Written by Dyami Millarson
Wangerooge Frisian is the traditional language of the Wadden island Wangerooge (53.7890° N, 7.9020° E). I am the first of the Operation X team to have learned to speak and write Wangerooge Frisian, and I am currently working with Giovanni Pinto to help him learn the language, so we can communicate with each other in Wangerooge Frisian.
While my Wangerooge Frisian language challenge has come to a close on Friday 9 July 2021 and the Wangerooge Frisian language has successfully been revived, it is exactly 70 years, 7 months and 17 days ago since Wangerooge Frisian went extinct with the passing away of last speaker Hayo Hayen on Wednesday 22 November 1950. My Wangerooge Frisian language project is dedicated to the memory of the last speaker 70 years after his passing.
Considering that the ᛗᛁᚱᛖᚹᛁᚠᛖᚱ (mirewīfer /mʏrəwyːfər/) female sea spirits carried seaman Hayo Hayen’s spirit as the last of his culture and language back to the original Wadden island of his language and culture 70 years ago, what better way to honour him than bring back his language?
ᚹᚪᛏ ᛁᛋ ᚹᚪᛝᛖᚱᚩᚻ? ᚦᚪᛁᛏ ᛁᛋ ᛖᚾ ᚩᛚᚩᚾᛞ, ᚦᛖᚱ ᛚᛁᚢᛞ ᚢᛈ ᚹᚢᚾᛁᛏ. ᚦᚪ ᛚᛁᚢᛞ ᚳᚪᚾᛏ ᚾᛁᚻ ᛗᚩᚱ ᚦᛁᚢ ᚩᛚᛞ ᚹᚪᛝᛖᚱᚩᚷᛖᚱ ᛏᚩᛚ ᛋᛈᚱᛁᚳ, ᚾᛁᛗᛖᚾᛋ ᚳᚪᚾ ᚦᛖᚱᚢᛗ ᚾᚩᚻ ᚦᚪ ᛚᛁᚢᛞ ᚢᛈᛏ ᚩᛚᚩᚾᛞ ᚦᛁᚢ ᚩᛚᛞ ᛏᚩᛚ ᛋᛈᚱᛁᚳᛖᚾ ᚻᛖᚱ. ᚹᚢᛏ ᛁᛋ ᛖᚱ ᚷᛖᛒᚩᚱᛏ? ᚦᛖᚱ ᚹᛖᚱ ᛖᚾ ᛋᛏᚩᚱᛗᚠᛚᚩᛞ ᛁᚾ ᛞᚪᚾ ᚹᛁᚾᛏᛖᚱ ᚠᚩᚾ ᚪᚻᛏᛁᚾ ᚻᚢᚾᛖᚱᛏ ᚠᛁᚩᚱ ᚢᚾ ᚠᚩᚠᛏᛁᚷ, ᚠᛁᚠ ᚢᚾ ᚠᚩᚠᛏᛁᚷ, ᚦᛖᚾ ᛗᚢᛋᛏᛖᚱᛏ ᚦᚪ ᛚᛁᚢᛞ ᚠᚩᚾᛏ ᚩᛚᚩᚾᛞ ᚢᚾ ᚻᛁᚪ ᚷᛁᛝᛖᚾ ᚾᚪ ᚠᚩᛚ ᚹᛖᚷ ᚢᛗ ᚦᛖᚱ ᛏᚩ ᚹᚢᚾᛁᚾ. ᛋᚪ ᚠᚪᚱᛚᚩᛋ ᚹᚪᛝᛖᚱᚩᚻ ᛋᛁᚾ ᛏᚩᛚ ᚢᚾ ᚦᛁᚢ ᛏᚩᛚ ᚻᛁᚪᚱ ᚩᛚᚩᚾᛞ. ᚹᛖᚱᚢᛗ ᛋᛁᚾᛏ ᛒᚪᛁᚦᛖ ᛋᚩᚳᛖᚾ ᚠᚪᚱᛒᚢᚾᛞᛖᚾ ᛗᛁᛏᚩᚱᛖᚾ? ᚩᛚᚩᚾᛞ ᚢᚾ ᛏᚩᛚ ᛋᛁᚾᛏ ᚪᛁᚾ, ᚦᛁᚢ ᛏᚩᛚ ᛁᛋ ᚦᚪᚾ ᚩᛗ ᚠᚩᚾᛏ ᚩᛚᚩᚾᛞ. ᚦᚪᚾ ᚷᛖᛋᛏ ᚠᚩᚾ ᚹᚪᛝᛖᚱᚩᚻ ᚢᚾ ᚪᛚ ᚦᚪ ᛗᛁᚱᛖᚹᛁᚠᛖᚱ ᚳᚪᚾᛏ ᚷᚪᚾᛋ ᚾᚪᛁᚾ ᚦᛁᚢᛏᛋᚳ ᚠᚪᚱᛋᛏᚩᚾ, ᛗᚪᚾ ᚹᚪᛁᛚ ᚦᚪᛁᛏ ᚳᚹᛁᛞᛖᚱᚾ ᚠᚩᚾ ᛖ ᚹᚪᛝᛖᚱᚩᚷᛖᚱᛋ, ᚦᛖᚱᛗᛁᛏ ᛚᛁᚢᛞ ᛏᚩ ᚦᛁᚢ ᛋᚪᛁᛚ ᚠᚩᚾᛏ ᚩᛚᚩᚾᛞ ᛋᛈᚱᛁᚳᛖᛏ. ᚹᚩᚾ ᛋᛏᚢᚱᚠ ᚦᛁᚢ ᛏᚩᛚ ᚠᚩᚾ ᚹᚪᛝᛖᚱᚩᚻ? ᚦᛁᚢ ᚹᚪᛝᛖᚱᚩᚷᛖᚱ ᛏᚩᛚ ᛋᛏᚢᚱᚠ ᚾᛁᚢᚷᛖᚾᛏᛁᚾ ᚻᚢᚾᛖᚱᛏ ᚠᚩᚠᛏᛁᚷ ᛗᛁᛏ ᚦᛖ ᛚᛖᛋᛏ ᛏᚹᚩ ᛋᛈᚱᛁᚳᛖᚱᛋ ᛁᚾ ᚠᚩᛚ. ᚦᚪᚾ ᛞᚩᚦ ᚠᚩᚾ ᚦᛖ ᛏᚩᛚ ᚹᛖᚱ ᛋᛏᚢᚱ ᚠᚪᚱᛏ ᚩᛚᚩᚾᛞ, ᚹᚪᛝᛖᚱᚩᚻ ᚹᛖᚱ ᛖᚾ ᛗᛖᛗ ᚦᛖᚱ ᚻᛁᚪᚱ ᛒᛖᚾ ᚠᚪᚱᛚᛁᚱᛁᚾ ᚹᛖᚱ, ᚦᛁᚢ ᚹᚢᛚ ᚻᛁᚪᚱ ᛒᛖᚾ ᚹᛁᛞᛖᚱ ᚻᚪᛒ ᚢᚾ ᚦᛁᚢ ᛋᛖ ᛋᛁᚢᛝ ᚦᚪᛏ ᛗᛖᛗ ᚹᚪᛝᛖᚱᚩᚻ ᚾᛁᚻ ᚪᚾ ᚻᛁᚪᚱ ᛒᛖᚾ ᚳᚩᚾ, ᚹᚩ ᚳᚪᚾ ᚻᛁᚪᚱ ᚻᛁᛚᛈ? ᚦᛁᚢ ᚹᚢᛚ ᛋᚪ ᚷᛖᚱᚾ ᚹᛁᛞᛖᚱ ᚦᚪᛁᛏ ᚳᚹᛁᛞᛖᚱᚾ ᚻᛖᚱ. ᛁᚳ ᚠᚪᛁᛚᛞᛖ ᛗᛁ ᚷᚱᛁᛈᛁᚾ ᚠᚩᚾᛏ ᚩᛚᚩᚾᛞ, ᚦᛖᚱᚢᛗ ᚻᛖᛒ ᛁᚳ ᛗᛁ ᛏᚹᚩᛞᚢᛋᛖᚾᛏ ᚪᛁᚾ ᚢᚾ ᛏᚹᛁᚾᛏᛁᚷ ᚦᛁᚢ ᚹᚪᛝᛖᚱᚩᚷᛖᚱ ᛏᚩᛚ ᛋᛈᚱᛁᚳᛖᚾ ᚢᚾ ᛁᚾ ᚱᚢᚾ ᛋᚳᚱᛁᚠᛖᚾ ᛚᛖᚱᛁᛏ. ᛁᚳ ᛋᛁᛚ ᚦᚪᛁᛏ ᚳᚹᛁᛞᛖᚱᚾ ᚢᚾ ᚦᚪ ᚱᚢᚾ ᚹᛁᛞᛖᚱ ᚾᚪ ᚹᚪᛝᛖᚱᚩᚻ ᛒᚱᛁᛝ ᚢᚾ ᛗᛁᛏ ᚦᚪᛁᛏ ᚩᛚᚩᚾᛞ ᛋᛈᚱᛁᚳ ᚢᚾ ᚷᛖᚻᛖᛗ ᛞᚪᛁᛚ. ᚾᚢ ᛁᛋ ᚦᛁᚢ ᚹᚪᛝᛖᚱᚩᚷᛖᚱ ᛏᚩᛚ ᚾᛁᚻ ᛞᚩᛞ ᛗᚩᚱ, ᛗᚪᚾ ᚦᛁᚢ ᛚᛁᛒᛖᛏ ᚹᛁᛞᛖᚱ ᚢᚾ ᚢᚳ ᚦᚪ ᚠᚱᛖᛋᚳ ᚱᚢᚾ.
What is Wangerooge? It is an island on which people live. People cannot speak the old Wangeroogian language anymore, nobody can therefore hear people speak the old language on the island. What happened? There was a flood in the winter of 1854-55, then people had to go from the island and they went to Varel to live there. Thus Wangerooge lost its language and the language its island. Why are both things connected with each other? Island and language are one, the language is the breath of the island. The spirit of Wangerooge and all the sea spirits cannot understand a word of German, but they can understand the speech of the Wangeroogian Frisians, with which people can speak to the soul of the island. When did the language of Wangerooge die? The Wangeroogian language died in 1950 with the last two speakers in Varel. The death of the language was tough for the island, Wangerooge was a mom who had lost her child, she wanted to have her child again and the sea sang that mother Wangerooge could not be without her child, who can help her? She so desperately wanted to hear Wangeroogian speech again. I felt captivated by the island, therefore I have learned to speak the Wangeroogian language in 2021 and to write it in runes. I shall bring the Wangeroogian speech and the runes back to Wangerooge and I shall speak with the island and share secrets. Now the Wangeroogian language is not dead anymore, but it is alive again and also the Frisian runes.
Table of Contents
- The Documentation of Wangerooge Frisian
- The Classification of Wangerooge Frisian
- The Return of Anglo-Frisian Runes
- Wangerooge Frisian Phonology
- Wangerooge Frisian Spelling Conventions
- Wangerooge Frisian Sound History
- Wangerooge Frisian Sound Laws
- Wangerooge Frisian Grammar
- Proto-Wangeroogian Grammar
- Wangerooge Frisian Etymology
- Wangerooge Frisian Semantics
- Wangerooge Frisian Epistemology
- Index of Ehrentraut’s Work
- Questions Answered in This Article
The Documentation of Wangerooge Frisian
How do we know what we know about Wangerooge Frisian? Who drew up what we know about Wangerooge Frisian? How am I able to revive Wangerooge Frisian after it went extinct? Based on what materials/authorities? How reliable are the materials/authorities? What makes the materials/authorities reliable or unreliable?
There are named and nameless Wangerooge Frisian insiders, i.e. speakers, who have made their contributions to the written documentation of the Wangerooge Frisian language. However, speakers of Wangerooge Frisians mostly did not write about or document the language themselves.
One notorious exception is the long text Dait oajloan Wangeroog, which a Wangerooge Frisian woman wrote. However, the Wangerooge Frisians did generally not write texts in Wangerooge Frisian. They mostly let outsiders draw up their language, although they initially deemed it impossible for outsiders to learn and write their language. A similar situation historically exists with the Hindeloopen Frisians, but they actually wrote more short texts.
The outsiders, i.e. non-speakers, chiefly responsible for documenting Wangerooge Frisian on paper so we could revive it are Ulrich Jasper Seetzen (1767-1811), Heinrich Georg Ehrentraut (1798-1866) and lastly Theodor Siebs (1862-1941) whom I also know as an author on the Heligolandic language. There are a few others who have made contributions, but these were relatively small compared to these three that I have already mentioned and I will only briefly touch on the contributions of the other in this article as I want this article to serve as introduction to Wangerooge Frisian.
Three men are the main authorities on Wangerooge Frisian and they will be treated as such in this writing. However, there are other authorities on Wangerooge Frisian as well, namely Otto Bremer, Johan Winkler and G. Gröne.
The aforementioned documenters may be characterised as follows:
- Mr. Seetzen chiefly collected Wangerooge Frisian vocabulary using a phonetically inaccurate High German spelling
- Mr. Ehrentraut documented the most information about Wangerooge Frisian using a German-based phonetic spelling
- Mr. Siebs chiefly focused on the phonetics (pronunciation) and transcribed a few texts using a very phonetically accurate IPA-like spelling
I seldom use the spelling of any of these men in this article, but I am well-versed in all of these different spellings and I can accurately replicate these spellings if needed.
We know the most about Wangerooge Frisian thanks to Ehrentraut, therefore much of my information is based on him. However, the other two made invaluable contributions that canmot be ignored either.
Seetzen is relatively the least reliable, but his contributions are still relevant. Siebs is the most reliable in terms of phonetics, yet Ehrentraut, who is a quite reliable authority on Wangerooge Frisian, has documented the most about Wangerooge Frisian and Siebs is also indebted to Ehrentraut.
One should nevertheless proceed with caution as these were outsiders who were heavily influenced by German phonological (= pronunciation) assumptions and orthographic (= spelling) assumptions to various degrees. We may rightly ask, to what extent can we rely on them to have accurately represented the language of the Wangerooge Frisians?
I do not believe any of them learned Wangerooge Frisian to speak it like the natives did, i.e. learn it to express one’s unique thoughts by being able to produce one’s own sentences spontaneously with accurate pronunciation. None of them seemed to have learned the language to fluency or with the intent of being fluent in it, I believe not even Ehrentraut was an active user of the language. So when we rely on their materials, we ought to use it with caution and remember that the authors were really outsiders, though sympathetic ones, i.e. they did not integrate into the tribal community of the Wangerooge Frisians by actively speaking the language.
For this reason, it is relevant to compare the findings of all authors for an overall image as well as reconstruct Proto-Wangeroogian to get a better grasp of the language and verify the accuracy of the aforementioned authors as well as correct the shortcomings of each author.
I will be giving an overall image in this article combining knowledge from all 3 chief authors that are responsible for the documentation of Wangerooge Frisian and this combined knowledge will be supplemented by Proto-Wangeroogian.
For simplicity’s sake, one might be tempted to consider Ehrentraut the only authority on Wangerooge Frisian. While Ehrentraut made the most contributions to the documentation of Wangerooge Frisian, I will include an index of his work with clickable links at the bottom of this article. Although very valuable, much of Ehrentraut’s work reads like chaotic, scattered notes. It is important to reorganise the information obtained from him and change it to a format that is more workable for language learners. His notes were probably never meant for learning to speak and write the language, but simply for providing the information necessary for studying it like the brothers Grimm studied various Germanic languages at the time.
Who Was Theodor Siebs?
I know Theodor Siebs as the man who wrote a monumental work on Heligolandic and Sagelterlandic, namely Helgoland und seine Sprache (Heligoland and Its Language) and Das Saterland. This was my first impression of him. However, Siebs is generally known as the man responsible for the standard pronunciation of the German language and his contribution to the Indo-European phonology where one of the sound laws, namely Siebs’ law, is named after him. Siebs was someone who was particularly interested in phonetics. He wrote many works on Frisian languages. He has been credited as the founder of modern Frisian philology. Theodor Siebs, who was a prolific author on Frisian, paid much attention to the study and plight of Frisian; if organised by subject or theme, the majority of his titles are related to Frisian in one way or another. He mentioned Hindeloopen Frisian, Schiermonnikoog Frisian, Sagelterland Frisian, Wangerooge Frisian, and many other Frisian languages in his work. He managed to recognise their diversity and he was interested in the study of the history of Frisian.
He did, nevertheless, persist in the wrong idea that all modern Frisian languages are dialects of a single language. These languages have a common origin, historically, but they are not anymore the same, and the study of these languages would be quite futile, perhaps, if they only differed on a few minor points, which is not the case. In fact, these languages have complete language systems and ought not to be treated as dialects. Siebs could have taken the study of all these languages a lot more seriously if he had not wrongly identified them as dialects. Being a separate language – rather than a dialect – helps one realise that all aspects should be studied properly: phonology, morphology, syntax, style, etc. People would study Latin a lot less seriously if people called it an Italian dialect that differs from Italian on only a few minor points, such as vocalism. Though the efforts of Siebs are laudable, the approach of treating Frisian as one language is unfortunately outdated. This misconception still persists and we are working hard in the present time to make people aware of this error in our understanding of what Frisian really is: it is not a single language, but a myriad of languages comprising a language family.
I do not find his work Zur Geschichte der englisch-friesischen Sprache (On the History of the Anglo-Frisian Language), which contains his earliest published notes on Wangerooge Frisian, particularly useful nor insightful for the study of the Wangerooge Frisian language. He mentioned Wangerooge Frisian a few times, but one would wish his treatment of Wangerooge Frisian were less superficial in that work. Siebs makes mention again of Wangerooge Frisian in his Geschichte der friesischen Sprache, published as part of the 2nd edition of the 1st volume of Grundriss der germanischen Philologie (Outline of Germanic Philology). Siebs’ ideas seem to have evolved by the time this work was published and his notes have become somewhat more useful and insightful with regards to Wangerooge Frisian, though still unsatisfying. The most satisfying and useful work of Siebs on the Wangerooge Frisian is Vom aussterbenden Friesisch der Insel Wangeroog (Of the Dying Frisian of the Island Wangerooge). One could only wish he had published more works on Wangerooge Frisian like that and that he had written a work on Wangerooge Frisian like he had done for Heligolandic. Practically all of the notes on the Wangerooge Frisian language taken from Siebs are from this latest work; the Siebsian Wangerooge Frisian (see the section Chronological Types of Wangerooge Frisian) is essentially entirely based on this work. So when I talk about the Wangerooge Frisian language of Siebs, I am always referring to what he drew up in his most useful work that I previously mentioned.
Inaccessibility to the Anglophone World
My intention is to make Wangeroogian Frisian accessible to the anglophone world so that speakers of English will be able for the first time to truly get a taste of Wangerooge Frisian by learning it for themselves. The inaccessibility of the materials in and on Wangerooge Frisian made it quite impossible for speakers of English to study this language properly for themselves. Whatever is written in English about Wangerooge Frisian is far too little to be able to learn even the basics of Wangerooge Frisian. One would have to learn German to gain access to the Wangerooge Frisian language and not just any German at that, but a local form of 19th-century German with peculiar words that learners would definitely not recognise. Not only is accessibility a problem for an anglophone public, but also for a Dutch-speaking and Frisian-speaking public. I hope to correct the historical error of the inaccessibility of the materials on the Wangerooge Frisian language. The knowledge of the Wangerooge Frisian language has remained esoteric knowledge for centuries, even after German speakers started documenting it for a German-reading and German-speaking public.
Addressing the inaccessibility of Frisian minority languages is an important part of the work of Operation X; we are doing charitable work so as to correct the lack of knowledge or consciousness about such languages. We believe that more should be written about these languages in the world’s major languages, such as English and Mandarin Chinese. We also believe that national languages, such as Dutch and Italian, and provincial languages, such as shire Frisian and Groningian, can help spread knowledge of these languages to a potentially interested public. National and provincial languages have the advantage that these may target specific groups of potential learners, while major world languages have the advantage of targeting a huge variety of learners who may be different from ones targeted with national and provincial languages. The highest priority at this point is to reach a large public; for this will help the minority languages the most in the longer term. However, we also consider it crucial to spread national and provincial awareness about these languages.
The Classification of Wangerooge Frisian
Living Old Frisian
People living in gone-by centuries went to Hindeloopen and Molkwerum to hear “old Frisian.” While I can certainly attest to the notion that Hindeloopen Frisian and Molkwerum Frisian are archaic in that these languages are basically living Middle Frisian which offers us an invaluable window into the history of Netherlandic Frisian, these linguistic tourists should certainly also have stopped by Wangerooge when the language was still vibrant on the island, but they did not accord the language this special attention. If one is interested in Frisian antiquities in such a manner, one should not ignore Wangerooge Frisian. My project is not only about reviving Wangerooge Frisian, but also about correcting this persistent error.
Wangerooge Frisian is the gateway to Old Frisian in the same way that Icelandic, Faroese or Elfdalian may, on account of their conservatism, be regarded as gateways to Old Norse. Wangerooge Frisian is now the only living Frisian language – it is no longer dead – with the th-sound as in English.
What would Old Frisian sound like with simplified grammar and modern loanwords? Basically, what would Old Frisian look like if it had survived into modern times? Wangerooge Frisian answers this question. Due to its high degree of linguistic conservatism, Wangerooge Frisian may be regarded rightly as “living Old Frisian.”
All Frisian languages which I have studied so far, including Wangerooge Frisian, are immeasurably valuable because they are puzzle pieces that offer us new linguistic, cultural and philosophical insights. Particularly when you put everything together like I have been doing by studying all living Frisian languages, you get a bigger picture.
I love Wangerooge Frisian as much as all the other Frisian languages, and people with a historical interest in Frisian should certainly take a look at Wangerooge Frisian like I did. People who have a keen interest in Old English should certainly also have an interest in Wangerooge Frisian, as the Wangerooge Frisian language sounds and looks very much like Old English.
Chronological Types of Wangerooge Frisian
I divide Wangerooge Frisian into 3 types based on the people who were mainly responsible for documenting Wangerooge Frisian at the time: Seetzenian, Ehrentrautian and Siebsian. Based on Latin, I may also divide it thus: Archaic or Old Wangeroogian, Classical Wangeroogian, Vulgar or Modern Wangeroogian.
Consequently, Seetzenian Wangerooge Frisian may be regarded as Old Wangerooge Frisian, Ehrentrautian Wangerooge Frisian as Classical Wangerooge Frisian and Siebsian Wangerooge Frisian as Vulgar Wangerooge Frisian, which is the last stage before its decline. The Grimmian three-way division of old-middle-new does not seem apt for Wangerooge Frisian, but rather I would divide it into Seetzenian, Ehrentrautian and Siebsian or alternatively Old, Classical and Vulgar.
Pre-Seetzenian Wangerooge Frisian may be called Proto-Wangeroogian, as it deals with reconstructions of an earlier, (un)documented form of the language based on trends or patterns found within the language itself and related languages. Pre-Wangeroogian may be synonymous with Proto-Weser Frisian and Proto-East Frisian, yet in a broader sense it may also refer to the documented Old Frisian language.
I will often say Seetzenian, Ehrentrautian or Siebsian, which is short for Seetzenian Wangerooge Frisian, Ehrentrautian Wangerooge Frisian, etc. For instance, I may say: “This word was pronounced differently in Seetzenian.”
East Frisian Language Family
Wangerooge Frisian is related to Sagelterland Frisian, which is an East Frisian language as well. The East Frisian languages have died out in East Frisia and were replaced by Low Saxon languages. The attested East Frisian languages are the following: Wangerooge Frisian, Sagelterland Frisian, Upgant Frisian, Harlingerland Frisian, and Wursten Frisian. The last three may be revived in the same fashion as outlined in my article on the revival of extinct North Frisian languages.
Upgant Frisian was last attested in the early 17th century (1632 to be exact), Harlingerland Frisian and Wursten Frisian were last attested in the late 17th century (1691 and 1688 respectively). Upgant Frisian is traditionally the local language of what is now known as Upgant-Schott (53.5144° N, 7.2673° E), Harlingerland Frisian of the areas around Esens (53.6450° N, 7.6148° E) and Wittmund (53.5766° N, 7.7733° E) as the area that is designed as Harlingerland in today’s Germany is larger than the historical area, and Wursten Frisian of Land Wursten (53.7000° N, 8.5500° E) which may simply be called Wursten.
The coordinates of Wangerooge which I indicated between brackets are 51 km removed from those of Upgant-Schott, 24 km and 25 km from those of Esens and Wittmund respectively, and 43 km from those of Wursten. This means practically that Wangerooge Frisian was geographically closest to Harlingerland Frisian, a bit further away from Wursten Frisian and the furthest away from Upgant Frisian. Wangerooge Frisian was yet even further away from Sagelterland Frisian, namely 83 km. These geographical facts may help us understand the relationship of Wangerooge Frisian with all these other languages. The related languages that were geographically closest to Wangerooge Frisian were the most likely candidates for linguistic interaction. It is therefore no wonder that Wangerooge Frisian most closely resembles Harlingerland and Wursten Frisian.
Schiermonnikoog Frisian Connection
Ehrentraut mentioned Schiermonnikoog a couple of times in his monumental work which deals with the Wangerooge Frisian language. The Wangerooge Frisian term for Schiermonnikoog is ᛋᚳᛁᚱᛗᚩᚾᛁᚳᚩᚻ (Scirmonicōh), which Ehrentraut spelled as Schirmonnikốch /sxɪrmɔnɪˈkoːx/. Schiermonnikoog Frisian speakers refer to Schiermonnikoog as it Eilaun, which literally means the Island. You may notice I used a capital letter for both the Schiermonnikoog Frisian original and the English literal translation. I have the convention of capitalising Eilaun in the same fashion as one would capitalise the Ukraine, because Eilaun is used as a toponym in Schiermonnikoog Frisian, yet when it is used as a normal noun, I do not capitalise it. The Ehrentrautian Wangerooge Frisian cognate of eilaun is ᚩᛚᚪᚢᚾ (ōlaun). We will talk more about the origin of /au/ in both Frisian languages later in this section.
During the lifetime of my Schiermonnikoog Frisian friend and teacher Berend van Bon (click on his name for my recent article commemorating him and my friendship with him), Wangerooge Frisian was still alive. Berend van Bon told me that people spoke a language like Schiermonnikoog Frisian on a Wadden island near Groningen. He was referring to Wangerooge and Wangerooge Frisian. I told him that I was aware of this and Berend seemed shocked when I informed him that the Wangerooge Frisian language had died in the 50s. Berend opined with regards to Schiermonnikoog Frisian (as well as Wangerooge Frisian) that if a language disappears, the culture disappears as well.
The indigenous name for the Schiermonnikoog Frisian language is Eilauners or Eilaunders Islandic. Berend van Bon taught me the latter form. Many Schiermonnikoog Frisians are wont to refer to their language as Eilanders, but that is Dutch according to Berend van Bon. The Dutch (and Afrikaans) word for island is eiland, which is cognate with German Eiland island. When one juxtaposes Dutch and German words, one may be tempted to say: those are the same language! However, Dutch and German are different languages because of their divergent histories. Dutch went its way, and German went its way. The same is true for Afrikaans and Dutch, and this also holds true for all Frisian languages which went their own way. This underscores yet again why Sagelterland Frisian and Wangerooge Frisian are not the same language. Neither can Schiermonnikoog Frisian and Wangerooge Frisian be considered the same language. That is is relevant for contextualising the comparison between Schiermonnikoog Frisian and Wangerooge Frisian: we are comparing two related yet distinct languages.
Just as there is some degree of mutual intelligibility between German, Dutch and Afrikaans, there is some degree of mutual intelligibility between Wangerooge Frisian, Sagelterland Frisian and Schiermonnikoog Frisian. Berend van Bon may have been able to understand Wangerooge Frisian to some degree. I have unfortunately never been able to share my findings on Wangerooge Frisian with him and let him read Wangerooge Frisian to see how much he could understand; I will ask other Schiermonnikoog Frisians to read Wangerooge Frisian and I will let them hear the pronunciation.
The Wangerooge Frisian au comes from ō: Ehrentrautian ᚩᛚᚪᚢᚾ (ōlaun) comes from Seetzenian ᚩᛚᚩᚾᛞ (ōlōnd). Schiermonnikoog Frisian au comes from ô: compare Schiermonnikoog Frisian eilaun and East Terschelling Frisian eilôn. East Terschelling Frisian and Schiermonnikoog Frisian may be called Wadden Frisian because they share some common features, such as the change of word-initial sk- /sk/ to sch- /sx/, which also occurred in Wangerooge Frisian and Sagelterland Frisian.
I will explore the mutual intelligibility, sound relationships and grammatical (dis)similarities between Wangerooge Frisian and Schiermonnikoog Frisian in this article. I will therefore frequently mention Schiermonnikoog Frisian.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to look into the pre-history (undocumented history) of a language? This is actually possible by applying logic to language; this allows us to analyse language in such a way that we can pry into its past. Linguistic reconstruction is thus the analytical process which allows us to gain access to an earlier stage of a language.
A proto-language is a reconstructed, undocumented earlier stage of a language. The reconstruction of proto-languages allows us to look further into the past than we normally could relying only on the attested materials. In fact, we can use what is attested of a language for linguistic reconstruction aimed at gaining insight into an earlier stage of the language.
Why is the reconstruction of an earlier stage of the Wangeroogian language relevant? The reconstruction of the proto-language of Wangerooge Frisian is relevant, for instance, for the formulation of Wangerooge Frisian sound laws. Gaining a better understanding of the past allows us to get a better understanding of the present situation.
Would Wangerooge Frisians be able to understand Proto-Wangeroogian? The Proto-Wangeroogian language is mutually intelligible with the Wangerooge Frisian language, because Wangerooge Frisian and its proto-language are really not that different. The same mutual intelligibility is observed between Seetzenian, Ehrentrautian and Siebsian.
Proto-Wangeroogian may be abbreviated as PWng. I will, however, make conservative use of the abbreviation PWng. in this article as I do not want to make this article read like an etymological dictionary.
The Return of Anglo-Frisian Runes
I write Wangerooge Frisian in runes. Wangerooge Frisian will be, at least for the time being, the only living Frisian language that is consistently written in runes, i.e., that uses runes for its standard written form.
The Anglo-Frisian runes with Wangerooge Frisian characteristics are runes adapted to the Wangerooge Frisian historical situation. That said, some runes have not been revived because they were lost in Old Frisian times.
There were multiple options for spelling Wangerooge Frisian, and we have considered all of them carefully. Operation X finally had a vote among its core team about what spelling to adopt as the standard for Wangerooge Frisian, and the result of the vote was unanimously in favour of adopting the Anglo-Frisian runes since it fits the phonetics and culture so well.
A vote was also held on what spelling to use for transliterating the runes. The Operation X team voted for using the Old English spelling because that was found to be convenient for transliterating the Anglo-Frisian runes.
The revival of the runes certainly has had unintended and unforeseen advantages that I could not have known before I embarked on the adventure of writing Wangerooge Frisian in runes. It’s serendipity.
Wangerooge Frisian Phonology
I reconstructed the pronunciation of Wangerooge Frisian based on Ehrentraut’s phonetic descriptions, comparison of different spellings of words, analysis of sound relationships, Siebs’ phonetic transcriptions and notes, and sound comparison with closely related Frisian, more distantly Frisian related languages, neighbouring non-Frisian languages such as Groningen Low Saxon and East Frisian Low Saxon, and reconstructed languages such as Proto-Wangeroogian and Pre-Wangeroogian.
The Wangerooge Frisian sounds below are represented in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). I am strongly in favour of using IPA for the study of pronunciation. Neither Siebs nor Ehrentraut used IPA, but both men used phonetic spellings to represent the sounds of Wangerooge Frisian. Seetzen seems to have attempted this as well, but his methods were the least sophisticated and that is also why Ehrentraut didn’t find his predecessor’s (= Seetzen’s) writings phonetically useful.
The / / are used for approximate transcriptions in IPA and [ ] are used for accurate transcriptions. Whatever is written in / / may, through not always, be interpreted in various ways when one transcribes it accurately. Since there is doubt about the actual realisation of some sounds, the use of / / is appropriate. Wherever there is doubt, I do, however, attempt to figure out (i.e., reconstruct) the actual pronunciation of these approximately represented sounds based on the available data.
I make frequent use of phonemic theory in my description of sounds. A phoneme is a sound that has effect on the meaning of a word. The vowels in English hit and hot are phonemic, for instance. However, a phoneme is a sound that has no effect on the meaning. There are various allophonic pronunciations of the o of hot in English, none of them are phonemic, they are merely allophonic. Studying the distribution of sounds based on whether they are meaningful or not is relevant, because it helps us get a better grasp of how the Wangerooge Frisians perceived these sounds.
Since Ehrentraut is the earliest author who is phonetically reliable, I will base most of my phonetic transcriptions on him and wherever doubt arises, I will supplement his transcriptions with those of Siebs. So my phonetic transcriptions below ought to be characterised as Ehrentrautian.
Wangerooge Frisian Consonants
The 23 Wangerooge Frisian consonants are thus: /p b f v h k g x ɣ ç t d θ ð s z ʃ l r m n ŋ j/.
Wangerooge Frisian has 6 plosives, 11 fricatives, 3 nasals, 2 liquids, and 1 glides. It does not appear that all 23 consonants are phonemic, particularly /v g ð z/ do not appear to be phonemic but rather allophones of /f ɣ θ s/. These allophones are not distinguished in the runes either (see Wangerooge Frisian Spelling Conventions).
|/p/||ᛈᚪᚾᚦᚪᚳᛖ (pānþace) roof with tiles|
|/b/||ᛒᚪᛁᚦᛖ (baiðe) both|
|/f/||ᚠᚩᚱ (fōr /foʊr/) father|
|/v/||ᚹᛁᛞᚢ (wīdū /wyːduː/) widow, ᛞᚢᚠᛖ (dūve) pigeon|
|/h/||ᚻᚩᚾᛞ (hōnd) hand|
|/k/||ᚳᚱᚩᛗᚹᛁᚠ (crōmwīf /kroʊmwyːf/) midwife|
|/g/||ᚱᛁᚷᛖ (rige /rɪg(ː) ~ rɪgːə) back|
|/x/||ᚹᛁᛏᛁᚻᛖᚱ (witīher) seer|
|/ɣ/||ᚷᛖᛋᛏ (gēst) spirit|
|/ç/||ᚾᛁᚻ (nih) not|
|/t/||ᛏᚢᚾ (tūn) garden|
|/d/||ᛞᛁ (dī) day|
|/θ/||ᚦᚪᚳᛖ (þace) roof|
|/ð/||ᛒᛖᛞᛋᛏᛁᚦᛁ (bēdstiðī /bɛːdstɪðiː/) box bed|
|/s/||ᛋᚳᚩᚱᛋᛏᚪᛁᚾ (scorstain) chimney|
|/z/||ᛚᛁᛞᛋ (lidz) lie down|
|/ʃ/||ᛋᛁᛁᚱᛁᚳ (siirīc /ʃi̯ɪriːk/) church|
|/l/||ᛚᚩᚾᛞ (lōnd) land|
|/r/||ᚱᛁᚾ (rīn) rain|
|/m/||ᛗᛁᚱᛖᚹᛁᚠ (mirewīf /mʏrəwyːf/) female sea spirit|
|/n/||ᚾᚪᚻᛏ (naht) night|
|/ŋ/||ᛚᛖᛝᛏ (leŋt) length|
|/j/||ᛡᛖᚱ (jēr) year|
The voiced plosives are pronounced in final position like in English and the traditional pronunciations of Schiermonnikoog Frisian and Sagelterland Frisian. These voiced plosives might only be slightly devoiced, meaning they are somewhat less audible. There is no strong devoicing of final plosives as in Dutch and German.
/p b f k t d s l m n/ in medial position may be pronounced geminated if the accented vowel is short. /v z x z r w θ ð ŋ/ are not geminated. Gemination does not seem to be phonemic in Wangerooge Frisian. Wangerooge Frisian is not the only West Germanic language with consonantal gemination, I discovered that Cimbrian has gemination as well when I listened to recordings of this West Germanic language that is spoken in Italy. I want to study Cimbrian as well; for it might shed some more light on gemination in West Germanic.
The /g/ only occurs syllable-final in Ehrentrautian, it only occurred medially in Proto-Wangeroogian.
The cluster /sk/ in initial position was realised as [sx] in Wangerooge Frisian.
Siebsian transcriptions suggest that /s/ may be realised as /ʃ/ when it becomes palatalised before a semivocalic /i/ or /j/.
The /ç x/ pair is expected from German phonology.
The following transcriptions suggest that Siebs didn’t have the English but German w in mind when he transcribed /w/ for Wangerooge Frisian: fr̥giwə (read /fr̩gɪvə/ in modern IPA) which he notes as a loanword for vergeben forgive (the /g/ in this position is not native Wangeroogian) and aiwn̥tīd (/ai̯vn̩tiːd/ in IPA). Ehrentraut distinguished w and v: he transcribed dûv pigeon, not dûw pigeon. This means that Ehrentraut interpreted /w/ as a bilabial sound like in English and Elfdalian.
The /ŋ/ occurs after /l/, before /k/, at the end of words and between vowels. Like in other Frisian languages, it does, however, not occur at the beginning of words. Interestingly, the /n/ does not always change to /ŋ/ before /k/ in Wnagerooge Frisian: ᛋᛏᚱᚪᚾᚳᛖᚾ (strancen /strankən/) without /ŋ/ before /k/.
The dark l, which occurs in the Netherlandic/Batavian Frisian languages, does not occur in Wangerooge Frisian. Generally, the dark l does not exist in the German/Teutonic Frisian languages. The pronunciation is apparently determined by national borders.
T-d, k-g, and p-b are lenis-fortis pairs in Wangerooge Frisian like in Groningian, East Frisian Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, German, Swiss German and English. The consonants t, k and p are therefore realised more softly than in Dutch due to aspiration.
Voiced Final Consonants
Voiced final consonants occur in Schiermonnikoog Frisian, Sagelterland Frisian and Wangerooge Frisian. Voiced final consonants occur in East Frisian Low Saxon as well, which is a neighbouring language of Wangerooge Frisian and Sagelterland Frisian. If Groningen Low Saxon originally also had voiced final consonants, this may have contributed to the retention of voiced final consonants in Schiermonnikoog Frisian. Voiced final consonants occur in East Frisian Low Saxon words where a final syllable containing nothing more than a schwa is lost, which is a process that has apparently not yet been completed in East Frisian Low Saxon and I will definitely investigate it more in the future. This same process occurred in Wangerooge Frisian, where new voiced final consonants, which were not inherited from Pre-Wangeroogian, were created: /v z g ɣ/. The process of the loss of the final schwa resulting in the creation of new voiced final consonants had not yet completed in Seetzenian. Ehrentrautian ᚢᛋ (ūz) our comes from Seetzenian ᚢᛋᛖ (ūze) our, compare Harlingerland Frisian use our.
ᚱᛁᚷ (rig /rɪg(ː)/) back comes from Proto-Wangeroogian ᚱᛁᚷᛖ (rige /rɪgːə/) back, compare Harlingerland Frisian rigge back and East Frisian Low Saxon rügg and rügge back.
ᛞᚢᚠ (dūv) pigeon comes from Proto-Wangeroogian ᛞᚢᚠᛖ (dūve) pigeon, compare East Frisian Low Saxon duuv and duve pigeon. The archaic English word dove is related to these Frisian and Low Saxon words.
ᛞᚩᚦ (dōð /doʊð/) dead person, which contrasts with ᛞᚩᚦ (dōþ /doʊθ/) death, comes from Proto-Wangeroogian ᛞᚩᚦᛖ (dōðe /doʊðə/) dead person.
ᛒᚪᛁᚦ (baið) both comes from Proto-Wangeroogian ᛒᚪᛁᚦᛖ (baiðe) both, compare East Frisian Low Saxon beid and beide both and Dutch and German beide both of which no form beid exists.
The Issue of /w/
While Wangerooge Frisian has [θ] and [ð] like English, one might wonder whether Wangerooge Frisian has [w] like English and Elfdalian. Seetzen, Ehrentraut and Siebs use /w/ in their transcriptions of Wangerooge Frisian as well. However, when one compares the orthographies, it becomes clear that w = v in Siebs’ orthography like in the German orthography. For instance, Ehrentraut transcribes áiven where Siebs transcribes aiwn̥ as part of the compound aiwn̥tīd. Further evidence in favour of w being identical with v in Siebs’ Wangerooge Frisian transcriptions is the fact that Siebs also used w to transcribe [v] in Heligolandic and Sagelterlandic, as seen in his works Helgoland und seine Sprache (1909) and Das Saterland (1893) respectively.
Could the /w/ in Ehrentraut have stood for [w] rather than [v]? Ehrentraut is conspicuously silent on the /w/ while he does mention the difference between /v/ and /f/. I am of the opinion that he would have mentioned it explicitly if /w/ were pronounced like English [w]. Ehrentraut has a tendency of not saying anything about a consonant if he deems it to be exactly the same as in German. This omission of whatever Ehrentraut deems obvious or “already commonly known by a German-reading and German-speaking public” is also seen in his treatment of the Wangerooge Frisian names for the letters of the alphabet: he only mentions the name of the r as that is the only name he deems to be different from of German. Ehrentraut apparently used /w/ for aesthetic reasons to resemble the German orthography just like he did with the ei and ai.
It may be assumed that /w/ was [v] in Seetzen as well. The retention of [w] in Wangerooge Frisian seems unlikely as the neighbouring East Frisian Low Saxon and the related Sagelterland Frisian have [v] where [w] would be historically expected. This sound change seems to have occurred throughout the linguistic landscape of East Frisia, and it can also be assumed that the other East Frisian languages had [v] for [w]. Furthermore, all the West Frisian languages have [v] for [w] and I have noticed the same pronunciation in all North Frisian languages. This appears to be a universal Frisian phonological trait. In other words, the sound change from [w] to [v] appears to be universal among the Frisian languages. As a result of there being no contrary evidence, I reconstruct [v] in other East Frisian languages as well for where [w] would be historically expected; I do not expect Upgant Frisian, Harlingerland Frisian and Wursten Frisian to have retained [w].
The historical [w] may only be retained in some Frisian languages as an allophone of [v] in some Frisian words where it is influenced by an /u/-sound. The [w] is retained in such positions in Hindeloopen Frisian, Schiermonnikoog Frisian and Sagelterland Frisian for example. However, the word-initial [w] is completely absent in those languages and this means that [w] can only occur in final and medial positions under very specific circumstances. It should therefore be emphasised that [w] is not phonemic in those languages and that the shift from [w] to [v] has taken place in those languages as well, which means that they not disprove that the shift from [w] to [v] is universal among the modern Frisian languages, including Wangeroogian. I am, therefore, tempted not to reconstruct [w] for Proto-Wangeroogian either, though [w] probably existed in Old Frisian at some stage. Nevertheless, the rounding of /iː/ to /yː/ and /ɪ/ to /ʏ/ before /w/ does create some questions about /w/, as a comparable rounding of vowels occurred before the /v/ in Classical Latin where the /v/ stood for a bilabial [w].
Wangerooge Frisian Vowels
The Wangerooge Frisian vowels are as follows: /ä ɛ ə œ ɪ ʏ ɔ ʊ äː eː ɛː øː œː iː yː oː ɔː uː/.
|/ɛː/||ᛒᛖᛞ (bēd /bɛːd/) bed|
|/iː/||ᛁᚱᛋᛖᚾ (īrzen) iron|
|/ʏ/||ᛗᛁᚱᛖᚹᛁᚠᛖᚱ (mirewīfer /mʏrəwyːfər/) sea spirits|
|/ɔː/||ᚷᚩᛏ (gōt /ɣɔːt/) gutter|
|/ʊ/||ᛞᚢᚱᚾ (durn) door|
Not all of these vowels are phonemic. /ɛː/ and /ɔː/ are cases in point, while these merely seem to be allophones of /eː/ and /oː/.
As /œ/ and /øː/ also occur in German, it is perhaps not that surprising that the same occur in Wangerooge Frisian. Additionally, the long vowels /øː œː/ are not a phonemic pair in Wangerooge Frisian phonology.
The vowel distribution between /ɛ/ and /ə/ is such that the former only occurs in accented syllables and the latter only in unaccented syllables. Both are allophones of the same phoneme.
Proto-Wangeroogian may have had a simpler vocalic system than that which is observed in Ehrentrautian. There is evidence for this in Seetzenian already.
One might say that the difference between /ɪ/ and /iː/, between /ʏ/ and /yː/ and between /ʊ/ and /uː/ is not really a difference of vowel length, but of vowel quality. This is harder to say about /ɛ/ and /eː/ and about /ɔ/ and /oː/ because /eː/ and /oː/ are allophonic with /ɛː/ and /ɔː/, though originally the situation may have been like the the aforementioned three vowel pairs. Proto-Wangeroogian may have had vowel harmony, of which the Ehrentrautian vocalic system still has plenty of remnants. So the distinction between long and short vowels was originally one between lax and tense vowels.
Long vowels may occur in unstressed syllables in Wangerooge Frisian. This is an exotic feature among the Germanic languages as well as among other European languages such as the Romance languages.
The interpretation of /eː/ and /oː/
There are various vowel modifications in Wangerooge Frisian, particularly of the /eː/ and /oː/ pair: /eː/ and /oː/ may be pronounced as the diphthongs [eɪ̯] and [oʊ̯] based on Siebs (these sounds were originally written as ēᶦ with superscript i and ōᵘ with superscript u by Siebs, these sounds could be transcribed to IPA as /eːɪ/ and /oːʊ/ using approximate transcription which might be different from the actual realisation). This is similar to the less conservative Northern Dutch pronunciation of long e and o. Both the /eɪ/ and /oʊ/ also occur in Icelandic as well as American English. British English, which is my native English accent, does have /eɪ/ but not /oʊ/ as the latter is usually pronounced /əʊ/ in British.
Wangerooge Frisian Diphthongs
The Wangerooge Frisian diphthongs are thus: /ai̯ äːi̯ aʊ̯ aːʊ̯ ə̯aʊ̯ eːɪ̯ oːə̯ oɪ̯ oːɪ̯ oːi̯ i̯oː ɪ̯oː ə̯oː i̯ʊ i̯uː iʊ̯ iːʊ̯ iːu̯/.
|/äi̯/||ᚷᚪᛁᛋᛏ (gaist) mind|
|/äʊ̯/||ᚩᚠᛋᚾᛁᚦ (ōfsnīð /äʊ̯fˈsniːð/) to cut off|
|/äːʊ̯/||ᚠᚩᚾ (fōn /fäːʊ̯n/) girl|
|/ə̯äʊ̯/||ᛋᚳᚩ (scō /sxə̯äʊ̯/) flag|
|/ɪ̯oː ~ ə̯oː/||ᛏᚱ(ᛁ)ᚩ (tr(i)ō /trɪ̯oː/) loyal|
Not all of these diphthongs are phonemic. For instance, there appears to be no phonemic distinction between /ə̯au̯/ and /au̯/, between /ə̯oː/ and /i̯oː/, between /i̯uː/, /iːu̯/ and /iːuː/ and between /äʊ̯/ and /äːʊ̯/.
Wangerooge Frisian has both falling and rising diphthongs of the /iu/ variety.
The short diphthongs /äʊ̯/ and /äi̯/ only occur in unstressed or weakly stressed syllables as an allophone of /äːʊ̯/ and /äːi̯/ respectively.
The interpretation of /oːə̯/
Ehrentraut transcribes /oːə̯/ (originally written as ôₑ in Ehrentraut’s works) in places where Siebs transcribes /oːʊ/ (originally written as ōᵘ). I think the latter is the likeliest to be indicative for the true pronunciation of both interpretations, and I believe both should narrowly be represented as [oʊ̯] in IPA (though [oːʊ̯], like in Icelandic, or [oˑʊ̯] would technically be possible). When writing an approximate transcription, I have the tendency to write /oː/ for these sounds. I usually transcribe the Ehrentrautian /oːə̯/ and Siebsian /oːʊ/ as simply /oː/ because of the following reasons:
- There is no distinction made between Ehrentrautian /oː/ and /oːə̯/ in runic spelling.
- /oː/ and /oːə̯/ ostensibly seem to have an allophonic relationship.
- Ehrentraut himself did not write /eːə̯/ for Siebsian /eːɪ/ (which is written originally by Siebs as ēᶦ with superscript i, and I would interpret this as [eɪ] in precise IPA transcription), so why not write /oː/ for /oːə̯/?
- In many cases where Ehrentraut wrote /oː/, Wangerooge Frisians could have realised the sound /eːə̯/ (which is noted as /oʊ/ in Siebs).
- Though not quite as relevant as the other arguments, Dutch, American English and Icelandic do not distinguish between /oː/ and /oʊ/ (which Ehrentraut wrote as /oːə̯/) either.
The issue of overlong diphthongs
Ehrentraut transcribed /iːuː/ and /oːiː/, yet Siebs transcribed these sounds as /i̯uː/ and /oːi̯/ and Ehrentraut interchanged these sounds with /i̯uː/ and /oːi̯/, which could mean that (a) /iːuː/ and /oːiː/ were variable and/or that (b) /iːuː/ and /oːiː/ were disappearing; one thing is for certain, though, these sounds transcribed by Ehrentraut were not phonemically distinguished from those that Siebs transcribed. Alternatively, Ehrentraut could have meant /iːuː/ and /oːiː/ in all cases and those other writings might be mistakes, which is an unlikely scenario. Ehrentraut insists in his treatment of the Wangerooge Frisian pronunciation that /iːuː/ and /oːiː/ existed in his time, and if we believe him on this, there are the following options:
- /iːuː/ and /oːiː/, which Ehrentraut insisted were monosyllabic, were pronounced as an overlong rising diphthong [i̯ːuː] and an overlong falling diphthong [oːi̯ː] respectively (alternatively, though unlikely, /iːuː/ might be interpreted as an overlong falling diphthong [iːu̯ː], which would, however, not be in agreement with the fact that Siebs transcribed a rising rather than a falling diphthong). The scenario of overlong diphthong seems odd to me because i have never consciously encountered it in other languages before. Nevertheless, if long glides are possible, I do not see why it wouldn’t be phonetically possible to pronounce long semivowels /i̯ː/ and /u̯ː/ in diphthongs. Upon closer reflection, I guess that the English (esp. female) exclamation eww and the Dutch (esp. female) exclamation ieuw might be pronounced as overlong diphthongs: /ɪːʊ̯ː/ and /iːu̯ː/. The latter would sound the most like the Wangerooge Frisian /iːuː/ that Ehrentraut transcribed.
- /iːuː/ and /oːiː/, which Ehrentraut insisted were monosyllabic, might be interpreted as qualitatively different from /i̯uː/ (alternatively: /iːu̯/) and /oːi̯/ in that the latter pair should be interpreted as [ɪ̯uː] (alternatively: [iːʊ̯]) and [oːɪ] and the former pair as [i̯uː] (or [iːu̯]) and [oːi̯]. This would mean that the solution might be that the semivowels had different qualities rather than different lengths of pronunciation. I find this solution somewhat unsatisfactory, but it could work. My reason for finding it unsatisfactory is because Ehrentraut’s /ə̯oː/ and /i̯oː/ might both then be interpreted as /ɪ̯oː/, and if both /ə̯oː/ and /i̯oː/ are to be interpreted the same way, why would Ehrentraut write them differently? Ehrentraut did, however, admit that he had two ways of writing /ai̯/, so this scenario of him having two ways of writing /ɪ̯oː/ is plausible, yet why would he do that and why wouldn’t he say so himself? His reason for having two ways of writing /ai̯/ seems to have been inspired by German spelling, yet I see no such reason for having two ways of writing /ɪ̯oː/, so this scenario has its drawbacks.
- /iːuː/ and /oːiː/, which Ehrentraut insisted were monosyllabic, were perhaps not monosyllabic at all, but disyllabic. I came up with the following disyllabic interpretations: [iːjuː] and [oːjiː]. This is, however, perhaps the least likely scenario as this would mean that Ehrentraut was wrong about these sounds being monosyllabic. Interpretations where these sounds are disyllabic are much more likely to be true.
Transcribing Siebs to IPA
I transcribed a transcription of Wangerooge Frisian by Siebs (see the right) to IPA (see the left) using narrow transcription. This text may serve as an example of the pronunciation of Siebsian Wangerooge Frisian.
[ˈʔäɪnmoːə̯l ˈveːɪ̯rn̩ viː mɪtʰ ˈtʰvoː ˈsxyːpʰuː ʔʊn ˈväːɪ̯ln̩ vɛːɣ tʰoːʊ̯ ˈsiːliːçˌfäŋn̩ nuː ˈläːɪ̯ɣn̩ viː mitʰ də ˈsxyːpʰuː ʔɪnə ˈɣroːə̯t ˈbälɣ däː ˈɣɪŋn̩ viː mɪtʰ də ˈjɛl näːt ˈɣroːə̯t ˈrɪf däɪ̯t ˈveːɪr ʔɪnə ˈʔäɪvn̩ˌtʰiːd̥ nuː ˈkʰäːʊmn̩ viː ʔäntʰ ˈɣroə̯tʰ ˈrɪf ʔäs viː wɛːɣˈloːə̯pʰ ˈväːɪ̯ln̩ doː ˈtʰväːɪ̯dn̩ viː jeːn dän ˈfɛntʰ deːr ʔɪnə ˈjɛl ˈbliːv ˈmʊst viː ˈɣʊŋətʰ nuː vɛːɣ ʔʊn vɔn däɪ̯tʰ ˈdi̯ʊŋkʰ ˈväːrtʰ dɛn ˈtʰɪkʰ duː ʔɪnə ˈjɛl dɛn ˈkäːntʰ viː däɪ̯tʰ ˈhɛːɪ̯r vɔn viːtʰ ˈsiːliːçˌfäŋn̩ däɪ̯n ˈhɛbtʰ nuː ˈɣʊŋətʰ viː vɛːɣ näː də ˈsiːliːçs tʰoːʊ̯ duː ˈmʊst ʔäːbr̩ nɪç ˈsläːɪ̯p äs viː deːɪ̯r ˈkʰäːʊ̯mn̩ ˈkʰäːʊ̯mn̩ deːr mɪtʰäɪ̯ns ˈtʰväɪ̯n ˈsiːliːç dän ˈʔeːə̯n ˈkʰäːʊ̯m ˈɣliːks ˈfiːv ˈsɛks ˈtʰrɛːɪ̯d ʔʊpt ˈdruːx nuː ˈkʰäːʊ̯m dr̩ nɔx ʔoːə̯rs ˈʔeːə̯n ʔänˈsvɔmn̩ nuː ˈväɪ̯l hiː deː biː miː ˈveːɪ̯r däːn ˈsiːliːç ˈʃʷi̯oːə̯t deːr ʔʊpt ˈdruːɣ ˈlɪçt nuː ˈʃʷi̯ʊt̪ʰ hiː dän deːr nɔx ˈkʰʊmtʰ ʔʊn ʔiːkʰ ˈʃʷi̯oːə̯tʰ dän ˈʔoːə̯r nuː ˈhɛ viː tʰväɪ̯n tʰoːɣəˈliːkʰ däː ˈkʰʊmtʰr̩ nɔx ˈʔeːə̯n ʔänˈsvɔmn̩ viː ˈʃʷi̯otr̩t hɪm duː ˈmɛnst väɪ̯l duː ˈhɛst hɪm ˈsxɪtiːn ʔäːbr̩ ʔiːk ˈhɛb ʔʊk ˈsxɪtiːn däː heː dän ˈsiːliːç ˈtʰväɪ̯n ˈsxœə̯t tʰoːɣəˈliːk ˈkʰrɪɣiːn däː ˈhäːɪ̯dn̩ viː ˈθrɛːɪ̯ däː ˈkʰäːʊ̯mn̩ dr̩ nɔx ˈtʰväɪ̯n däː ˈsxoːʊ̯tn̩ viː ʔʊk däː ˈhäːɪ̯dn̩ viː ˈfiːv nuː ˈvuːr däitʰ ˈdi̯ʊŋkʰ nuː vä(ː?)ɪ̯ln̩ viː hɪm äʊ̯fˈsniːd̥ (äʊ̯fˈsniːð?) ʔʊn ʔuːs ˈsäːksn̩ däː ˈveːɪ̯rn̩ tʰoːʊ̯ ˈstuːf nuː ˈkʰräːɪ̯ɣn̩ viː n̩ ˈpʰoːʊ̯r äʊ̯fˈsniːðiːn nuː ˈduːr͉stn̩ viː nɪ läːŋr̩ däɪ̯tʰ ˈvuːrd̥ ˈtʰiːd̥ dätʰ viː mɪtʰ ʔuːs ˈsiːliːçs näː də ˈjɛl ˈkʰäːʊ̯mː (???) nuː ˈhäɪ̯dn̩ viːn ˈblɪŋk ʔɪnə ˈlʊxt tʰoːʊ̯n ˈmɛːrk ˈniːmiːn deːɪ̯r viː ʔʊpʰ ʔäːnˈliːpn̩ nʊ ˈliːpn̩ viː ˈluːŋ ˈtʰiːd̥ juː ˈtʰiːd̥ ˈvuːrd̥ ʔuːs deːr ˈluːŋ ʔuːr ˈʔeːı̯r viː biː də ˈjɛl ˈkʰäːʊ̯mn̩ nuː ˈhäːɪ̯d̥ dän ˈfɛntʰ mɪtʰ siːn ˈkʰlɔpm̥ ˈʔʊpʰhiːliːn nuː ˈfʊŋn̩ viː än ˈtʰräːʊ̯pn̩ ˈkʰräːɪ̯ɣn̩ ʔäːbr̥ näɪ̯n ˈʔäntʰvoːʊ̯d̥ nuː ˈkʰäːʊ̯m ʔuːs də ˈʔoːŋst ʔʊnr̥ viː ˈfʊŋn̩ ʔäːn tʰoːʊ̯ ˈʃi̯oːə̯tn̩ ʔʊn däː mɪtʰ ɣəˈvältʰ ʔäːn ˈtʰräːʊ̯pʰn̩ vʊtʰ viː ˈräːʊ̯pʰ ˈkʰuːnn̩ däː ˈkʰräːɪ̯ɣn̩ viː ˈʔäntʰvoːʊ̯d̥ fɔn ʔuːz ˈsxyːpʰuː ʔʊn jäː ˈkʰräːɪ̯ɣn̩ də länˈtʰeːɪ̯rn ʔʊpʰ ˈdɛkʰ; däː ˈsnäkʰətn̩ viː hiːr män ˈhoːʊ̯əd hiːr ˈlɪdz ʔiːkʰ mɪtʰ də ˈjɛl däː ˈhäɪ̯d hiː ˈsliːpʰiːn däː ˈtʰväːɪ̯dn̩ viː i̯eːn hɪm duː ˈʔuːı̯zl̩ (ˈʔäːı̯zl̩???) duː ˈhɛst ˈsliːpʰiːn däɪ̯tʰ ˈʔɪs nɪç ˈveːı̯r duː ˈsäːtʰän duː ˈsvɪxst ʔoːə̯rs ˈhäːʊ̯ ʔiːkʰ diː ʔɪnə ˈbriːn hiː ˈväɪ̯l däɪ̯tʰ ʔäːbr̥ nɪç ˈvɪtʰə dätʰ hiː ˈsliːpʰiːn ˈhäɪ̯d̥ nuː ˈliːpʰn̩ viː ˈθɪçtʰ biː də ˈjɛl dɛn ˈkʰuːnn̩ də ˈjɛl nɪç ˈʃi̯oːʊ̯ juː ˈjɛl ˈläːɪɣ biː də ˈkʰäntʰn̩ ˈdɪlə däː ˈʔɪs hiː fɔn ʔuːz ˈsnäkʰɪn ˈʔʊpʰväkʰetʰ ʔʊn däː ˈroːɪ̯dn̩ viː mɪtʰ də ˈjɛl näː ʔuːz ˈsxyːpʰuː tʰoːʊ̯ ʔʊn säː ˈkʰäːʊ̯mn̩ viː ʔäm ˈboːʊ̯d̥]
fon n̥ sīlīχš’ı̯ōətn̥
ainmōᵊl wēᶦr wī mit twō sxǖpū un wāiln (read: wāiln̥) wǣʒ tōᵘ sīlīχfaŋn̥. nū lāiʒn wī mit də sxǖpū in ‘e ʒrōət bālʒ; dā ʒīŋn̥ wī mit də jæl nā’t ʒrōət rif, dait wēᶦr in ‘ə aiwn̥tīd. nū kāumn̥ wī an’t ʒrōət rif. As (read: as, no capital letter at beginning of sentence in phonetic notation) wī wǣʒlōᵊp wāiln (read: wāiln̥), dō twāidn̥ wī ı̯ēn (= jēn) dan fænt, dēr in ‘ə jæl blīw must: »»wī ʒuŋət nū wǣʒ, un won dait djuŋk (read: dı̯uŋk) wārt, dæn tik dū in ‘ə jæl, dæn kāut (read: kānt) wī dait hǣᶦr, won wī ‘t sīlīχfaŋn̥ dain hæbt: nū ʒuŋət wī wǣʒ nā də sīlīχs tōᵘ; dū must ābr̥ niχ slāip!«« as wī dēᶦr kāumn̥, kāumn̥ dēr mitains twain sīlīχ, dan ēən (= ēᵊn) kāum ʒlīks fīw sæks trǣᶦd up ‘t drūx. nū kāum dr̥ nox ōᵊrs ēən (= ēᵊn) answomn̥. nū wail hī, dē bī mī wēᶦr, dān (read: dan?) sīlīχ š’ı̯ōət, dēr up ‘t drūʒ lāiʒ. ik níkopət, hī sul dan ōᵘr nimə, dēr answomn̥ kāum; dæn wul ik dan š’ı̯ōət, dēr up ‘t drūʒ liχt. nū š’ı̯ut hī dan, dēr nox kumt, un īk š’ı̯ōət dan ōər (= ōᵊr); nū hæ’ wī twain tōʒəlīk. dā kumt r̥ nox ēən (= ēᵊn) answomn̥; wī š’ı̯ōᵘtr̥t him. »»dū mænst wail, dū hæst him sxítīn, ābr̥ īk hæb uk sxítīn.«« dā hē dan sīlīχ twain sxöət tōʒəlīk krīʒīn. dā hāidn̥ wī þrǣᶦ. dā kāumn̥ dr̥ nox twain. dā sxōᵘtn̥ wī uk, dā hāidn̥ wī fīw. nū wūr’ dait djuŋk (= dı̯uŋk); nū wailn̥ (read: wāiln̥?) wī him āufsnīd (read: āufsnīđ), un ūs sāksn̥, dā wēᶦrn (read: wēᶦrn̥) tōᵘ stūf. nū krāiʒn̥ wī n̥ pōᵘr āufsnīđīn. nū dūʳstn̥ wī ni lāŋr̥, dait wūrd tīd, dat wī mit ūs sīlīχs nā də jæl kāum̄ (???). nū haidn̥ wī ‘n (do not read n̥) bliŋk in ‘ə luxt tōᵘn mǣrk nī́mīn, dēᶦr wī up ānlīpn (read: ānlīpn̥). nu līpn̥ wī lūŋ tīd; jū tīd wūrd ūs dēr lūŋ ūr, ēᶦr wī bī də jæl kāumn̥. nū hāid dan fænt mit sīn klopm̥ úphīlīn. nū fuŋn̥ wī an t’ rāupn̥, krāiʒn̥ ābr̥ nain antwōᵘd, nū kāum ūs də ōŋst unr̥, wī fuŋn̥ ān tōᵘ š’ı̯ōətn̥ un dā mit ʒəwalt ān t’ rāupn̥, wut wī rāup kūnn̥. dā krāiʒn̥ wī antwōᵘd fon ūʃ sxǖpū, un jā krāiʒn̥ də lantēᶦrn up dæk; dā snakətn̥ wī «» »»hīr man hōᵘəd, hīr lidʃ īk mit də jæl.«« «« dā haid hī slīpīn. dā twāidn̥ wī ı̯ēn him: »»dū ūᶦʃl̥ (read: āᶦʃl̥???), dū hæst slīpīn.«« »»»»dait is niχ wēᶦr!«««« »»dū sātan, dū swixst, ōərs hāu īk dī in ‘ə brīn!«« hī wail dait ābr̥ niχ witə, dat hī slīpīn haid. nū līpn̥ wī þiχt bī də jæl, dæn kūnn̥ (compare with kānt for kānt) də jæl niχ š’ı̯ōᵘ; jū jæl lāiʒ bī də kantn̥ dilə. dā is hī fon ūʃ snakin upwaket un dā rōidn̥ wī mit də jæl nā ūʃ sxǖpū tōᵘ, un sā kāumn̥ wī am bōᵘd.
Wangerooge Frisian Runic Orthography
Orthography is a scholarly word for spelling. It might also be interpreted as meaning “the scholarly study of spelling.”
Futhorc (the set of Anglo-Frisian runes) has been reduced to 19 runes for Wangerooge Frisian: ᚠ f, ᚢ u, ᚦ þ, ᚩ o, ᚱ r, ᚳ c, ᚷ g, ᚹ w, ᚻ h, ᚾ n, ᛁ i, ᛈ p, ᛋ s, ᛏ t, ᛒ b, ᛖ e, ᛗ m, ᛚ l, and ᚪ a.
The following Anglo-Frisian runes are defunct or non-existent in the Wangerooge Frisian orthography: ᛇ ï, ᛉ x, ᛝ ŋ, ᛟ œ, ᚫ æ, ᛠ ea, ᚣ y.
Most of the defunct runes can be assumed to not have survived through the Old Frisian period due to sound changes in Old Frisian, and therefore it would be inauthentic to revive them for Wangerooge Frisian (see Wangerooge Frisian Spelling Authentication).
The ᚹ w rune is mostly purely ornamental because it is generally pronounced the same as ᚠ in intermediate positions. However, it can be argued that the distinction is phonemic: ᚹᚪᛁᛚ (wail) to desire and ᚠᚪᛁᛚ (fail) to feel. Therefore, it makes sense that the w rune is retained.
Wangerooge Frisian distinguishes voiced and voiceless plosives, therefore it would not adopt the younger futhark convention of writing voiceless plosives for voiced plosives, it remains true to the futhorc convention of distinguishing the runic c-g pair and b-p b pair That is why the p rune is extant in the Wangerooge Frisian orthography.
Basically, each rune has to pass the Old Frisian and Proto-Wangeroogian sound test first: was the sound that this rune represents present in Old Frisian and if so, was it present in Proto-Wangeroogian?
Wangerooge Frisian Spelling Conventions
The runic spelling is a simplified representation of the phonetics of the Wangerooge Frisian language. It is therefore up to the speaker to know or learn the correct pronunciation of the word.
The runic spelling is infinitely simpler than the Ehrentrautian and Siebsian spellings that were intended to be phonetic. The runic spelling is not intended to be phonetic, but rather to be of practical, historical and cultural use.
Following the traditionalism of runic spelling, the spelling of Wangerooge Frisian may be archaic and may go back to Proto-Wangeroogian sound developments. The spelling may not be up to date with regards to the phonetics.
The traditionalism of the runic spelling does offer an insight, however, into the etymology of Wangerooge Frisian words and sounds and this may be seen as an argument for the retention of archaic spellings.
Spellings of languages usually aren’t regular. In fact, spelling reforms are often widely opposed as people get used to their spelling conventions and consequently spellings of languages show archaisms.
Spellings often offer insight into an elder stage of a language, perhaps a golden age. The Wangerooge Frisian spelling offers some insight into Proto-Wangeroogian as it shows the old image of the words involved.
Archaic spellings are like gazing at the stars. We are looking into the past when we look at stars because the light of stars take time to reach us, we are not seeing the present situation.
The stars we see are light reflections that we ought to understand as images of the past; archaic spellings of Wangerooge Frisian are images of the past as well, and that is why runes offer a valuable perspective.
Runic offer cultural insights when one adheres to traditionalist conventions. Of course, spellers of all ages, whether they spelled runes or not, were also innovative.
However, what is to be expect is that writers might be disinclined to alter the fundamental image of words that would obscure their original form. Frisian writers generally showed this kind of traditionalism, and therefore it has also been adopted by me.
Additionally, interpreting runes is really an art, which makes you pause and ponder words. The artistic and philosophical aspects should not be overlooked, as these add value to the cultural use of the Wangerooge Frisian.
The concept of word images or word sculptures (Shire Frisian: wurdbylden) as seen in runic spellings may be regarded as related to the prototypes or protoforms (Shire Frisian: oerfoarmen) discussed in my article on my father’s philosophy.
The runes help us go on a spiritual, artistic and philosophical journey so we find the oerfoarmen of Wangerooge Frisian. This mysterious, meditative quality brought about the serendipity I talked about in The Return of the Anglo-Frisian Runes.
Following the runic tradition, no double vowels or consonants are written. You will therefore not find ᚹᚪᛏᛏᛖᚱ (watter) water and ᚷᚩᚩᛚᛞ (goold) gold for ᚹᚪᛏᛖᚱ (water) water and ᚷᚩᛚᛞ (gōld) gold.
No distinction is made between the phonetic pairs /f v/, /ɣ g/, /θ ð/ and /s z/ in the runic spelling. They are written as ᚠ, ᚷ, ᚦ and ᛋ respectively. I have, however, chosen to distinguish these sound pairs in my transcription.
Wangerooge Frisian Spelling Authentication
The Wangerooge Frisian spelling authentication is a test to prevent the inauthentic adoption of runes. Inauthentic adoption means that the adoption would conflict with the natural sound history of the language. Additionally, the Wangerooge Frisian spelling is authenticated based on the runic tradition. Old spelling conventions such as lack of geminates have been adopted. The only spelling convention that has been rejected is scripta continua (continuous script without spaces): I do write Wangerooge Frisian with spaces and punctuation. Chinese was written without Western punctuation in the past as well and without Western spaces, but it was too convenient for Chinese not to adopt it. The same is true for the runic spelling of Wangerooge Frisian: it is simply convenient to adopt normal spacing and punctuation. Additionally, while Latin used to be written without spacing and punctuation in the past, it is nowadays not written like that anymore.
To further understand the runic tradition, we should also wonder how it was transmitted. There were no dictionaries in the past where people could simply check how to spell words. The spelling of words was based, as one can imagine, mostly on knowledge of runic artefacts in one’s surroundings that one could imitate and it was based on spelling words as one would pronounce them. There may nevertheless be some degree of conservatism in runic spelling as seen in the romanised Frisian spellings of later ages as well. We can therefore expect Wangerooge Frisian spelling to show a degree of conservatism; it would in other words be inauthentic to have no conservatism in the Wangerooge Frisian spelling at all.
The natural evolution of sounds through Old Frisian and Proto-Wangeroogian (see the section on Wangerooge Frisian Sound History) has to respected so that the Wangerooge Frisian orthography will not be inauthentic. That is why it is relevant to know what happened to the phonology in Old Frisian and Proto-Wangeroogian; sound history is an edifice of knowledge that cannot be ignored. The spelling conventions are based on the natural evolution of the pronunciation of Wangerooge Frisian and all its earlier historical stages stretching back many centuries.
Sound evolution is a cumulative process that cannot be changed: once certain sounds are lost, this means certain runes are irreversibly lost as well unless artificially reintroduced or borrowed from another (neighbouring) runic tradition. Interaction with other runic traditions can, however, not be assumed due to the decline of the runic alphabet in Germanic Europe.The assumption for the authenticity of the Wangerooge Frisian orthography is simply that this Frisian runic tradition is continuous and thus an exception in its linguistic neighbourhood; authenticity is based on an assumption of continuity, and this would necessarily mean being exceptional due to this historic decline of runic alphabets. No assumption is made of history being completely different for the other languages, but assumptions are only made for the Wangerooge Frisian orthography.
Here are the exact reasons why it would be inauthentic to revive specific runes:
- The ï rune is too rare to have survived to Wangerooge Frisian times. Furthermore, it is existed within a too specific context for it to remain in use for such a long time.
- The x rune was merely an Anglo-Saxon scribal attempt to find an equivalent to the Latin x. This rune was originally used for another sound and after it had become defunct, it was revived to transcribe x. Writing cs (a combination of two runes) makes sense according to the indigenous runic tradition and the use of the x rune probably cannot be regarded as authentically Frisian.
- The ŋ rune was used in very specific contexts, and it was phased out. It would not have survived even Old Frisian times, and therefore it would not have survived into Wangerooge Frisian.
- The œ rune would already have been abandoned by Old Frisian times. It would therefore not have made it into Proto-Wangeroogian, which might, in fact, originally not even have this sound.
- The æ rune would have been lost by Old Frisian times due to sound changes. Proto-Wangeroogian did not have this sound originally, but eventually it developed from the lengthening of the short /e/ (see the section on Wangerooge Frisian Sound Laws).
- The ea rune is a purely Anglo-Saxon rune, it cannot be assumed to have existed in Old Frisian unless by means of borrowing, but one ought to assume the Frisians would have had little use for it.
- The y rune would have been lost like the œ rune due to sound changes. Old Frisian did not have this sound anymore at some point and neither did Proto-Wangeroogian originally have this sound. However, late Proto-Wangeroogian started developing this sound, just like in the case of the lengthening of the /e/ which was presumably a late Proto-Wangeroogian development while related languages, namely Wursten Frisian and Harlingerland Frisian, do not exhibit this feature.
Wangerooge Frisian Sound History
I will deal with the history of Wangerooge Frisian sounds in this section.
ᛗᛁᚱᛖᚹᛁᚠ (mirewīf) comes from Proto-Wangeroogian ᛗᛖᚱᛖᚹᛁᚠ (merewīf), which is cognate with Old English merewif mermaid. This is the evolution of the pronunciation of the first element of the PWng. compound ᛗᛁᚱᛖᚹᛁᚠ (merewīf): /meːrə/ > /mɪrə/ > /mʏrə/. In other words, the following stem vowel changes happened: (1) a shortening of the stem vowel, (2) a raising of the stem vowel, and (3) a rounding of the stem vowel.
Vowel lengthening, vowel raising and vowel rounding are common phonetic phenomena in Wangerooge Frisian. Vowel shortening and vowel lowering do also occur. Below I will provide instances that may be taken as evidence that these phenomena occurred in Proto-Wangeroogian.
Vowel reduction was common in Proto-Wangeroogian unstressed syllables as well like in the other Frisian and Germanic languages, but what is special about Proto-Wangeroogian is vowel lengthening in unstressed syllables.
Vowel rounding has occurred in the following instances: ᛞᛁᚻᛁᚱ (dīhīr /dyːhyːr/) daily remuneration, ᛞᛁᛚᚢᛝ (dīlūng /dyːluːŋ/) today and ᚹᛁᛞᚢ (wīdū /wyːduː/) widow and ᚹᛁᚠ (wīf /wyːf/) wife.
Unrounded long vowels, which correspond to rounded long vowels in Ehrentrautian, are attested in Seetzenian, which means that vowel rounding was still productive after Proto-Wangeroogian.
Vowel raising has occurred in the following instances: ᚻᛁᚱ (hīr) remuneration, ᚹᛁᛏ (wit) something, ᚹᚢᛏ (wut) what and ᚹᚢᚾᛏ (wunt) glove.
-ᛁ (-ī) < PWng. -ᛡᛖ (-je) or -ᛁᛖ (-ie)
The Wangerooge Frisian infinitive suffix -ᛁ (-ī) as in ᛗᚪᚳᛁ (macī) make corresponds to Sagelterland Frisian -je as in Scharrel Frisian maakje make (read more in this article of mine on Scharrel Frisian), Schiermonnikoog Frisian -je as in metje make, Hindeloopen Frisian -je as in meikje make and Terschelling Frisian -sje as in East Terschelling Frisian maitsje make. Therefore, we may conclude that Wangerooge Frisian verbal suffix -ᛁ (-ī) comes from PWng. -ᛡᛖ (-je) or ᛁᛖ (-ie).
Loss of PWng. ᚱ (r) in the coda
These words lost their Proto-Wangeroogian r: ᛗᛖᚱᚾ (mērn) morning, ᚹᚩᚱᛞ (wōrd) word, ᛗᚩᚱ (mōr) more, ᚦᚩᚱᚾ (þōrn) thorn, ᚻᚩᚱᚾ (hōrn) horn, ᛒᛖᚱᚾ (bērn) child.
This process had not yet been completed in Seetzenian, where the retention or los of the ᚱ (r) was still variable.
A similar process took place in Schiermonnikoog Frisian where the r was lost in the following example: ben child (compare the Wangerooge Frisian word for child as mentioned above).
More examples with the loss of r can be found in Hindeloopen Frisian: bòn child, hòn horn, mòòn morning, wòd word.
The same process exists in Shire Frisian, but there the r may still be retained. When I visited a Frisian elderly home together with Ken Ho in 2016, I heard Shire Frisian elderly pronounce moarn morning with an r. This pronunciation may be considered archaic, but nevertheless it still exists in Shire Frisian and I have adopted this archaic pronunciation in my own Shire Frisian.
Wangerooge Frisian Sound Laws
The following sound laws may be formulated based on the sound history of Wangerooge Frisian:
- The Wangerooge Frisian g, which was originally a voiced velar plosive, has become a voiced velar fricative. The same sound change has occurred in Sagelterland Frisian and Schiermonnikoog Frisian.
- The consonant cluster /sk/ at the beginning of syllables has changed to /sx/ in the Wangeroogian language. This mirrors the sound change that has occurred in the Wadden Frisian languages of the Netherlands. The change from /sk/ to /sx/ has occurred in Sagelterland Frisian as well.
- The long vowels of unaccented words may be pronounced short spontaneously. There seems to be no apparent reason for this variation. It may be like the varying pronunciations of “the” in English.
- Final syllables containing an unaccented short e are short. This has an effect on the accidence of verbs, nouns and adjectives in that these Wangerooge Frisian parts of speech tend to be noticeably shorter than those of Sagelterland Frisian and Schiermonnikoog Frisian under the same grammatical circumstances. Wangerooge Frisian resembles Heligolandic in this regard.
- The Wangeroogian cluster -nd at the end of words, which was retained in Seetzenian and pre-Seetzenian, is simplified to -n in Ehrentrautian and Siebsian. A similar development has taken place in the other Weser Frisian languages and Schiermonnikoog Frisian has also lost the original -nd while Hindeloopen Frisian has not. This contrasts with the retention of this cluster in Sagelterland Frisian.
- The Wangerooge Frisian short i and i may be rounded when they are preceded or followed by a bilabial.
- The Wangerooge Short o, which corresponds to a in other Frisian languages, comes from a. The same sound change has occurred in Sagelterland Frisian. This sound change has occurred consistently in East Terschelling Frisian in the Netherlands, the Schiermonnikoog Frisian a shows an intermediate stage.
- The Wangerooge Frisian adverbs, personal pronouns, demonstrative pronouns and articles which are cognates of English “there, thou/thy/thine, this/these, that/those, the” were pronounced with a voiced th. While studying the materials of the other Weser Frisian languages, I found evidence that the voiced th-sound was preserved in this position in other Weser Frisian languages as well. The retention of the voiced th has, however, not been recorded in Seetzenian, Ehrentrautian and Siebsian. Although we cannot be sure of Seetzenian and we can’t be sure of Ehrentrautian despite being more reliable, we can be sure that this feature had completely disappeared in Siebsian. Ehrentraut relied on better phonetic methods than Seetzen, while Siebs relied on better phonetic methods than Ehrentraut, which means that Ehrentraut is phonetically more reliable than Seetzen, Siebs more than Ehrentraut.
- Wangerooge Frisian au comes from long o. This is actually characteristic of Weser Frisian. The change from long o to au corresponds with the change from o to ou in Sagelterland Frisian. The only Netherlandic Frisian language where a similar sound change mirroring that of the East Frisian languages in Germany has occurred is Schiermonnikoog Frisian where long ô changed to au. The long ô can still be observed in East Terschelling Frisian.
The Wangerooge Frisian o changed to u when preceded by the hw-sound, which was lost sometime after the sound change. The sound change of o to u before hw occurred in Wursten Frisian as well.
- The Wangerooge Frisian r may be lost before consonants. This loss had standardised in Ehrentrautian and Siebsian, but it had not yet standardised in Seetzenian, where retention sometimes occurred.
- The Wangerooge Frisian long /ɛː/-sound comes from the lengthening of the short /ɛ/-sound.
- The Proto-Wangerooge Frisian /ɛi̯/ merged with /iː/. This merger is typical among the Weser Frisian languages, yet did not occur in Sagelterlandic which is a representative of the Ems Frisian languages. The reverse merger happened in Modern Dutch where Middle Dutch /iː/ merged with Middle Dutch /ɛi̯/. When one compares Dutch with Groningian or Shire Frisian, this sound change becomes apparent. Furthermore, this Dutch sound change can sometimes also be discerned when one compares German and Dutch: the Germans say /ziː/ (spelled sie) while the Dutch say /zɛi̯/ (spelled zij), which ought to have been pronounced like in German at some point in the past, Shire Frisians may also say /si/ (spelled sy).
Wangerooge Frisian Runic History
The presumed or assumed history of the Wangerooge Frisian would have to be based on the natural sound evolution. The Wangerooge Frisian runic history is relevant for the authentication process (see Wangerooge Frisian Spelling Authentication).
The history of the Wangerooge Frisian runes would look thus:
- Old Frisian used futhorc, which is an adaption from futhark due to natural sound evolution. This is therefore another tradition than the futhark tradition of Scandinavia.
- Sound changes that occurred in late Old Frisian would have made certain early Old Frisian runes fall into permanent disuse. The Anglo-Frisian œ, y and æ runes fall into this category.
- Weser Frisian had a phonology very similar to late Old Frisian.
Wangerooge Frisian Grammar
Wangerooge Frisian Syntax
All these features are like in other Frisian languages:
- The normal word order in declarative sentences is SVO
- The normal word order in interrogative sentences is VSO
- SOV word order is used after relative pronouns and compounds formed with the relative pronouns
- VSO word order is used when an adverb or adverbial phrase precedes the predicate verb in a declarative sentence
- VS word order is used when the object precedes the predicate
- The predicate always follows the infinitive or participle in SOV sentences
A remarkable feature of Wangerooge Frisian is that it has way fewer SOV sentences than other Frisian languages: where SOV sentences are expected due to subordination with relative pronouns, Wangerooge Frisian is actually using SVO sentences due to coordination with demonstrative pronouns that take place of relative pronouns. This feature is found in East Frisian Low Saxon syntax as well.
Proto-Germanic may also have used coordination rather than subordination for expressing relative clauses. The syntax of Wangerooge Frisian clauses might therefore be regarded as resembling that of Proto-Germanic, which means that studying Wangerooge Frisian clauses is useful for getting an idea of how Proto-Germanic syntax might have worked. .
Traces of the Grammatical Case System
When looking for traces of the grammatical cases, I didn’t need to look far. Traces of the Wangerooge Frisian grammatical case system have been preserved in a variety of ways.
The Wangerooge Frisian masculine singular article ᚦᚪᚾ (ðan /dan ~ ðan/) corresponds with Sagelterland Frisian accusative masculine singular article dän (cp. 19th-century Dutch and Modern German den). Wangerooge Frisian generalised the accusative for all cases. This must have originated in an emphatic use of the accusative in Proto-Wangeroogian. The process by which the accusative becomes the standard form may be called accusativism. It is a phenomenon that occurs in some Southern local languages of the Low Countries as well.
One of the reasons why accusativism may have been particularly encouraged in Wangerooge Frisian is the fact that when the initial voiced dental fricative was lost or at least came to be increasingly interchangeable with the voiced dental plosive, the masculine article and the word for day had become homophonous. This resulted in a pronunciation where /diː diː/ meant “the day” and to avoid confusion or simply to avoid these words from sounding exactly the same, people may have started saying /dan diː/ in Proto-Wangeroogian for clarity. Consequently, this convention to distinguish an originally homophonous article and noun may have spread to the rest of the vocabulary.
The evolution from /diː diː/ to /dan diː/ may have occurred entirely spontaneously. People might have heard the word being used in the accusative and while finding /dan diː/ to sound much “clearer” than /diː diː/, they might have adopted it as the nominative by mistake. This could then have spread to the other masculine nouns. There is reason to believe that the noun meaning “day” is the origin of this shift, although it might theoretically have happened independently from it. One might suppose that the accusative could be used in an emphatic way and that the homophonous situation between “day” and “the” was simply a catalyst for a peculiar phenomenon to gain popular acceptance in the language.
Fossilised Grammatical Cases
Fossilised grammatical cases are instances where the grammatical cases are used, but have no longer any function. These grammatical cases are therefore no longer productive and their use won’t be replicated in other instances as they are merely seen as fixed expressions. Speakers are not aware of fossilised grammatical cases, they just know them as fixed expressions.
Fossilised grammatical cases can be found in greetings and adverbial phrases. I expected to find fossilised grammatical cases in these places as this is also the case in Dutch.
ᛒᛁ ᚩᛚᛞᛖᚾ ᛏᛁᛞᛖᚾ (bī ōlden tīden) in the past is an instance of a fossilised grammatical case in an adverbial expression.
ᚷᚩᛞᛖᚾ ᛞᛁ (gōden dī) good day is an example of a fossilised grammatical case in a greeting.
Wangerooge Frisian Etymology
East Frisian Low Saxon Influences
East Frisia (Ostfriesland in German) borders the Dutch province of Groningen, where people speak a Low Saxon local language. The people of East Frisian generally speak a language that is closely related to that of Groningen. This language may be called East Frisian Low Saxon, and it is grouped together with that of Groningen as Groningen-East Frisian Low Saxon.
The name East Frisian Low Saxon is not to be confused with the East Frisian languages we mentioned earlier under the section East Frisian Language Family. The key point is that this language is Low Saxon and it is nowadays spoken in the East Frisian geographical area, where people used to speak East Frisian languages.
When compared with other Frisian languages, I found Sagelterland Frisian sunt are and Wangerooge Frisian ᛋᛁᚾᛏ (sint) are etymologically suspicious. I soon discovered that these forms, found in both East Frisian languages, are Low Saxon. These are just illustrative examples of all the Low Saxon words I found in Wangerooge and Sagelterland Frisian.
Seeing (East Frisian) Low Saxon loanwords in Wangerooge Frisian made me want to learn East Frisian Low Saxon; I felt the strong desire to be able to understand these loanwords better.
I have started learning the East Frisian Low Saxon language for the sake of comparison with Wangerooge Frisian. I already acquired Groningen Low Saxon in the past for the sake of comparison with Schiermonnikoog Frisian. I will also learn the related Stellingwerf Low Saxon, Urk Low Saxon and Drenthe Low Saxon in the future.
Revival of Frisian Heritage Words
I may use Seetzenian forms, as I am very familiar with Archaic Wangerooge Frisian. For instance, I may say ᚦᚱᚢᚻ (þruh) through rather than ᛞᚩᚱ (dōr /dɔːr/) through, which is a Low Saxon influence.
In the past, I enjoyed writing Old Latin, which is different from Classical Latin and Vulgar Latin. I have a comparable passion for the Old Wangerooge Frisian language, particularly its words and sounds.
Wangerooge Frisian Semantics
Wangerooge Frisian semantics is the study of meaning in the Wangerooge Frisian language.
The grammatical article may be used to distinguish whether a noun denotes a female or male being. These nouns would otherwise simply look exactly the same.
- ᚦᚪᚾ ᚹᛁᛏᛁᚻᛖᚱ (ðan witīher) the seer and ᚦᛁᚢ ᚹᛁᛏᛁᚻᛖᚱ (ðiū witīher) the seeress
- ᚦᚪᚾ ᛞᚩᚦᛖ (ðan dōðe /dan doʊðə/) the male corpse and ᚦᛁᚢ ᛞᚩᚦᛖ (ðiū dōðe /di̯uː doʊðə/) the female corpse
Gaist mind and geest spirit are used with different meanings in East Frisian Low Saxon. In the same way, these doublets may have been used in Wangerooge Frisian with different meanings:
- ᚷᛖᛋᛏ (gēst) spirit and ᚷᚪᛁᛋᛏ (gaist) mind
Wangerooge Frisian Epistemology
Why Bring Back Wangerooge Frisian?
Why might the revival of Wangerooge Frisian be relevant for the contemporary community of Wangerooge whose ancestors might not even trace back to the original Wangerooge Frisians? Why might it be relevant to East Frisia? Why might it be relevant to humanity? Why might one learn a dead language so it is revived? This section might be regarded as the litmus test (as well as the genesis) of Wangerooge Frisian epistemology, and I will seek to answer the aforementioned questions using an indigenous linguistic and cultural perspective; my analysis may be characterised as linguistic animism and shamanism in the sense that I analyse Wangerooge Frisian as having a spiritual relationship with its island of origin and the learning of Wangerooge Frisian as a journey akin to the spirit journey of a shaman. To understand the Wangerooge Frisian inspiration for my analysis properly, I refer the reader to the sections Wangerooge Frisian Folklore and Wangerooge Frisian Culture.
The revival of Wangerooge Frisian is very poetic; it is nothing short of magical, and it therefore helps to adopt the shamanic and animistic terminology to understand the relevance of the return of Wangerooge Frisian. Bringing Wangerooge Frisian back from the dead means the reconnection with the history and geography of the island, the sea and land of the island, the destiny and essence of Wangerooge, the people of the island, the story of all the people who lived on the island in the past, the esoteric knowledge of the island’s ecology, and the old ways of the island which generated the local culture that was prevalent in past days. Speaking the language of the island allows one to see the soul of the island; the island is no longer just an island, but it is the embodiment of much more, it is a true consciousness to the speaker of the language.
Wangerooge Frisian offers one an animistic perspective on the island that will help one to be in harmony with the character and local, natural environment of the island. The island is a sacred place of inspiration for the soul, it is the inspiration for the Wangerooge Frisian language; the fate of the language and the island is intertwined, because the language is the product of the island’s spiritual influence. When one learns to speak the language of Wangerooge, one can truly experience what it is like to tie one’s fate to the island. Speaking Wangerooge Frisian is actually a deeply spiritual experience that allows one to see the eye or essence of the island. It is like becoming a clairvoyant; one was blind before, but now we can see a spiritual reality that we were unable to see before.
The Wangerooge Frisian language has truly an esoteric nature about it, and therefore it has merit to highlight the mystery of this language. Learning Wangerooge Frisian is the esoteric initiation into a new world; learning the language of Wangerooge is a spiritual journey that will enrich one’s mind and soul. It helps one to find connection. People are often looking for their connection in modern society, they wish to reconnect to nature. Nature is local, it is different everywhere, and the local languages are different everywhere as well in accordance with nature. Languages such as Wangerooge Frisian allow one to connect to local nature in an eye-opening and life-changing way. Wangerooge Frisian offers us a unique, invaluable, indeed esoteric perspective on local history, geography and biology. A poet might even say that the spiritual relevance of Wangerooge Frisian to the destiny of the island is irreplaceable.
Wangerooge Frisian Folklore
The revival of the Wangerooge Frisian language inevitably means the revival of the traditional knowledge, i.e. folklore, as well.
Belief in a tripartite division of the world can be observed in Wangerooge Frisian folklore: ᚻᛁᛚ (hil) hell, ᛁᚱᛞ (īrd) earth, ᚻᛖᛗᛖᛚ (hemel) heaven.
If one adapts the definition of shamanism to the Wangerooge Frisian cultural context by defining shamans as ‘people with special powers to acquire knowledge about fate by means of a mysterious process, possibly an altered state of consciousness,’ one might point to ᚦᚪᚾ ᚹᛁᛏᛁᚻᛖᚱ (ðan witīher) the prophet and ᚦᛁᚢ ᚹᛁᛏᛁᚻᛖᚱ (ðiū witīher) the prophetess as shamans. The former is male, the latter is female. The female shaman of the Wangerooge Frisians may also be called ᚦᛁᚢ ᚹᛁᛏᛁᚻᚹᛁᚠ (ðiū witīhwīf /di̯uː wɪtiːxwyːf/).
The Wangerooge Frisian shamans, which are surely related to the East Frisian Low Saxon tradition of the wicker seer and wickerske or wickwiev seeress, are comparable to the Nordic völur seeresses and nornir fates. The Romans already recorded seeresses among the Germanic tribes and noted such females were held in high esteem, so there is reason to suppose that the traditions from East Frisia trace back to an authentic Germanic shamanism. These traditions do not just appear ex nihilo and they bear way too much similarity to those of antiquity.
East Frisian Low Saxon provides a clue about how these shamans obtained their special abilities: [D]e besatt ‘n Geest to wicken un wahrseggen. (Freely translated: He/she possessed a spirit that enabled him/her to be a wicker and foretell.) Such spirits could apparently bestow supernatural knowledge upon the shamans of East Frisia, including those of Wangerooge.
Not much is known about the shamanism of Wangerooge, but one might obtain a better understanding through traditions that were native to the same geographic area, which is why comparison with East Frisian Low Saxon folklore is relevant. After all, many of the speakers of East Frisian Low Saxon were once upon a time speakers of East Frisian languages as well and they must surely have carried over some elements of their original beliefs into their new language.
The genius loci of the Wangerooge Frisians is the ᛗᛁᚱᛖᚹᛁᚠ (mirewīf /mʏrəwyːf/) female sea spirit. This is the equivalent of the dúnatter dune spirit among the Schiermonnikoog Frisians and the ierdmantsje earth spirit among the Shire Frisians.
The genius loci may, according to my linguistic philosophy, be regarded as an externalisation or external manifestation of the ᛏᚩᛚᚷᛖᛋᛏ (tōlgēst) language spirit. The local landscape and this ᚷᛖᛋᛏ (gēst) are interconnected.
The small languages that I studied, such as Schiermonnikoog Frisian, are tied to a particular local niche, and when removed from that local context, they often die out, albeit not inevitably.
The concept of the ᛗᛁᚱᛖᚹᛁᚠ (mirewīf /mʏrəwyːf/) female sea spirit ties the Wangerooge Frisians to the land of Wangerooge. The Wangerooge Frisians had a special connection with the island of which they were the wardens.
On account of the esoteric traditional beliefs that accompanied the special relationship that the Wangerooge Frisians had with the island, the Wangerooge Frisians were regarded as ᚻᚪᛁᚦᛖᚾ (haiðen) pagan by outsiders.
I discovered that the genius loci concept of the ᛗᛁᚱᛖᚹᛁᚠ (mirewīf /mʏrəwyːf/) female sea spirit is a retention of a traditional belief from pagan times, namely this is also what Grendel’s mother in Beowulf was called.
I was surprised to find this connection, as the Ehrentrautian spelling obscured the etymology of this word. I found it fascinating that Wangerooge Frisian could help me understand an Old English pagan concept better.
It made me realise that the Anglo-Saxon polytheists living near the sea must have believed in local female sea spirits. The Wangerooge Frisian tradition must be a memory of local veneration for such female sea spirits.
The Old Norse venerated the dísir female spirits. From what I learned from the Wangerooge Frisian case, these dísir might better be understood as local female spirits; for I believe ᛗᛁᚱᛖᚹᛁᚠᛖᚱ (mirewīfer /mʏrəwyːfər/) ought to be regarded as dísir.
The traditional Viking belief in the dísir may be connected with the Vanir (the other group of deities that does not belong to the Æsir), as the Freyja is also called Vanadís. Freyja’s other name thus offers us a clue as to the identity of the dísir.
Yet another clue is offered by the fact that Álfheimr was given to Freyr, the twin brother of Freyja, as a tooth gift. Freyr is therefore closely associated with the álfar (elves). He may even be understood as King of the Elves.
This leads us to the understanding that brother and sister have a leading role among the álfar (elves, male spirits) and dísir (fairies, female spirits) respectively. This helps us comprehend the relationship properly.
The power relationship was implicitly understood among the Vikings, they needed no cultural explanation for this. The Vanir were simply the more powerful ones in this relationship. Additionally, Freyr and Freyja actually mean lord and lady.
When when we say that Freyr or Freyja is one of the álfar or dísir respectively, we are saying they are their monarchs; Freyr and Freyja as Vanir have an association with the álfar and dísir in the sense of a relationship of power favouring the Vanir.
The Germanic monarchs were regarded as “sons of the people.” The whole concept is based around the notion that one belongs to the people, and therefore one is fit to be their ruler or representative. The legitimacy lies in being “one of.”
We know now what Vanadís means. Freyja was foremost one of the Vanir, but she was a dís in the sense that she was their ruler. The name Vanadís may be regarded as meaning “dís originally from an alien group, now accepted as insider.”
What is the place of the ᛗᛁᚱᛖᚹᛁᚠᛖᚱ (mirewīfer) in this hierarchy? Firstly, we can surmise that the ᛗᛁᚱᛖᚹᛁᚠᛖᚱ (mirewīfer) did not belong to the Vana class, which were also regarded as one of the elf class while they were their leaders.
Secondly, while the ᛗᛖᚱᛖᚹᛁᚠᛖᚱ (merewīfer) were female, we know that they were not just regular álfar as might be associated with the male leader Freyr, but they were dísir as might be associated with the female leader Freyja.
The fact that males and females were so strictly separated must be authentic Germanic tradition. This explains also why the ᛗᛖᚱᛖᚹᛁᚠᛖᚱ (merewīfer) are exclusively female. They are a peculiar female class of local spirits.
While the ᛗᛖᚱᛖᚹᛁᚠᛖᚱ (merewīfer) are a window into history, they help us understand ancient Germanic tradition better. In particular, it helped me understand the relationship between Grendel and his mother better in the lay of Beowulf.
Yet ancient Germanic history reflects also back on the Wangerooge Frisian concept of ᛗᛁᚱᛖᚹᛁᚠᛖᚱ (mirewīfer), helping us understand the Wangerooge Frisian spirits better. It answers why there are no male ᛗᛁᚱᛖᚹᛁᚠᛖᚱ (mirewīfer), for instance.
The Wangerooge Frisian folklore may help us understand the worldview of the Old Frisians and Anglo-Saxons better. Consequently, there is much merit to the revival of the Wangerooge Frisian language, which contains a rich folklore.
There is more to say about the ᛗᛖᚱᛖᚹᛁᚠᛖᚱ (merewīfer) from the perspective of what I have read in Latin. The Romans noted that the Germanic peoples held females in veneration.
The veneration of female spirits is evidenced by votive offerings to various female spirits in the Roman-Germanic border regions. These female spirits are characterised as matres et matronae (mothers and matriarchs) because of their role.
A mater (mother) and matrona (matriarch) in the ancient world was someone who was accorded with high respect, she had authority among the (adopted) children whom the nurtured as a mother and protected as a matriarch.
The relationship between worshipper and female spirit was that of (adopted) child and female parent figure. The worshippers felt the social obligation to show their filial piety (also an important concept in Confucianism) to this female spirit.
So this was a special relationship. It was basically the special relationship that people had with their local environment, as these female spirits or dísir as they were called in Old Norse were manifestations of the local landscape.
One ought to understand these spirits in an ecological sense: ecology is about the relationship between living organisms and their physical surroundings. Spirits helped the people connect with their environment in a human manner.
Like Grendel’s mother in the story of Beowulf was seen as particularly powerful, so were the Germanic females regarded by the Romans as particularly tough and the Germanic female spirits showed the same strength as their living counterparts.
The matres et matronae must, consequently, have been seen as very powerful beings. When translating that back to the indigenous Germanic perspective (rather than the Roman perspective), the dísir are particularly powerful beings.
I might have to add that this power was particularly the case in the local environment. ᛗᛁᚱᛖᚹᛁᚠᛖᚱ (mirewīfer) were likewise particularly powerful in the local environment of Wangerooge and the dúnatters in the environment of Schiermonnikoog.
Since the various tribes all had their own genii locorum (local spirits), they could foster bonds and create alliances by making pilgrimages to the special sites of the other tribes and pay tribute and reverence to their spirits.
The Frisians of yore must also have done this, and the ᛗᛁᚱᛖᚹᛁᚠᛖᚱ (mirewīfer) must be a relic of this. One should imagine that Frisians and other Germanic peoples would have travelled from far and wide to pay their respects to these spirits.
Travelling in the past must have had a more spiritual meaning. It would have been a spiritual journey to obtain spiritual knowledge, as can be seen in the Eddaic tales where travelling results in the acquisition of intellectual and material benefits.
Travelling was thus more like a pilgrimage. One did not travel just for pleasure, but for spiritual reasons. Vacation had a much deeper spiritual meaning back then, while vacationing is certainly an ancient human need or tendency.
There were also travelling priests, musicians and dancers in the Germanic age. They brought along their local spirits on a cart. They stopped in many localities to celebrate with the locals. When this happened, there were no wars.
Those travelling folks were bringers of peace and joy. They were very well-received wherever they went, particularly as they were accompanied by local spirits. Hospitality was considered vital in Germanic culture, as taught in the Poetic Edda.
The concept of peace was holy among the Germanic peoples, and people had to observe peace in the presence of the local spirits; disturbance of this peace would result in bad luck, i.e., vengeance from the local spirits.
The Frisians still believed in this sense of bad luck; it was something caused by disturbing the local powers. People observed omens for this reason, they looked for warnings in their environment whether they might be causing a disturbance.
Humans are beings that do not want to cause harm to themselves, and since they can cause harm to themselves by causing a disturbance in a local place ruled by a spirit, they will leave that locality in peace, as that benefits them and the spirit.
The concept of the travelling priests, musicians and dancers must be related to medieval and modern carnavals in Western Europe. This is a human tendency, as it helps take tension and strife away and foster peace and solidarity.
Ritual role reversals are often observed in Western European carnavals. The rulers are no longer the rulers, but suddenly the people are the rulers. This may be seen as a rite related to the perpetuation and acceptance of order in society.
The ᛗᛁᚱᛖᚹᛁᚠᛖᚱ (mirewīfer) fit into this whole ancient puzzle as an important puzzle piece to help us understand the ancient, medieval and modern relationships of the Frisian-speaking as well as other Germanic-speaking peoples.
The Wangerooge Frisian folklore is very archaic because it ostensibly conserves knowledge from pagan times.
Wangerooge Frisian Culture
I will include Wangerooge Frisian thematic vocabularies here that offer us a glimpse into Wangerooge Frisian culture.
People, particularly craftsmen and family, are the basis of human culture; craftsmen and family are the makers and procreators of Wangerooge Frisian traditional culture. That is why we should definitely first take a look at the people vocabulary of Wangerooge Frisian; we ought to know who was involved in Wangerooge Frisian culture-making.
There were certain basic concepts in Wangerooge Frisian that even a child belonging to the Wangerooge Frisian traditional language and culture community would know. To give an impression of this basic experiential world of speakers of Wangerooge Frisian, these words have been listed below. It may take one back to one’s childhood.
Have you ever thought of houses as temples of a culture? Many cultures of yore considered the home to be sacred and treated the home as a place of worship or temple. If there is any vital location for the Wangeroogian culture, the home is the centre of the cultural life of Wangerooge; the home is not just a place where humans live, but it is a place where the culture lives. Many cultural events occur at the home; this is where a great part of the old customs were formed. Home-making is an ancient tradition. Building houses was an integral part of Wangerooge Frisian culture, people often had to build their own homes back then. Many cultural conversations were held in those homes. From a child’s perspective, the home is essential as it is where it grows up; it is one of the first locations a child explores. The home shapes the culture not just of a family, but an entire community. Therefore, the Wangerooge Frisian house is a cultural temple of which we ought to know the details. The home-related vocabulary helps us visualise what the traditional Wangerooge Frisian home looked like: the vocabulary gives us a very general impression of how the traditional home was organised and what activities were done there. The fact that Wangerooge Frisian houses might have attached barns for keeping animals suggests they kept farm animals at the house. The Wangerooge Frisian traditional houses had thatched roofs. Houses could be built on terps (Frisian artificial mounds) to protect them against flooding, which was a constantly looming threat for the Wangerooge Frisians; the eternal fight against the sea water of the North Sea could thus be an integral part of the Wangerooge Frisian traditional house-building.
Communication is important in any culture, and communication is particularly important when two cultures interact. A language learner falls into the latter category and that is why the language learner ought to be familiar with basic communication vocabulary so that he talk and acquire about communication-related issues. The Wangerooge Frisians very much kept to themselves, there were quite secretive and they did usually not share their language with outsiders; one might conclude that Wangerooge Frisian once served as the secret language of the Wangerooge indigenous community.
The Wangerooge Frisians did know of domesticated animals. They may or may not have had domesticated animals themselves. Wangerooge Frisian possessed, in some cases, specific words for some animals depending on the age and sex of the animal. The Wangerooge Frisians distinguished, for instance, adult and child cows, male and female cows. This distinction of domesticated animals is also seen among other Frisian and Germanic peoples. The Frisii were herders as were other Germanic peoples of the time, they domesticated animals that could graze the (uncultivated) lands.
The cultural concepts of Wangerooge Frisian are usually hard to translate. These concepts are often the codifications of specific observations in the natural environment of one’s culture. So these concepts may describe specific aspects of the landscape, domestic sphere and other areas of life relevant to the traditional culture of Wangerooge Frisians.
The metals that the Wangerooge Frisians were familiar with gives us a good idea about the traditional knowledge of the Wangerooge Frisian community. They did apparently possess knowledge of metallurgy that had been transmitted since the start of metallurgy in the Bronze Age. Purely based on the vocabulary for metals, one can surmise that the distant ancestors of the Wangerooge Frisian culture had already passed through the Iron Age.
Traditional knowledge – or one might call it folklore – is an integral part of the Wangerooge Frisian culture and language. There would be no civilisation without the transmission of this folklore. The knowledge necessary for life was contained in the folklore and therefore folklore might be regarded as the knowledge belonging to the school of life. The Wangerooge Frisians did traditionally not attend school and they had to acquire their knowledge based on what their community knew. Folklore is the accumulation of knowledge as the result of a community-based linguistic, cultural and philosophical learning process.
The Wangerooge Frisians had various ways of measuring items in their environment. Similarly, Mandarin Chinese also contains a large variety of quantifiers to measure nouns such as 两个 (liǎng gè) in 两个人 (liǎng gèrén) two people, 一本 (yī běn) in 一本书 (yī běn shū) one book, 一栋 (yī dòng) in 一栋房子 (yī dòng fángzi) one house, and so on. One might for instance compare this feature of Chinese to the fact that the Wangerooge Frisians would say ᛞᚾ ᛋᚾᛖᚦ ᛒᚱᚩᛞ (en snēð brōd) a slice of bread. When studying Frisian languages, it fascinated me that these languages have many words that reminded me of Chinese quantifies. Of course, this is not the only way that the below measure words may be used, as not all of these are usually encountered in conjunction with another noun that they measure or modify.
Sense of direction, place, time and movement are important in any culture. However, different cultures have different ways of conceptualising direction, place, movement and time. That is why adverbs and prepositions relating to these topics widely vary across languages and cultures.
The best way to learn inflected forms of words is simply to learn them as different words. This is also the natural way to learn languages. Classifying some of these words as regular and irregular may help in identifying to what extent any of these plurals might have predictive powers as to how other plurals are formed. Inflection is a matching game; when one needs a plural of a singular or a singular of a plural, one’s brain needs to “transform” these to fit the right context, I mean transform in the sense that one needs to be able to match the singular with the plural or vice versa.
Singulars and plurals are context-specific, one knows in which context to use a plural and a singular. Some languages, like Chinese, do not have plurals or singulars, though Chinese does have a large set of quantifiers which feel like plurals as they have to be learned in much the same way as one needs to learn plurals. While plurals may be analysed as words, one may also deduce what concepts are important to a culture. Irregular plurals usually have high cultural relevance. Why would a language otherwise preserve unusual plurals? It requires some degree of cultural relevance.
Unusual plurals make some words feel like an almost completely different reality from their singulars with which they may be matched; after all, the more unusual a plural is, the more it feels like a real independent word that is different from the singular. However, while particularly distinct plurals might amplify this feeling, all plurals and singulars are actually context-specific distinct realities. While context is important to cultures and plurals are so inextricably linked with context, plurals do say a lot about culture and should therefore not merely be studied as a linguistic phenomenon but as a cultural item as well. Foundation Operation X for languages, cultures and perspectives has definitely picked up on the cultural relevance of plurals and that is why we study plurals seriously not only from a linguistic perspective, but also from a cultural perspective, as plurals do certainly hold some predictive power about how relevant certain concepts are to a particular culture.
Index of Ehrentraut’s Work
Historically speaking, Ehrentraut’s two-volume work, which is written for a German-speaking audience (therefore quite inaccessible to the anglophone world) and where Wangeroogian is written in a non-runic German-based phonetic spelling, is without question the most relevant and extensive material traditionally available for the study of Wangeroogian. For this reason, I have made an index of Ehrentraut’s two-volume work. The purpose of this index is to select only the sections of work that are relevant to the study of Wangerooge Frisian. I originally used this index for my own Wangerooge Frisian studies and the index helped me acquire the language faster. Much of Ehrentraut’s work bears no direct relevance to Wangeroogian, so that is why this index helps separate all the irrelevant stuff from all the relevant stuff. Studying a language depends on being able to decide what is relevant and ignoring all the stuff that doesn’t really matter. One finds what is relevant by getting rid of what is irrelevant and what is left after suppressing and culling all irrelevant information is what truly matters. Thus, relevant information is practically speaking what one arrives at after being able to identify what is irrelevant. The mental faculty of the identification of irrelevant information is something I have always considered crucial to language-learning. To put it bluntly, you have to be able to cut out all the nonsense if you wish to learn efficiently.
- Wangerooge Frisian verb: vol 1, pp. 27-87
- Primary and secondary infinitives: pp. 28-35
- Auxiliary verbs: pp. 36-37
- This includes the very important verbs “to be” and “to have”
- Strong verbs (5 classes): pp. 37-50
- Transitive strong verbs (7 classes): pp. 50-56
- Weak verbs: pp. 56–84
- Reflexive and impersonal verbs: pp. 84-85
- Synonymous verbs: p. 85-87
- Wangerooge Frisian adjectives and adverbs in alphabetical order: pp. 87–109
- This includes the super important question words.
- Wangerooge Frisian names: Vol. 1, pp. 338-341
- Placenames: pp. 338-340
- The endonym of Wangerooge: p. 340
- Personal names: pp. 340-341
- Boy names: p. 340
- Girl names: p. 341
- Foreign names: p. 341
- Placenames: pp. 338-340
- Wangerooge Frisian fauna: Vol. 1, pp. 342-346
- Wangerooge Frisian animal noise verbs: Vol. 1, pp. 346-347
- Wangerooge Frisian interjections: Vol. 1, pp. 347-349
- Wangerooge Frisian alliteration and rhyme: Vol. 1, p. 349-352
- Wangerooge Frisian diseases and illnesses: Vol. 1, p. 352
- Wangerooge Frisian measures and weights: Vol. 1, p. 353
- Wangerooge Frisian periods of time: Vol. 1, pp. 354-356
- Wangerooge Frisian inventory of nouns in alphabetical order: 357-406
- Bul, bull (livestock): p. 362
- Wangerooge Frisian cultural information: pp. 406-416
- Lauch, village (cf. Gron. loug): p. 406
- A Shire Frisian poem in the spelling of Ehrentraut: p. 514
- This gives us an idea of the (un)reliability of Ehrentraut’s ear and of the pronunciation of his spelling.
- Wangerooge Frisian culture and folklore (traditional knowledge): Vol. 2, pp. 1-61
- Wangerooge Frisian maritime culture: vol 2, pp. 61–71
- Wangerooge Frisian wind and weather: vol. 2, pp. 72–77
- Wangerooge Frisian sea: vol. 2, pp. 77–80
- Wangerooge Frisian fairytales (folklore): vol. 2, pp. 80–84
Questions Answered in This Article
- What is Wangerooge Frisian? Where was Wangerooge Frisian traditionally spoken?
- Who was Hayo Hayen? When did Wangerooge Frisian go extinct?
- Who are the main authorities on Wangerooge Frisian? Who are the other authorities?
- To transcribe what sound did Siebs use /w/?
- To what languages is Wangerooge Frisian closely related? What is East Frisian? What is Weser Frisian?
- What are the spelling rules of Wangerooge Frisian?
- Where does the word ᛗᛁᚱᛖᚹᛁᚠ (mirewīf) come from in Proto-Wangeroogian?
- How may the ᛗᛁᚱᛖᚹᛁᚠᛖᚱ (mirewīfer) be defined?
- How are the ᛗᛁᚱᛖᚹᛁᚠᛖᚱ (mirewīfer) related to Anglo-Saxon (Old English) folklore? How may Wangerooge Frisian folklore help us understand Anglo-Saxon folklore?
- Why is the Wangerooge Frisian folklore very archaic?
- What did the Wangerooge Frisian house look like?
- What animals did the Wangerooge Frisians domesticate?
- What are the metals that the Wangerooge Frisians were familiar with?
This article is under construction!
This is just a provisional version of my article. I will keep expanding this article in the following days with more facts and details. I have already written plenty of notes about Wangerooge Frisian (including lists of thematic vocabularies, etymologies, reconstructions, phonetic hypotheses and morphological and syntactic observations as well as cultural and historical notes), and I want to include a selection from them here, but it will take me some time to organise them. Please come back later in a few days if you wish to read all the facts and details I am going to share. I will include a great deal of Wangerooge Frisian words and sentences here. I just wanted to publish this article already in an unfinished state since this is the end of my language challenge and I want to celebrate the return of Wangerooge Frisian on this special date as it has been gone for 70 years, 7 months and 17 days, yet it is no longer gone now. I had been too busy with studying in order to revive Wangerooge Frisian before this date that I had not been able to properly organise my information for this article yet!