West Germanic language most closely related to English. Formerly spoken from the province of North Holland in The Netherlands to the province of Schleswig in northern Germany, Frisian is now spoken only in three small areas, each with its own dialect. West Frisian is spoken in the province of Friesland in The Netherlands, East Frisian in the Saterland west of Oldenburg, Ger., and North Frisian along the western coast of Schleswig on the Frisian Islands. Written records in Old Frisian date from the end of the 13th century. From the late 16th century to the late 19th century, written Frisian was seldom used. In modern times there has been a revival of West Frisian, and it is considered an official language by the Dutch government.
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Chain of islands, North Sea. They extend 3 to 20 mi (5 to 32 km) off the northern European mainland, along the Dutch and German coasts and the southern part of Denmark's Jutland peninsula. Although they form a single physical feature, it is customary to subdivide them into the West Frisian Islands (held by The Netherlands), East Frisian Islands (Germany), and North Frisian Islands (Germany and Denmark). After the North Sea established a southwestern outlet to the Atlantic about 7,000–5,000 BC, its southeasterly shore probably coincided with the present curve of the Frisians. Periodic subsidence, storms, and flooding have since produced this long chain of islands separated from the mainland by a narrow belt of shallow waters and tidal mud flats. The Dutch and German governments have spent large sums to protect the islands' seaward coasts and reclaim the land for farming. The beaches and resorts attract many tourists.
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