Language
Fact-checked

At LanguageHumanities, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

What is Frisian?

Frisian is a hidden linguistic gem, a language spoken by a small population in the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark. It's the closest relative to English, offering a fascinating glimpse into the history of languages in Northern Europe. Its unique dialects and cultural significance are treasures awaiting those who seek to understand Europe's rich tapestry. What secrets might Frisian reveal to you?
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Frisian refers to a group of languages that are Germanic in origin. Modern Frisian is spoken in the Netherlands, and is one of the Netherlands’ two official languages. It is also a minority language in Germany. It is also one of the two closet relatives to Anglo-Saxon, or old English, which forms the basis for most English language.

Though this language may be a relative to Anglo-Saxon, a modern English speaker cannot understand most Frisian words. Both Danish and Dutch modern speakers can recognize some words due to contact during the Hanseatic League, though the languages are not directly related.

Frisian is a minority language spoken in Germany.
Frisian is a minority language spoken in Germany.

There are three different varieties of Frisian. The most commonly spoken in the Netherlands is West Frisian. In Germany, East and North Frisian are most commonly used. Each language may have several different dialects. Some of these dialects are no longer used or spoken, and some are considered endangered languages because there are few speakers left.

Modern Frisian is spoken in the Netherlands, and is one of the Netherlands’ two official languages.
Modern Frisian is spoken in the Netherlands, and is one of the Netherlands’ two official languages.

Ease of understanding one dialect over another depends upon dialectical differences and also upon the degree of variety between the three types. In fact in most cases a speaker of one dialect would not be able to understand a speaker of another. Thus some linguists feel that the three variants are actually three separate languages and should be described as such.

There are few examples Frisian literature in any of the three varieties. No writing exists prior to the 1200s. Gysbert Japix is considered the best-known Frisian poet with works published in the 17th century. He advocated a return to writing in the language, which was followed by later poets and may have helped to preserve the language in the Netherlands. Most often, however, language used for writing in the Netherlands was and is Dutch, since Dutch was named the official language at the end of the 15th century.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent LanguageHumanities contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Learn more...
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent LanguageHumanities contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Learn more...

You might also Like

Discussion Comments

anon37807

It's very sad that East Frisian is dying off. I really despise the Netherlands for not trying to preserve this.

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register:
    • Frisian is a minority language spoken in Germany.
      By: believeinme33
      Frisian is a minority language spoken in Germany.
    • Modern Frisian is spoken in the Netherlands, and is one of the Netherlands’ two official languages.
      By: Ruslan Olinchuk
      Modern Frisian is spoken in the Netherlands, and is one of the Netherlands’ two official languages.