unizeit Schriftzug

Gudai! Fresk snaake kön ei arken*

Like Danish, North Frisian is a minority language in Schleswig-Holstein. It is spoken in eight different dialects by around 8,000 people in North Frisia. The regional language in all its variations is researched and documented at Kiel University.

*Good afternoon! Not everyone speaks North Frisian

Book page in close-up.
© Farah Claußen, Uni Kiel

North Frisian is divided into nine dialects, which all have different linguistic characteristics.

Be it sophisticated literature, modern theatre or Frisian pop music, Frisian works have long been known and appreciated beyond Northern Germany. The Professor of Frisian Jarich Hoekstra documents and researches North Frisian dialects at the University of Kiel. A valuable treasure trove of languages is hidden in the North Frisian dictionary at the Institute for Scandinavian, Frisian and General Linguistics (ISFAS), which Hoekstra heads.

The Nordfriesische Wörterbuchstelle (North Frisian dictionary section), which has been in existence since 1950, was founded with the intention of publishing a complete dictionary for all North Frisian dialects. However, at the request of the language community, the responsible persons at that time began to create dictionaries of the individual dialects. Thus five larger and several smaller dictionaries have been published to date.

What emerged from the dictionary office is an exciting tool with which both students and researchers work. "The Thesaurus of North Frisian is an online database with North Frisian texts, glossaries, grammars and bibliographies for the documentation of North Frisian dialects," explains Hoekstra. "Both the research community and the language community in North Frisia benefit from this important data source, because it can serve as a basis for new dictionaries, for example". The dictionary centre also has a large collection of sound recordings by local people.

Frisian is an independent and diverse language, divided into West, East and North Frisian. The North Frisian island dialects include Fering-Öömrang (Föhr, Amrum), Sölring (Sylt) and Halunder (Helgoland). The dialects spoken on the Schleswig-Holstein mainland are called Wiedingharder, Bökingharder (also Mooring or Frasch), Karrharder, Goesharder and Halligfriesian. The Eiderstedt Frisian has been extinct since the 18th century. In 1999, by signing the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages, Germany declared its willingness to protect and promote North Frisian.

North Frisian is still a very lively language today. This can be seen from the fact that it is used by many people in North Frisia in their everyday lives: "Today, we assume that there are an estimated 5,000 to 8,000 speakers who actively master the language. About twice as many people have passive language skills. On Föhr, around 2,000 locals still speak their dialect in everyday life. This makes them part of the largest group of speakers," says Hoekstra.

His research is mainly concerned with the language itself, with all its facets. For example, he deals with word formation and sentence structure and investigates the extent to which dialects have changed over the past centuries. Hoekstra passionately passes on his knowledge to his students in order to preserve the language. Currently, about 30 men and women are studying Frisian Studies in Kiel.

Author: Farah Claußen

Study Frisian

The CAU is only one of two universities in Germany to offer a degree course in Frisian Studies, in addition to the Europa-Universität Flensburg. Here students are trained as experts in Frisian studies. The aim of the bachelor's degree is to teach students basic knowledge of the Frisian language and to impart skills and methods in Frisian linguistics and literature. In the Master's programme, qualifications already acquired are deepened and extended. The focus is on the consolidation of specialist knowledge. Students also learn how scientific work in Frisian Studies works. Both courses of study are oriented towards all three Frisian language areas, but the main focus is on North Frisian. (fcl)


Frisian literature reissued

Together with the Dutch University of Groningen, the University of Kiel has published about two to three volumes a year in the "Estrikken/Ålstråke" series since 2002. These are, on the one hand, texts by well-known Frisian authors, which are published in new editions accompanied by a scientific introduction to the work. On the other hand, linguistic and literary studies are also published. So far 31 works have been published, four of them last year in Kiel: "Julius Johannsen - Di broowe dring / Der brave Junge" by Ingo Laabs, a sociolinguistic study by Timothy Jacob-Owens: "Multilingualism on Amrum: Language contact and variation 1839-1851", "Prussian Maat and North Frisian Patriot: The Poet Johannes Hansen (1854-1877) from Fehsholm" by Christoph Winter and "Erk Petersen - Deer driif en heef foont sööden jurt. En ütwool foon toochte, tääle än dächte / A sea drifted from the south. A selection of thoughts, stories and poems" by Ingo Laabs. The works are aimed both at students and the Frisian language community. (fcl)