Theodor Frings

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Theodor Frings (born July 23, 1886 in Dülken ; † June 6, 1968 in Leipzig ) was a German Germanic medievalist and linguist .


Theodor Fring's grave at the Südfriedhof in Leipzig (2011)

The son of a bookbinder near Krefeld studied German and Romance languages in Leipzig and Marburg . During his studies he became a member of the Association of German Students in Marburg. He received his doctorate in 1911 under Ferdinand Wrede in Marburg with the subject "Studies on the dialect geography of the Lower Rhine between Düsseldorf and Aachen". In 1915 he completed his habilitation with Rudolf Meißner in Bonn, and in 1917 he became an associate professor at the University of Bonn . In 1919 Frings became a full professor for German and Dutch philology there , and in 1927 professor for German studies at the University of Leipziguntil his retirement in 1957. He also held numerous visiting professorships abroad, for example in 1922/23 at the University of Amsterdam . He taught provisionally until his death in 1968.

Frings was convinced that the history of language is an essential core of human history. That is why the German studies scholar worked very early on in an interdisciplinary manner with historians, folklorists, Dutch and Romanists to describe cultural areas. First he has v. a. researched the Rhineland (which is his native), but later expanded his view particularly to the east-central German area. On the basis of the phonetic and morphological conditions of the dialects and evidence of historical names, he reconstructed older language layers and was thus able to prove a settlement history of the east-central German area that complemented the historical evidence, which is still largely valid. His dialect-geographic explanation of the origin of the New High German standard language, on the other hand, is considered outdated today. Theodor Frings was instrumental in major dictionary projects, such as the Old High German Dictionary or the Dictionary of Upper Saxon Dialects.

In 1933 he and about 900 other scientists, some of whom later went into the resistance, signed the professors' commitment to Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist state at German universities and colleges . In a lecture he gave in Groningen (Netherlands) in May 1936, he made positive comments about the Nazi regime. In 1938 he described the Institute for Historical Regional Studies , IGL, founded in Bonn in 1920 and taken over during the Nazi era, as "one of the most successful scientific institutes in Germany" and "one of the most vigilant border institutes in German historical studies". In 1938 he was elected a corresponding member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences .

In order to secure his scientific work, Frings made arrangements with Nazi authorities at certain points, but he wasn't afraid to mess with them either. He stood as one of the few behind the national economist Gerhard Kessler , who had been physically attacked by National Socialist students and who had described Hitler as a "phrase thief and rat catcher" and who had been dismissed from service in 1933. In March 1933, Frings protested that the rectorate did nothing against the marches of uniformed Nazi students on the university premises; in his eyes a blatant and unacceptable violation of the dignity of the university. He also worked to ensure that Herbert Hupka , who fell under the Nuremberg Race Laws as a half-Jew, could complete his dissertation.

As the “second founding father” of the Institute for Historical Regional Studies, he returned to the institute at short notice after the Allied liberation of Germany. Frings then moved to the Soviet occupation zone . From 1946 to 1965 he was President of the Saxon Academy of Sciences in Leipzig. He also headed the Institute for German Literature and Language of the German Academy of Sciences in East Berlin.

Frings was neither a member of the NSDAP nor the SED.


In 1949 he received the National Prize of the GDR, 2nd class for science and technology. In 1961, as part of the collective of the German dictionary, he received the national prize of the GDR 1st class for science and technology. In 1954 he was awarded the Patriotic Order of Merit in silver and in 1959 in gold.

In memory of Theodor Frings, the Saxon Academy of Sciences in Leipzig awards the Theodor Frings Prize .


Shortly before his death, the Dülken Fools' Academy awarded him an honorary doctorate.


  • Foundation of a history of the German language . Max Niemeyer, Halle (Saale) 3rd extension. 1957 edition
  • History of the Rhineland from the earliest times to the present . 2 volumes. By Hermann Aubin , Th. Frings a. a., GD Baedeker, Essen 1922
  1. Political history
  2. Cultural history
  • Rhenish language history . Essen 1924. 54 pp.
  • From the word geography of the Rhine and Netherlands . Heidelberg 1924, in: Contributions to Germanic linguistics. Festschrift for Otto Behaghel . Pp. 194-232 (Germanische Bibliothek. II. Abt. Vol. 15) 1959 B 974
  • Language and settlement in the Central German East . Leipzig 1932. (Reports on the negotiations of the Saxon Academy of Sciences in Leipzig. Philological-historical class. 84.6) Z 2824 b-84.6 Frings Eduard Sievers. [With a] list of publications by Elisabeth Karg-Gasterstädt . Leipzig 1933. (Reports on the negotiations of the Saxon Academy of Sciences in Leipzig. Philological-historical class. 85.1) Z. 2824 b-85,
  • Language and settlement in the Central German East . Berlin 1933, in: Research and Progress 9. S. 3, Z. 602-9
  • The basics of Meissnian German: a contribution to the genesis of the standard German language . Halle (Saale) 1936. 24 pp., Fr 52 083
  • The position of the Netherlands in the construction of Germanic. In: Contributions to the history of German language and literature, 91, Halle 1969–1971, pp. 39–105
    • The position of the Netherlands in the construction of Germanic. Hall 1944
  • About the more recent Flemish literature. Elwert, Marburg 1918
  • with Hermann Aubin and Josef Müller : Cultural currents and cultural provinces in the Rhineland. Röhrscheid, Bonn 1926
  • The place names on -lar u. the Dutch tree names of the Hazelaar type "Hazelnut bush", Z. dt. Altertum, 66, pp. 46–49
  • with W. von Wartburg: French and Franconian, In: Journal for Romance Philology , 57, pp. 193–210
  • with Gabriele Schieb: Three Veldeke studies : the Veldeke problem, the eneide epilogue , the two Staufer parts . Treatises of the German Academy of Sciences in Berlin . Philosophical-historical class. Born 1947 No. 6. Akademie-Verlag Berlin 1949.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Louis Lange (Ed.): Kyffhäuser Association of German Student Associations. Address book 1931. Berlin 1931, p. 61.
  2. Klaas van Berkel: Universiteit van het Noorden: De klassieke universiteit, 1876–1945, Hilversum 2017, p. 797.
  3. ^ Quotations: IGL archive, IGL 105 files, Franz Steinbach correspondence 1929–1964; and Frings to Deutsche Literaturzeitung , April 14, 1938.
  4. ^ Theodor Fring's obituary at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences (PDF file).
  5. ^ Konrad Krause: Alma mater Lipsiensis: History of the University of Leipzig from 1409 to the present. Leipzig University Press, 2003.
  6. Since the early 1950s, he was concerned with the Eneide poetry by the medieval author Henric van Veldeken , who came from what is now Belgium . He published it in 1964 - translated back into Limburgish by him . Source for his interlude in Bonn 1945/1946: Bernd-A. Rusinek , The Bonn Institute for Rhenish Regional Studies, in Ulrich Pfeil Ed .: German-French cultural and scientific relations in the 20th century. An institutional history approach. Oldenbourg, Munich 2007, pp. 31-46. Full text at
  7. ^ New Germany , October 7, 1954, p. 4.
  8. Berliner Zeitung , October 4, 1959, p. 3.
  9. ^ Tables of contents of both volumes at the German National Library , online
  10. The book is based on a college held in 1917/1918 .