Pre-publication research on new speakers of West-Frisian now available

Researchers Ruth Kircher (Mercator/ Fryske Akademy), Mirjam Vellinga (AFÛK) and Ethan Kutlu (University of Iowa) announce with great enthusiasm that their preprint on new speakers of Frisian is now online. The article 'Promoting minority language use to foster revitalisation: Insights from new speakers of West Frisian' is the first result of the project 'New Speakers of West Frisian', for which the researchers received a research grant from the province of Fryslân.

The research objectives of the project 'New Speakers of West Frisian' are:

  1. to investigate the use of Frisian by new speakers (frequency, domains & interlocutors);
  2. to find out which variables influence the frequency of the use of Frisian by new speakers; and
  3. to investigate the role of the behaviour of traditional speakers in all this.

The researchers spent months collecting quantitative and qualitative data. They did this, among other things, by submitting a questionnaire to 264 participants in Frisian language courses. The collected data show that new speakers of Frisian use it only very sporadically - and then mainly in educational situations. Interactions with native (traditional)  speakers of Frisian usually consist of a few superficial, well-meaning words or phrases. It seems likely that this is related to the researchers' finding that new speakers felt less comfortable using Frisian with traditional speakers than with fellow new speakers. However, more research is needed to find this out.

The study offers nuanced insights into the dynamics of new speaker activation by showing the extent to which different behaviours on the part of traditional speakers discourage and/or encourage new speakers' minority language use. The results show how the complex relationship between traditional and new speakers (in which issues of legitimacy & language insecurity are crucial) hampers revitalisation efforts. 

The preprint is now online.