Which Wursten Frisian?

Written by Dyami Millarson

This is what the landscape and sky look like in my Frisian region, and it looks the same in Wremen and Imsum where Wursten Frisian used to be spoken before being wholly displaced by Low Saxon, thus leaving little trace of the old Wursten Frisian.

There are three major Frisian language families: West Frisian spoken in the Northwest of the Netherlands, East Frisian spoken in the Northwest of Germany near the Dutch-German border, and North Frisian spoken in the Northwest of Germany close to Denmark. Wursten Frisian belongs to the East Frisian family, which is split between the Ems Frisian and Weser Frisian subfamilies. There are two rivers called Ems and Weser in Northwestern Germany. The Ems Frisian languages are indigenous to areas in the vicinity of the river Ems (more to the West), the Weser Frisian languages are indigenous to areas in the vicinity of the river Weser (more to the East). Wursten Frisian belongs to Weser Frisian just like Wangerooge Frisian and Harlingerland Frisian. There are two kinds of Wursten Frisian: Wremen Frisian and Imsum Frisian. That linguistic subdivision in Wursten Frisian is what the title of this article is actually referring to, and we will indeed talk more about it in this article.

Nevertheless, before we move on to cover that linguistic subdivision, we should review what has already been discussed with regards to the classification of Wursten Frisian. This may serve as a brief overview of what we have just discussed with regards to the classification:

  • Frisian
    • West Frisian
    • East Frisian
      • Weser Frisian
        • Wursten Frisian
          • Wremen Frisian
          • Imsum Frisian
        • Harlingerland Frisian
        • Wangerooge Frisian
      • Ems Frisian
    • North Frisian

The death of Wursten Frisian is presumed to have occurred in the 1700s (the 18th century). Wursten Low Saxon, which replaced Wursten Frisian, luckily seems to have retained some Wursten Frisian linguistic heritage in its vocabulary. Even more fortunate is that Wursten Frisian glossaries were made in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Dietrich Anton Witte (1667-1742) recorded Imsum Frisian with his glossary, yet M. Luderus Westing recorded Wremen Frisian with his glossary. Wremen and Imsum are old villages that still exist in Germany.

A last attempt at a Wursten Frisian glossary was made in the late 18th-century by Friedrich August Renner, but it did not amount to much Wursten Frisian material; for much of it was Low Saxon, Anglo-Saxon, and Old Frisian instead of the contemporary Wursten Frisian. Dietrich Anton Witte had the intention to create both a dictionary and grammar of Wursten Frisian. It would be very useful if we could make use of Witte’s grammar, but it is nowhere to be found. This practically means that we have to make the best of the Wursten Frisian glossaries and use our knowledge of other East Frisian languages, especially Weser Frisian ones, to reconstruct the grammar of Wursten Frisian.

Wremen Frisian (recorded by Westing) is better documented than Imsum Frisian (recorded by Witte) because we have more Wremen Frisian words than Imsum Frisian words. So there is a relatively better and less well documented Wursten Frisian tongue. Compared to Wursten Frisian, Harlingerland Frisian is better documented, and Wangerooge Frisian is better documented than Harlingerland Frisian, and Sagelterland Frisian, which belongs to Ems Frisian, is better documented than Wangerooge Frisian. The most poorly documented East Frisian language is Upgant Frisian.

Let me give an overview ranging from the best documented to the most poorly East Frisian language or language group:

  1. Sagelterland Frisian
    • Ramsloh Frisian
    • Scharrel Frisian
    • Strücklingen Frisian
  2. Wangerooge Frisian
  3. Harlingerland Frisian
  4. Wursten Frisian
    • Wremen Frisian
    • Imsum Frisian
  5. Upgant Frisian

The better documented East Frisian languages are a blessing to the more poorly documented East Frisian languages. I can get clarity from the former about Wremen Frisian and Imsum Frisian vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation; I can get a decent impression of the structure of Wremen and Imsum Frisian through both the materials handed down to us and through related Frisian languages I studied, and such is what is needed for the reconstruction of Wremen and Imsum Frisian.

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