreesk)
      · Tideflats Islands (Halligen) Frisian (Freesk)
  · Island North Frisian
      · Heligoland (Lunn) Frisian (Halunder)*
      · Föhr-Amrum Frisian (Fering-Öömrang)*
          · Föhr (Feer) Frisian (Fering)
          · Amrum (Oomram) Frisian (Öömrang)
      · Sylt (Söl) Frisian (Söl’ring)*
* May be considered discrete languages

       Some of the varieties, especially those used in Germany, are endangered. Severely threatened is the survival of Tideflats North Frisian.
     Frisian has been written since about the 8th century CE. Old Frisian was predominantly used for religious and legal texts. The Middle Frisian period lasted until 1820, with more linguistic and literary variety. East Frisian began fading away early, due to Middle Saxon encroachment. What is now Eastern Friesland became predominantly Low-Saxon-speaking. Today’s Low Saxon varieties of Eastern Frisian Coats of ArmsFriesland, misleadingly referred to as “East Frisian,” have noticeable Frisian substrata which make them a special branch among the Northern Low Saxon dialects. This applies to the Low Saxon varieties in the Netherlands province of Groningen as well.
     The only surviving varieties of Eastern Frisian are those of Sater Frisian of the Saterland region south of Eastern Friesland, where staunchly Roman Catholic Frisians formed an enclave during the Christian Reformation. These varieties came to dominate among the local indigenous Westphalian-Low-Saxon-speaking farmers as well. It is quite possible that the local Frisian varieties absorbed some indigenous Saxon features and that Sater Frisian has Low Saxon substrata.
     What outside the Netherlands is called “West Frisian” is called “Westerlauwer Frisian” in the Netherlands (Westerlauwersk Frysk in Frisian, and Westerlauwers Fries in Dutch). These are the Frisian varieties used west of the Lauwers river in the province of Fryslân (formerly called Friesland in Dutch) and parts of the province of Groningen (West Frisian Grinslân, Low Saxon Grönnen). What is called West-Fries (“West Frisian”) in Dutch has come to denote a number of Dutch dialects on Frisian substrata used in the province of North Holland.
     While these days all surviving varieties of Frisian are officially recognized within the framework of the European Languages Charter, the varieties used in Germany are struggling to survive. West Frisian is doing relatively well due to a comparably large number of speakers (ca. 350,000 native speakers) and fervent efforts on the part of language activists and the provincial administrations.The flag of Fryslân (Western 
Friesland) with its waterlily leaves. Many consider it representative of all Frisians. The language is used in the mass media and in schools, and there are printed and electronic publications, including modern entertainment material, in West Frisian.
     Because of its relatively sizeable speaker community and its relatively secure and prominent position, West Frisian tends to be considered representative as simply “Frisian”, especially among Netherlanders, including non-Frisians. It behooves everyone to bear in mind that Frisian of the Netherlands is not the only type. Lately, inter-Frisian communication and common activities have been helping to propagate the notion of a more widespread and diverse Frisian world, and East Frisians tend to be included in this as ethnic Frisians despite the fact that most of them have lost their ancestral Frisian language.
     There are some Frisian-speaking, mostly West-Frisian-speaking, communities outside Europe, particularly in North America, Australia and New Zealand, as well as in overseas parts of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
     The Frisian languages are considered the closest relatives of the Anglic languages (English and Scots), and some speak of an Anglo-Frisian branch among the West Germanic languages. While the languages of the Angles and Saxons are routinely mentioned in connection with the genesis of Old English (or Anglo-Saxon), Frisian is rarely mentioned although it evidently participated in the process, apparently more so than did the other two languages. One reason for what appear to be Frisian elements in English and scarcity of officially mentioned Frisian presence in medieval Britain might be that Anglic, Saxon and Jutish colonists took with them across the Channel Frisian-speaking women who raised their British-born children.
     Gerhard Willers’s remarks about Sater Frisian:
     “When I still lived in Cologne I learned Sater Frisian through self-study only with the help of a Sater Frisian reading book for schools and a dictionary (Sater Frisian-German), but my good knowledge of Northern Low Saxon helped me a lot to learn it quickly. I strongly believe that Sater Frisian has a Low Saxon (Westphalian) substrate.”
     “Sater Frisian is only spoken in the municipality of Saterland, which is situated in the Northwest of the Landkreis (district) of Cloppenburg or on the other hand in the Southeast of the town of Leer, Lower Saxony. The municipality of Saterland consists of the villages Strukelje (Strücklingen), Roomelse (Ramsloh), Schäddel (Scharrel) and Sedelsbierich (Sedelsberg). The estimated number of the speakers of Saterfrisian is 2000. There are some slight differences with respect to vocabulary and pronunciation of Sater Frisian between the places Strücklingen, Ramsloh and Scharrel. But this does not prevent mutual intelligibility of the Saterland people when speaking Sater Frisian. But for the Low Saxon and German speaking population of the neighbouring villages, Sater Frisian is completely unintelligible.”
     “For me the most striking features of Saterfrisian are its melodic sound, (it has much more diphthongs and even some triphthongs than Low Saxon) and in grammar the existence of two infinitives (like all other Frisian variants). Sater Frisian is a very old and conservative language, so it has preserved Frisian words that are already extinct in other Frisian variantes, for example: Jool (English: wheel, German: Rad) and it has even preserved Low Saxon words that are already extinct in the present Low Saxon, for example: the German word Hühnerauge (corn on a toe) reads in modern Low Saxon Höhneroog; and in Saterfrisian? Well, I admit, many people in Saterland would say in Seeltersk Hanneoge. But there are also many people who say Liektouden, a cognate of Standard German Leichdorn; and this is indeed a very, very old German word which is no longer used in Standard German of today, at least not in this area.”
     “Well, dear Lowlanders and other readers of these lines, there is really much more to tell you about this old and mysterious and melodious and even thrilling language, I assure you.”

Genealogy: Indo-European > Germanic > West > Frisian

Historical Lowlands language contacts: Dutch, English, Low Saxon

    Click to open the translation: [West] [East] [North] Click here for different versions. >

Author: Reinhard F. Hahnscots.php