This article is about the North Frisian dialect. For the pharmaceutical company, see Ferring Pharmaceuticals.
Native to Germany
Region Föhr, Nordfriesland
Native speakers
1,500 (2004 estimate)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog ferr1240[2]
Linguasphere 2-ACA-dbb to 2-ACA-dbd[3]

North Frisian dialects

Fering is the dialect of North Frisian spoken on the island of Föhr in the German region of North Frisia. Fering refers to the Fering Frisian name of Föhr, Feer. Together with the Öömrang, Söl'ring, and Heligolandic dialects, it forms part of the insular group of North Frisian dialects and it is very similar to Öömrang.


Around 3,000 of Föhr's 8,700 people speak Fering (1,500 of them being native speakers[1]), constituting a third of all North Frisian speakers. An unknown number of emigrants in the United States of America, mainly in New York and Northern California, speak Fering as well. Fering differs from other North Frisian dialects in that it is also used publicly on Föhr, not only at home. The municipalities of Oldsum and Süderende (Fering: Olersem, Söleraanj) in the western part of Föhr are strongholds of the dialect.[1]

Personal and family names

Personal names on Föhr are still today greatly influenced by a Frisian element. Notably hypocorisms and names with two elements are common. Early borrowings were made from the Danish language and the Christianisation of the North Frisians around 1000 A.D. brought a modest influence of Christian and biblical names. In the Age of Sail, Dutch and West Frisian forms became popular.[4]

Family names were usually patronymic, i. e. they were individually created as genitives from the father's given name. Contrary to the Scandinavian Petersen or Petersson, meaning "Peter's son", a Fering name like Peters means "of Peter". This practice was prohibited by the Danish Crown in 1771 for the Duchy of Schleswig and was therefore abandoned in the eastern part of Föhr. As western Föhr was a direct part of the Danish kingdom until 1864, patronyms were in use there until 1828 when they were forbidden in Denmark proper as well.[4]


Apart from Dutch names, the seafarers in Dutch service also introduced many loanwords in Dutch language to Fering which are still in use today. It has been observed that apart from Afrikaans, no other language outside the Netherlands proper has been influenced as much by the Dutch language as the North Frisian insular dialects. Examples for Fering include:[5]

Fering Dutch English
al of ei al of niet "yes or no"
bak bak wooden bowl
bekuf bekaf exhausted
kofe koffie coffee
skraal schraal lean, meagre
det spiit mi dat spijt mij "I'm sorry"

Other loanwords were derived from American English when many people emigrated from Föhr to the United States but kept contact with their relatives on the island. Examples include:[6]

Fering English
gaabitsch garbage can
friiser freezer
sink sink



The r is always pronounced as alveolar trill. Initial s is always voiceless.[6]


The diphthongs ia, ua and ui as well as the triphthong uai are falling diphthongs, i.e. the stress is always on the first vowel.[6]


The current orthographic rules for Fering and Öömrang were defined in 1971. Previously, linguists like L. C. Peters, Otto Bremer and Reinhard Arfsten had each created their own Fering orthography. Long vowels including those with umlauts are always written as double letters while consonants are short by default. Capital letters are only used in the beginning of a sentence and for proper names.[6]

letter(s) value(s) in IPA notes
a /a/
aa /ʌː/
au /au̯/
ä /ɛ/
ää /ɛː/
äi /ɛi/
b /b/
ch /x/
d /d/
dj /dj/
e /ɛ/, /ə/ Becomes schwa when unstressed
ee /eː/
f /f/
g /a/
h /h/
i /ɪ/
ia /ia̯/
ii /iː/
j /ɪ/
k /k/
l /l/
lj /lj/
m /m/
n /n/
ng /ŋ/
nj /nj/
o /ɔ/
oi /ʌːi̯/
oo /oː/
ö /œ/
öi /øi̯/
öö /øː/
p /p/
r /r/
s /s/, /z/ "s" is always /s/ in initial position, /z/ between vowels
sch /ʃ/
t /t/
tj /tj/
u /ʊ/
ua /ua̯/
uai /ua̯i̯/
ui /ui̯/
uu /uː/
ü /ʏ/
üü /yː/
w /v/

Fering literature

There are various Fering authors. One of the first publicly noticed writers was Arfst Jens Arfsten (1812–1899) who began writing anecdotes in Fering around 1855.[7] Others include Stine Andresen (1849–1927) who was a poet and writer from Wyk whose literature often refers to her native island. She published her poetry in German but also in Fering. In 1991, Ellin Nickelsen's novelette Jonk Bradlep (Dark Wedding) was published. With it, she won the first ever held North Frisian literature competition.[8]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Bohn, Ocke-Schwen (2004). "How to organize a fairly large vowel inventory: the vowels of Fering (North Frisian)" (PDF). Journal of the International Phonetic Association. 34 (2): 161–173. doi:10.1017/s002510030400180x.
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Ferring". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. "f" (PDF). The Linguasphere Register. p. 164. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
  4. 1 2 Faltings, Volkert F., ed. (1985). Kleine Namenkunde für Föhr und Amrum (in German). Hamburg: Helmut Buske. ISBN 3-87118-680-5.
  5. Faltings, Jan I. (2011). Föhrer Grönlandfahrt im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert (in German). Amrum: Verlag Jens Quedens. pp. 39–40. ISBN 978-3-924422-95-0.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Kunz, Harry; Steensen, Thomas (2013). Nordfriisk Instituut, ed. Föhr Lexikon (in German). Neumünster, Hamburg: Wachholtz Verlag. pp. 120–122. ISBN 978-3-529-05523-2.
  7. Arfsten, Arfst J. (1993). Faltings, Volkert F., ed. Fering düntjin [Fering anecdotes]. Nuurdfresk tekstbiblioteek (in Fering, German, and Low German). 1. Amrum: Verlag Jens Quedens. pp. 9–22. ISBN 978-3-924422-16-5.
  8. Nickelsen, Ellin (1991). Jonk Bradlep (in Fering). Bredstedt: Nordfriisk Instituut. ISBN 978-3-88007-175-9. Weblink in German and Fering.

External links

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