L O W L A N D S - L * 31.MAR.2000 (04) * ISSN 189-5582 * LCSN 96-4226
Posting Address: <lowlands-l@...
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A=Afrikaans, Ap=Appalachean, D=Dutch, E=English, F=Frisian, L=Limburgish
LS=Low Saxon (Low German), S=Scots, Sh=Shetlandic
From: Stefaan Vermeire [stefaan.vermeire@...
From the First Report submitted by the Federal Republic of Germany under
Article 25, paragraph 1, of the Council of Europe's Framework Convention
the Protection of National Minorities (1999):
I.4.3 The ethnic group of Frisians in Germany
The Frisians, as a people of the coastal region of the North Sea, have been
known since about the start of the Christian Era. West Friesland - covering
the contemporary province of Friesland in the Netherlands, and adjacent
regions - and East Friesland have been the settlement area of Frisians
the times of the earliest historic sources. The settlement area of the East
Frisians essentially covers East Friesland and the northern Oldenburg
up to the mouth of the Weser River on the North Sea. >From the coastal
region and from the islands, especially after the devastating storm surges
during the Middle Ages, settlement also extended to more southerly inland
regions where other people of non-Frisian origin already lived.
The Saterland Frisians are descended from those Frisians who, between 1100
and 1400, moved from the North Sea coast that had been devastated by storm
tides, to settle, more to the south, in the Saterland where Westphalians
already settled. The Saterland Frisians live in the Saterland Community
which comprises the villages of Strücklingen, Ramsloh, Scharrel and
Sedelsberg, including many farmstead hamlets. The population structure of
the Saterland, as well as that of all regions of Germany, changed as a
result of the general mobility in this century and the in-migration of
refugees and expellees after the Second World War. The share of
Saterfrisians in the total population of the community has been reduced
again in recent years because of the arrival of many so-called "late
repatriates" (Spätaussiedler) who, as former members of German minorities,
especially in the former Soviet Union and in South Eastern Europe, returned
to their ancestors' native country where they settled in places having
sufficient housing available. The majority of the inhabitants of the
Community of Saterland, however, (ca. 12,000) regard themselves as
Since the times of the migration of peoples (Middle Ages population
movements), North Friesland at first had not been colonised. The Frisians -
presumably by the 7th and 8th centuries - were the first to settle in some
areas of North Friesland. Another group of settlers came to the low-lying
marshes in the 11th and 12th centuries. The old North Friesland was not a
political entity, but consisted of loosely connected administrative
districts. Until 1867, North Friesland was part of the Kingdom of Denmark,
after that - until 1871 - part of Prussia, and subsequently, together with
Prussia, part of the German Empire. The settlement area of the North
Frisians is along the west coast of Schleswig-Holstein (Kreis of North
Friesland, with the islands of Sylt, Föhr, Amrum and Helgoland). About
50,000 to 60,000 persons consider themselves North Frisians on account of
their ethnic descent and their sense of personal identity. In their
settlement area, North Frisians account for about one third of the
population, while in some island communities they form the majority.
Frisian, as an autonomous and ancestral language, descended from the North
Sea Germanic branch of the West Germanic subfamily, differs distinctly from
Netherlandic (Dutch and Flemish) and Low German and, in terms of historical
linguistics, is closely related to Old English. It has evolved in three
subgroups: West Frisian, East Frisian, and North Frisian. West Frisian is
spoken in the province of Friesland in the Netherlands. East Frisian is
native to East Friesland in Lower Saxony. Both regions form the historical
(geographical) centre of the Frisians.
By around 1500, the East Frisians had already replaced the Frisian language
by Low German as the language used for drafting legal documents. By 1800,
for the most part, they had relinquished their ancestral Frisian language
with the language finally disappearing at the beginning of this century on
the last of the North Sea Islands. North Frisian consists of two groups of
dialects with nine local varieties: six of these [so-called Continental
North Frisian] are spoken along the west coast of Schleswig-Holstein
(including the holms, or Halligen), and three of them [so-called Insular
North Frisian] on the islands of Sylt, Föhr/Amrum, and Helgoland. Despite
the linguistic diversity brought about by the subdivision into dialects,
linguistic communality of North Frisian prevails. Of the North Frisian
population, some 10,000 persons still speak North Frisian; another 20,000
persons understand this language.
Saterland Frisian, an Emsland-based dialect of the Old East Frisian
language, continues to be used as the language of everyday oral
communication by about 2,000 Sater Frisians. About twice as many people
understand Saterland Frisian. Despite many Low German loan words, Saterland
Frisian has preserved its linguistic independence. The Saterland Frisian
language originally had superimposed itself on the Westphalian Low German
the first inhabitants of the Saterland. After East Friesland and the
adjacent regions of Saterland had changed over to Low German, survival of
Saterland Frisian was possible because the Saterland villages were located
in a sandy river valley surrounded by extensive fens which provided a
from contacts with the outside world and from its penetrating and shaping
influence well into this century.
East Friesland is still inhabited mainly by people of East Frisian origin.
Although the Frisian language is extinct in these parts, an East Frisian -
cultural - identity continues to be preserved by the majority of the people
in East Friesland, living in the area between the border of the Netherlands
and the Weser River. However, it is not possible to give a precise estimate
regarding the share of people in the population of East Friesland who
identify themselves as Frisians.
The Frisians in East Friesland are united by the feeling of a common
and culture, which finds its expression in a regional identity. They do not
consider themselves a national minority. The Saterland Frisians regard
themselves as the Saterland Frisian language group. Nor do the largest
of organisationally associated North Frisians - the North Frisian
Association (Nordfriesischer Verein) - consider themselves a national
minority; rather, they regard themselves as a group having their own
language, history and culture within Germany. A much smaller organisation,
the Foriining for nationale Friiske (Association of National Frisians),
the Frisians as a people in its own right and considers themselves a
national minority in Germany. Nowadays, the two groups have agreed on to
refer to themselves as the "Frisian ethnic group" and are thus designated
the Constitution of the Land of Schleswig-Holstein.
Despite their different positions regarding the description of their
identity, the Frisian associations and organisations welcome the claim to
the protection and promotion of their culture and language, which is
afforded to them by the application of the Framework Convention for the
Protection of National Minorities.
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