A grammar of Wangerooge Frisian: A lost language of Northern Europe

Navn på bevillingshaver

Sune Gregersen


Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel


DKK 700,000




Internationalisation Fellowships


My project will provide the first detailed description of Wangerooge Frisian, a now extinct language once spoken on a small island in the German Wadden Sea. This language is distantly related to Danish, but belongs to a separate branch of the Germanic language family, the Frisian languages. The last speaker with some knowledge of Wangerooge Frisian is believed to have died around 1950, but fortunately the language was documented in the 19th century when it was still actively spoken by the small fishing community of Wangerooge. This documentary material, consisting of fairy tales, anecdotes, and other texts in the language, will form the basis of the description, which will cover both the linguistic structures and the social circumstances of Wangerooge Frisian in the 19th century.


Despite the extensive documentation, Wangerooge Frisian has so far received almost no attention from the linguistic community. However, because it developed in relative isolation for several centuries, it is of great interest both from a historical and a comparative point of view. Wangerooge Frisian in some respects differs quite markedly from the surrounding languages, both with respect to its grammar and phonology. The description should thus be relevant to anyone with an interest in the languages of Northern Europe. In addition, some of the later texts are of interest from the perspective of language attrition, as there is evidence that parts of the grammar were gradually 'breaking down' because the few remaining speakers were no longer using Wangerooge Frisian on a regular basis.


Although we do not have access to any native speakers, the large collection of texts in Wangerooge Frisian forms an excellent basis for a linguistic description. The project will take these texts as the starting point and combine more traditional linguistic analysis with methods from modern corpus linguistics. The texts will be annotated with grammatical information, greatly simplifying the search for relevant examples of a given linguistic phenomenon. The resulting grammar will include an appendix with a selection of analyzed and translated texts, showcasing both the structure of the language and the topics and style of texts as they were recorded from the speakers. The grammar will be published in Open Access, making sure it reaches the widest possible audience.

Tilbage til oversigtssiden