On Friday 23 March 2018 the Stimmen project was presented at a celebratory event of the cultural and historical associations in the municipality ‘Waadhoeke’ in the west of Fryslân. This, recently formed, municipality is one in which Dutch and Frisian are used (as is true for the larger part of Fryslân) but in which you can also find speakers of Bildts and City Frisian. Moreover, approximately 2% of the inhabitants in the region are immigrants from elsewhere in Europe or outside (Ongelijk verdeeld, 2016). This makes it likely that there are tens of other languages spoken natively in this region as well.

Waadhoeke municipality in Fryslân. Illustration by Franeker Courant

One might argue that for linguists the biggest attraction of this region are its bilingual mixed languages Bildts and Stadsfrys (City Frisian). These varieties developed around the 16th century, in two different types of socio-political contexts. We believe that Bildts is the linguistic outcome of the mixture of Dutch farmers and Frisian workers in the claiming of land (from the sea) in a period from 1505 onwards (Hoekstra & van Koppen, 2000). City Frisian, on the other hand, is a conglomerate term for the varieties spoken in the cities Leeuwarden, Franeker, Harlingen, Dokkum, Bolsward and Sneek (van Bree, 1994), that developed as mixed languages when Dutch-speaking members of the ruling society settled in the traditionally Frisian-speaking town areas, possibly sooner, but at least in the 16th century (van Bree, 1994).

The Stimmen app allows speakers of Bildts and City Frisian to record their languages for the purpose of research and development of language technology. Furthermore, both St. Annaparochie (a Bildts speaking area) and Franeker (a City Frisian speaking area) are possible guesses of the ‘Dialect Quiz’ in the Stimmen app: the module that guesses where people are from on the basis of their language.

So far the Stimmen app has made 610 recordings of Bildts, a good number but our ambition is to get more. There are only 4 recordings of City Frisian from Franeker, and so for this variety, many more recordings are needed for us to conduct research. In the results from the Dialect Quiz only one user from Franeker has been correctly identified by the app so far (50 users from Franeker have tried to see if the app can guess where they are from). This indicates to us that people do not use Franeker’s City Frisian features when responding in the app. For the 19 users from St. Annaparochie trying the dialect Quiz, the app guessed correctly 9 of the times (and when it got the answer wrong it frequently guessed Ameland, which is seen as another mixed variety). This means that proportionally more people, using the app, report usage of the traditional Bildts speech features, than of the traditional Franeker City Frisian features. That’s food for thought, and we would like to engage with the local City Frisian speaking communities to explore their thoughts on their language and its use.

Stimmen from Waadhoeke. Photo by Maria del Grosso

If you would like to learn more about Bildts you can watch this interesting Dutch documentary by KRO-NCRV’s programme Kruispunt. You can also read this piece by Kennislink (in Dutch). If you would like more information about City Frisian you can view this little video.


Bree, C. van (1994). Het probleem van het ontstaan van het Stasdfries in verband met nieuwe talen in contact-theorieen. In Handelingen Regionaal Colloquium Wroclaw, 43-66.

Hoekstra, E. & Koppen, M. (2000). Het Bildts als resultaat van Fries-Hollands taalcontact. In Boutkan, K & A. Quak (Eds.) Language Contact: Substratum, superstratum, adstratum in Germanic Languages. Rodopi, Amsterdam.

Ongelijk verdeeld. (2016). Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (CBS). Retrieved on 20 March 2018 from https://cbsnl.maps.arcgis.com/apps/CompareAnalysis/index.html?appid=e875e33c09774ffd92b9c1f3ac85c17e