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When person asks a question, "which language is the most similar to Modern English?", the most common answer is:

Frisian

But most people that answer this question as it is, are unaware, which Frisian language/dialect. As far as I know, there are couple of Frisian languages/dialects, such as North Frisian, West Frisian, Saterland Frisian, Sölring, Öömrang, Fering, Halunder, Halligen, Wiringhiirder, Frasch, Karhiirder, Hoolmer and Hoorninger. Also, I think that is no such thing as Standard Frisian. (Or even Standard North Frisian, Standard Saterland Frisian or Standard West Frisian.)

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There is a standard West Frisian (which is taught in schools and used in local government and media and for books and magazines). I'm fluent in it (and my personal dialect doesn't vary a lot from it). For the record.

Saterlandic Frisian only has minor variations among the villages where it's spoken and one of the village dialects is used for the dictionary (Ramsloh/Roomelse IIRC, or else Strücklingen/Strúkelje). Indeed no "standard" as such (no need for it in such a small community anyway).

IMHO no single Frisian variety is "closest to English" in any meaningful sense (FYI, I also understand and read the North Frisian varieties (it's a hobby of mine) and Saterlandic too; I did quite a few courses in university on "Frisian studies" (VU Amsterdam )). In some ways (Pyt Kramer has done some research in the past) Saterlandic and also the WF dialects of "Skiermuontseach/Schiermonnikoog" and "Hylpen/Hindeloopen" are the most conservative (and can be compared more to Middle English IMO) in preservation of vocabulary e.g. There is no quantified (or corpus based) research on this particular topic that I'm aware of. All varieties are threatened and heavily influenced by dominant languages like Dutch/German.

Yes they're historically close but that's centuries ago. Treasure the link to find nice etymologies (as is commonly done, still) and study Old Frisian. Modern Frisian varieties are for "relics" like me... Beautiful but a dying breed, I'm sorry to say...

Good that you know about them, though.

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  • Are there any dictionaries of Frisian you could recommend?
    – Alex B.
    Jan 1 at 21:31
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    @AlexB. The dictionary by the “Fryske Akademy” (the institute that does a lot of research into Frisian language, culture, history, sociolinguistics etc) has published a dictionary in book form (about 30 books which take up quite a bit of my shelf space) and which can be searched online , the Wurdboek fan de Fryske Taal, online for which you do have to be fluent in Dutch too. Jan 1 at 22:57

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