Language hotspots #1 Schleswig-Holstein
Schleswig-Holstein is a/(my home) bundesland in Germany and also the northernmost one. It has around 2.85 million inhabitants and an area of 15,763.18 km2 (6,086.20 sq mi). It borders on Denmark and is one the regions in Europe with the largest linguistic diversity. Historically, the North Frisians, Slavs, Danes, Jutes, Angles and Saxons (the last three peoples also migrated to England and formed the Anglosaxons) settled in Schleswig-Holstein.
Altogether, there are some 31 varieties (i. e. languages and dialects) spoken within the borders of Schleswig-Holstein.
If you count only distinct varieties where there is reason enough to speak of languages, there are about 10-12 languages.
is the official language of Germany and, thus, of Schleswig-Holstein, too. There are not really distinct dialects of German in Northern Germany as it is historically a Low Saxon, Frisian and Danish language area and German colonised this area rather lately, starting in the 15th century.
is my mother tongue, the second official language of Schleswig-Holstein and an endangered language spoken in most parts of Northern Germany. Schleswig-Holstein is part of the urheimat of the Saxons, that spoke Old Saxon, the ancestor of modern Low Saxon and partly of English, too. In the Middle Ages, it was the lingua franca of the Hanseatic League and spoken throughout whole Northern Europe as a trade language.
It has a lot of dialects of which the Nachrichtenplatt (the unofficial Koiné/Standard variety), Schleswigsch, Holsteinisch and Hamburgisch (the mother tongue of my maternal grandfather) are the most widespread. Other dialects in border areas to other bundesländer are Mecklenburgisch (the mother tongue of my paternal grandmother), Elb-Weser-Ländisch and Nord-Hannoveranisch.
A special case is Plautdietsch which is historically a dialect of Low Saxon but was seperated from it for several centuries due to migration out of Germany and is, thus, viewed by some as an own language. Plautdietsch speakers are mostly Russian mennonites and many of them went back from the ex-Soviet Union in the 90s to Germany of which some settled in Schleswig-Holstein. They are seen as a migration group while speaking a language that has its roots in Germany. Thus, they are neither autochton nor allochthon.
(This is a map of the Low Saxon dialects in Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands.)
The North Frisian language(s)
are the second group of endangered varieties. They are only spoken in Schleswig-Holstein, by about 10,000 people. The varieties can be divided into mainland dialects and insular dialects.
The first group consists of Wiedingharde Frisian (Wiringhiirder freesk), Bökingharde Frisian (Böökinghiirder frasch), Western- and Eastern-Mooring, Karrharde Frisian (Karrhiirderfreesch), Northern Goesharde Frisian, Central Goesharde Frisian,
Southern Goesharde Frisian (Gooshiirder) and Halligen Frisian (Freesk).
The insular dialects consist of Sylt Frisian (Söl’ring), Föhr Frisian (Fering), Amrum Frisian (Öömrang) and Heligolandic Frisian (Halunder).
Some North Frisian varieties have died in recent times. The last speaker of Southern Goesharde Frisian (Gooshiirder) died in 1981. Due to the Burchadi flood in 1641, the Strand island, where Strand Frisian was spoken, was destroyed. Many speakers died or were displaced. The language only survived until the 18th century. The Eiderstedt Frisian was only spoken until 17th and 18th century and was displaced by German and Low Saxon. The same happened to the Wyk Frisian.
is a minority language in Schleswig-Holstein. The border to Denmark is rather random and so on each side of it, there are German and Danish minorities. Danish is the teaching language in 46 schools, mainly in the Northern part (Schleswig) of Schleswig-Holstein. Between 50,000 and 79,000 people are assumed to belong to the Danish minority.
There are people of both, German and Danish origin, that speak Danish. In schools, they learn the Standard Danish (Rigsdansk). But due to contact with Low Saxon and German, the majority speaks the vernacular Southern Schleswig Danish (Sydslesvigdansk) that differs from Standard Danish in many features that it has borrowed from Low Saxon and German.
A third variety is South Jutlandic (Sønderjysk) which is spoken by only some Danish people in Schleswig-Holstein. Theories differ a lot, some say it is an own Scandinavian language, some say it is a dialect of the Jutlandic language, some say it is a direct dialect of Danish and some, however, say it is a mixed language between Low Saxon and Danish. It differs a lot from Danish, shown in the often recited, quirky sentence „A æ u å æ ø i æ å.“ (I am outside on the island on the meadow.) South Jutlandic itself has and had some own dialects: Fjoldemål, Angeldanish (Angeldansk), Mellemslesvigsk and Vestligt Sønderjysk.
In Schleswig-Holstein are about 5,000 Sinti and Roma of which many speak the minority language Romani (in Germany often Romanes) which is Indo-Aryan and thus related to Sanskrit. They already live in Schleswig-Holstein since the 15th century and are, thus, by definition autochthon.
Before the genocide of the Jewish population, there were important West-Yiddish minorities in some Schleswig-Holsteinian cities. It is unknown how many of the current 2,000 people with Jewish belief still speak it.
There are two widely accepted mixed languages in Schleswig-Holstein that are to be seen as independent languages. As mentioned above, some other varieties are debated cases of either dialects or mixed languages.
Missingsch is a mixed language between German and Low Saxon. It derived from the time where Low Saxon monolinguals were put into schools where Low Saxon was forbidden and German was the only language. They didn’t acquire German as a mother tongue and the mixed language Missingsch evolved. It has Low Saxon grammar, phonology, pragmatism and substrate with a German-based vocabulary. It is endangered because most people are now either monolingual German or bilingual with Low Saxon and German.
The second mixed language is Petuh. It is only spoken by some people in Flensburg and highly endangered. It combines Low Saxon, Danish, Southern Schleswig Danish and South Jutlandic grammar, phonology and pragmatism with German vocabulary, plus a large substrate vocabulary from the other varieties.
The last two autochthon languages are the Sign Languages of Schleswig-Holstein. The most common one is the German Sign Language (DGS - Deutsche Gebärdensprache) that is spoken by around 5,000 people. The Danish Sign Language (Dansk Tegnsprog) is spoken by only 100 people in Schleswig-Holstein.
Those are only the autochthon languages of Schleswig-Holstein. Over the time, as in every region of Germany, a lot of people immigrated. Of the 132,000 foreigners are 33,000 Turkish, 12,000 Polish, 7,000 Danish, 6,000 Russian, 4,000 Italian, 3,000 Greek, 3,000 Ukranian and about 3,000 Austrian, British and Iraqi. In addition to that, there are 363,000 more people in Schleswig-Holstein that have a German passport but a migration background. Many of them will speak the particular language of their origin/parents, too.
Germany subscribed and ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and by that, it is responsible for the protection of the minority languages Danish, North Frisian, Romani, Sorbian, Saterland Frisian and the regional language Low Saxon. Other varieties and/or dialects are not yet defined under the EU-charter, sadly.
So, that is my first story of a linguistic hotspot, my very own. I will probably make this into a post-series where I will report about other interesting hotspots. If you think that’d be a good idea feel free to like and reblog my post. ;)