Scharrel Frisian: Variant of Sagelterfrisian or Sagelterland Frisian

Written by Dyami Millarson

Sagelterland, which is the old name of Saterland and is etymologically derived from the placename comitia Sygeltra (the county Sögel), is where the last living East Frisian language is spoken. The municipality Sagelterland (modern name: Saterland) contains four villages: Scharrel, Strücklingen, Ramsloh and Sedelsberg. In the first instalment of my 3-part series on the language of Sagelterland which I wrote in 2019, I mentioned that Sagelterland Frisian (i.e., Saterlandic or Saterfrisian as I called it back then) is traditionally spoken only in three of those villages: Scharrel, Strücklingen and Ramsloh. However, there is a fourth village, namely Sedelsberg, which was newly colonised by Sagelterland Frisians from the surrounding villages, although its Sagelterland Frisian-speaking community is in stark decline nowadays. Last year, I explained the situation thus: “Each village has its own variant of Saterfrisian, and so there are traditionally 3 variants of Saterfrisian: Scharrel Frisian, Strücklingen Frisian and Ramsloh Frisian respectively. There is a fourth Saterfrisian-speaking village called Sedelsberg which is relatively new, because it came into existence in the 19th century through colonisation by neighbouring villages. The majority of its population was Saterfrisian-speaking during the early colonisation of the new village, but nowadays only a few elderly people in Sedelsberg can still speak Saterfrisian.”

In this article, I want to focus on Scharrel Frisian as found in the book Saterfriesische Stimmen, authored by Marron Curtis Fort and published in 1990. One of the first things I noticed about Scharrel Frisian, which is found in the aforementioned book chiefly in the texts authored by Theo Griep, is that mär with is said instead of mäd with. The latter form, namely mäd, is as I have learned Sagelterland Frisian, which is my reference point for determining what is Scharrel Frisian and what is not. Other distinct Scharrel Frisian forms include düsse this for dusse this and tjo three for trjo three, hagger higher for hager higher, färre further for färe further, faar’t for the for foar’t for the, taanke to think for toanke to think, wül verily [opposite of not, usually expressed in modern English with the verb to do] for wäil verily [opposite of not, usually expressed in modern English with the verb to do], arbaije to work for oarbai(d)je to work, masttied usually for maasttied usually, maakje to make for moakje to make, aldste eldest for ooldste eldest, wülst whilst for wiel while, altied always for aaltied always, was was for waas was, ljüde men [cf. lads] for ljude(ne) men [cf. lads].

From the examples given above, we may conclude that Scharrel Frisian (= Theo Griep’s Frisian) is not that dissimilar from the Sagelterland Frisian that I have learned, which is also the variant that one may usually encounter in the digitalised Sagelterland Frisian dictionary. Scharrel Frisian may be categorised as an accent of Sagelterland Frisian (to avoid saying dialect because it is ambiguous whether that means an accent or an actual language), because the differences between Theo Griep’s Frisian and the Sagelterland Frisian that I have learned lie chiefly in differences in vowel quality (taanke : toanke) and vowel length (färre : färe [= *fääre]). Apart from vowel differences, the consonant differences are very few: mär instead of mäd and wülst for wiel. The vocabulary of Scharrel Frisian and the Sagelterland Frisian is the same, I have not noticed any lexical differences so far. This quick analysis gives a good impression of what Scharrel Frisian is like. I can understand Scharrel Frisian with the Sagelterland Frisian that I learned and I had to pay really close attention to detail in order to discern the differences between the two variants of Sagelterlandic.

9 comments

  1. It is sad that only few older people can speak this language 😞😞😞hope you can learn more and share more to preserve languages~ please keep up~ thanks for your interesting article.

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