Minority Languages

Did You Know the English Language Has A Secret Brother?

You may want to sit down for this because you are about to find out your Germanic mother gave birth to another language. That’s right. In the north of the Netherlands there is a province called Friesland, and the language they speak bears an uncanny resemblance to English.

Map of UK + Ireland, the Netherlands and Friesland

If you are confused right now, you are probably not the only one. Not many people outside of the Netherlands know of this language, and in fact even within the Netherlands people often think Frisian is merely a dialect. For those of you who still think that, let me help you right here with this Germanic language family tree.

 

As you can see both English and Frisian are actually part of the Anglo-Frisian branch, whereas Dutch stems from Old Low Franconian. Generally people already consider Swedish, Danish, German and Dutch to be somewhat similar to English, but ‘genetically´ Frisian is the closest language to English. The influence of French on English and Dutch on Frisian might make these similarities harder to see, but we all know you can’t forget your roots.

When we compare certain words and word categories in English, Frisian, Dutch and German we can see how close the two languages really are, especially when we take a look at the pronunciation.

For example the word “cheese”. In Dutch it translates to “kaas” and in German to “Kãse”, which is all similar enough. The Frisian version however is “tsiis’, which on paper just looks like something typed by your cat when he walks across your keyboard, but when you consider the pronunciation of the double I is almost identical to the English double E, whereas both Dutch and German chosen a completely different vowel for this word.

Not only that, but in many other words where English has the “Ch” pronunciation, the Frisians have kept very similar phonetics (only they attach different letters to them).

Another set of examples of words where the Frisians have stuck to the English phonetics is in words like “sleep”  or “sheep”. The Frisian “IE” is identical to the “II” sound, which as mentioned before is like the English “EE”,  while for some reason both Dutch and German have both gone with an “A” sound in these words.

 

But the similarities don’t stop there. When you look at the English words like “Way” and “Day”, where the “Y” has been switched for a “G” in Dutch and German, in Frisian they have kept the “I” sound, and though it is written with an “e”, the “EI” sound in Frisian is comparable to the “YE” or “IE” in “dye” or “die”.

 

And last but not least, an “N” before a ‘voiceless fricative’ (meaning an “S”, “F’ or “TH”) can be found in Dutch and German, but is largely lost in English and Frisian.

Interestingly, though Frisian is still widely spoken in Frisian households the education is generally in Dutch. This means that when people in Friesland learn English it will most likely be taught in English, which means many Frisians don’t make the connections between English and their native language (and I say this from experience).

So now you know that Friesland is not only the province with the coolest flag (see Exhibit A) with it’s famous pompeblêdden (not hearts), but also that one province that speaks a language that is ridiculously close to English.

If you are interested in learning minority languages such as Frisian, try your luck with the Memrise App.

 

Bonus, the Frisian word for “this” is “dizze”, only proving my original hypothesis that Frisians are the real OG’s

Exhibit A

 

 

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3 Comments

  • Reply Joke Bellen August 3, 2017 at 2:27 pm

    Very interesting, but why are Dutch and Flemish two different languages in the Germanic language tree? How is Flemish defined in this context?

    Does it represent the group of dialects spoken in West- and East-Flanders, two Belgian provinces in Belgium? Or does it represent the language spoken by ALL inhabitants of Flanders, the Dutchspeaking part of Belgium? Because in the latter case, I wouldn’t call Flemish a language different from Dutch. So-called Flemish is just another variant of Dutch, like American English is a variant of English. Because we – the Flemish – do use the same dictionary and grammar as the Dutch, don’t we?

    So, although I was born and bred in Flanders, the Dutchspeaking part of Belgium, I wouldn’t call my mother tongue Flemish. It would either be Dutch – the official language – or Limburgish – the dialect group spoken in the eastern province of Flanders, where I’m from.

    • Reply AmarensElise August 20, 2017 at 4:41 pm

      The creator of this language tree added a note to further explain that “some languages on this list are considered dialects, for instance Flemish is officially a Dutch dialect but I have decided to list some dialects too because of their widespread use or diversity from the mother language

      You can find this note directly under the language tree. I hope that clear up any of your questions.

  • Reply Charlotte August 27, 2017 at 9:02 am

    Bokmål and nynorsk are both written standards of Norwegian. Norwegian is a current language.

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