Written by Dyami Millarson
There are historically three Goesharde Frisian languages: Northern, Central and Southern Goesharde Frisian. Southern Goesharde Frisian has gone extinct in 1981, so there are only 2 left. Central Goesharde Frisian is endangered with acute extinction. It has gone extinct everywhere except one terp village called Drelsdorf with more than twelve hundred inhabitants currently. Probably not even 1% of Drelsdorf can speak the language anymore. It would be curious to gauge how many people in the village actually know that a Frisian language used to be more widely spoken there. Central Goesharde was spoken in one more village called Bohmstedt which has more than 700 inhabitants right now. However, the language went extinct there in 2006. Northern Goesharde Frisian is highly endangered as well. Northern Goesharde Frisian can be divided into Langenhorn Frisian and Ockholm Frisian. Ockholm was the only majority Northern Goesharde Frisian-speaking village at the beginning of the early 20th century. This means that Langenhorn Frisian is probably more endangered than the Northern Goesharde Frisian of Ockholm, even though both are at risk of immediate extinction.
Whatever ‘extinct’ means in the case of Southern Goesharde Frisian and in the case of the Central Goesharde Frisian as spoken in Bohmstedt remains to be seen. I expect these languages to still be in the living memory of the locals since they went ‘extinct’ recently. This means that information about these languages can still be retrieved from human memory, which is relevant to our documentation efforts. We wish to document these languages as fully as possible. If we can find informants who may be familiar with these languages, that could help us a great deal.
We would ultimately like to see the revival of Southern Goesharde Frisian. We believe in the philosophical principle that world change starts from individuals. Therefore, we are individuals eager to study Southern Goesharde Frisian eventually and consequently revive the language. When we master the language, we can pass it on to locals in Germany whose ancestors spoke the language or may have been familiar with it and to people around the world who may have an interest in this language. However, we want to learn the living Goesharde Frisian languages first. On principle, we learn the living ones first and later focus on reviving the extinct ones. I am very curious about the local culture and history behind Northern Goesharde Frisian and Central Goesharde Frisian, which are two Goesharde Frisian languages that we are going to study at some point. Furthermore, I think we are definitely going to study Langenhorn Frisian this year. I am excited about investigating these gems of Germany that have been secrets to much of the German public unaware of these fascinating small languages – i.e., cultural repositories – spoken in their midst.