This page contains wo short pieces and one longer article on Frisian literature as well as two pieces on the Frisian language
Frisian Literature I
Frisian literature II
the literature that is written in West Frisian, a language closely related to Old English, and now spoken primarily by the inhabitants of Friesland, a northern province of The Netherlands. (The languages known as East Frisian and North Frisian made little contribution to Frisian literature. See Frisian language.) Frisian literature, as it is known today, began with Gysbert Japicx (also spelled Japiks; 1603-66) in the 17th century. Friesland's incorporation into the Dutch Republic in 1581 threatened to reduce Frisian to a mere peasant dialect. Japicx, however, through his Friesche Rymlerye (1668; "Frisian Verse") and other works proved the richness and versatility of the language and saved it from potential extinction. It was not until the Romantic period of the 19th century, however, that Frisian literature began to flourish as a national literature. About this time the Halbertsma brothers--Eeltsje, Joast, and Tsjalling--founded a movement known as "New Frisian Literature," and they went on to write an amusing collection of Romantic prose and poetry, Rimen en Teltsjes (1871; "Rhymes and Tales"), that stimulated the rise of a rich folk literature in the second half of the 19th century. Their contemporary, the philologist and poet Harmen Sytstra, wrote of the heroic past in old Germanic verse forms. In 1915 Douwe Kalma launched the Young Frisian Movement, which challenged younger writers to break radically with the provincialism and didacticism of past Frisian literature. This break had been anticipated in the lyrical poetry and fiction of Simke Kloosterman and in the psychological narratives of Reinder Brolsma. Kalma himself made important contributions to poetry, drama, translation, and literary history and criticism. Other important Frisian literary figures in the first half of the 20th century were the essayist E.B. Folkertsma and the poets Fedde Schurer, Obe Postma, and Douwe Tamminga. Frisian literature since World War II has largely broken away from the national movement and many traditional conventions, especially through Anne Wadman's leadership as critic, essayist, and novelist. Most Frisian poetry and fiction now reflects the larger western European community of writers in themes and techniques. http://www.britannica.com
Old and Middle Frisian
After 1498 Dutch became the official written language in Fryslân, but, in general, the language spoken by the people in the country continued to be Frisian. During the Renaissance period, people not only showed an interest in the old classical authors, but they also began to appreciate their own ancient language. This meant that people such as Jan Jzn Starter, Petrus Baerdt and Johannes van Hichtum started to use Frisian for their own writings. Their simple literary works comprised lyrical poems, wedding songs, almanac contributions and burlesques. In the Middle Frisian period (ca. 1550-1800) one poet in particular stood out head and shoulders above his predecessors. The name of this schoolmaster from Boalsert was Gysbert Japix His Friesche Tjerne - the only poem published during his lifetime - links up with Johannes van Hichtum's poetry, but because of his far greater talent, as seen in the richness and the musicality of his language in addition to his expressivity, his works far surpass those of his example. His collected works, Friesche Rymlerye (Frisian Poetry), appeared two years after his death. As was customary in that period, his poetry was split into three categories. The Friesche Rymlerye therefore consists of three sections: lyrical, didactic and, religious. Gysbert Japix lived during the transition from Renaissance to Baroque. In his work, characteristics of both periods manifest themselves. As a literary artist, he may be compared to Dutch contemporaries such as Camphuysen and Revius. (Although his poetry is less witty, his religious poems may bring to mind the English poet George Herbert. As for his lyrical works, some may find it to be reminiscent of Andrew Marvell.) As a creator and a pioneer of the Frisian language, his work is in no way less important than that of Hooft, Huygens and Vondel for the Dutch language. Gysbert Japix' works proved to be both of immense linguistic and literary importance for the development of the Frisian language.
Modern Frisian Literature
The improvement of the Dutch education system meant that broad layers of Frisian society received better instruction in the Dutch language. This, of course, meant a threat to the position of Frisian. To resist this process of Dutchification, the Halbertsma Brothers published reading material in their own native language. Joast Halbertsma (1789-1869), a mennonite clergyman in Boalsert and Deventer, was an outstanding philologist who corresponded with numerous scholars both from the Netherlands and abroad. He started to work on a Frisian dictionary and his library constitutes an important part of what is now known as the Provincial Library of Fryslân. His collections of material relating to Frisian history and folklore were the basis for the Frisian Museum. His younger brother, Eeltsje Halbertsma (1797-1858), was a doctor in Grou, their native town. He wrote romantic, musical and lyrical poems. The Frisian anthem 'De âlde Friezen' ('The old Frisians') was also written by him. The tune of the anthem, with which Eeltsje Halbertsma must have become very well acquainted during his studies in Heidelberg, is from H. Chr. Schnoor. The work of a third brother, Tjalling Halbertsma (1792-1852), a baker and, later on, a butter and cheese merchant, is largely unpretentious. His rhymes include New Year's greetings and texts for cheap prints.
In the nineteenth century the Halbertsma Brothers incited the Frisians to read and sing in their own language. In 1822 they had begun a small anonymous book, called De Lapekoer fan Gabe Skroar (The Scrapbasket of Gabe the Tailor), but later, every time the book was reprinted, they added new stories and poems. Eventually, in 1871, the title of the book was appropriately changed to Rimen en Teltsjes (Rhymes and Tales). Even today this book is one of the most popular classics of Frisian literature. Notable literary figures among the contemporaries of the Halbertsma Brothers were Rinse Posthumus, J.C.P. Salverda and Rein Windsma.
Harmen Sytstra, Tiede Dykstra and Jacobus van Loon, the founders of the Society for Frisian Language and Literature, published Frisian periodicals and thus did much to encourage people to read and write Frisian. The number of people writing in Frisian increased considerably during the nineteenth century. Waling Dykstra, Tsjibbe Gearts van der Meulen, S.K. Feitsma and H.G. van der Veen rank among the most important literary men of that time. In 1856 Van der Veen produced a small interesting novel, called De Kaartlizzer, (The Fortune-Teller), while Van der Meulen and Waling Dykstra travelled throughout the province, giving small theatrical performances, called 'Winterjûnenocht' ('Entertainment for winter evenings'), thus promoting Frisian theatre. At the end of the nineteenth century, the writers and poets targetted a broad audience, as is demonstrated by the publication of songbooks, calendars containing Frisian text, plays of popular appeal, and a family magazine which was called Sljucht en Rjucht (Plain and Straightforward, a motto derived from the works of Gysbert Japix). Since Sljucht and Rjucht also contained news from various Frisian societies, the magazine became an important medium for people who were forced to live beyond the provincial borders of Fryslân, but still wanted to be kept informed about Frisian matters. In many towns outside Fryslân, Frisians founded societies to keep in touch with fellow-Frisians. The main activities of such 'krites' (local societies) consisted of singing, acting and dancing. In general, nineteenth century Frisian literature, including stage plays, tends to be rather conservative and moralistic, but the plays written by R.W. Canne and Y.C. Schuitmaker in the 20s and 30s of this century (and influenced by such playwrights as Ibsen, Shaw and Hauptmann) are more social and realistic in character. In their own personal ways, both Canne and Schuitmaker managed to dissociate themselves from the domesticity of many nineteenth-century plays and to raise Frisian theatre to a more elevated level.
The Frisian poet Piter Jelles Troelstra (1860-1930) succeeded in giving Frisian literature a new impulse by publishing his very personal and sensitive poetry at the end of the nineteenth century. But although Troelstra's poems were very personal, they were written in the tradition of the Romantics, especially the early ones. Douwe Kalma (1896-1953) wanted to break away from those traditions. In the Young Frisian Community, founded by him in 1915, he encouraged his fellow-writers, to put into their own words the way they experienced beauty. Kalma's ideal was heavily influenced by the writers of the Eighties movement in Holland. On the other hand, Kalma wanted to abandon provincialism. His slogan was: 'Fryslân and the world'. The Young Frisians wanted to be in the mainstream of literature. They wrote sonnets and impressionist prose and in the publications of their work they gave much attention to outward appearance. Apart from Kalma, Marten Baersma, a writer who died very young, Simke Kloosterman and R.P. Sybesma are among the most important literary figures of the Young Frisian Movement. The essay writer E.B.Folkertsma joined the Young Frisians initially, but eventually he felt more at ease with the people of the Christian Frisian Society. In this society, founded in 1908 by the clergymen S. Huismans and G.A. Wumkes, Folkertsma became a leading figure. Together with Dr. Wumkes, Folkertsma prepared the Frisian translation of the Bible, which was eventually published in 1943.
Obe Postma (1868-1963) and Rixt (1887-1979), a woman poet, did not join the Young Frisians, although to some extent Rixt sympathized with their ideals. Rixt published only one volume of poetry, but because of the personal way in which she expressed her innermost feelings, her lyrical poetry is still greatly appreciated today. Postma, a phycisist, is considered the most important poet since Gysbert Japix. The tone of Postma's poems is cheerful, but also realistic. In his free verse, he expresses his love for the Frisian countryside and all its forms of life, including not only those of the present and past, but also those of the future. Although his poems refer to concrete, mostly Frisian situations, they possess a distinctly universal quality.
The first Frisian novels appeared in the nineteenth century. However, both Van der Veen's small novel De Kaartlizzer (The Fortune-Teller) and Waling Dykstra's De sulveren rinkelbel (The Silver Jingle), an extensive and elaborate folk-tale, which were both published in 1856, are more or less exceptions in Frisian nineteenth-century literature. The art of writing Frisian novels was not fully developed until the twentieth century. Simke Kloosterman's De Hoara's fan Hastings (The Hoara family from Hastings [which is used as a name for a Frisian hamlet]), dating from 1921, is generally considered to be the first real Frisian novel.
Other important novelists of the period between the two world wars were Reinder Brolsma, Nyckle Haisma and Ulbe van Houten. During this period the best Frisian regional novels were written. Following the course of the seasons, Brolsma broadly outlined in his novels Frisian country life and the vicissitudes of fortune during the lifetimes of generations of farmers. Especially in his short stories, he also paid attention to the man in the street, the small retailers, beggars and dropouts. The one novel Ulbe van Houten wrote, De sûnde fan Haitze Holwerda (Haitze Holwerda's Sin) (1938), deals not only with the social differences between the land owner and his employees, but also concentrates on the inner conflict of a proud farmer who does not put into practice the things he says he believes. The character of Peke Donia, the central figure in the neo-romantic novel written by Nyckle Haisma, is very familiar to many Frisians. He vacilates between being adventurous and feeling homesick. For modern readers, the restlessness of this man who went to the Indonesian colonies is still very familiar.
In Frisian literary history, as in many other areas, the Second World War proved to be a turning point. Some of the most prominent writers lost their reputation because they had sided with the Germans. At the same time, a new generation of writers who had made their debuts in the 1930s had grown up. After 1945 the ideology of the Frisian movement became less important in Frisian literature. De Tsjerne (The Churn) (1945-1968), a literary magazine edited by front-ranking authors such as Douwe Tamminga, Fedde Schurer and Anne Wadman, set the trends in Frisian literature for years. By including articles about foreign literature and highlighting other forms of art, the editors hoped to broaden the views of their readership.
As a result of the influence of Dutch literature, experimental poetry and prose was produced in Frisian in the 1960s. The poets substituted high register Frisian with a more colloquial form, and went amongst the people with their new work. <![endif]> This kind of experimental poetry was also published in quatrebras (1954-1968), a magazine edited by Frisian students in Amsterdam which particularly stressed the necessity for a renewal of form in Frisian literature. Sex was one of the last taboos that still had to be broken down in Frisian literature. Especially Anne Wadman and Trinus Riemersma engaged in this in the psychological novels they wrote during the 60s. Their novels were no longer situated in a traditional environment. In 1962 Rink van der Velde had been the first Frisian writer to choose a foreign country as background to the action of a novel.
Frisian Literature Today
In the history of Frisian literature, both periods of great productivity and of decline can be discerned. But since the beginning of the nineteenth century there has been a continuous stream of books written in the Frisian language. During the past few years, the annual output of Frisian books is approximately sixty. This number includes highly literary books as well as easy reading. As in most literature written in lesser used languages, many children's books and volumes of poetry are published, whereas there are hardly any writers of literary criticism. At present, there are not many Frisian playwrights; the same goes for young novelists. More Frisian novels should be produced to satisfy the needs of the modern Frisian reader.
The main literary prize in Fryslân is named after Gysbert Japix. It is awarded every three years. People who make their first appearance in Frisian literature can win the Fedde Schurer award. The Obe Postma Prize is awarded every three years to the best translator. For the authors of children's books, there is the Simke Kloosterman Award . The Frisian writer Rely Jorritsma left a sum of money for a literary competition, which is named after him. People writing poetry and authors of short stories can send in their contributions for this competition every year. For people beginning to write, it means that they can win a nice sum of money, while at the same time, by winning the award, they can gain some critical attention.
Friis k family: Indo-European: Germanic (source: http://www.eurolang.net/)
Frisian is spoken as a lesser used language in Germany and in the Netherlands . There are three main varieties of Frisian: West Frisian (Frysk) which is spoken in Friesland/Fryslan (Netherlands), North Frisian (Friisk) which consists of nine different dialects in Schleswig-Holstein (Germany), and Sater Frisian (Seeltersk) which is spoken in Niedersachsen (Germany).
Region: West Frisian is spoken in the province of Fryslan/Friesland, and in a few border villages in the neighboring province of Groningen.
Numerical strength: Friesland has more than 600,000 inhabitants, about 450,000 of whom are able to speak Frisian. For about 350,000 this lesser used language is the mother tongue. The number of Frisian speakers in the relevant part of Groningen may be about 3,000. A sociolinguistic study in 1994 revealed that 94% of the whole population of Friesland can understand the language, 74% can speak it, 65% are able to read Frisian and 17% write Frisian. Speakers of Frisian form a (great) majority in most rural areas, and a (small) minority in the towns, on the Frisian Isles and the two Low-Saxon municipalities in the southeastern part of the province.
Status: Friesland has been recognized as a bilingual province by the Dutch government for a few decades. In 1996 the European Charter for regional or minority languages has been ratified by the Netherlands including Frisian for 48 options in the third chapter about active language policy. In 1995 the right to use Frisian in the local and provincial assemblies was confirmed by statute. Since 1997 the law gives the right to use the Frisian language in courts of justice, though it was tolerated explicitly since the fifties. In 1980 Frisian was made a compulsory subject in primary school, in 1993 in the first years of secondary education.
Already in the seventies the possibility was created for pupils to choose it as an exam subject in secondary education and in teacher training. The provincial government and the councils of several municipalities have started a language policy to give equal rights to the language of Friesland. In the last decade the name Fryslân and several place names are declared to be the only official names.
Public services: In general, Frisian speakers can use their own language in contacts with public authorities, as the provincial administration and a number of other bodies have made this a matter of policy. Documents issued by public authorities generally are in Dutch only; Frisian or bilingual ones are very exceptional. In courts of justice all parties, including defendant and witnesses, are allowed to speak Frisian. If need be, the court can employ the services of an interpreter. Courts of justice in Friesland accept civil actions brought in Frisian, but this can cause problems in case of an appeal to a higher court. Documents published in Frisian only are not legally binding. Public signs can be in Frisian, in Dutch or bilingual, depending on the choice of the municipality concerned.
Education: A small number of playgroups exist that are entirely conducted in Frisian. Since 1980 Frisian has been taught in all primary schools, both public and private. In about 80% of these schools, Frisian is also used to varying degrees as a teaching medium, alongside Dutch. There is no provision for primary education entirely through Frisian. At secondary level it is also possible to use Frisian as a teaching medium for some subjects, but this is infrequently done. There is no secondary schooling entirely through Frisian. The language is one of the six or seven exam subjects secondary school pupils can choose from. In the early eighties the subject was offered by 25% of all secondary schools on an optional basis, and about 5% of all pupils availed of this. From 1993 onwards, Frisian is an obligatory subject in the first three years of secondary education. The two teacher-training centers in Friesland have to offer Frisian to their students. They have the policy which stipulates that all students must attend Frisian classes. This qualifies them to teach Frisian in primary schools. Secondary school teachers are trained at the part-time higher vocational education college in Ljouwert/Leeuwarden and at the university of Groningen after having studied the language as a main subject at either the universities in Groningen or Amsterdam. In Leiden Frisian is a subsidiary subject. There is an extensive network of adult language courses in Frisian.
Media: Annually 31 hours of Frisian television is broadcast all over the Netherlands at Sunday. In the rest of the week the provincial television broadcasts one hour a day in Friesland. There is one provincial radio service which broadcasts about 80 hours per week in Frisian. There are also 20 minutes a week for both school radio and school television. There are no dailies, weeklies or monthlies totally in Frisian. Only in some articles Frisian is used. Just a few (literary) periodicals are published totally in Frisian. These, however, have a limited circulation.
Miscellaneous: There is a relatively sizable literary production. About 100 Frisian books of various kinds are published each year. There is one professional Frisian-language theatre which is very popular. Most towns and villages also have an amateur drama group. There are also a number of museums, libraries and cultural centers. In addition 20 CDs consisting of popular music are released every year.
Friisk (North Frisian)
Region: North Frisian (Friisk) is spoken in Schleswig-Holstein in the rural district of North Frisia (Nordfriesland). The language area comprises part of the mainland, the islands of Sylt, F`hr, Amrum and Heligoland, and the small islands of the Halligen archipelago. In fact, five linguistic varieties are spoken in North Frisia: the standard languages of High German and Danish and the non-standard languages of Frisian, Low German and Jutish (a Danish dialect). All Frisian speakers are at least bilingual and trilingualism is widespread. Quadrolingualism is also found.
Numerical strength: Of a total population of some 156,000 in North Frisia, about 50,000 consider themselves Frisian and about 8,000 people speak North Frisian.
Status: The 1990 constitution of Schleswig-Holstein protects and safeguards the rights of the Danish and Frisian communities.
Public services: Although North Frisian is not an official language, it is sometimes used at local council meetings etc. All written documents are, however, in German. Some villages have Frisian road signs and bilingual place names are now permitted. Frisian house names are popular, especially on the islands.
Education: North Frisian is taught to over 1,000 children in nearly all schools in the language area one or two hours a week. The lessons are voluntary but are integrated into the official education programme. A school inspector is responsible for Frisian in education and a teacher helps in the production and coordination of teaching materials. The teachers usually have two annual meetings as in-service training which are organized by the local education authorities. In 1978 a chair for Frisian Philology was established at the University of Kiel, which was then advertised as a chair for North-Sea-Germanic Studies on the retirement of its first incumbent. The university also houses the Frisian dictionary centre (Nordfriesische W`rterbuchstelle). The University of Flensburg received a chair for Frisian Studies in 1988 which was then cut in 1996. There are various language courses for adults throughout the region.
Media: There are no television broadcasts in North Frisian. Radio programmes in the language can be heard for about three minutes per week on the regional station of public national radio. There are no daily or weekly newspapers in the language, but Frisian articles do appear in German-language newspapers, as well as in the Danish Minority's newspaper Flensborg Avis.
Miscellaneous: There is a modest amount of literature in North Frisian. Amateur theatre in the language is very popular, as are the numerous dance groups, and various choirs. A number of Frisian associations are culturally active. The is also a North Frisian Institute.
Seeltersk (Sater Frisian)
Region : Sater Frisian is spoken in the three villages of Ramsloh, Scharrel and Strücklingen in the Community of the Saterland in the Northwest corner of the Lower Saxon County of Cloppenburg.
Numerical strength : The emergence of the Frisian movement in the nineteen-eighties, the establishment of the Frisians as a recognized minority within the EU and the inclusion of Frisian in the European Charter of Regional and Minority Languages have caused a rapid increase in the number of Frisian speakers within the Saterland. The present number of speakers exceeds 2,000 and is on the rise.
Education : The Saterland has five kindergartens, all of which provide instruction in Sater Frisian : two in Ramsloh, one in Scharrel, one in Strücklingen and one in the small village of Sedelsberg adjoining Scharrel.
At the primary school level in the Grund- und Realschule in Ramsloh, there is at least one hour a week of instruction in the first three grades. These classes are taught by two teachers and two pedagogical assistants drawn from the community. In the primary school in Scharrel, instruction is provided by one teacher and two pedagogical assistants, in Strücklingen by a single teacher and in Sedelsberg by two pedagogical assistants. Regular symposia are held to ensure the continuity and quality of instruction.
Status : In connection with its ratification of the European Charter on Regional and Minority languages, the Province of Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen) has committed itself to the preservation and the expansion of the Sater Frisian language.
Public services : Assistance in dealing with boards, departments and commissions within the Saterland is provided orally in Saterfrisian and marriage vows may be exchanged in a civil ceremony in Sater Frisian. The use of Sater Frisian in public life is being increasingly expanded.
Religion : There is a Sater Frisian version of the Roman Catholic Mass and a Mass in Sater Frisian is held at least every two years in Saterland. More biblical texts in Sater Frisian are in progress.
Media : There are no radio or television broadcasts in Sater Frisian, but articles in and on Sater Frisian appear regularly in the Rhauderfehn General-Anzeiger and the Münsterländische Tageszeitung in Cloppenburg. German public and private television report regularly on events affecting the Sater Frisian language and culture.
Literature and culture : The Heimatverein Saterland / Seelter Buund is active in promoting theatrical productions in Sater Frisian and in the north Münsterland Low German which all Sater Frisians also speak. There are regular excursions to cultural events in the area and during these meetings and excursions, only Sater Frisian is spoken. More and more Sater Frisians are beginning to write texts in their own language, often assisted by the Arbeitsstelle Niederdeutsch und Saterfriesisch at the University of Oldenburg.
Language of the historical Frisian people, now an official language in the Dutch province of Friesland, with dialects still spoken on the Frisian Islands, and in a few German villages. Frisian, most closely related to English, belongs to the Anglo-Frisian group in the western branch of the Germanic languages. Similar Frisian and English words include boi (boy), tolve (twelve), and hy (he). Frisian was once the prominent tongue along the North Sea coast and on nearby islands, from the present Dutch-Belgian border to the modern German-Danish border. Since the 16th century, Frisian has gradually been replaced by Dutch and Low German, but it was revived in the 20th century. "Frisian Language,"
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