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Old Frisian

From Academic Kids

Old Frisian was the West Germanic language spoken between the 8th and 16th centuries by the people who, from their ancient homes in North Germany and Denmark, had settled in the area between the Rhine and Elbe on the European North Sea coast in the 4th and 5th centuries. It is not known what language the earlier inhabitants of the region (the Frisians famously mentioned by Tacitus) used.

During the whole of the Middle Ages Friesland was monolingual and autonomous, but Latin was the written and official language; there are some early Frisian names preserved in Latin texts, but the oldest surviving texts in Old Frisian date from the 13th century. They show a considerable degree of linguistic uniformity.

After Friesland (now the Dutch province Friesland) lost its independence and became part of the Dutch Republic, Old Frisian lost its status as official language. The period 1550 - 1800 is designated Middle Frisian, when the language was rarely recorded in writing. Modern Frisian, which had broken into three dialects in the intervening centuries, begins after 1800. The majority of speakers of Modern Frisian speak West Frisian.

There exist runic inscriptions in Old Frisian, and from the 13th century until 1550, official and legal documents survive.

The people from North Germany and Denmark who settled in England from the 4th century onward, came from the same region and spoke the same language as the people who had settled in Friesland. Therefore a close resemblance exists between Old Frisian and Old English.

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