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Title: Anglo-Frisian  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: British English, Germanic languages, German language, Anglo-Saxons, North Germanic languages, Boy, North Frisian language, Ingvaeonic languages, Old Saxon, Runic inscriptions
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Originally England, Scottish Lowlands and the North Sea coast from Friesland to Jutland; today worldwide
Linguistic classification: Indo-European

Approximate present day distribution of the Anglo-Frisian languages in Europe.




Hatched areas indicate where multilingualism is common.

The Anglo-Frisian languages form a group of West Germanic languages consisting of Old English, Old Frisian, and their descendants. The Anglo-Frisian family tree is:

The Anglo-Frisian languages are distinguished from other West Germanic languages partially by the Ingvaeonic nasal spirant law, Anglo-Frisian brightening, and by the palatalization of Proto-Germanic *k to a coronal affricate before front vowels, e.g.

  • English cheese, West Frisian tsiis vs. Dutch kaas, Low German Kees, German Käse; or
  • English church, West Frisian tsjerke vs. Dutch kerk, Low German Kerk, Kark, German Kirche.

The early Anglo-Frisian and Old Saxon speech communities lived close enough together to form a linguistic crossroads which is why they share some of the traits otherwise only typical of Anglo-Frisian languages.[1] However, despite their common origins, Anglic and Frisian have become very divergent, largely due to the heavy Norse and French influences on English and similarly heavy Dutch and Low German influences on Frisian. The result is that Frisian has now far more in common with Dutch and the adjacent Low German dialects, bringing it into the West Germanic dialect continuum, whereas Anglic has stronger North Germanic and non-Germanic influences than the languages on the mainland.

Anglo-Frisian developments

The following is a summary of the major sound changes affecting vowels in chronological order:[2]

  1. Backing and nasalization of West Germanic ā̆ before a nasal consonant;
  2. Loss of n before a spirant, resulting in lengthening and nasalization of preceding vowel;
  3. The present and preterite plurals reduced to a single form;
  4. A-fronting: WGmc ā̆ǣ, even in the diphthongs ai and au;
  5. Palatalization (but not phonemicization of palatals);
  6. A-restoration: ǣā under to 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.


The words for the numbers one to ten in the Anglo-Frisian languages:

Language 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
English one two three four five six seven eight nine ten
Scots ane
twa three fower five sax seiven aicht nine ten
Yola oan twye dhree vour veeve zeese zeven ayght neen dhen
West Frisian ien twa trije fjouwer fiif seis sân acht njoggen tsien
Saterland Frisian aan twäi
träi fjauwer fieuw säks soogen oachte njugen tjoon
North Frisian (Mooring dialect) iinj
fjouer fiiw seeks soowen oocht nüügen tiin
  • Ae /eː/, /jeː/ is the adjectival form used before nouns.[3]

Comparison of Frisian to English, Dutch and German

Frisian English Dutch German
dei day dag Tag
rein rain regen Regen
wei way weg Weg
neil nail nagel Nagel
tsiis cheese kaas Käse
tsjerke church
kirk (Scotland)
kerk Kirche
tegearre together samen
tegader (archaic)
sibbe sibling[note 1] sibbe Sippe
kaai key sleutel Schlüssel
ha west have been ben geweest bin gewesen
twa skiep two sheep twee schapen zwei Schafe
hawwe have hebben haben
ús us ons uns
hynder horse paard
ros (dated)
Ross / Pferd
brea bread brood Brot
hier hair haar Haar
ear ear oor Ohr
doar door deur Tür
grien green groen Grün
swiet sweet zoet süß
troch through door durch
wiet wet nat nass
each eye oog Auge
dream dream droom Traum
it giet oan it's on het gaat door es geht weiter/los

Alternative grouping

Main article: Ingvaeonic languages

Ingvaeonic, also known as North Sea Germanic, is a postulated grouping of the West Germanic languages that comprises Old Frisian, Old English[4] and Old Saxon.[5]

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.[6]

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 which had become popular following the work of the 19th-century linguist August Schleicher and which assumed the existence of an Anglo-Frisian group.[7]

See also



Further reading

  • Friedrich Maurer (1942), Nordgermanen und Alemannen: Studien zur Sprachgeschichte, Stammes- und Volkskunde, Strasbourg: Hünenburg.
  • Wolfram Euler (2013), Das Westgermanische . 244 p., in German with English summary, Verlag Inspiration Un Ltd., London/Berlin, ISBN 978-3-9812110-7-8.
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