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In prenominal position

The position of an adjective is in front of a noun, it is inflected. This position, also called attributive is essential. For instance, inflection applies if the adjective lulkangry is in attributive use, as in the word group de lulke bollethe angry bull. If the adjective is used predicatively, as in de bolle wurdt lulkthe bull gets angry, the adjective lulk does not show the inflectional suffix -e.

In adjectival inflection, there is a choice between two possibilities only: we can choose between the inflectional element -e or zero: the two possible forms are either lulk-e or lulk. In actual language, the form lulke is the most frequent variant. Zero-suffixation only occurs if three conditions are met: (i) the Noun Phrase (NP) in which the adjective occurs is indefinite, (ii) the following noun has neuter gender and (iii) the noun is non-plural. The adjective swierheavy is not inflected in the wordgroup in swier skipa heavy ship since it is preceded by the indefinite article in and followed by the neuter noun skip.

It is not only the category of adjectives that obeys the rules of adjectival inflection. Some quantifiers, for instance eltsevery, follow the rules as well. On the other hand, not all adjectives in prenominal position follow the rules. There are some idiosyncretic exceptions, but most deviations have a clear phonological or semantic background. Furthermore, the conservative dialects of Hindeloopen en Schiermonnikoog have their own inflectional systems. However, some reminiscenses of an older inflectional system have survived in standard Frisian as well.

[+] Position

As in other Germanic languages, the Frisian adjective is inflected in prenominal position. Apart from zero inflection, the only inflectional suffix is -e, which is pronounced as a schwa. Hence, this suffix only appears if the adjective is in attributive position, as in it swarte hynderthe black horse where a suffix -e has been attached to the adjective swart. In predicative position, the adjective remains uninflected:

Example 1

it hynder is swart / *swarte
the horse is black / *black-I
the horse is black

In the case that the adjective is used adverbially, inflection is not allowed either, as in (2):

Example 2

hy seach swart / *swarte
he saw black
he looked angry
[+] Paradigm

The adjectival inflectional paradigm consists of only two elements: the ending -e or zero ending. In most cases, the adjective is inflected with -e. The adjective is not inflected (or gets a zero inflection) if three conditions are fulfilled at the same time:

  1. the NP in which the adjective occurs, is indefinite
  2. the NP is singular
  3. the head noun of the NP has neuter gender
Schematically, the inflectional paradigm for adjectives can be summarized as follows:
Table 1
Definite Indefinite
singular common -e -e
singular neuter -e -
plural -e -e
This implies that all plural NPs have the -e-ending, as shown in (3):

Example 3

a. grutte tafels
large-INFL table.PL
large tables
b. de grutte tafels
the large-I table.PL
the large tables
c. dy grutte tafels
those large-I table.PL
those large tables
d. guon grutte tafels
some large-I table.PL
some large tables
e. alle grutte tafels
all large-I table.PL
all large tables

In all NPs with a common singular noun, the adjective receives the ending -e as well:

Example 4

a. de grutte tafel
the large-INFL table.SG
the large table
b. in grutte tafel
a large-INFL table.SG
a large table
c. dy grutte tafel
that large-I table.SG
that large table
d. eltse grutte tafel
every-I large-I table.SG
every large table
e. mannich grutte tafel
many large-I table.SG
many a large table

Definite NPs contain a definite article or a demonstrative pronoun. Such NPs also feature the inflectional ending -e, irrespective of the gender of the head noun. Compare the nouns skipship, which is neuter, and the noun boatboat, which is common.

Example 5

a. de swiere boat the heavy-INFL boat.C the heavy boat
b. it swiere skip the heavy-I ship.N the heavy ship
Example 6

a. dy swiere boat that heavy-INFL boat.C that heavy boat
b. dat swiere skip that heavy-I ship.N that heavy ship

Only in indefinite NPs do we see a less uniform picture. Under the category indefinite are subsumed: NPs with the indefinite article (in Frisian always ina), its negative counterpart gjinno, the numeral ienone, demonstratives as sa'nsuch and soksuch, interrogatives as hokwhich, hoe'nwhat kind of and watwhat kind of, and indefinite pronouns like elk/eltseach, iderevery and mannichmany. An NP with no determiner at all also counts as indefinite. In table (2) we list a number of examples with the neuter noun hynderhorse in an indefinite context in which the adjective swartblack remains uninflected, compared to its behaviour in the context of kocow, a common noun.

Table 2
in swart hyndera black horse.Na black horse in swarte koa black-INFL cow.Ca black cow
ien swart hynderone black horse.None black horse ien swarte koone black-INFL cow.Cone black cow
gjin swart hynderno black horse.Nno black horse gjin swarte kono black-INFL cow.Cno black cow
sa'n swart hyndersuch=a black horse.Nsuch a black horse sa'n swarte kosuch=a black-I cow.Csuch a black cow
elts swart hynderevery black horse.Nevery black horse eltse swarte koevery-I black-I cow.Cevery black cow
mannich swart hyndermanny black horse.Nmany a black horse mannich swarte komany black-INFL cow.Cmany a black cow
hokker swart hynderwhich black horse.Nwhich black horse hokker swarte kowhich black-I cow.Cwhich black cow
hoe'n swart hynderhow=a black horse.Nwhat kind of black horse hoe'n swarte kohow=a black-I cow.Cwhat kind of black cow
wat swart hynderwhat black horse.Nwhat kind of black horse wat swarte kowhat black-INFL cow.Cwhat kind of black cow
oh, swart hynder!oh black horse.Noh, black horse! oh, swarte ko!oh black-I cow.Coh, black cow!

Compare also the examples in (7) with the neuter mass noun guodstuff. The context counts as indefinite, and hence the adjective goedgood is not inflected:

Example 7

a. sok goed guod such good stuff.N such good stuff
b. goed guod good stuff.N good stuff

In addition, also possessive contexts count as indefinite in Frisian, at least as far as the inflection of the adjective is concerned: after possessive pronouns and before neuter nouns, the adjective does not receive an ending: it is myn swart hyndermy black horse.Nmy black horse and not *myn swarte hynder. Other possessive contexts show this behaviour as well, for instance in genitives:

Example 8

a. Janboers swart hynder
Jan.PR-farmer-GEN black horse.N
the horse of farmer Jan
b. Jelle-en-dy's âld hûs
Jelle.PR-and-those-GEN old house.N
the old house of Jelle and his relatives

Compare also the behaviour of the genitive form waanswhose of the interrogative pronoun wawho as in (9):

Example 9

Waans âld hûs is dat?
who-GEN old house.N is that?
Whose old house is that?
[show extra information]
x Dutch influence

The behaviour of the adjective in possessive contexts is the main difference with the Dutch inflectional system. As a result, the Frisian system is under pressure at this point: fairly regularly adjectives with -e after possessives are heard.

[+] Minor categories

It is not only adjectives that obey the rules of prenominal inflection. A few quantifiers do so as well. Compare eltsevery or its variant elk in elts hynderevery horse with eltse koevery cow, where the word hynder is neuter and cow is common. Also the quantifiers sommigesome and its synonym somlik must be involved in adjectival inflection, although this cannot be shown by a formal contrast, since these quantifiers are always accompanied by plural nouns. Hence, they always end in a schwa, which means that we only find the forms sommige, somlike. This is somewhat different for the quantifier alall. This seems to have been levelled to alle, hence even in a position where ordinary adjectives lack an ending. Compare in this respect alle iisall-I ice.N.SGall ice with glêd iisslippery ice.N.SGslippery ice.

It should be noted that proper names also govern the inflection of a possible adjective. Consider earme Froukjepoor Froukje next to earm Groupoor Grou. Froukje is a girl's name. Names of persons have common gender, hence we see the inflected form earme. Place names are neuter; as a result the adjective is not inflected in this context. Normally, names occur without article, but gender can come to the surface when some qualification is added. For instance in de Froukje fan myn dreamenthe Froukje of my dreams, where the article de points at common gender. This is in contrast with it Grou fan myn pakethe Grou of my grandfather with the neuter article it.

[+] Phonological consequences

The lengthening of the adjectival stem with an ending -e, that is, with a schwa, has some phonological side-effects. One is that the final segment of the stem may have been subject of final devoicing. As a result, the adjectival stem ends in a voiceless consonant but this segment receives voice if the schwa ending is added. For example, the inflected form of the adjective kreaspretty is kreaze with the voiced segment /z/.

Another, though rather marginal, phonological process is d-rhoticism: a final underlying /d/ turns into /r/ in intervocalic contexts. For instance, for many speakers the pronunciation of the inflected form of âldold is [ͻrə], and not [ͻdə]. The adjective kâldcold may be affected similarly.

The segment /d/ is also involved in another marginal phonological process, i.e. final d-deletion. As a result, a final /d/ is deleted after a (long) vowel. It may have the odd effect that superficially it seems as if in an inflected adjective /d/ is inserted. Examples are deadead - deade and kweabad; angry - kweade. However, the peculiarity here is not in the inflected form, but rather in the base itself.

Frisian is well-known for its processes of breaking and shortening. Although the major condition for these processes, i.e. addition of a syllable to the base, seems to be present, these two phenomena are practically absent in adjectival inflection. There are two exceptions, and both of these concern frequently used adjectives. A case of breaking may be found in the inflected form moaie, from moaibeautiful. The broken form can only be found in the eastern part of the language area, however. Shortening may be found in the inflected form grutte of the adjective grutbig, at least in those (mostly northern) areas where this adjective is pronounced with a long vowel[grö:t] or centralized diphthong [grö.ət].

[show extra information]

The shortening in the case of the word grut is mentioned in Hoekema (1968).

[+] Lexical deviations

Frisian adjectives do not always satisfy the requirements of the inflectional rules. Often certain generalizations can be stated with respect to deviant behaviour. Such deviations can be phonological or semantic in nature; they will be dealt with in the subsections below. Other anomalies have a more accidental character and will be mentioned here. They seem to be purely lexical exceptions. Most of them belong to the non-native stratum. Among them are material names: plestikplastic, rubberrubber and aluminiumaluminium. These names could be joined to platinaplatinum and mikamica, although these two words might also refuse inflection because they end in a full vowel. Another foreign word that does not inflect is oblongoblong. Native words resisting inflection are folbloedfull-blood(ed) and healbloed half-bred.

[show extra information]

The material adjectives have the same form as their cognate material nouns. Some of them, especially plestik and rubber, may also participate in the rule for the derivation of adjectives by way of addition of the suffix -en. In that case, such a derivative may optionally inflect, along the lines of the other derivations with -en. The effect is that, for instance, the form *plestike is out, but the form plestikene is acceptable.

[+] Phonologically driven deviations

Inflection of the adjective implies phonologically lengthening of the stem by h a syllable that is made up of a schwa. A schwa is a vowel and adjectives with a stem ending in a vowel appear to have serious problems in accepting this adjacent schwa. This phenomenon will be described at the end of this subsection. Addition of a schwa also means that the stem is extended by a syllable without stress. For rythmic reasons, this may cause problems with those stems that already end in a stressless syllable. Too many stressless syllables in a row is unattractive; sometimes even two are too many.

Difficulties with two syllables without stress mainly manifest themselves in the case of stems ending in schwa plus /n/ or /r/. On the other hand, syllables with for instance final -el, -em or adjectives with the suffix -lik (all pronounced with a schwa) accept an extra inflectional schwa without any problem, as is clear from (10):

Example 10

a. de mûtel-e faam
the chubby maid
b. de stikem-e jonge
the sneaky boy
c. it foarlik-e bern
the precocious child

Inflection is even obligatory here, cf. *de mûtel faam etc.

The situation is more complex with those stems that end in -en/ǝn/. Such stems may accept an inflectional -e, but this is not obligatory, and we often see no inflection in these cases.

[show extra information]

Dykstra (1984) investigated inflection after the suffix -en building material adjectives. He found that in about 20% of actual language use such adjectives are inflected, and the percentage is even decreasing. The latter may be the influence of Dutch: in Dutch, we do not find inflection after -en at all.

Structurally, the final sequence -en may represent different elements. It may be part of the adjective stem, as in iepenopen or rimpenhasty. Examples with and without inflection are provided in (11):

Example 11

a. it iepen(e) finster
the open window
b. de rimpen(e) direkteur
the hasty manager

There is one exception to this rule: the adjective eigenown, which is never inflected: it is syn eigen autohis own car and not *syn eigene auto.

Many adjectives ending in -en contain the suffix -en which build adjectives from nouns denoting a material or substance: from houtwood one can form houtenwooden. Such adjectives may optionally inflect as well:

Example 12

a. it houten(e) stek
the wooden fence
b. in gouden(e) ring
a golden ring

That a rythmic factor is the main force behind the non-inflection of adjectives ending in -en can be seen from the behaviour of those material adjectives which have a nominal stem that also ends in a schwa syllable. Addition of inflectional -e would result in three syllables without stress: the final syllable of the stem plus the suffix -en plus inflectional -e. Thus from material nouns like kopercupper, izeriron or moarmermarble it is virtually impossible to build inflected adjectival forms like *koperene, *izerene or *moarmerene.

Verbal forms may also be used as adjectives. Infinitives and past participles are relevant here, the latter only the ones stemming from strong verbs since only these may end in a suffix -en. Here are two examples:

Example 13

a. de ferfallen(e) skuorre
the dilapidated barn
b. de útwosken(e) sokken
the washed socks

Modal infinitives may appear in prenominal position. Next to dat boek is [maklik te lêzen]that book is [easy to read] we also have dat [maklik te lêzen] boek. Nowadays, the infinitive is not inflected: *dat maklik te lêzene boek. It was different in the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, where we can encounter citations like the following:

Example 14

a. dizze noait to forjittene jierdeifiering
this never to forget-I annual celebration
this celebration that we will never forget
T.G. van der Meulen, De Bye-koer (1852), p. 79
b. de net út to hâldene neargeastigens
the not out to hold-I gloominess
the unbearable gloominess
S.K. Feitsma, Forjit my net (1907), p. 66
c. de to settene nammen
the to set-I names
the signatures that have to be put
G.A. Wumkes, It Frysk réveil yn portretten (1911), p. 258

In principle, prenominal modal infinitives should be inflected, as can be detected from the members of a small group of monosyllabic infinitives. Examples are dwaanto do and sjento see. As these infinitives consist of one syllable, they do not contain a final syllable without stress. Hence, we see obligatory inflection in this category, as shown in (15).

Example 15

a. de noch te dwane opjeften
the still to do-INFL tasks
the tasks that should still be done
b. it yn te sjenne hânskrift
the in to see manuscript
the manuscript to be consulted

In these examples non-inflection are unacceptable, i.e. *te dwaan or *yn te sjen.

[show extra information]

The inflection of prenominal modal infinitives is pointed out in the grammar of Van Blom (1889:128-129). He gives examples like it te lêzene boekthe book to be read and de te gravene sleatthe ditch to be digged. Later grammarians did not include this phenomenon, which also may point at its marginal position in the modern language.

[show extra information]

Besides inflectional -e a nominalizing suffix -e exists that forms nouns from adjectives. This nominalizing -e is never deleted, not even after the cluster /ən/. Consider this example:

Example 16

Hy hie twa soannen. Gurbe wie de iepene (*iepen), Lolle de slettene (*sletten)
He had two sons. Gurbe was the open one, Lolle the closed one

This even applies to the word eigenown, which in itself is never inflected. But compare a phrase like it Fryskeigenelit: the Frisian own, i.e. everything that is typical for Friesland.

In contrast to the final cluster -en, inflection after final -er/ər/ is in a stronger position. If -er is part of the adjectival stem, inflection follows the normal rules, as is clear from (17):

Example 16

a. de snippere famkes the charming-I girls the charming girls
*de snipper famkes
b. de lekkere par the delicious-I pear the delicious pear
*de lekker par

The rules for regular inflection - with one notable exception, see the section about pseudo-deviations - also apply to the comparative suffix -er: we have de gruttere auto'sthe larger cars and not de *grutter auto's. However, if the comparative suffix follows a syllable with a schwa, the tendency is to drop inflectional -e. Compare:

Example 17

a. *?in ûnbetrouberdere fint an unreliable-COMP-I guy a more unreliable guy
in ûnbetrouberder fint
b. *?in foarsichtigere man a careful-COMP-I man a more careful man
in foarsichtiger man

There is also a suffix -er that builds adjectives on the basis of geographical names. Such adjectives are never inflected:

Example 18

a. de Grinzer universiteit the University of Groningen
de *Grinzere universiteit
b. Dimter koeke cake from Deventer
*Dimtere koeke

The same restrtiction applies to allomorphs like -(e)mer and -ster:

Example 19

a. de Knypster famkes the girls of De Knipe
de *Knypstere famkes
b. de Bûtenpostmer merke the Buitenpost fair
de *Bûtenpostmere merke

Also the words lofterleft and rjochterright, formed by a marginal suffix -er after the stems loft and rjocht, never show inflection:

Example 20

a. de rjochter skoech the right shoe
de *rjochtere skoech
b. de lofter sok the left sock
de *loftere sok
[+] Semantically driven deviations

In addition to lexical deviations and phonologically driven deviations, there are cases that do not obey the general pattern of adjectival inflection for reasons of semantics. We distinguish four cases; the first three types; the first three also occur in Dutch.

  1. Firstly, we have the case of adjectives denoting a quality or a geographical name. Such an adjective is not inflected if it occurs after an indefinite article and before a noun denoting a person. As to the indefinite article, not only the article ina is relevant, but also variants like gjinno, sa'nsuch a or hoe'nhow awhat kind of. We have seen in the section on the paradigm that adjectives are never inflected before neuter nouns and after such determiners. The special thing here is, that inflection is not found before common nouns either. A few examples:
    Example 22

    a. in lestich man
    a difficult man
    b. in Dútsk skriuwer
    a German writer
    c. hoe'n grut skilder
    how-a great painter
    how great a painter
    d. gjin grut strateech
    no great strategist
    e. in goed soldaat
    a good soldier

    it is not excluded that the adjective receives an inflectional ending -e. However, in that case the semantics is different. If there is no inflection, it is the function and the typical behaviour of the one described by the noun that is foregrounded. In this case, the adjective has a more adverbial function, so to say: in in grut skildera great painter someone is described who is a great artist. On the other hand, in grutte skildera tall-I paintera tall painter is someone who is a painter and a tall person at that. In goed soldaata good soldier has good qualifications as a soldier, but in goede soldaata good-INFL soldiera good soldier is someone who is a soldier and has a good character to boot. Sometimes the difference is difficult to describe, for instance in in lestich mana difficult man vs. in lestige mana difficult man, which may be due to the fuzzy semantics of manman in its functional interpretation.

    If the noun is interpreted as a function, the accompanying adjective necessarily has the "adverbial" interpretation too. This has the effect that in the case of two or more prenominal adjectives, all have to remain uninflected. Compare:
    Example 23

    a. in goed, dapper soldaat
    a good brave soldier
    a good, brave soldier
    b. *in goede, dapper soldaat
    a good-I brave soldier
    c. *in goed, dappere soldaat
    a good brave-I soldier
    Example 24

    a. in bang mar goed soldaat
    a scared but good soldier
    a scared but good soldier
    b. *in bange, mar goed soldaat
    a scared-I but good soldier
    c. *in bang mar goede soldaat
    a scaryedbut good-I soldier

    It is important to stress that non-inflection for this category only occurs after indefinite determiners. Therefore, an example like

    Example 25

    *de grut skilder
    the great painter
    the great painter

    is ungrammatical. The correct form de grutte skilder is ambiguous. The ambiguity might be expressed in English by the two adjectives tall and great, respectively.

  2. A second case of non-inflection as a result of a semantic influence is restricted to common nouns, i.e. those which take the definite article de. The noun should refer to a person who has a specific function in society. Here are some examples:
    Example 26

    a. dy sosjaal wurker
    that.c social worker.C
    that social worker
    b. dizze bûtengewoan heechlearaar
    this.c extraordinary professor.C
    this exrtraodinary professor
    c. de kontrolearjend genêshear
    the controlling physician.C
    the controlling physician
    d. de saaklik direkteur
    the commercial manager.C
    the commercial manager

    Non-inflection is independent of the kind of determiner in front of the adjective, and of singularity or plurality. In other words, the adjective is never inflected:

    Example 27

    a. in sosjaal wurker
    a social worker.SG
    a social worker
    b. de sosjaal wurkers
    the social worker.PL
    the social workers

    As in the former case, non-inflection is related to semantics. That is, the adjective does allow inflection, but then we see a shift in meaning. Non-inflection is typically related to the social function that is occupied by the person denoted by the noun. Thus a saaklik direkteur is a commercial manager, for instance in contrast to a wittenskiplik direkteurscientific director. Inflection implies a shift in meaning. Thus, a saaklike direkteur is not a commercial manager, but a manager who is down-to-earth. Hence, the perspective is on the person himself, and not on his function. Furthermore, this category is dependent on the combination of a specific adjective and a specific noun. For instance, non-inflected adjective saaklik may combine with the noun directeur, but not with the noun autohanlercar dealer. Thus a *saaklik autohanler is impossible. On the other hand, inflected adjectives are possible throughout, as in in saaklike autohanlera practical car dealer. Not all adjectives are suitable; they should necessarily have a relation with the function. Therefore, *de aardich direkteur is out, while de aardige direkteurthe nice manager is fully acceptable. Friendliness is not an integral aspect of the function of a manager.

    That the adjective and the noun do build a special combination may also be detected from the fact that the non-inflected adjective should be adjacent to the noun:

    Example 28

    de keal-e saaklik direkteur
    the bold-I commercial manager
    the bold commercial manager

    Note that this is an infringement on the rule that all adjectives should have the same inflectional ending. Moreover, the non-inflected adjective has a tight relationship with the noun, and they may therefore not be separated from each other:

    Example 29

    *de saaklik keal-e direkteur
    the commercial bold-I manager
    the commercial bold manager
  3. There is a third category in which for semantic reasons the adjective is not inflected, and where just as in the second category the adjective and the noun have a tight relationship. The restriction here is that the noun has neuter gender, and furthermore that it should (mostly) refer to abstract matters. Note that in the previous category common nouns and persons were involved. A further relevant point is that the determiner should be definite - we have seen that after indefinite determiners and before neuter nouns adjectives are not inflected anyway. Some examples are shown in (30):
    Example 30

    a. dat koart pleit
    that short lawsuit
    that restricted lawsuit
    b. it medysk bulletin
    the medical bulletin
    the medical bulletin
    c. it hillich fjoer
    the holy fire
    the enthousiasm
    d. it tapast ûndersyk
    the applied research
    the applied research

    Another difference between this and the previous category is the fact that if the noun is plural, then the adjective is inflected regularly. Thus we have de medysk-e bulletinsthe medical-I bulletinsthe medical bulletins. Non-inflection yields an unacceptable or hardly acceptable cluster: *?de medysk bulletins.

    If the noun is in the singular, most adjectives may be inflected as well, but then, as above, we get a meaning difference. For instance, it koart pleit is a specific kind of law-suit, where it koart-e pleitthe short-INFL plea is a plea that does not last long.

    As above, the property of the tight relationship manifests itself in the fact that not every adjective is possible in this construction, in other words it should comply with the semantics. For example, in contrast to it medysk bulletin there is no non-inflected *it koart bulletinthe short bulletinthe short bulletin, in other words, the adjective should always get an inflectional ending in such an example: it koart-e bulletinthe short-I bulletinthe short bulletin. And again, the tight relationship is reflected in the order if there are more adjectives, that is, the non-inflected one should be adjacent to the noun:

    Example 31

    a. it koart-e medysk bulletin
    the short-I medical bulletin
    the short medical bulletin
    b. *it medysk koarte bulletin
    the medical short-I bulletin
    the medical short bulletin
  4. The three cases dealt with above in which an adjective is not inflected for semantic reasons also occur in Dutch. Next to these, there is a fourth type, which seems to be typical of Frisian. It is not quite easy to identify as such. In the literature it is mostly stated that adjective and noun represent one concept, or that the combination of adjective and noun is self-evident. Some examples are shown in (32):
    Example 32

    a. it moai guod
    the beautiful stuff
    the beautiful things, e.g. of a trousseau
    b. in fet ko
    a fat cow
    a fat cow
    c. in jong faam
    a young maid
    a young maid
    d. in lang piip
    a long pipe
    a church warden
    e. de âld man
    the old man
    the old man

    In the previous categories, the notion of "one concept" also played a role, but in those cases more specific or abstract adjectives and nouns were involved. The present category centers around quite common adjectives like goedgood, kweabad, jongyoung, and especially âldold. The literal meaning of these adjectives has been bleached somewhat, and a more affective meaning comes to the fore. The WFT (1984-2011) s.v. âld (I), 6 has a section especially devoted to this use of the word âldold. In it, we see examples like de âld brilthe old glasses, which actually means 'the glasses that we know so well'. Or take de âld swartethe old black one, which refers to a stove that has served so well for so many years.

    The fact that the combination more or less denotes one concept, plus the lack of an inflectional element, causes the combination to be mearily interpreted as one word; see here for more information on this subject. According to the Frisian spelling conventions, the combination should be written without spacing: moaiguod, jongfaam, langpiip, âldman. Such AN-compounds show the same stress patterns as the phrasal combination, i.e. the main stress is on the noun. A relevant criterion could be whether the adjective is also inflected if the noun is plural. If this is the case, we could opt for a phrase, if not, then the choice for one word would be appropriate. Often, both options are open: there is quite some variation among speakers at this point: both de langpipen (one word) and de lang-e pipenthe long-INFL-pipe-PLthe church wardens (phrasal) can occur.

    [show extra information]
    x Literature

    Hoekstra (2000) suggests that this category is related to the relatively long existence of the weak declension in Frisian, which in the singular shows no ending either (see archaic forms). For the relationship with AN-compounds, see also Hoekstra (1998:55-56).

[+] Dialectical deviations

The inflection of the adjective is essentially the same for the whole Frisian language area, including the Frisian dialects of the island of Terschelling, although it seems to be the case that adjectives ending in -en never show inflection there (as is also the case in Dutch). As we have seen in phonologically driven deviations, inflection after this cluster is variable in mainland Frisian.

However, there are two exceptions. In the dialects of the small town of Hindeloopen (Frisian: Hylpen or Hynljippen) and the island of Schiermonnikoog (Frisian: Skiermûntseach) we see stronger deviations of the common inflectional system. Let us start with Hindeloopen. The adjective is inflected differently in this dialect if it is positioned before a noun having common gender and after an indefinite determiner. In standard Frisian we have the ending -e in this configuration, but in Hindeloopen this is -en. Thus Frisian in âld-e manan old-INFL manan old man is in aald-en man in Hindeloopen. Other examples are:

Example 33

Before common nouns in the Hindeloopen dialect
in graet-en bolle a big-I bull a big bull
in jûng-en protter a young-I starling a young starling
gin nii-en serke no new-I church no new church

This results in the following paradigm for the inflection of the adjective in the Frisian dialect of Hindeloopen:

Table 3
Definite Indefinite
common singular -e -en
neuter singular -e -
plural -e -e
The inflectional suffix -en also occurs after a final cluster -en /ǝn/, either belonging to the stem or as a derivational suffix. Thus we have in gold-en-en rynga gold-SUFF-Ia golden ring. In the dialect of Hindeloopen, the inflectional ending -e after -en is far from uncommon, even after double occurrences of schwa-syllables. We may find forms like silver-en-esilver-SUFF-INFLsilver (adj.) or izer-en-eiron-SUFF-INFLiron (adj.). In standard Frisian, such forms are non-existent.

The dialect of Hindeloopen has a special form for the adjectives derived from past participles of the second class of the weak verbs (those with an infinitive ending in -je). In standard Frisian, the verbal and the adjectival participle of this class both end in a schwa, for instance makkemake-PTCPmade of the verb meitsjeto make, or fervepaint-PTCPpainted from the verb fervjeto paint. In Hindeloopen, the verbal participle likewise ends in a schwa, but in adjectival use it receives an extra /d/. So, the Hindeloopen verb mekjeto make has a verbal past participle mekke, but an adjectival one mekked. Similarly, farve and farved from the verb farvjeto paint. The stem ending in -ed regularly adopts the inflectional pattern. Examples are provided in (34):

Example 34

Adjectival past participles in the dialect of Hindeloopen
in mekked-en jurk a repaired dress
de farved-e dôr the painted doar
[show extra information]
x Origin of d

The ending -ed in de dialect of Hindeloopen and Schiermonnikoog is a remnant of the verbal inflection in Old Frisian. For example, the Old Frisian verb makiato make had the form makad as its past participle. See Steller (1928:67) or Bremmer (2009:80).

The dialect of the Frisian island of Schiermonnikoog deviates from mainland Frisian even more. This is especially due to the the fact that this dialect, as the only one, retained the three gender system as it existed in Old Frisian. Adjectives before plural and before neuter singular nouns behave in the same way as in mainland Frisian, but differences can be found before masculine and feminine singular nouns. Before the former, we encounter the ending -en in the context of indefinite determiners, just as is the case in Hindeloopen before common nouns. So we have the following examples:

Example 35

Before masculine nouns in the Schiermonnikoog dialect
in gotten man a tall man
gin heigen baim no high tree
in meujen taal a beautiful language

On Schiermonnikoog, adjectives in front of feminine nouns are never inflected:

Example 36

Before feminine nouns in the Schiermonnikoog dialect
jò heich túer that high tower
in meu tjark a beautiful church
de lytj fles the small bottle
syn got faam his big maid

The inflectional system of adjectives in the dialect of Schiermonnikoog can be summarized as follows:

Table 4
Definite Indefinite
masculine -e -en
feminine - -
neuter -e -
plural -e -e
If an inflectional ending -en is attached to another instance of -en, one of the two is deleted. We get in nejen heeuwten trapa new-I wood-en stairsa new wooden stairs. If inflected, the word heeuwtenwooden would have been *heeuwtenenwooden-INFL, but this is ungrammatical.

As in the Hindeloopen dialect, the dialect of Schiermonnikoog has the ending -ed in the case of adjectively used past participles of the weak class II. Thus we get in opstop-ed-en kniina stuff-PTCP-I rabbit.Ma stuffed rabbit or de oonklog-ed-e manthe charge-PTCP-I man.Mthe charged man. If a cluster of three schwa-syllables were to emerge in this way the middle schwa is deleted. So, theoretical *in mitsel-ed-en mieuwrea build-PTCP-INFLa built wall is pronounced as in mitselden mieuwre.

[show extra information]
x Literature

For the dialect of Hindeloopen: Boer (1950:118-119). For Schiermonnikoog: Fokkema (1969:23-24) and Visser (2002: xxxii-xxxiii). The inflection of the dialects of Terschelling is dealt with in Knop (1954:165-166).

[+] Pseudo-deviations

Besides the deviations as presented above, there are departures from the rule of adjectival inflection that do not count as real exceptions. Most of them concern adjectives that inherently end in a schwa, and thus show a final element -e even in contexts in which normally an adjective is not inflected. One category consists of those adjectives in which this final schwa is not a conceivable suffix, and thus forms part of the stem. Mostly, adjectives from non-Germanic origin are involved, like timidetimid or stupidestupid. But a native Frisian adjective like sljochtweihinneaverage is another good example. Hence the final schwa of the adjective in in sljochtweihinne hûsan ordinary house is not an inflectional element. Compare this to an âld hûsan old house, which shows no inflection either.

There are more adjectives that inherently end in a schwa, but then this schwa is (part of) another suffix. Take for instance the adjectively used past participles of the weak verbs of class II, the ones with an infinitive ending in -je: the participle of the verb tekenjeto draw is teken-edraw-PTCPdrawn. Of course, this does not hold for those conservative dialects which still have their adjectively used participle ending in -ed; see dialectical deviations. Another category consists of ordinal numerals. These are formed by adding a suffix -de or -ste after a cardinal number: we have in twadde hûsa second house', and not *in twad hûs. Something similar is the case with superlatives, which can be argued to end inherently in a schwa. The suffix for the superlative is -ste, although in some contexts -st also occurs (see degree). Hence we have jim âld-ste bernyour.POSS old-SUPL child.Nyour eldest child. Finally, it can be defended that Frisian possesses a special suffix -e which expresses emphasis (see degree). As in the cases above, this schwa remains in contexts where otherwise an inflectional adjectival ending would be absent. So we have myn hiele libbenmy.POSS whole.EMP life.Nmy whole life or heit syn flinke man-tsjedaddy his.POSS big-EMP man-DIMdaddy's big boy.

On the other hand, there are two cases where an adjective is never inflected, hence never displays an inflectional ending. First, there are a few instances in which a noun semantically functions as an adjective, but remains a noun in a morphological sense. Examples are provided in (37):

Example 37

a. in baas rider
a boss skater
an excellent skater
b. earste keur jerappels
first choice potatoes
excellent potatoes

We cannot have *in baze ridera boss-INFL skater.

The second instance is a special construction containing a comparative, the bare comparative construction, as in:

Example 38

Sunny Boy kaam fan Skalsum en better bolle wie der net
Sunny Boy came from Skalsum and better bull was there not
Sunny Boy came from Skalsum and there has never been a better bull

Bare comparatives, as the term already indicates, are never inflected.

[show extra information]
x Literature

Tamminga (1963:89-92) mentions the ordinals as an exception, which is corrected by Hoekstra (1989) by considering them as pseudo-exceptions. For the emphatic -e, read the topic about emphasis.

[+] Archaic forms

Like other Old Germanic languages, Old Frisian had two declensions for adjectives: strong and weak. Even after the collapse of the three gender system at the end of the Middle Ages the weak declension survived for quite a long time. The result was that after indefinite determiners the adjective lacked inflection not only before a neuter noun (as in the present-day system, see the paradigm charter) but also before a singular common noun. Until the 19th century we could come across forms like the following (in older orthography):

Example 39

ien onwennich houn a homesick dog.C an unaccustomed dog
ien ryk boeredochter a rich farmer-daughter.C a rich farmer's daughter
ien wijt dweil a white mop.C a white mop

Nowadays this use is obsolete, with the exception of some fixed expressions, like

Example 40

In dea baarch komt it op in stek net oan
a dead pig comes it at a stab not on
Lit: another stab in a dead pig is irrelevant, i.e. said of somebody whose situation is hopeless
In hurd man op in weak tsiis
a hard man on a soft cheese
Someone who is courageous when there is no danger

In Frisian we also find a few cases of conversion of adjective to noun without showing a suffix after the noun. These formations are restricted in that they can only occur after indefinite articles. Examples are in frjemda stranger. Such forms are mostly more deeply embedded in fixed expressions, like sûpe as in kreupelbooze like a lamebooze like a champion. Arguably, the source of these words can be found in the weak declension.

Next to the remnants of the weak declension some other archaic forms have survived, always in fixed combinations, and therefore often spelled as one word. Examples are given in (41):

Example 41

âld-er-wenst as usual
bleat-s-foet-s barefoot
blyn-s-each blindly
goed-er-jousk generous
willen-s-moed-s wilful

The elements -er and -s are remnants of older case suffixes. Note that also the noun has sometimes retained an old (genitive) ending, as in bleatsfoets and willensmoeds.

  • Blom, Philippus van1889Beknopte friesche Spraakkunst voor den tegenwoordigen tijdLeeuwardenJ.W. Muller
  • Boer, Bernardus de1950Studie over het dialect van HindeloopenAssenVan Gorcum & Comp.
  • Bremmer, Rolf H. Jr2009An Introduction to Old Frisian. History, Grammar, Reader, GlossaryAmsterdam/PhiladelphiaJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
  • Dykstra, Anne1984'In wollen tekken' en 'de graniten toanbank': Oer de bûging fan stoflike adjektiven op -enArhammer, N.R., Breuker, Ph.H., Dam, F., Dykstra, A & Steenmeijer-Wielenga, T. (eds.)Miscellanea Frisica. In nije bondel Fryske stúdzjesAssenVan Gorcum183-191
  • Fokkema, Douwe1969Beknopte spraakkunst van het SchiermonnikoogsLjouwert/LeeuwardenFryske Akademy
  • Hoekema, Teake1968Ta de tongslach fan fédokter Bauke Broers HaagsmaUs Wurk1764-65
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1989Ús nij hûsFriesch Dagblad08-07Taalsnipels 113
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
  • Hoekstra, Jarich2000Ta de sterke eigenskipswurdbûging yn it FryskPhilologia Frisica anno 1999 : lezingen en neipetearen fan it ... Fryske filologekongres15110-126
  • Knop, Gerrit1954De spraakkunst der Terschellinger dialectenAssenVan Gorcum & Comp.
  • Steller, Walther1928Abriss der Altfriesischen Grammatik. Mit Berücksichtigung der westgermanischen Dialecten des Altenglischen, Altsächsischen und AlthochdeutschenHalleMax Niemeyer Verlag
  • Tamminga, Douwe Annes1963Op 'e taelhelling. Losse trochsneden fan Frysk taellibben. IBoalsertA.J. Osinga
  • Veen, Klaas F. van der et al1984-2011Wurdboek fan de Fryske taal - Woordenboek der Friese taalFryske Akademy
  • Visser, Willem & Dyk, Siebren2002Eilander Wezzenbúek: woordenboek van het SchiermonnikoogsFryske Akademy Ljouwert
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