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LINGUIST List 25.1781

Thu Apr 17 2014

Sum: Language use of Frisian teenagers on social media

Editor for this issue: Alex Isotalo <alxlinguistlist.org>

Date: 17-Apr-2014
From: Richard de Boer <rdeboerfryske-akademy.nl>
Subject: Language use of Frisian teenagers on social media
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The Frisian language is used more often on social media by teenagers from the Frisian Wâlden region than by teenagers from other areas in the Dutch province of Fryslân. That was found in a study of Frisian teenagers carried out over the past months by researcher Lysbeth Jongbloed-Faber of the Mercator Research Centre of the Fryske Akademy with support of the Province of Fryslân and the municipality of Leeuwarden.

Communication specialist Jongbloed has conducted research into the language use of 14 to 18-year-olds on social media, at 20 Frisian schools for secondary general and vocational education. In total, more than 2000 teenagers filled in a questionnaire.

Almost all Frisian teenagers use social media: 98% use it. WhatsApp is used by 95% of the teenagers, 86% use Facebook and 76% use Twitter. Of the three, WhatsApp is used most: 47% chose the answer 'only when I am asleep, I do not check WhatsApp'.

Oral rather than written language

In general it can be concluded that Frisian still is rather an oral than a written language. The more formal the medium, the less often Frisian is used, on average. For instance, for text messages and WhatsApp approximately half of the Frisian-speaking teenagers use Frisian. On Facebook and Twitter that proportion decreases to around 30%, and in emails it is 15%, as Jongbloed's research demonstrates. In other words, for Frisian teenagers, too, the Dutch language is the dominant language used in writing.

The language one prefers to speak is the main factor determining one's language use on social media. Other factors affecting language choice are one's attitude towards Frisian, their writing skills, and the general attitude towards Frisian at one's school.

In the province of Fryslân, big differences have been found regarding Frisian language use. In general, Frisian is hardly used in the big cities while it is much more common to use Frisian on social media in smaller towns and in the north-east of Fryslân. In the Wâlden region Frisian is used the most.


Frisian is often written phonetically. Most teenagers are aware of that but do not mind: 'People will understand what I mean anyway.' Some think it is too much work to add all diacritics, others are not sure when to use them. Furthermore, the influence of Dutch is clearly visible in the teenagers' written language, and so is the use of dialect and abbreviations that are typical of social media. It also often happens that different languages are mixed intentionally.

Approximately one fifth of the Frisian-speaking teenagers never uses Frisian on social media. The main reason is that they find it difficult to write Frisian, but it also has to do with their surroundings not being Frisian and their own attitude towards Frisian.

Frisian Twitter Day

On Thursday April 17th, the third Frisian Twitter Day (Fryske Twitterdei) will be held. The aim is to send out as many Frisian tweets as possible on that day. Jongbloed's study shows that Twitter Day positively affects teenagers' use of Frisian on Twitter. On the previous Frisian Twitter Day of 2013, the teenagers in the study used more Frisian than Dutch, but after Twitter Day the proportion of Frisian tweets decreased to the average of before.

Further research

The study has led the Province of Fryslân to grant a subsidy to the Mercator Research Centre of the Fryske Akademy to carry out further research into Frisian language use on social media in 2014 and 2015; in particular, the question will be addressed why one person does use Frisian on social media, while someone else, with similar competences and attitude, does not. The new study will also research the language use of other age groups.

Link: http://www.fryske-akademy.nl/en/subnavigatie/parseberjochten/20141403-taalgebruk-fryske-jongerein-op-sosjale-media/

Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics

Subject Language(s): Frisian, Western (fry)
                            Frisian, Western (fri)

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Page Updated: 17-Apr-2014

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