Written by Dyami Millarson
Saterfrisian, which I have been studying since this year (see here, here and here), is a Frisian language spoken within the modern borders of Germany. I have noticed there are quite a few frequently used words in Saterfrisian that appear German. I got this impression as a speaker of the three small Frisian languages and the one large Frisian language, which are spoken within the modern borders of the Netherlands. I have studied the former three languages in 2018 when Leeuwarden was Cultural Capital of Europe, whereas I studied the latter one in 2016 when Ken Ho visited me in the Netherlands. So I got my informed impression of a ‘German area’ being linked with Saterlandic due to being immersed in 1 sizeable + 3 small Frisian languages of the Netherlands. I could never have developed the exact same impression, and feel very sure of it being the current reality (as opposed to historical reality, as with comparison between Old Frisian and Saterland Frisian), had I not studied all these Frisian languages of the Netherlands and this, yet again, provides a personal but compelling argument for acquiring all Frisian languages that are spoken in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Words which look German merely to Dutch speakers but are generally widespread in the Frisian-speaking territory within the Netherlands are not included here. One example of this includes Saterland Frisian daach, which is also used in Clay Fr. as doch(s), although not in Hind. Fr., Schierm. Fr. and Tersch. Fr., which prefer forms that look more like Dutch ‘toch’. Clay Fr. is such a large language compared to the other 3 that I think ‘doch’ can be characterised as distinctly Frisian in the Netherlands as well. Oftentimes the smaller Fr. languages do retain more authentic Frisian forms, but we are here less concerned with this etymological or historical reality than with the reality of the contemporary perception that any Frisian speak (whatever his language may be) from the Netherlands might have vis-à-vis the Saterlandic vocabulary.
Now follows a Saterlandic-German list of words:
Sik – sich.
This is the reflexive, which is used with verbs and may be translated as ‘oneself; him-, her-, or itself; themselves’. The equivalent in Clay Frisian is jin (oneself), him (himself), har (herself) and harren (themselves). The simplest equivalent in Hindelopian (cf. Lat. Hindelōpia) or Hindeloopen Frisian, indigenously known as Hielpes or more traditionally Hielepes, is sich, but this form may be avoided as ‘too Dutch’ (= correct perception) and hence the following may be used more frequently: him (oneself, himself), jer (herself) and jem (themselves). Etymologically, Saterlandic sik is the same as Gothic sik.
The reflexive is used in German much more than in Dutch. Moreover, such frequent use of the reflexive in German seems odd, wrong and redundant to Dutch speakers. However, it is utterly normal in German as well as in Saterlandic, for there are many reflexive verbs in both languages.
The reflexive is not as common in Frisian languages spoken in the Netherlands, for they follow the Dutch pattern or ‘taalgevoel’ (language intuition), which considers such overuse of the reflexive to be weird, incorrect and most important of all, tautological, which is why it is completely unnecessary according to Dutch logic; ‘kort en bondig’ (short and succinct) is, after all, appreciated in Dutch culture or at least the dominant Hollandic culture of the Netherlands, probably due to the efficiency-oriented free mercantile spirit which prefers quick practical truths (as encoded in Dutch sayings which have been handed down for generations, particularly since the Dutch Golden Age) to complicated and time-consuming social customs and conventions, whereas such brevity might be considered rude in German culture, which highly emphasises respect (for authority) and politeness for the sake of social order and intuitively associates this with lengthiness or ‘wordiness’.
It is interesting for me to note how a different grammatical feeling could arise between the Frisian languages spoken in the Netherlands and Saterlandic, which is spoken in Germany. So, probably also for cultural reasons, whenever the reflexive is grammatically optional, a German may be tempted to say ‘I got myself a glass of water’ while a Dutch person may be tempted to say ‘I got a glass of water’ (a true Dutchman will let you deduce from the context that he himself got the glass of water for his own benefit; context is more important to Dutch speakers because that allows them to speak more tersely). I would briefly summarise the difference as that the German prefers lengthy expressions and the Dutchman very much prefers short expressions. Indigenous Frisian speakers with Dutch nationality will speak like the Dutch and the indigenous Frisians with German nationality will speak like the Germans, for they have adopted the national culture and consequently the national grammar of their respective countries (this illustrates that grammar is a powerful marker of national cultural identity).
Dan, wiel – denn, weil.
Confusingly, Sat. dan is used both in the sense of Germ. adv. dann (then, at that time in the past) and conj. denn (because, for). We are here concerned with the latter sense, because this does not exist in the Frisian languages that are spoken in the Netherlands. The cognate itself, however, exists in the languages as follows: Clay Fr. dan, East Tersch. Fr. don, Schierm. Fr. dan, Hind. Fr. den, all bearing the sense of Germ. dann or Dutch dan. However, the sense of denn, for which there exists no equivalent in Dutch nor the family of Frisian language found in the Netherlands, seems ‘exclusively German’ (this is merely an impression based on the present situation, this is no historical analysis after all but it is simply an analysis of the contemporary reality, which is the kind of analysis that has been lacking).
Therefore, the word ‘dan’ gives certain sentences in Saterlandic texts, which contain this word, a very German look. The word ‘dan’ is a structural difference, which distinguishes it grammatically from the Frisian languages found in the Netherlands, for it is a conjunction that has a very German aura about it. Following the German example, SVO word order is generally used with the Sat. conj. dan. However, I have occasionally seen SOV being used in artistic contexts, such as songs or poems (these allow poetic license).
Yet, as in German, SOV word order is generally used with the synonym wiel, which is a word that gives off a very German feel due to its phonetic properties. However, this assessment needs to be nuanced by the fact that the cognates of wiel in Dutch, English and Frisian in the Netherlands may be used in the same way. For instance, the word while in English is not merely used for expressing an action that occurs simultaneously, but may also be used to indicate a causal connection. In that way, the word is very similar to Lat. cum.
Dän – den.
This is the accusative form of the masc. sing. article. To me, it seemed really extraordinary at first that Saterlandic had an accusative article. I had to get used to this, because I had grown accustomed to speaking Frisian languages which had not retained a case system in the articles (the only place where the case system can still be found in these languages is in fossilised expressions and in the personal pronouns). My brain needed to rewire or at least reset for a moment to get used to this new situation. I had thus far not learned any Fr. language that retained the case system, and I recall that when I still attended grammar school, our teacher for the subject Dutch said that Frisian once had a case system and it was such a shame it had lost this. She would be happy to know about Sat. dän.
Grammatical cases are traditionally held in high esteem in Dutch grammar schools, for Latin, which has a case system, is a highly respected – and feared – language among grammar school students. This is also one of the reasons I wanted to be an expert on grammatical cases, and I find them easy nowadays as a result of my extensive investigations into all possible (documented) varieties of grammatical cases; the advantage of this study of mine, which I performed many years ago as a young teenager, is that I can, theoretically speaking, easily categorise whatever grammatical case I encounter in any language. The accusative in Sat. is curious, because I read, after a bit of searching online, that such remnant accusative also occurs in Low German languages. Furthermore, I knew from my own familiarity with old texts in Dutch that Saterlandic still uses only the accusative like Dutch in the 1950s after the official abolition of the case system. Dutch writers hung on to the accusative for a while. I have never really investigated why, but somehow it must have stuck with them. I can imagine that as the acc. offers the advantage of grammatical clarity (and could therefore be considered a reading aid for a literary language), it was retained. However, it still makes me wonder why the acc. has systematically been retained the longest in multiple languages that lost other grammatical cases. I have noticed that the gen. and acc. are the sturdiest.
To this day, it would be relatively easy to revive the gen. in Dutch (I make frequent use of it) and the acc. could still be used in seemingly fossilised expressions where one would expect an oblique case. I can easily slip in a gen. or acc. in a text without it seeming weird by modern standards, and this goes to show how sturdy grammatical cases really are. I think this is definitely an important point to appreciate, and it demonstrates why it is still relevant to learn about grammatical cases. When one knows about their existence, how to recognise and categorise them, learning languages becomes a whole lot easier.
Sunt – sind.
The present plur. of the verb to be in all Frisian languages of the Netherlands is binne. That is why Sat. sunt looks remarkably German, but it looks even more like Latin where the pres. plur. of esse is sunt.
Gans – ganz.
This means ‘entire(ly)’ and may be used in expressions such as gans alleen (completely alone, cf. Germ. expression ganz allein). The Fr. languages of the Netherlands use this word practically never, although it does exist in certain expressions (like Schierm. Fr. de hele godgaunske dei, the entire day). However, the use of this word is so limited in these Fr. languages that the more frequent use of gans in Sat. looks very German nowadays.
Bit – bis.
There exists no cognate for this in any of the Frisian languages as spoken in the Netherlands. The translation for ‘until’ in Clay Frisian is oant, from whence comes the famous expression ‘oant sjen’.
Oaber – aber.
This is used in Sat. as an adv. I have encountered it quite a few times in Sat. texts. This looks apparently so German that Marron did not even bother including it in his dictionary, because doing a quick online search (I cannot be bothered to pick up a dictionary in the middle of the night anymore as I am trying to wrap up this article), I cannot find an entry with ‘oaber’ in the online version of his dictionary: http://www.xn--saterfriesisches-wrterbuch-tvc.de
Ja – ja.
Ja may either be used as an affirmative or as an intensifier in German. However, ja serve only as an intensifier in Saterlandic, while jee is the affirmative (it took me a while to discover this because ja is used for the affirmative in all Frisian languages as spoken in the Netherlands). Gronings helped me understand this the use of ja in Saterlandic: Iek bän ja so riek (Sat.), ik ben ja zo riek (Gron.), I am indeed so rich. Ja is a word that proves hard to translate to Dutch, English or any Frisian language as spoken in the Netherlands. Therefore, it looks distinctly German. As it is so hard to translate, learning Gronings proved useful. I studied Gronings this year as well, because I already thought this would help me prepare for Saterlandic. I thought: After all, if Saterlandic is surrounded with Low Saxon languages similar to Gronings, why not learn Gronings so I may be able to recognise any Low Saxon influences in words or sounds? Indeed, Gronings helped me notice some peculiarities in Saterlandic that looked like they were of Low Saxon origin, but that is a topic for another time!
Wier – wieder.
This word for ‘gain’ may look like German to all speaker of Frisian from the Netherlands except for that handful of Schiermonnikoog Frisian speakers who say ‘wier’. It is indeed extraordinary how Schierm. Fr. could have a word so similar to Saterlandic; the pronunciation must be practically the same as well, if one considers that the r is dropped probably in both languages.
Uum…tou – um…zu.
This means the same as Latin ut or Ancient Greek ἵνα, which are rendered in English as ‘to, in order to, in order that, so, that, so that’: Iek dwo et, uum him tou hälpen. I do it, that I may help him. I do it, so I may help him. I do it, so that I may help him. I do it in order that I may help him. I do it in order to help him. I do it to help him.
Sidenote: I learned in 2012 from William Coe Collar’s Beginner’s Latin Book that all these English expressions mean the same thing and with that new awareness, I have used “in order that” and the like more frequently since that time. I did already know these expressions as a native/fluent speaker of English, but I was not aware how often I could use them and how freely I could interchange them as they were synonymous; after all, people seldom use much variation of words in spoken or colloquial English, whilst variation in vocabulary is much more pronounced in literary or written English. My knowledge of English has been mainly oral because I was not raised in an English-speaking country where we would focus on studying literary English, but I do pick up literary expressions rather quickly because English is a language entirely familiar to me. Odd things happen when you are an isolated native/fluent speaker of a language. However, the invention of the internet and the readily available amount of books make it much easier nowadays to stay in touch and keep up with the native language community, although I do notice my English is markedly more archaic and my English contains much less slang (for the life of me, I cannot get myself to use slang words such as ‘vibe’ for either ‘feel’ or ‘aura’ regularly, it sounds so odd to me!).
Uum…tou looks simultaneously German and Anglo-Frisian. It looks German because of uum, for the vowel is pronounced much higher in the mouth than in its ‘Dutch Frisian’ equivalents: Clay Fr. om, Hind. Fr. óm, Schiermonnikoog Fr. om, Terschelling Fr. om. However, it looks Anglo-Frisian because of tou: Eng. to/too (etymologically the same word but spelled differently), Hind. Fr. tó, Schiermonnikoog Fr. tò and Heligolandic tu. Yet the equivalent in Clay Frisian and East Tersch. Fr. is essentially the same word as in Dutch, namely te (this is etymologically related to /tə/, the weak pronunciation of /tuː/; both pronunciations, regardless of the clearly audible distinction, are written the same as ‘to’ or ‘too’ in English, for the difference spelling in spelling is not a phonetic one, but a grammatical one: too is an adverb and to is a preposition, both spellings of etymologically the same word are either pronounced /tə/ or /tuː/ depending on the phonetic context).
Un – und.
The cognates of the Sat. word for ‘and’ are all practically the same in the Fr. languages of the Netherlands: Hind. Fr. en, Clay Fr. en, Schierm. Fr. en, East Tersch. Fr. in. Heligolandic, which is spoken in Germany, has the same word as well: en.
Du – du.
This means simply you, or thou as in archaic or local (not to say the loaded word dialectal) English. Du looks very German, especially on account of the spelling. However, to be fair, the same word also exists in the Frisian languages of the Netherlands: Wood Frisian dû and Hindeloopen Frisian doe. Clay Frisian consider Wood Frisians, who reside in the East of Frisia, to be like Germans.
Hindeloopen Frisians, who are known for their linguistic conservatism, would be considered German as well by these standards. The original u-sound has mostly been lowered in the Netherlands (this is a general trend seen when one compares Dutch and German; one might jokingly say the Dutch are more fond of o and are not really into the use of u) and that is why Clay Frisians say do, East Terschelling Frisians say do, and Schiermonnikoog Frisians say dò. German displays considerable linguistic conservatism in the case of the u-sound, whereas Dutch shows more ‘linguistic progressivism’ in that case, so that when any language hangs on to the u-sound that was inherited from Germanic, this language may look quite German, and that should be taken as a compliment, because it means your language retains old features that have often already disappeared in the Netherlands.
Of course, Dutch is phonetically more conservative in other ways. For instance, Dutch retains a genuine voiced-unvoiced distinction between its plosive consonants, whereas German has turned these into fortis-lenis distinctions. Dutch in this case retains the system that was inherited from Germanic, and this voiced-unvoiced system, rather than the newer innovation of the fortis-lenis system as in German and English, was likely also used in Gothic, so that the p, t and k in Gothic would sound Dutch.
Wan, as, wo – wenn, als, wie.
These words mean ‘if, when, like’. Although etymologically derived from the same source, the German system of wenn (if) vs. als (when) is exactly the semantic opposite of Dutch als (if) vs. wanneer (when). It is interesting, then, that the etymologically corresponding words in all the Frisian languages spoken in the Netherlands correspond with the Dutch system and Saterlandic equivalent words corresponds with the German system. As Saterlandic follows the German system, it has not caused little confusion to me, because Dutch speakers naturally find the use of als and wenn wildly confusing in German.
However, this confusion helped me to realise that Saterlandic is structurally closer to German as the language is spoken on German soil and the Frisian languages spoken on Dutch soil are closer to Dutch. This makes perfect sense, but it is interesting to see confirmed how a specific national environment influences the development of a language. We can thus speak of ‘German Frisian’ and ‘Dutch Frisian’ as distinct groupings, because, although they are definitely Frisian as the last word implies, they exhibit characteristics that are due to their different German and Dutch linguistic environments.
Furthermore, the Saterlandic as exactly mimicks the multifunctional use of German als: (1) when, syntax rule: als, if used to mean when, refers to an action that occurred or is perceiving as having occurred in the past, (2) than or as, syntax rule: Standard German, like Standard Frisian and non-standard vernacular Dutch, does not distinguish between than and as; (3) as if, syntax rule: followed by a predicate in the past/preterite subjunctive (Konjunktiv II, basically an irrealis if one is familiar with Ancient Greek verbal grammar), such as wäre and würde. Unlike the German Konjunktiv II which is often harder to learn due to learn due to being dofferent from the present indicative (although not that hard, because it is mostly just umlaut forms of the preterite stem), the Sat. Konjunktiv II is super easy because it is the same as the preterite indic. and so it is like Dutch, which may employ the preterite in such manner or substitute it with the preterite ‘zou(den)’.
There is no etymological equivalent for the Sat. word ‘wo’ in any of the Dutch Frisian languages.
Ken Ho’s comment: I have given thought to the difference between wie and als. I think wie means ‘like’ while ‘als’ means ‘as’. I see the girl as my girlfriend = Ich betrachte das Mädchen als meine Freundin. I see the girl like my sister = Ich betrachte das Mädchen wie meine Schwester. Als is 100 percent (identical to) while wie is less than 100 percent (similar to).
De – der.
Sat. de is an oblique case, which occurs after prepositions where “der” is expected in German (while dän occurs as an oblique case after prep. where German den is expected, but interestingly enough, t occurs after prep. where German dem is expected while dät or et occurs otherwise in Saterlandic). Initially it was not clear to me that there were oblique cases in Saterlandic and that the system followed a German pattern. I had initially not noticed de as being grammatically any different from do or ju, because I merely thought that de was a weak form of those. To me, it did not seem grammatically relevant as the distinction merely seemed phonetic (i.e., allophones): I thought one was the weak form and the other the strong one. However, as time went by and I had read more texts, I began to see a clear pattern that de was only used after prepositions and later, when I analysed those cases more closely, I noticed that I could translate de to German as der in all cases, I realised this was an oblique case fashioned after the model of German grammar. This did not entirely surprise me because something similar to an oblique case is also used in Clay Frisian: ‘e.
However, this is not a proper oblique case (it would perhaps be wrong to analyse it that way etymologically), because it could be readily explained by phonetics, and that is also why Clay Frisians pronounce ‘e after prepositions even when they speak Dutch. Namely, ‘e occurs in Clay Frisian when the article de is preceded by a consonant: oan ‘e, foar ‘e, oer ‘e, yn ‘e. This kind of elision may also occur in Dutch with the article het: ‘aan het strand’ may be realised as ‘aant strand’ (this may be spelled as aan ‘t strand according to official Dutch spelling rules, but ‘t could be interpreted in either of two ways: either the syllabic vowel is lost and the t attaches itself to another word by necessity, in order to save itself from a sunken ship as it were, or the schwa-vowel is entirely retained, which means the t does not have to jump for ‘safety’ to another adjacent syllable although it still has the liberty to do so if that is convenient).
Furthermore, these Dutch and Clay Frisian examples could not properly be compared to the Saterfrisian case of de, because the former is the result of aphaeresis (omission of initial sound) whereas de, when compared to German der, seems a case of apocope (omission of final sound). This is yet another reason why I could not explain ‘de’ with ‘Dutch Frisian’ and it remained weird to me. Although I tried making sense of de with a weak/strong phonetic distinction, I could not truly wrap my head around it until I took German grammar into account. This natural path of discovery, that I relied up, is the result of reading and studying many texts. Naturally, one does not notice details such as ‘de’ at first expect that it seems an insignificant exception or oddity; it is good that one ignores such details during the initial stages of language-learning until one has matured enough in the language to grasp and appreciate such minute details. To me, the weak/strong explanation worked for as long as knowing the exact reason why de was being used after a preposition was not relevant.
I noted the form was different and I knew it was used in the adjacency of prepositions and I wondered whether it might be used in other environments, but I did not need to get to the bottom of this matter immediately and I slowly progressed towards greater understanding of what was going on here.
Die, ju, dät (et), do – der, die, das, die.
Three-way distinction of genders in the sing. and the use of a single form in the plural is like German, the only small difference here being that unlike German, the plur. form in Saterlandic is really different and bears no resemblance to any sing. form.
The Sat. articles were incredibly confusing to me at first, but Eilauners or Schiermonnikoog Fr., which I studied in 2018 and talked about in great detail for the first time in August 2018 which is also the month when I visited the Wadden island for the first time, helped me make sense of it with its demonstrative pronouns: dy, jò, dat, dà. When I grasped this link, it became easier for me to understand Saterlandic texts, but I still kept feeling like I was seeing demonstratives everywhere and this confused me somewhat. I realised later that this was not entirely untrue, because, just like in German, the articles could also be used as demonstratives. There is a simple explanation for this phenomenon, which seems really odd from the perspective of Dutch, the Dutch Frisian languages even with Schierm. Fr. included: the Sat. articles, like its German equivalents, are etymologically derived from demonstratives. What I gathered from studying Gothic and Latin many years ago is demonstratives could be turned into articles in derivative languages. The articles in the West Germanic languages – which includes English, Dutch, German, the Dutch Frisian languages, the German Frisian languages, the Low Saxon languages – are all derived from demonstratives.
It is curious that the same happened with the languages derived from Latin. Upon reflection, it may not have been a coincidence, but rather a cross-influence that occurred as the Germanic peoples and (what would be the) Romance peoples frequently interacted before, during and after the fall of the Roman Empire. The linguistic cross-influence accelerated as a result of the Migration Period, which saw the movement of the Germanic peoples into Roman territory, perhaps not precalculated but possibly religiously motivated (just as the Roman polytheists had once been religiously motivated to conquer the Italian Peninsula and beyond; they saw it as their given destiny). The use of the demonstrative as an article may have been an imitation of Vulgar Latin or vice versa; it is a matter that I would love to investigate at some future date. Be that as it may, Schiermonnikoog Frisian proved the key for me to unlock Saterlandic grammar. I did really not understand much of the language at first. Many words appeared unfamiliar to me and I had the idea that I was seeing alien gobbledygook, which was also strangely familiar somehow.
I am now reminded of a Saterlandic story of the emperor visiting Saterland and he could not believe it that there was a language in that region which no one could understand. One may assume that the emperor came from an entirely different region and did not know the fine intricacies of another region, this would also have been nigh to impossible because the country that is Germany today is a vast region with many different local cultures and languages (called ‘Mundarten’ in a denigrating fashion, for ‘Sprache’ is, in hierarchical fashion which unfortunately amounts to linguistic tyranny, usually only accorded to German and other national languages; Germany is a country with a rich local heritage and this is now in danger of disappearing, which is the unfortunate result of an ingrained attitude of linguistic other-denigration and self-denigration for the sake of conforming to one national or international linguistic norm – a particular phenomenon that is, however, not unique to Germany alone but remains a big problem throughout the Western world and threatens to do away with all the local heritage that was entrusted to Western civilisation for safe-keeping for future generations which may profit from this local inheritance that was built up across successive centuries and thus very rich in life experience and wisdom about the human condition on Earth). The emperor was surprised that he could not understand a word of it when he heard two men – they were soldiers – speaking the language of Saterland. Since then, it was said in the Saterlandic fable, people have been interested in the language of Saterland.
To me, it was interesting that I did not understand much of Saterlandic at first, and it was ‘hard’ for me to learn the language – I know that ‘hard’ means basically nothing if you do not define it clearly, so let me define it as ‘require a significant amount of effort, reflection and attention’. I have experienced this as well with the three languages that I studied in 2018. Each of the languages was hard at first, but became easy once I had broken through the initial barriers. The same was the case with Saterlandic: Schierm. Fr. really helped me break through the initial barriers, for it helped me understand what I still consider one of the most difficult aspects of Saterlandic grammar, namely the articles, and Schierm. Fr. helped me understand the pronunciation of Saterlandic as well. Thus, my knowledge of Schiermonnikoog Frisian, which is a language that had nearly gone extinct in 2018 with only a handful of elderly speakers left, proved highly profitable and I felt privileged to know this language.
Because I could chiefly rely on Schierm. Fr. to decipher the Saterlandic language as well as the fact I could rely on my knowledge of Groningen Low Saxon and the other Dutch Frisian languages, the initial process of breaking through the barriers was sped up and I could soon focus on more minute details. At first, I did not understand the article ‘die’ in Saterlandic. The T. van der Kooy spelling of Hind. Fr. made me realise that the Sat. article ‘die’ corresponds with the Hind. Fr. demonstrative ‘die’, which corresponds with ‘dy’ in Schierm. Fr., and this set off a chain reaction in my mind (a bit like fireworks), which prompted me to stop making mistakes with the Sat. art. ‘die’.
Nevertheless, I remain of the opinion that the Saterlandic articles are one of the most difficult aspects of Saterlandic grammar, just like the three-way gender distinction in Schierm. Fr., because it takes effort to learn the genders of all nouns from texts or to check the gender of nouns by consulting the dictionary. It will often prove a long-term challenge to the learner and so he should not let himself be distracted from slowly learning all nouns with their correct gender and formulating intuitive rule, based on what he has previously learned, to guess the gender of nouns that he encounters for the first time.
Toueerst – zuerst.
This means ‘first’ and may look German to Dutch and Frisian speakers from the Netherlands. Dutch speakers generally say ‘eerst’ and Clay Frisian speakers say ‘earst’ and the speakers of other Frisian languages in the Netherlands use similar expressions. However, Dutch may also employ the more German-like expression ‘ten eerste’, but it is not gobbled together into one word like German. So to put it in a fair way, toueerst is a ‘somewhat’ German construction/formation. Obviously, it was German-inspired and took a more German direction.
Reke – geben.
The form ‘reke’ does not look German, but it is used in a very German way, for this verb, which means ‘to give’, is also used to mean ‘there is/are’. Such use of the verb to give is stylistically German and forces Saterlandic to adopt an ‘es gibt…’-structure.
Boald – bald.
Bald means soon in German. I recall the German expression ‘bis bald’ when I see this word. As a speaker of Dutch as well as a speaker of various Frisian languages, I have always considered bald a somewhat ‘weird’ German word since there is no equivalent in Dutch and neither in any of the Frisian languages as spoken in the Netherlands. Therefore, I have always intuitively known it as ‘typically German’.
Fon – von.
This looks German or like East Terschelling Frisian which has the equivalent word fon. The Sat. fon definitely will, however, look more German to Hindeloopen Frisian, Schiermonnikoog Frisian and Clay Frisian speakers, familiar with the spelling of their own language. But this assessment may not entirely be fair, for it is more based on spelling than than phonetic reality: these speakers tend to realise the word almost like fon. The vowel-sound these speakers pronounce is heard in British English as well in some words that are spelled with o: hot, pot, dot. However, the sound pronounced in East Terschelling Frisian and Saterlandic Frisian is phonetically not the same as what Brits and other Frisians in the Netherlands pronounce, but the vowel is pronounced higher in Saterlandic Frisian and East Terschelling Frisian (possibly higher in the former than the latter, though I still need to verify this with my own phonetic investigations by meeting the Saterlanders). That is why it makes sense that the other Frisians spell ‘fan’ for their lower sound and the East Terschelling Frisians and Saterlanders use o to indicate their sound is higher. Although I would reserve the spelling fon for Saterlandic and East Tersch. Frisian, I am, however, tempted to spell fan as fån to distinguish this o-like vowel (as pronounced in Brit. Eng. hot) from the Dutch a, which is likely the same as the original Proto-Germanic a-sound.
Mäd – mit.
All the Frisian languages in the Netherlands have no d or t in this word: Hindeloopen Frisian mei, Clay Frisian mei, Terschelling Frisian mei, Schiermonnikoog Frisian mooi. To me, these words felt typically Frisian because they looked different from Dutch and Groningian (cf. Lat. Grōningiānus), which I also studied this year. Now that I know Saterlandic (and Heligolandic which I also studied this year), they feel ‘Dutch Frisian’. It is a unique experience to see how these forms feel more ‘Dutch’ after learning ‘German Frisian’. I did not have this experience before 2019 because I was focused on the Frisian languages as spoken in the Netherlands and did not really imagine how national borders could influence linguistic development. However, now that I know this, I consider the contrast between ‘Dutch Frisian’ and ‘German Frisian’ an important theme in our 2019 language project. As I study more, I discover new themes to focus on.
I understand neither German or Dutch (nor Frisian for that matter) but I can always tell a Dutch speaker by his intonation. Fascinating article.
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Thank you, I am glad you read my article. Intonation is definitely a way to recognise speakers of Dutch! Kerry, you may also pay attention to how they pronounce the ‘u’ as in utter, up, understand, etc. Dutch people also have a weird way of pronouncing the ‘r’ in English. As a speaker of British English, I find it weird they do not drop their r’s at the end of words, especially considering the fact they learn British English at school. Dutch people have such an accent in English that they do not notice they speak different from natives. Based on my pronunciation and way of speaking, they thought I was weird and I even got a low mark for English because I didn’t follow a Dutch logic/structure in my English (I ‘cannot’ translate between these two languages, I speak them by feeling/intuition, and I never learned English grammar/syntax from a Dutch perspective because I often found the Dutch explanation plain weird, even bordering on wrong, and it is much easier to explain English in English). It didn’t bother me, because I didn’t need school to learn to speak English, I could already speak and write it. This is, I guess, what truly bothered my teachers. One teacher even said I ‘cheated’ because I always got the answers right. Well, it was because I’m a speaker of English and so there was no special magic to it. I think Dutch people overestimate their English speaking and listening skills, especially when it comes to nuances and subtleties. I guess it has to do with Dutch pride. They live in their own bubble and they have created their own English, just like speakers of Afrikaans (a language derived from Dutch) are doing in South Africa. SA English bears many resemblances to Dutch English. However, Dutch often claim to speak ‘like Americans’ because they know for sure that their accent is very unlike the British English that they learn at school. Generally, they will deny they have a Dutch accent and logic in English and this leads to problems when communicating with native speakers. Dutch universities pride themselves in abandoning Dutch in favour of English, but I have often heard native English speakers complain about the level of English here…. Understanding nuances and speaking clearly without a Dutch accent are quite essential in a classroom setting (especially if you invite foreign students to be around and make them pay the full price for your ‘courses taught entirely in excellent English by Dutch professors’). I have had some Dutch-speaking teachers in secondary school who had to teach their subject in English and I found it too hard to follow their lessons. I do think it would be better for Dutch universities and schools to continue using Dutch, because teaching in a language that you do not master perfectly is ineffective. Currently there is an on-going debate in the Netherlands whether schools/universities should continue switching more and more to English as the medium for teaching or they should continue speaking Dutch. I lean towards favouring Dutch because I think the Netherlands is ill-prepared for switching completely to English, they put themselves at a clear disadvantage and they should also consider their own cultural and linguistic heritage; they try too hard to derive pride from others’ language and culture, but I think the reality is that they’ll never be Britons or Americans, no matter how much they try to be. They should cherish who they are and seek comfort in their own heritage. I think they are confused about who they are and what their place in the world is. They know very little about their own linguistic and cultural history and look down on it. Dutch people are somewhat ashamed of being Dutch as well as being speakers of Dutch.
– Dyami Millarson
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What an interesting perspective of Dutch culture along with the language, Dyami. I have visited the Netherlands on many occasions and I did notice that there was some pride in their ability to speak English, especially with the younger generation. I helped an older Dutch lady, in Houston, who wasn’t fluent in English. I guess my Scottish intonation of English was a little easier to understand than southern US English. I think it is important to be cognizant of your culture while remaining humble. We are all much more alike than we are different. Nobody should envy anyone else’s country/culture. Good, bad and arrogant people are everywhere.
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What a quick response, Kerry. 😊 My family name is Scottish. Yes, I agree with you. I do advocate humility and I think Dutch would benefit from being more self-critical (there is even a concept in Dutch: ‘naar jezelf kijken’ = ‘looking at yourself’). This does not mean self-hatred. Quite the opposite. It just means balance/moderation. I think there is a creeping arrogance in the Netherlands and this needs to be countered with a philosophy of humility and moderation. I am careful using the word ‘pride’. I do think it is alright to be a little prideful, we are all a little narcissistic and that may be good for our mental health, but it becomes a problem when people take it too far. When Dutch people take huge pride in their English speaking skills, this invites criticism, as it should. I appreciate it very much that Frisians are humble. They are ‘proud’ of their language and culture, but they manage to remain humble and down-to-earth, whereas I see Dutch people losing touch with reality and they do benefit from a healthy dose of criticism/critical feedback. (I have often heard Dutch people criticising Frisians and making fun of them, so I think it is good to turn the tables and say something positive about Frisians and say something critical about Dutch, and in any case, the latter will praise themselves while the former stay humble. Moreover, I’m not anti-Dutch, I wish all my fellow Dutch well and so this point is meant in a constructive way: Dutch, myself included, could learn something from Frisians once in a while.) I agree with the notion that there are a lot of similarities between humans. However, this comes with a caveat: I did learn over the years from my encounters with various cultures that human similarities should not be exaggerated; overemphasising similarities, although intended for creating peace and harmony, may, in fact, be a recipe for disaster and conflict. Much of my work involves diplomacy, and I need to navigate all the differences on a regular basis. I have specialised myself in intercultural communication to the highest degree possible, because my work is impossible without this specialised knowledge. When I studied Confucianism many years prior and discussed philosophical topics with my Chinese friends, I learned that respecting and appreciating differences is vital for harmony and order. Differences ought to be considered carefully lest these differences lead to misunderstanding and conflict. As with all things, I guess, balance is vital. Emphasising both samilarities and differences is important. Westerners, I have learned, tend to have an either-or mind-set, but my friends from the Far East, with whom I have had many interesting conversations, did persuade me that a both-and mind-set is beneficial for humanity. Combining Western and Eastern philosophical insights has definitely helped me with my charity work, which demands cultural sensitivity as well as sensitivity to linguistic details (e.g. not misidentifying a language as a dialect).
– Dyami Millarson
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My comment ‘we are more alike than not’ was very generalized and perhaps just refers to us as a species? You are quite correct that diplomacy requires us to be aware of all the subtleties and differences in our cultures. When we lived in Egypt we adopted their social norms, for the most part. Dress conservatively, be excessively polite in greeting and endless other nuances. When we moved to Texas there were new rules to apply.
To be perfectly honest, I am not sure that I really like homo sapiens even if they are endlessly interesting. I feel much more comfortable in the presence of animals.🐯
This is so interesting! Thanks for sharing! 🙂
I have studied the German language for 3 months a long time ago but since I stopped and didn’t practice so I am lost again. I heard that some Dutch words you can understand if you know a bit of German. I heard about Frisian but now I understand it. Thanks for the info.