Anglo-Frisian languages

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The Anglo-Frisian languages are the Anglic (English and Scots) and Frisian varieties of West Germanic languages. The Northumbrian Language Society also considers Northumbrian a separate Anglic language.[1]

Originally England, Scottish Lowlands and the North Sea coast from Friesland to Jutland; today worldwide
Linguistic classificationIndo-European
Anglo-Frisian distribution map.svg
Approximate present day distribution of the Anglo-Frisian languages in Europe.




Hatched areas indicate where multilingualism is common.

The Anglo-Frisian languages are distinct from other West Germanic languages due to several sound changes: besides the Ingvaeonic nasal spirant law, which is present in Low German as well, Anglo-Frisian brightening and palatalization of /k/ are for the most part unique to the modern Anglo-Frisian languages:

  • English cheese and West Frisian tsiis, but Dutch kaas, Low German Kees, and German Käse
  • English church and West Frisian tsjerke, but Dutch kerk, Low German Kerk, Kark, and German Kirche
  • English sheep and West Frisian skiep, both singular and plural but Dutch schaap for singular, schapen for plural and Low German Schaap, both singular and plural and German Schaf for singular and Schafe for plural

The grouping is usually implied as a separate branch in regards to the tree model. According to this reading, English and Frisian would have had a proximal ancestral form in common that no other attested group shares. The early Anglo-Frisian varieties, like Old English and Old Frisian, and the third Ingvaeonic group at the time, the ancestor of Low German Old Saxon, were spoken by intercommunicating populations. While this has been cited as a reason for a few traits exclusively shared by Old Saxon and either Old English or Old Frisian,[2] a genetic unity of the Anglo-Frisian languages beyond that of an Ingvaeonic subfamily can not be considered a majority opinion. In fact, the groupings of Ingvaeonic and West Germanic languages are highly debated, even though they rely on much more innovations and evidence. Some scholars consider a Proto-Anglo-Frisian language as disproven, as far as such postulates are falsifiable.[2] Nevertheless, the close ties and strong similarities between the Anglic and the Frisian grouping are part of the scientific consensus. Therefore, the concept of Anglo-Frisian languages can be useful and is today employed without these implications.[2][3]

Geography isolated the settlers of Great Britain from Continental Europe, except from contact with communities capable of open water navigation. This resulted in more Old Norse and Norman language influences during the development of Modern English, whereas the modern Frisian languages developed under contact with the southern Germanic populations, restricted to the continent.


The proposed Anglo-Frisian family tree is:

Anglic languagesEdit

Anglic,[4][5] Insular Germanic, or English languages[6][7] encompass Old English and all the linguistic varieties descended from it. These include Middle English, Early Modern English, and Modern English; Early Scots, Middle Scots, and Modern Scots; and the extinct Yola and Fingallian in Ireland.

English-based creole languages are not generally included, as mainly only their lexicon and not necessarily their grammar, phonology, etc. comes from Modern and Early Modern English.

Proto-Old English
Northumbrian Old English Mercian and Kentish Old English West Saxon Old English
Early Northern
Middle English
Early Midland and Southeastern
Middle English
Early Southern and Southwestern
Middle English
Early Scots Northern
Middle English
Middle English
Middle English
Middle English
Middle English
Middle Scots Northern Early Modern English Midland Early Modern English Metropolitan Early Modern English Southern Early Modern English Southwestern Early Modern English, Yola, Fingallian
Modern Scots Modern English

Frisian languagesEdit

The Frisian languages are a group of languages spoken by about 500,000 Frisian people on the southern fringes of the North Sea in the Netherlands and Germany. West Frisian, by far the most spoken of the three, is an official language in the Dutch province of Friesland and on two of the West Frisian Islands. North Frisian is spoken on some North Frisian Islands and parts of mainland North Frisia in the northernmost German district of Nordfriesland, and also in Heligoland in the German Bight, both part of Schleswig-Holstein state (Heligoland is part of its mainland district of Pinneberg). The East Frisian language is spoken in Saterland in Germany.

Anglo-Frisian developmentsEdit

The following is a summary of the major sound changes affecting vowels in chronological order.[8] For additional detail, see Phonological history of Old English. That these were simultaneous and in that order for all Anglo-Frisian languages is considered disproved by some scholars.[2]

  1. Backing and nasalization of West Germanic a and ā before a nasal consonant
  2. Loss of n before a spirant, resulting in lengthening and nasalization of preceding vowel
  3. Single form for present and preterite plurals
  4. A-fronting: West Germanic a, āæ, ǣ, even in the diphthongs ai and au (see Anglo-Frisian brightening)
  5. palatalization of Proto-Germanic *k and *g before front vowels (but not phonemicization of palatals)
  6. A-restoration: æ, ǣa, ā under the influence of neighboring consonants
  7. Second fronting: OE dialects (except West Saxon) and Frisian ǣē
  8. A-restoration: a restored before a back vowel in the following syllable (later in the Southumbrian dialects); Frisian æuau → Old Frisian ā/a
  9. OE breaking; in West Saxon palatal diphthongization follows
  10. i-mutation followed by syncope; Old Frisian breaking follows
  11. Phonemicization of palatals and assibilation, followed by second fronting in parts of West Mercia
  12. Smoothing and back mutation


Numbers in Anglo-Frisian languagesEdit

These are the words for the numbers one to 12 in the Anglo-Frisian languages, with Dutch and German included for comparison:

Language 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
English one two three four five six seven eight nine ten eleven twelve
Scots[note 1] ane
twa three fower five sax seiven aicht nine ten eleiven twal
Yola oan twye dhree vour veeve zeese zeven ayght neen dhen
West Frisian ien twa trije fjouwer fiif seis sân acht njoggen tsien alve tolve
Saterland Frisian aan twäi
träi fjauwer fieuw säks soogen oachte njugen tjoon alwen tweelich
North Frisian (Mooring dialect) iinj
fjouer fiiw seeks soowen oocht nüügen tiin alwen tweelwen
Dutch een twee drie vier vijf zes zeven acht negen tien elf twaalf
German eins zwei drei vier fünf sechs sieben acht neun zehn elf zwölf

* Ae [eː], [jeː] is an adjectival form used before nouns.[9]

Words in English, Scots, West Frisian, Dutch, and GermanEdit

English Scots West Frisian Dutch German
day day dei dag Tag
world warld wrâld wereld Welt
rain rain rein regen Regen
blood bluid bloed bloed Blut
alone alane allinne alleen allein
stone stane stien steen Stein
snow snaw snie sneeuw Schnee
summer simmer simmer zomer Sommer
way wey wei weg Weg
almighty awmichtie almachtich almachtig allmächtig
ship ship skip schip Schiff
nail nail neil nagel Nagel
old auld âld oud alt
butter butter bûter boter Butter
cheese cheese tsiis kaas Käse
apple aiple apel appel Apfel
church kirk tsjerke kerk Kirche
son son soan zoon Sohn
door door doar deur Tür
good guid goed goed gut
fork fork foarke vork Gabel
Forke (dated)
sib sib sibbe sibbe (dated) Sippe
together thegither tegearre samen
morn(ing) morn(in) moarn morgen Morgen
until, till until, till oant tot bis
where whaur wêr waar wo
key key[note 2] kaai sleutel Schlüssel
have been (was) wis ha west ben geweest bin gewesen
two sheep twa sheep twa skiep twee schapen zwei Schafe
have hae hawwe hebben haben
us us ús ons uns
horse horse hynder
hoars (rare)
ros (dated)
Ross (dated)
bread breid brea brood Brot
hair hair hier haar Haar
heart hert hert hart Herz
beard beard burd baard Bart
ear ear, lug (colloquial) ear oor Ohr
green green grien groen grün
red reid read rood rot
sweet sweet swiet zoet süß
through throu[note 3] troch door durch
wet weet wiet nat nass
eye ee each oog Auge
dream dream dream droom Traum
mouse moose mûs muis Maus
house hoose hûs huis Haus
it goes on it gaes/gangs on it giet oan het gaat door es geht weiter/los
good day guid day goeie (dei) goedendag guten Tag

Alternative groupingEdit

Ingvaeonic, also known as North Sea Germanic, is a postulated grouping of the West Germanic languages that encompasses Old Frisian, Old English,[note 4] and Old Saxon.[10]

It is not thought of as a monolithic proto-language, but rather as a group of closely related dialects that underwent several areal changes in relative unison.[11]

The grouping was first proposed in Nordgermanen und Alemannen (1942) by the German linguist and philologist Friedrich Maurer (1898–1984), as an alternative to the strict tree diagrams that had become popular following the work of the 19th-century linguist August Schleicher and which assumed the existence of an Anglo-Frisian group.[12]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Depending on dialect 1. [en], [jɪn], [in], [wan], [*eː], [jeː] 2. [twɑː], [twɔː], [tweː], [twaː] 3. [θrəi], [θriː], [triː] 4. [ˈfʌu(ə)r], [fuwr] 5. [faiːv], [fɛv] 6. [saks] 7. [ˈsiːvən], [ˈseːvən], [ˈsəivən] 8. [ext], [ɛçt] 9. [nəin], [nin] 10. [tɛn].
  2. ^ Depending on dialect [kiː] or [kəi].
  3. ^ Depending on dialect [θruː] or [θrʌu].
  4. ^ Also known as Anglo-Saxon.


  1. ^ "History & Evolution".
  2. ^ a b c d Stiles, Patrick (2018-08-01). Friesische Studien II: Beiträge des Föhrer Symposiums zur Friesischen Philologie vom 7.–8. April 1994 (PDF). NOWELE Supplement Series. 12. doi:10.1075/nss.12. ISBN 978-87-7838-059-3. Retrieved 2020-10-23.
  3. ^ Hines, John, 1956- (2017). Frisians and their North Sea Neighbours. Boydell & Brewer. ISBN 978-1-78744-063-0. OCLC 1013723499.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Anglic". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  5. ^ Woolf, Alex (2007). From Pictland to Alba, 789–1070. The New Edinburgh History of Scotland. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 978-0-7486-1234-5., p. 336
  6. ^ J. Derrick McClure Scots its range of Uses in A. J. Aitken, Tom McArthur, Languages of Scotland, W. and R. Chambers, 1979. p.27
  7. ^ Thomas Burns McArthur, The English Languages, Cambridge University Press, 1998. p.203
  8. ^ Fulk, Robert D. (1998). "The Chronology of Anglo-Frisian Sound Changes". In Bremmer Jr., Rolf H.; Johnston, Thomas S.B.; Vries, Oebele (eds.). Approaches to Old Frisian Philology. Amsterdam: Rodopoi. p. 185.
  9. ^ Grant, William; Dixon, James Main (1921). Manual of Modern Scots. Cambridge: University Press. p. 105.
  10. ^ Some include West Flemish. Cf. Bremmer (2009:22).
  11. ^ For a full discussion of the areal changes involved and their relative chronologies, see Voyles (1992).
  12. ^ "Friedrich Maurer (Lehrstuhl für Germanische Philologie - Linguistik)". Retrieved 2013-06-24.

Further readingEdit

  • Maurer, Friedrich (1942). Nordgermanen und Alemannen: Studien zur Sprachgeschichte, Stammes- und Volkskunde (in German). Strasbourg: Hünenburg.
  • Euler, Wolfram (2013). Das Westgermanische [West Germanic: from its Emergence in the 3rd up until its Dissolution in the 7th Century CE: Analyses and Reconstruction] (in German). London/Berlin: Verlag Inspiration Un Ltd. p. 244. ISBN 978-3-9812110-7-8.
  • Ringe, Don; Taylor, Ann (2014). The Development of Old English - A Linguistic History of English. 2. Oxford: University Press. ISBN 978-0199207848.