Frisian Multilingualism: What Would You Like to Know?

Written by Dyami Millarson

What I mean by Frisian multilingualism in the title of this post is that there is not just one Frisian language, but there are many. This is a trait of the Frisian population as Frisians do not all speak one Frisian language, nor do they all share a single Frisian culture. Frisians are linguistically and culturally diverse. There are 19 living Frisian languages, which I have studied intensively from 2016 to 2021. I should define ‘living Frisian languages’ more clearly: I mean the languages that were still living before I started leading projects for reviving dead Frisian languages in the modern era. I am aware that it is nevertheless possible I have unwittingly revived some North Frisian languages I assumed to still be alive when I studied them, as I have had no contact with speakers of the North Frisian languages since acquiring them one by one and so I have not yet verified the situation of the North Frisian languages on the ground.

The following are the 19 living Frisian languages (as counted from prior to our revival projects):

  1. Clay Frisian
  2. Wood Frisian
  3. North Clay Frisian
  4. Southwest Frisian
  5. East Terschelling Frisian
  6. West Terschelling Frisian
  7. Hindeloopen Frisian
  8. Schiermonnikoog Frisian
  9. Sagelterland Frisian
  10. Central Goesharde Frisian
  11. Northern Goesharde Frisian
  12. Hallig Frisian
  13. Karrharde Frisian
  14. Wiedingharde Frisian
  15. Bökingharde Frisian
  16. Sylt Frisian
  17. Heligoland Frisian
  18. Föhr Frisian
  19. Amrum Frisian

My studies are currently focused on the dead Frisian languages. Since the myth persists that Frisians linguistically united, it is very important to wrap one’s head around the diversity of living Frisian as a linguistic category, and my research in the last years has been focused on this. Frisians are united through common history, but their contemporary situation is different and has been clouded by mythology around the historical continuation of Frisian linguistic unity.

A spiritual feeling of kinship and unity based on common history is often present among Frisians, but while Frisians also value independence and self-reliance, it is also vital to recognise that over the course of history, new Frisian languages and cultures have emerged among the various independent and self-reliant Frisian groups and this natural branching off has led to new historically legitimate and ethnically authentic identities even if there may have been a single unified Frisian identity at one point in history. No Frisian group can claim to be more historically legitimate or ethnically authentic than the other, all of them are heirs of the once unified Frisian. That is the complex historical situation that ought to be grasped, according to my 2016-2021 research findings focused on (the evolution of) contemporary Frisian diversity.

I want to let readers have a say in the articles we post here on the Frisian languages and so I want to compile a list of topics relating to the Frisian languages that my readers are curious about: What would you like to know about each of the Frisian languages? What topics would you fancy? Please post your questions/interests below.

These questions by “judithlouise” are good examples of what I am looking for:


  1. As a charitable organisation for the protection of endangered languages, we intend to make our site the go-to place for reliable information on all the Frisian languages. We want to give a voice to all Frisian peoples and offer a platform for the promotion of their indigenous languages, cultures, and perspectives. We specialise in telling the unique story of each Frisian community.


  2. Hi Dyami, I always enjoy reading your articles on Frisian languages. I like learning about the whole Anglo-Frisian grouping, which also includes Scots & English. You may also remember a comment I made about my Old English studies on an earlier article, and your reply there inspired me to try writing in Old English, and I also published one such article on my blog. I would be interested to learn more about the history and culture of Frisian languages speakers and about your meetings with them.


  3. Hi Dyami!
    What is Frisian language education like? Does it exist in some schools? What are common methods for learning and teaching it?
    Also, I’d love to know more about the syntax of the languages — sentence structure, conjugation of verbs, and even syntax from a comparative aspect among all Frisian languages. 🙂


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