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Introduction to Old Frisian language and Culture


Admission requirements



The northern regions of what are today the Netherlands and Germany were in the Middle Ages inhabited by the Frisians. In the course of the thirteenth century, a literate Frisian culture came into being in the loose federacy of Frisian landsre. Not as exuberant and diverse as in Holland to its south or Saxony to its east, but still very characteristic and with a bias to imaginative legal discourse. In addition, the language in which these law texts are drafted is rather conservative and really “old” in comparison to their neighbours’ written vernaculars of the period. Reading and studying such legal sources will allow you to enter a completely different world, which was marked by recurrent violence because blood feuds were dominating social life. You will also be introduced to Frisian ideological propaganda (even then!) and to poetry. Attention will be paid to a number of linguistic aspects, which are typically (Old-)Frisian, and to the cultural-historical and social context of medieval Frisia.

Course objectives Developing: • Insight into and understanding of Old Frisian grammar • Skills in analyzing, translating and explaining of Old Frisian texts • Insight into medieval Frisian langauge and cultural-history.


Friday afternoon, 13.00 – 15.00 hrs.

Mode of instruction

A two-hour seminar.

Course Load

140 hours.

  • hours spent on attending class: 26 hours.

  • time spent on preparing classes and making assignments (including reading/research): 99 hours

  • time needed to prepare for the written exam: 15 hours

Assessment method

A final exam, consisting of two parts:

  • An unseen translation and grammatical questions (40%)

  • Questions on literature, culture and history (60%)


This course is supported by blackboard. Blackboard will be used to provide the students with the weekly syllabus, extra information and a sample test. It will also include a discussion board.

Reading list

  • R.H. Bremmer, Introduction to Old Frisian. History, Grammar, Reader, Glossary (Amsterdam & Philadelphia: Benjamins, 2009).

  • R.H. Bremmer, ‘Hir is eskriven’. Lezen en schrijven in de Friese landen rond 1300 (Hilversum: Verloren, 2004).
    Both books can be ordered through the teacher: r.h.bremmer


Students should register through uSis. Exchange students cannot register through uSis, but must see the coordinator of studies and register with her. If you have any questions, please contact the departmental office, tel. 071 5272144 or mail:

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte via:
Registration Contractonderwijs via:

Contact Dutch Language and Culture departmental office, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 102C. Tel. 071 5275272604; mail: Coordinator of studies: dr. B.P.M. Dongelmans, P.N. van Eyckhof 1, room 001b. Tel. 071 527 2109


Students are expected to prepare for the first class. Information about reading and assignments for week 1 is available on Blackboard (enrollment is required).
Each class begins with an informal lecture, in which the lecturer discusses a specific topic. Next follows a linguistic and cultural analysis of a text passages which the sudents have translated at home, usually in connection with a background article. The language of instruction is Dutch (but English is no problem, if so required).
The course can be attended independently, but also as a part of the BA-minor Medieval and Early Modern Studies or as a component for Germanic Studies within Comaparative Indo-European Studies.
Extension of the number of ECs is possible in consultation with the teacher.