Frisian languages

Frysk, Friisk[1], Fräisk
Bilingual signs German-Frisian, police station Husum, Germany 0892.JPG
Bilingual sign in German and North Frisian, respectively, in Husum, Germany
Native toNetherlands and Germany
RegionWest Frisian: Friesland, Westerkwartier; North Frisian: Nordfriesland, Heligoland, Düne; Saterland Frisian: Saterland
Native speakers
480,000 (ca. 2001 census)[2]
Early forms
Official status
Official language in
Regulated byWest Frisian: Fryske Akademy in Leeuwarden/Ljouwert
North Frisian: Nordfriisk Instituut in Bredstedt/Bräist (unofficial)
Saterland Frisian: Seelter Buund in Saterland/Seelterlound (unofficial)
Language codes
ISO 639-3Variously:
fry – West Frisian
frr – North Frisian
stq – Saterland Frisian
Frisian languages in Europe.svg
Present-day distribution of the Frisian languages in Europe:

The Frisian (n/,[4] also n/ or n/) 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 Netherlands and Germany. The Frisian languages are the closest living language group to the Anglic languages; the two groups make up the Anglo-Frisian languages group and together with the Low German dialects these form the North Sea Germanic languages. 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. It is also spoken in four villages in the Westerkwartier of 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 Halligs. It is also spoken on the islands of Heligoland, in the North Sea. The third Frisian language, Saterland Frisian, a variant of East Frisian, is only spoken in the municipality of Saterland in the Lower Saxon district of Cloppenburg. Surrounded by bogs, the four Saterlandic villages lie just outside the borders of East Frisia, in the Oldenburg Münsterland region. In East Frisia, East Frisian Low Saxon is spoken, which is not a Frisian language, but a variant of Low German/Low Saxon.

Depending upon their location, the three Frisian languages have been heavily influenced by and bear similarities to Dutch and Low German/Low Saxon, and in addition North Frisian has a Danish substrate. Additional shared linguistic characteristics between Friesland and the Great Yarmouth area in England are likely to have resulted from the close trading relationship these areas maintained during the centuries-long Hanseatic League of the Late Middle Ages.[5]


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. The other Frisian languages, meanwhile, have been influenced by Low German and German. The North Frisian language especially is further segmented into several strongly diverse dialects. Stadsfries and West Frisian Dutch are not Frisian, but Dutch dialects influenced by West Frisian. Frisian is called Frysk in West Frisian, Fräisk in Saterland Frisian[6], and e.g. Frasch, Fresk, Freesk and Fräisch in the dialects of North Frisian, with the artificial term Friisk as compromise.

The situation in the Dutch province of Groningen and the German region of East Frisia is more complex: The local Low German/Low Saxon dialects of Gronings and East Frisian Low Saxon still bear some Frisian elements due to East Frisian substrate. Frisian was spoken there at one time, only to have been gradually replaced by Low Saxon since the middel ages. This local language is now, like Frisian, under threat by standard Dutch and German.


Most Frisian speakers live in the Netherlands, primarily in the province of Friesland, which since 1997 officially uses its West Frisian name of Fryslân, where the number of native speakers is about 400,000,[7] which is about 75% of the inhabitants of Friesland.[8] An increasing number of native Dutch speakers in the province are learning Frisian as a second language.

In Germany, there are about 2,000[9] 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 and standard German,[citation needed] but Saterland Frisian still remains seriously endangered because of the small size of the speech community and of the lack of institutional support to help preserve and spread the language.[8]

In the North Frisia (Nordfriesland) region of the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, there were 10,000 North Frisian speakers in the 1970s.[2] 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 dialects are still in use.

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[10] 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'".[11]

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 dialect). The new ISO 639 code frr is used for the 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 and culture in the Dutch province of 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.[7] Recent attempts have allowed Frisian be used somewhat more in some of the domains of education, media and public administration.[12] Nevertheless, Saterland Frisian and most dialects of North Frisian are seriously endangered[13] and West Frisian is considered as vulnerable to being endangered.[14] 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[15] Therefore, in a sociological sense it is considered more a dialect than a standard language, even though linguistically it is a separate language.[15]

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.[7] Moreover, Frisian runs the risk of dissolving into Dutch, especially in Friesland, where both languages are used.[12]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Fries
Alemannisch: Friesische Sprache
Ænglisc: Fresisc sprǣc
العربية: لغة فريزية
aragonés: Idioma frisón
arpetan: Frison
asturianu: Frisón
azərbaycanca: Friz dilləri
Bân-lâm-gú: Frisia-gí
беларуская: Фрызскія мовы
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Фрыскія мовы
български: Фризийски езици
brezhoneg: Yezhoù frizek
català: Frisó
čeština: Fríské jazyky
Cymraeg: Ffriseg
davvisámegiella: Friisagiella
dolnoserbski: Frizišćina
Esperanto: Frisa lingvaro
euskara: Frisiera
føroyskt: Frísisk mál
客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: Frisia-ngî
հայերեն: Ֆրիզերեն
हिन्दी: फ़्रिसियन
hornjoserbsce: Frizišćina
Bahasa Indonesia: Bahasa Frisia
interlingua: Lingua frison
íslenska: Frísneska
italiano: Lingua frisone
עברית: פריזית
ქართული: ფრიზული ენა
kernowek: Frisek
коми: Фриз кыв
lietuvių: Fryzų kalba
Limburgs: Fries
Lingua Franca Nova: Frisce (lingua)
magyar: Fríz nyelv
македонски: Фризиски јазици
მარგალური: ფრიზიული ნინეფი
Nederlands: Friese talen
Nedersaksies: Freeske taaln
日本語: フリジア語
Nordfriisk: Friiske spräke
norsk: Frisisk
norsk nynorsk: Frisisk
occitan: Frison
олык марий: Фриз йылме
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Friz tili
Papiamentu: Fries
Plattdüütsch: Freesch
português: Língua frísia
română: Limbi frizone
rumantsch: Linguas frisas
Seeltersk: Fräiske Sproake
Simple English: Frisian language
slovenčina: Frízština
slovenščina: Frizijščina
српски / srpski: Фризијски језици
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Frizijski jezici
svenska: Frisiska
татарча/tatarça: Фриз теле
Türkçe: Frizce
українська: Фризька мова
ئۇيغۇرچە / Uyghurche: فرىزانچە
Tiếng Việt: Nhóm ngôn ngữ Frisia
West-Vlams: Fries
粵語: 菲士蘭文
Zazaki: Frizki
Zeêuws: Fries
žemaitėška: Frīzu kalba