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On earthworms, ‘mienskip’ and the importance of language

Nieuws  • 2 november 2015   

Author: Blog, Multilingual Melodies – 14 October 2015

“The disappearance of the earthworm will cause the loss of Frisian identity” is a sentence I would never have expected to start a blog post with. The claim was made this afternoon by PhD candidate Jeroen Onrust at the UCF autumn school. He investigates the effects that farming practices in Friesland have on the population of meadow birds. The UCF (University Campus Friesland) has brought PhD candidates from different research fields together with academics, business people, policy makers and other interested parties to talk about the societal relevance of their research.

Jeroen Onrust explains part of the relevance of his research to the people of Friesland as follows: meadow birds are a part of Frisian culture. Searching for eggs is a Thing with a capital T; the first egg of the year makes it to the newspapers without fail. The Frisian language also has over 600 words to do with meadow birds. As a cultural group, Frisians care about meadow birds. And what do the meadow birds care about? Worms. Due to modern farming practices, there are not enough worms. This means that if ‘we’ keep this up, there will be fewer and fewer meadow birds, until – possibly – there are none left. The loss of the meadow birds in Friesland will be a loss of part of Frisian culture. It will mean those words are no longer needed, leading to the loss of an aspect of the language; a loss of part of the Frisian identity.

Click here to read the rest of the blog and click here to read more about an earlier study Jeroen Onrust did on this subject, together with Theunis Piersma.

Nederlands: Klik hier om de rest van het blog te lezen en hier om meer te lezen over een eerder onderzoek dat Jeroen Onrust heeft uitgevoerd samen met Theunis Piersma.