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, Friesian
a language spoken in the NW Netherlands, parts of N Germany, and adjacent islands, belonging to the West Germanic branch of the Indo-European family: the nearest relative of the English language; it has three main dialects
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the language of the Frisians. Frisian is spoken mainly in the province of Friesland in The Netherlands, which includes the West Frisian Islands of Terschelling and Schiermonnikoog (population, approximately 350,000 people). It is also spoken in the northwestern part of the Federal Republic of Germany, mainly in the Saterland, in the Land of Lower Saxony (approximately 3,000), and the far north, in the Land of Schleswig-Holstein, including the North Frisian Islands and Helgoland (approximately 16,000).

Frisian, a West Germanic language, was once spoken on a vast territory along the North Sea. It includes three dialects: West Frisian (Friesland), East Frisian (Saterland), and North Frisian (Schleswig-Holstein). Urban Frisian, which is commonly spoken in the towns of Friesland, has been significantly influenced by Dutch. Frisian is closely related to Old English.

The phonological system of Frisian is notable for its rich vowel system, which has nasal vowels, 26 diphthongs, and six triphthongs. Nouns have two genders, and the declension system has been virtually lost; the one remaining case, the genitive, is used only to a limited extent. The language has strong and weak verbs, and its tense system is typical of the majority of the Germanic languages.

The first examples of written Frisian date from the 13th century. Since the 16th century, when Friesland lost its independence, Dutch has been used for all official purposes, and Frisian primarily for spoken communication. The most important poet who wrote in Frisian was Gijsbert Japicx (17th century). In recent decades, Frisian has been taught in schools in The Netherlands. The number of books published in Frisian has notably increased, and periodicals in Frisian have appeared.

The Frisian language uses the Latin alphabet.


Fokkema, K. Beknopte Friese spraakkunst. Groningen-Batavia, 1948.
Sipma, P. Phonology and Grammar of Modern West Frisian. Ljouwert, 1966.
Pietersen, L. De Friezen en hun taal. Drachten, 1969.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.