West Frisian language

West Frisian, or simply Frisian (West Frisian: Frysk[frisk] or Westerlauwersk Frysk; Dutch: Fries[fris], also Westerlauwers Fries), is a West Germanic language spoken mostly in the province of Friesland (Fryslân) in the north of the Netherlands, mostly by those of Frisian ancestry. It is the most widely spoken of the Frisian languages.

West Germanic language spoken in Friesland
Not to be confused with West Frisian languages or West Frisian Dutch.
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West Frisian
Westerlauwersk Frysk
Pronunciation [frisk], [ˈvɛstr̩ˌlɔuə(r)s(k) frisk]
Native to Netherlands
Region Friesland
Ethnicity West Frisians
Native speakers
470,000 (2001 census)[1]
West Frisian
Official status
Official language in
Netherlands (Province of Friesland)
Regulated by Fryske Akademy
Language codes
ISO 639-1 fy
ISO 639-2 fry
ISO 639-3 fry
Glottolog west2354
ELP West Frisian
Linguasphere 52-ACA-b

Present-day distribution West Frisian languages, in the Netherlands
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A West Frisian speaker, recorded in the Netherlands.

In the study of the evolution of English, West Frisian is notable as being the most closely related foreign tongue to the various dialects of Old English spoken across the Heptarchy, these being part of the Anglo-Frisian branch of the West Germanic family, and is therefore often considered to occupy a position between English and Dutch.[citation needed] Dutch, in turn, is widely said to lie between the Anglo-Saxon derived components of English and German.[citation needed]

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The name “West Frisian” is only used outside the Netherlands, to distinguish this language from the closely related Frisian languages of Saterland Frisian and North Frisian spoken in Germany. Within the Netherlands, however, “West Frisian” refers to the West Frisian dialect of the Dutch language while the West Frisian language is almost always just called “Frisian” (in Dutch: Fries for the Frisian language and Westfries for the Dutch dialect). The unambiguous name used for the West Frisian language by linguists in the Netherlands is Westerlauwers Fries[ˈʋɛstərˌlʌu̯ərs ˈfris] (West Lauwers Frisian), the Lauwers being a border river that separates the Dutch provinces of Friesland and Groningen.

Most speakers of West Frisian live in the province of Friesland in the north of the Netherlands. Friesland has 643,000 inhabitants (2005), of whom 94% can understand spoken West Frisian, 74% can speak West Frisian, 75% can read West Frisian, and 27% can write it.[2]

For over half of the inhabitants of the province of Friesland, 55% (c.354,000 people), West Frisian is the native language. In the central east, West Frisian speakers spill over the province border, with some 4,000–6,000 of them actually living in the province of Groningen, in the triangular area of the villages Marum (West Frisian: Mearum), De Wilp (De Wylp), and Opende (De Grinzer Pein).[3]

Also, many West Frisians have left their province in the last 60 years for more prosperous parts of the Netherlands. Therefore, possibly as many as 150,000 West Frisian speakers live in other Dutch provinces, particularly in the urban agglomeration in the West, and in neighbouring Groningen and newly reclaimed Flevoland.[citation needed]

A Frisian diaspora exists abroad, with Friesland having sent more emigrants than any other Dutch province between the Second World War and the 1970s. Highest concentrations of Frisian speakers outside the Netherlands are in Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

Apart from the use of West Frisian as a first language, it is also spoken as a second language by about 120,000 people in the province of Friesland.[4]

West Frisian is considered by UNESCO to be a language in danger of becoming extinct, officially being listed as “Vulnerable”.[5]

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