There is a small and enthusiastic Frisian literary movement, but its works are not widely read.
Furthermore, though Frisian continues to be widely used as the language of everyday oral communication, it is increasingly a “Dutch” Frisian, with numerous borrowings from standard Dutch.
Because of this, it would be almost impossible to develop a single standard North Frisian that could be used throughout this area.
North Frisian dialects are customarily divided into Insular North Frisian (Sylt, Föhr-Amrum, Helgoland) and Continental North Frisian (the Halligen Islands and the coast of Schleswig), the latter in seven main varieties and further subvarieties.
Quite different from any of these is the so-called City Frisian (Stedfrysk, or Stedsk) spoken in the cities of Leeuwarden, Franeker, Harlingen, Bolsward, Sneek, Staveren, and Dokkum.
Despite the name, this is not Frisian at all but a variety of Dutch strongly influenced by Frisian.
These include loss of the nasal sound before ‘goose.’ About the beginning of the 19th century it appeared that the age-old replacement of Frisian by Dutch and Low German would continue unabated and that the language would soon become extinct.
During the following centuries the Frisian of much of this area was gradually replaced by local Dutch and Low German dialects, so that Modern Frisian is now spoken in only three remaining areas: (1) West Frisian, in the Dutch province of Friesland, including the island of Schiermonnikoog and two-thirds of the island of Terschelling (altogether some 400,000 speakers), (2) East Frisian, in the German Saterland (some 1,000 speakers; this area was apparently settled in the 12th or 13th century from the former East Frisian area to the north), and (3) North Frisian, along the west coast of German Schleswig and on the offshore islands of Sylt, Föhr, Amrum, the Halligen, and Helgoland (altogether some 8,000 speakers).
Similar in nature are the dialects of Heerenveen and Kollum, of the middle section of the island of Terschelling, and of Het Bildt (a coastal area northwest of Leeuwarden, diked in and settled by Hollanders during the 16th century).
East Frisian survives today only in the German Saterland, consisting of the three parishes of Ramsloh, Strücklingen, and Scharrel, each with a slightly different dialect.
The earliest manuscripts written in Frisian date from the end of the 13th century, though the legal documents that they contain were probably first composed, in part, as early as the 11th century.
This stage of the language, until about 1575, is known as Old Frisian.
It also is used in islands of the former Netherlands Antilles and in Suriname, a former Dutch dependency.