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Frisian Language


The Frisian language is the West Germanic language that is most closely related to English. It was formerly spoken by the inhabitants of what is now the province of Noord-Holland in The Netherlands, and the North Sea coastal area of Germany up to Schleswig, including the offshore islands of this area. It is spoken today in three small areas, each of which has its own dialect. The dialects are known as West Frisian, East Frisian, and North Frisian. West Frisian is spoken in Friesland, the northern Dutch coastal province, including the Frisian islands of Terschelling and Schiermonnikoog. East Frisian is spoken in the Ostfriesland and Nordfriesland areas of Germany. North Frisian is spoken along the west coast of the Schleswig area of Germany and the North Frisian islands.

The Frisian Islands lie only a short distance (3 to 30 miles) from the northern coast of mainland Europe. They form an arc that extends from the Dutch port of Den Helder in the west to the mouth of the Elbe River in the east, and then northward along the southwestern coast of Denmark. Although the islands constitute a single geographical feature, they are normally classified as The West Frisian Islands, The East Frisian Islands, and The North Frisian Islands. The first group of islands belongs to the Netherlands, the second group to Germany, and the third group to Germany and Denmark.

Tribal Frisians migrated during prehistoric times to what is known today as the Frisian Islands, driving out the Celt inhabitants in the process. The Frisians subsequently became part of the Roman Empire; were later overrun by Angles and Saxons on the way to England, and much later conquered by Charlemagne and converted to Christianity. The Frisians became protestants during the Reformation.

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