Anglo-Frisian languages

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Originally England, Scottish Lowlands and the North Sea coast from Friesland to Jutland; today worldwide
Linguistic classification Indo-European
Glottolog angl1264[1]
Anglo-Frisian distribution map.svg
Approximate present day distribution of the Anglo-Frisian languages in Europe.

Anglic (or English):



Hatched areas indicate where multilingualism is common.

The Anglo-Frisian languages are the West Germanic languages which include Anglic (or English) and Frisian.

The Anglo-Frisian languages are distinct from other West Germanic languages due to several sound changes: the Ingvaeonic nasal spirant law, Anglo-Frisian brightening, and palatalization of /k/:

  • 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

The early Anglo-Frisian and Old Saxon were spoken by intercommunicating populations, which led to shared linguistic traits through assimilation. English and Frisian have a proximal ancestral form in common before their divergence. Geography isolated the settlers of Great Britain from Continental Europe, except from contact with communities capable of open water navigation. This resulted in Old Norse and Norman language influences on Modern English, whereas Modern Frisian was subject to contact with the southernly Germanic populations, restricted to the continent.


The Anglo-Frisian family tree is:

Anglo-Frisian developments

The following is a summary of the major sound changes affecting vowels in chronological order.[2] For additional detail, see Phonological history of Old English.

  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: WGmc 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 languages

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[3] 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 the adjectival form used before nouns.[4]

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

English Scots West Frisian Dutch German
day day dei dag Tag
rain rain rein regen Regen
way wey wei weg Weg
nail nail neil nagel Nagel
butter butter bûter boter Butter
cheese cheese tsiis kaas Käse
church kirk tsjerke kerk Kirche
door door doar deur Tür
fork fork foarke vork Gabel
sibling[note 1] sib sibbe sibbe (dated) Sippe
together thegither tegearre samen
morn(ing) morn(in) moarn morgen Morgen
until, till until, till oant tot bis
key key[5] 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 paard
ros (dated)
Ross (dated)
bread breid brea brood Brot
hair hair hier haar Haar
ear ear, lug (colloquial) ear oor Ohr
green green grien groen grün
sweet sweet swiet zoet süß
through throu[6] troch door durch
wet weet wiet nat nass
eye ee each oog Auge
dream dream dream droom Traum
it goes on it gaes/gangs on it giet oan het gaat door es geht weiter/los

Alternative grouping

Ingvaeonic, also known as North Sea Germanic, is a postulated grouping of the West Germanic languages that comprises Old Frisian, Old English[7] and Old Saxon.[8]

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.[9]

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.[10]

See also


  1. ^ Original meaning was "relative" which has become "brother or sister" in English.


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Anglo-Frisian". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ Robert D. Fulk, “The Chronology of Anglo-Frisian Sound Changes”, Approaches to Old Frisian Philology, eds., Rolf H. Bremmer Jr., Thomas S.B. Johnston, and Oebele Vries (Amsterdam: Rodopoi, 1998), 185.
  3. ^ Depending on dialect 1. en, jɪn, in, wan *e:, je: 2. twɑ:, twɔ:, twe:, twa: 3. θrəi, θri:, tri: 4. 'fʌu(ə)r, fuwr 5. fai:v, fɛv 6. saks 7. 'si:vən, 'se:vən, 'səivən 8. ext, ɛçt 9. nəin, nin 10. tɛn
  4. ^ Grant, William; Dixon, James Main (1921) Manual of Modern Scots. Cambridge, University Press. p.105
  5. ^ Depending on dialect ki: or kəi
  6. ^ Depending on dialect θru: or θrʌu
  7. ^ Also known as Anglo-Saxon.
  8. ^ Some include West Flemish. Cf. Bremmer (2009:22).
  9. ^ For a full discussion of the areal changes involved and their relative chronologies, see Voyles (1992).
  10. ^ "Friedrich Maurer (Lehrstuhl für Germanische Philologie - Linguistik)". Retrieved 2013-06-24.

Further reading

  • Friedrich Maurer (1942), Nordgermanen und Alemannen: Studien zur Sprachgeschichte, Stammes- und Volkskunde, Strasbourg: Hünenburg.
  • Wolfram Euler (2013), Das Westgermanische [subtitle missing] (West Germanic: from its Emergence in the 3rd up until its Dissolution in the 7th Century CE: Analyses and Reconstruction). 244 p., in German with English summary, Verlag Inspiration Un Ltd., London/Berlin, ISBN 978-3-9812110-7-8.
  • Ringe, Donald R. and Taylor, Ann (2014). The Development of Old English - A Linguistic History of English, vol. II, 632p. ISBN 978-0199207848. Oxford.
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