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Originally England, Scottish Lowlands and the North Sea coast from Friesland to Jutland; today worldwide
Linguistic classificationIndo-European
Approximate present day distribution of the Anglo-Frisian languages in Europe.




Hatched areas indicate where multilingualism is common.

The Anglo-Frisian languages are the Anglic (English, Scots, Fingallian†, and Yola†) and Frisian (North Frisian, East Frisian, and West Frisian) varieties of the West Germanic languages.

The Anglo-Frisian languages are distinct from other West Germanic languages due to several sound changes: besides the Ingvaeonic nasal spirant law, which is present in Low German as well, Anglo-Frisian brightening and palatalization of /k/ are for the most part unique to the modern Anglo-Frisian languages:

The grouping is usually implied as a separate branch in regards to the tree model. According to this reading, English and Frisian would have had a proximal ancestral form in common that no other attested group shares. The early Anglo-Frisian varieties, like Old English and Old Frisian, and the third Ingvaeonic group at the time, the ancestor of Low German Old Saxon, were spoken by intercommunicating populations. While this has been cited as a reason for a few traits exclusively shared by Old Saxon and either Old English or Old Frisian,[1] a genetic unity of the Anglo-Frisian languages beyond that of an Ingvaeonic subfamily cannot be considered a majority opinion. In fact, the groupings of Ingvaeonic and West Germanic languages are highly debated, even though they rely on much more innovations and evidence. Some scholars consider a Proto-Anglo-Frisian language as disproven, as far as such postulates are falsifiable.[1] Nevertheless, the close ties and strong similarities between the Anglic and the Frisian grouping are part of the scientific consensus. Therefore, the concept of Anglo-Frisian languages can be useful and is today employed without these implications.[1][2]

Geography isolated the settlers of Great Britain from Continental Europe, except from contact with communities capable of open water navigation. This resulted in more Old Norse and Norman language influences during the development of Modern English, whereas the modern Frisian languages developed under contact with the southern Germanic populations, restricted to the continent.


The proposed Anglo-Frisian family tree is:

Anglic languages

See also: List of dialects of English and World Englishes

Anglic,[7][8] Insular Germanic, or English languages[9][10] encompass Old English and all the linguistic varieties descended from it. These include Middle English, Early Modern English, and Modern English; Early Scots, Middle Scots, and Modern Scots; and the extinct Fingallian and Yola languages in Ireland.

English-based creole languages are not generally included, as mainly only their lexicon and not necessarily their grammar, phonology, etc. comes from Modern and Early Modern English.

Northumbrian Old English Mercian Old English Kentish Old English West Saxon Old English
Northern Early Middle English Midland Early Middle English Southeastern Early Middle English Southern Early Middle English Southwestern Early Middle English
Early Scots Northern Middle English Midland Middle English Southeastern Middle English Southern Middle English Southwestern Middle English
Middle Scots Northern Early Modern English Midland Early Modern English Metropolitan Early Modern English Southern Early Modern English Southwestern Early Modern English Fingallian Yola
Modern Scots Modern English extinct extinct

Frisian languages

Main article: Frisian languages

The Frisian languages are a group of languages spoken by about 500,000 Frisian people on the southern fringes of the North Sea in the Netherlands and Germany. West Frisian, by far the most spoken of the three main branches with 875,840 total speakers,[11] constitutes an official language in the Dutch province of Friesland. North Frisian is spoken on some North Frisian Islands and parts of mainland North Frisia in the northernmost German district of Nordfriesland, and also in Heligoland in the German Bight, both part of Schleswig-Holstein state (Heligoland is part of its mainland district of Pinneberg). North Frisian has approximately 8,000 speakers.[12] The East Frisian language is spoken by only about 2,000 people;[13] speakers are located in Saterland in Germany.
There are no known East Frisian dialects, but there are three dialects of West Frisian and ten of North Frisian.

Anglo-Frisian developments

The following is a summary of the major sound changes affecting vowels in chronological order.[14] For additional detail, see Phonological history of Old English. That these were simultaneous and in that order for all Anglo-Frisian languages is considered disproved by some scholars.[1]

  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: West Germanic a, ā > æ, 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, ǣ > a, ā under the influence of neighboring consonants
  7. Second fronting: OE dialects (except West Saxon) and Frisian ǣ > ē
  8. A-restoration: a restored before a back vowel in the following syllable (later in the Southumbrian dialects); Frisian æu > au > 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, West-Flemish 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
West Riding Yorkshire one two three fower five six seven eight nine ten (e)leven twelve
Scots[note 1] ane
twa trey
fower five seks
seiven aicht nine ten eleiven twaal
Yola oan twye dhree vour veeve zeese zeven ayght neen dhen ellven twalve
West Frisian ien twa trije fjouwer fiif seis sân acht njoggen tsien alve tolve
West-Flemish jin twi drieje viere vuvve zesse zeevne achte neegn tiene elve twolve
Saterland Frisian aan (m.)
een (f., n.)
twäin (m.)
two (f., n.)
träi (m.)
trjo (f., n.)
fjauer fieuw säks sogen oachte njúgen tjoon alven twelig
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
High German eins zwei drei vier fünf sechs sieben acht neun zehn elf zwölf

* Ae [eː], [jeː] is an adjectival form used before nouns.[15]

Words in English, West Riding Yorkshire, Scots, Yola, West Frisian, Dutch, German and West-Flemish

English West Riding Yorkshire Scots Yola West Frisian Dutch German West-Flemish
day day day dei dei dag Tag dah
world warld warld eord wrâld wereld Welt wèreld
rain rain rain rhyne rein regen Regen rinne
blood blooid bluid blooed bloed bloed Blut bloed
alone aloan alane alane allinne alleen allein oaljinne
stone stoan stane sthoan stien steen Stein stjin
snow snaw snaw sneow snie sneeuw Schnee snji(w)
summer summer simmer zimmer simmer zomer Sommer zomer
way way wey wye wei weg Weg weh
almighty almeety awmichtie aulmichty almachtich almachtig allmächtig oalmahtih
ship ship ship zhip skip schip Schiff skip/sjgip
nail nail nail niel neil nagel Nagel noagle
old owd auld yola âld oud alt oed
butter butter butter buther bûter boter Butter beuter
cheese cheese cheese cheese tsiis kaas Käse koas
apple apple aiple appel apel appel Apfel apple
church church (older kurk) kirk chourche tsjerke kerk Kirche kerke
son son son zon soan zoon Sohn zeune
door door door dher doar deur Tür deure
good gooid guid gooude goed goed gut hoed
fork fork fork vork foarke vork Gabel
Forke (dated)
sib sib (obsolete) sib meany / sibbe (dated) sibbe sibbe (dated) Sippe
together together taegither agyther tegearre samen
zusammen tegoare
morn(ing) morn(in) morn(in) arich moarn morgen Morgen morhn
until, till whol until, till del oant tot bis tot
where wheer whauror whare fidie wêr waar wo woa(r)(e)
key key key[note 2] kei / kie kaai sleutel Schlüssel sleutle
have been (was) wor wis was ha west ben geweest bin gewesen zy(n)/è gewist
two sheep two sheep twa sheep twye zheep twa skiep twee schapen zwei Schafe twi skoapn
have have/heve/ha hae ha hawwe hebben haben èn
us uz us ouse ús ons uns oes
horse hoss horse caule hynder
hoars (rare)
ros (dated)
Ross (dated)
bread breead breid breed brea brood Brot brwot
hair hair hair haar hier haar Haar oar
heart heart hert hearth hert hart Herz èrte
beard beard beard bearde burd baard Bart board
moon mooin muin mond moanne maan Mond moane
mouth maath, gob mooth meouth mûn mond Mund moend
ear ear, lug ear, lug (colloquial) lug ear oor Ohr wore/ôre
green green green green grien groen grün groene
red red reid reed read rood rot rwod/rôd
sweet sweet sweet sweet swiet zoet süß zoet
through through/thrugh throu[note 3] draugh troch door durch deur
wet weet weet weate wiet nat nass nat
eye ee ee ei / iee each oog Auge wooge/ôoge
dream dreeam dream dreem dream droom Traum droom
mouse maase moose meouse mûs muis Maus muzze
house haase hoose heouse hûs huis Haus hus
it goes on it goes/goas on it gaes/gangs on it goath an it giet oan het gaat door es geht weiter/los tgoa deure
good day gooid day guid day gooude dei goeie (dei) goedendag guten Tag goein dah

Alternative grouping

Main article: Ingvaeonic languages

Ingvaeonic, also known as North Sea Germanic, is a proposed grouping of the West Germanic languages that encompasses Old Frisian, Old English,[note 4] and Old Saxon.[16] The Ingvaeonic grouping may be regarded as an alternative to Anglo-Frisian, or as ancestral to it.

Since Anglo-Frisian features occur in Low German – especially in its older stages such as Old Saxon – some scholars regard the Ingvaeonic classification as more meaningful than a sharp division into Anglo-Frisian and Low German. In other words, because Old Saxon came under strong Old High German and Old Low Franconian influence at an early stage, it lost some Ingvaeonic features,[17] that it had previously shared with Old English and Old Frisian.

Ingvaeonic 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.[18]

The extinction of two little-attested and presumably Ingvaeonic languages, Old Old Anglian and Old Jutish, in their homelands (modern southern Schleswig and Jutland respectively), mat have led to a form of "survivorship bias" in classification. Since Old Anglian and Jutish were, like Old Saxon, direct ancestors of Old English, it might follow that Old Saxon, Old Anglian and/or Jutish were more closely related to English than any of them was to Frisian (or vice versa).

Ingvaeonic, as a hypothetical 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 that had become popular following the work of the 19th-century linguist August Schleicher and which assumed the existence of an Anglo-Frisian group.[19]

See also


  1. ^ Depending on dialect 1. [en], [jɪn], [in], [wan], [*eː], [jeː] 2. [twɑː], [twɔː], [tweː], [twaː] 3. [θrəi], [θriː], [triː] 4. [ˈfʌu(ə)r], [fuwr] 5. [faiːv], [fɛv] 6. [saks] 7. [ˈsiːvən], [ˈseːvən], [ˈsəivən] 8. [ext], [ɛçt] 9. [nəin], [nin] 10. [tɛn].
  2. ^ Depending on dialect [kiː] or [kəi].
  3. ^ Depending on dialect [θruː] or [θrʌu].
  4. ^ Also known as Anglo-Saxon.


  1. ^ a b c d Stiles, Patrick (2018-08-01). Friesische Studien II: Beiträge des Föhrer Symposiums zur Friesischen Philologie vom 7.–8. April 1994 (PDF). NOWELE Supplement Series. Vol. 12. doi:10.1075/nss.12. ISBN 978-87-7838-059-3. Retrieved 2020-10-23 – via[dead link]
  2. ^ Hines, John (2017). Frisians and their North Sea Neighbours. Boydell & Brewer. ISBN 978-1-78744-063-0. OCLC 1013723499.
  3. ^ a b Trudgill, Peter (1990). The dialects of England. Cambridge, Mass., USA: B. Blackwell. ISBN 0631139176.
  4. ^ Hickey, Raymond (2005). Dublin English: Evolution and Change. John Benjamins Publishing. pp. 196–198. ISBN 90-272-4895-8.
  5. ^ Hickey, Raymond (2002). A Source Book for Irish English. John Benjamins Publishing. pp. 28–29. ISBN 9027237530.
  6. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian (2023-07-10). "Glottolog 4.8 - Irish Anglo-Norman". Glottolog. Leipzig, Germany: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. doi:10.5281/zenodo.8131084. Archived from the original on 2023-07-17. Retrieved 2023-07-16.
  7. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Anglic". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  8. ^ Woolf, Alex (2007). From Pictland to Alba, 789–1070. The New Edinburgh History of Scotland. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 978-0-7486-1234-5., p. 336
  9. ^ J. Derrick McClure Scots its range of Uses in A. J. Aitken, Tom McArthur, Languages of Scotland, W. and R. Chambers, 1979. p.27
  10. ^ Thomas Burns McArthur, The English Languages, Cambridge University Press, 1998. p.203
  11. ^ a b "Frisian | Ethnologue Free".
  12. ^ a b "Frisian, Northern | Ethnologue Free".
  13. ^ "Saterfriesisch | Ethnologue Free".
  14. ^ Fulk, Robert D. (1998). "The Chronology of Anglo-Frisian Sound Changes". In Bremmer Jr., Rolf H.; Johnston, Thomas S.B.; Vries, Oebele (eds.). Approaches to Old Frisian Philology. Amsterdam: Rodopoi. p. 185.
  15. ^ Grant, William; Dixon, James Main (1921). Manual of Modern Scots. Cambridge: University Press. p. 105.
  16. ^ Some include West Flemish. Cf. Bremmer (2009:22).
  17. ^ Munske, Horst Haider; Århammar, Nils, eds. (2001). Handbuch des Friesischen: = Handbook of Frisian studies. Tübingen: Niemeyer. ISBN 978-3-484-73048-9.
  18. ^ For a full discussion of the areal changes involved and their relative chronologies, see Voyles (1992).
  19. ^ "Friedrich Maurer (Lehrstuhl für Germanische Philologie – Linguistik)". Retrieved 2013-06-24.

Further reading