New speakers’ attitudes towards West Frisian: Lessons for language planning

  • Kircher, R. (Speaker)
  • Ethan Kutlu (Speaker)
  • Mirjam Vellinga (Speaker)

Activiteit: Toespraak of presentatieAcademisch


Classified by UNESCO as a minority language in danger of becoming extinct, West Frisian – primarily spoken in the Dutch province of Fryslân – is being protected and promoted by means of provincial language planning. To date, the main focus has been on encouraging ‘traditional’ speakers to use their language. However, it has become important to extend the focus to encouraging more ‘new’ speakers to learn West Frisian. New speakers are individuals who did not grow up speaking a minority language but who are learning it later on in life, as adults. Research from around the world shows that, in contexts where many traditional speakers shift to majority languages, new speakers can play a key role in ensuring the maintenance of minority languages.

To develop planning measures that promote the learning of West Frisian among future new speakers, it is important to study the language attitudes of current new speakers – because language attitudes influence what languages individuals decide to learn. Notably, the promotion of a particular language is inextricably connected with the question of which variety of that language should be advanced. The variety of West Frisian generally learned by new speakers is the one taught at Afûk (Algemiene Fryske Ûnderrjocht Kommisje): a standardised variety that is different from the varieties used by most traditional speakers.

This paper presents the first investigation of the attitudes that new speakers hold not only towards West Frisian itself but also towards the variety of Frisian taught at Afûk. Data were collected from 325 Afûk students. A questionnaire was used to elicit participants’ attitudes towards West Frisian in terms of the main evaluative dimensions of language attitudes: status (linked with utilitarian value) and solidarity (linked with social identity). Attitudes towards Afûk Frisian were elicited in terms of two key strata in new speakers’ perceptions of varieties: authenticity (linked with social and territorial roots) and anonymity (linked with legitimacy derived from standardisation).

Data collection has just been completed. The questionnaire yielded both qualitative and quantitative data, but the focus of this talk will be on the latter. These data will be analysed statistically, using factor analysis, t-tests, and multiple regressions. We hypothesise (1) that new speakers hold more positive attitudes towards West Frisian on the solidarity dimension than on the status dimension; (2) that their attitudes on the solidarity dimension correlate negatively with their evaluations of Afûk Frisian in terms of authenticity; and (3) that their attitudes on the status dimension correlate positively with their evaluations of Afûk Frisian in terms of anonymity. The findings of this study will be discussed in terms of their implications for future language planning measures to ensure the continuing vitality and resilience of West Frisian in Fryslân.
Periode15 sep. 2022
EvenementstitelResilience in Frisian Humanities: 2nd Conference on Frisian Humanities
OrganisatorenFryske Akademy (FA), NHL Stenden Leeuwarden, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, University of Groningen/Campus Fryslân
LocatieLeeuwarden, Nederland
Mate van erkenningInternationaal