LINGUIST List 25.1781
Apr 17 2014
Sum: Language use of
Frisian teenagers on social media
Editor for this issue:
Alex Isotalo <alxlinguistlist.org>
From: Richard de Boer
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
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.
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Frisian, Western (fry)
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