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The suffix -ling, or its variant -eling, derives nouns from adjectives (fanatykfanatical > fanatikelingfanatic), verbs (beskermjeto protect > beskermelingward), nouns (haadhead > haadlingnoble) and numerals (ienone > ienlingsolitary). Besides, there are a few -(e)ling derivations which have an opaque base (*trut > trutlingdistant relative).

The suffix is only productive with adjectival bases. Between the base and the suffix the linking element -e- can be added, except with base forms ending in a vowel or /r/.

Most of the derivations in -(e)ling denote personal names or animal species, always of common gender, cf. de flechtlingthe fugitive (vs *it flechtling) or de ferkeardlingthe bad person (vs *it ferkeardling). Other derivations in -(e)ling often denote object names, mostly neuter. Hence they take the definite article itthe, but some words still have the article dethe.

[+] Adjective as base

The suffix -ling productively derives nouns from adjectives. Most formations denote a person that has the property named by the adjective. A naïveling, for example, is a person that is naive. Examples are given in the table below:

Table 1
Base form Derivation
naïefnaive naïvelingsimpleton
frjemdstrange frjemdlingstranger
deaddead deadelingidiot
snoadsmart snoadelingbright person
swakweak swakkelingweakling
rykrich rikelingrich person
lamblind drunk lammelingstinker
stomstupid stommelingfool
slopweak sloppelingweakling
nuverstrange nuverlingqueer customer
apartstrange apartelingeccentric
nuettame nuetlingqueer customer
healwiisidiotic healwizeling / healwiislingidiot
eigenwiiscocksure eigenwizelinga know-it-all
nijnew nijelingnewcomer
beroerdmiserable beroerdelingrotten fellow
ferkeardwrong ferkeardelingbad person
ferwoastfierce ferwoastelingbrute
ûnhuerdirty ûnhuerlingunsavoury
ferwezendepressed ferwezelingdepressed person
Derivations that denote an object name are wytwhite > wytlingbottom sheet and koartshort > koartlinga small piece of wood.

[+] Verb as base

The suffix -ling also derives nouns from verbs. The derived nouns denote object names. The suffix binds the theme argument of the verb, therefore the input verb always has to be transitive or ergative. Most of these derivations denote a person. Examples are given in the table below:

Table 2
Base form Derivation
flechtsjeto flee flechtlingfugitive
leareto learn learlingpupil
oankommeto arrive oankommelingjunior
oerkommeto come over oerkommelingan incorrigible rogue
ynkommeto arrive ynkommelingimmigrant
ferswijeto keep silent about ferswigelingan illigal
oerwinneto conquer oerwinnelingillegitimate child
ferskoppeto cast out ferskoppelingoutcast
ferstekketo move ferstekkelingstowaway
straffeto punish straflingpunished person
hiereto hire hierlinghireling
stjerreto die stjerlingmortal
One derivation denotes an animal species ( mesteto fatten up > mestlinga fatted animal), and there are a few derivations denoting an object name: foarmjeto form > foarmelingsomething formed in clay, stekketo take cuttings of plants > stekkelingcutting, biteto bite > bytlingbit and riedeto guess > riedlingriddle.

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x Verbal or adjectival base?

Some of the derivations above can also be interpreted as a derivation from an adjective. For example, in oerkommeling, the base form could also be the adjectivally used past participle oerkommencame over, with truncation of /ən/ (or /n/).

In nij-ynkommelingnewly arrived immigrant one must in any case assume that it is a derivation from an adjective. The prefix nij- only occurs before adjectivally used past participles. Nij-ynkommeling must therefore be derived from adjectival nij-ynkommennewly arrived, with truncation of /en/.

[+] Noun as base

A few derivations with -ling have a nominal base. Examples are given in the table below:

Table 3
Base form Derivation
hôfgarden hoflingcourtier
hokcage hokkelingyearling
hûshouse húslingopening in the blade of an axe, into which the stick fits
foetfoot fuotlinganklet
tommethumb tommelingtumble
hoarnhorn hoarnlingillegitimate child
keatlink keatlingchain
nebbebeak neblingkind of eel

[+] Numeral as base

The suffix -(e)ling can also derive nouns from numerals:

Table 4
Base form Derivation
fjouwerfour fjouwerlingquadruplets
earstfirst earstelingfirst-born
twatwo twaling / twillingtwins
trijethree trijeling / trjillingtriplets
fiiffive fiiflingquintuplets
mearmore mearlingmultiple birth
The variants twillingtwins and trjillingtriplets are remnants of older forms of the stem. The derivation always denotes a set, the base indicating the number of the members.

[+] Opaque base

Some words with the suffix -ling have a non-existing base. A few examples are given in the table below:

Table 5
Opaque base Derivation
*trut trutlingdistant relative
*wezel wezelingweasel
*grind grindelinggudgeon
*goat goatlingcasting

[+] Phonological properties

In many derivations a linking schwa may be inserted between -ling[lIŋ] and the base, resulting in the sequence -eling[əlIŋ]. This is not possible, however, if the base ends in a vowel or /r/. Thus from twatwo one may derive twalingtwins, but not *twa-eling. We likewise have stjerlingmortal and not *stjerreling (from stjerreto die). The linking -e- is often lacking after the consonants /d, t, z, s, n, k, v, f./. Examples are fremdlingstranger instead of fremdelingstranger, apartlingeccentric next to apartelingeccentric and hoklingyearling next to hokkelingyearling.

Bases ending in /ən/ are truncated. This applies to ferwezendepressed > ferwezelingdepressed person and possibly also in formations which contain the participle kommen of the verb kommeto come, as in oerkommelingincorrigible rogue or ynkommelingimmigrant.

[+] Morphological potential

The plurals of the derivations denoting persons can only be formed with the suffix -en; the alternative plural suffix -s is excluded. For example, the plural of flechtlingfugitive is flechtlingenfugitives and not *flechtlings. If the formation refers to an object, then -s may also be used. Examples are keatling-en/keatling-schain-PLchains and bekling-en/bekling-sback-PLbacks (of a chair).

[hide extra information]
x Literature

This section is based on Hoekstra (1998:103-104). More details can be found in Hoekstra (1990) and Hoekstra (1990). For the formation of plurals, see Hoekstra (2011:287-288).

  • Hoekstra, Jarich1990Hjerringen of hjerringsFriesch Dagblad10-03Taalsnipels 138
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1990AakliksmaFriesch Dagblad18-08Taalsnipels 156
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
  • Hoekstra, Jarich2011Meervoudsvorming in het Westerlauwers Fries en het Nederlands (en patroniemvorming in het Noord-Fries)Taal en Tongval63281-301
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