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Ordinal numbers

Ordinal numbers denote a position in an ordered series: earstefirst, twaddesecond, treddethird, lêstelast. In Frisian, most definite ordinal numbers are formed on the basis of cardinal numbers by means of a suffixation process (acht-steeighth, santjin-deseventeenth). In general, ordinals behave like (absolute) adjectives that can be used both attributively: hy wennet yn it tredde hûshe lives in the third house and predicatively: hy is tredde wurdenhe has third becomehe finished third.

This article contains the following sections:

[+] Formation of ordinals

Ordinal numbers are usually formed on the basis of cardinal numbers by means of a suffix. The table below gives a few examples of ordinal numbers, preceded by the corresponding cardinal number.

Table 1
0 nul-de 10 tsien-de 50 fyftich-ste
1 earste 11 alf-de 60 sech(s)tich-ste
2 twad-de 12 tolf-de 70 santich-ste
3 tred-de 13 trett(s)jin-de 80 tachtich-ste
4 fjir-de 14 fjirt(s)jin-de 90 njoggentich-ste
5 fiif-de 15 fyftjin-de 100 hûndert-ste
6 sech(s)-de 20 twintich-ste 1000 tûzen-ste
7 sân-de 21 ienentwintich-ste 1.000.000 miljoen-ste
8 acht-ste 30 tritich-ste miljard-ste
9 njoggen-de 40 fjirtich-ste
After a look at the table above, some general remarks can be made about the Frisian ordinal formation:

  • Ordinals above the number 19 all take the suffix -ste. The suffix -de occurs on the ordinals below 20 when the cardinal number ends in a voiced segment, as in san-deseventh, njoggen-deninth, fjirtjin-defourteenth. Besides, the suffix occurs in nuldezero, twaddesecond, treddethird, fjirdefourth, fiifdefifth (also fyfte and fyfste), sechdesixth (also: sechsde/sechstesixth), alfdeeleventh (also: alfte/alfsteeleventh) and tolfdetwelfth (also tolfte/tolfstetwelfth). After voiceless consonants we have -ste: acht-steeighth. Reanalysis of the voice of the final consonant may have yielded the above-mentioned variants fyfste, sechstesixth, alfsteeleventh and tolfstetwelfth. Such a reanalysis may also be at the basis of the forms fyftefifth, alfteeleventh and tolftetwelfth, with a possible assimilation of the suffix -de. An exception to the voice condition is earstefirst, which is irregular anyway.
  • In case of twa > twaddetwo - second, fiif > fyfde/fyfte/fyfstefive - fifth, sân > sandeseven - seventh the vowel has undergone shortening. The unshortened variants fiif - fiifdefive - fifth and sân > sândeseven seventh exist as well.
  • The stems in ien > earsteone - first, trije > treddethree - third, fjouwer -fjirdefour - fourth, seis - sech(s)desix - sixth are irregular. Another suppletive form is foarstefirst, which is getting obsolete. It is nowadays mainly restricted to fixed expressions as yn it foarste plakin the first place. The form is etymologically related to the preposition foarfor; before. Also the cardinal twatwo has, next to regular twadde, a suppletive form, i.e. oardsecond, etymologically related to oarother. This suppletive form is also becoming extinct; it only survives in the written language.
  • Ordinals for complex numerals are created by using the ordinal form of the last numeral only. For example: hûndert-fjirtich-ste140th vs. *hûnderste-fjirtich. Irregular forms of ordinals such as earstefirst recur in the ordinals for complex numerals (hûndert en earsteone hundred first, not *hûndert en iende).
[+] Indefinite ordinals

The indefinite ordinals are middelstecentral, lêstelast, safolsteumpteenth and hoefolstehow many, what number.

The word lêst(e)final, last is an ordinal without a cardinal counterpart. On the other hand, certain indefinite cardinals such as in bytsjefew, little and follemany, much do not have a corresponding ordinal. Just like earstefirst, lêstelast is a superlative form historically.

[+] Ordinals as adjectives
  • In general, ordinals behave like (absolute) adjectives in that they can be used both attributively and predicatively:
    Example 1

    a. Attributive use
    Hy wennet yn it tredde hûs
    he lives in the third house
    He lives in the third house
    b. Predicative use
    Hy is tredde wurden
    he is third become
    He finished third
  • Ordinal numbers, however, do not show adjectival inflection, that is, they invariably end in -e[ə], as can be detected from their predicative use. Normal adjectives such as readred have two forms: in read hûsa red house vs. it reade hûsthe read house. For ordinal numbers, the lack of a final schwa is impossible: *in twad hûsa second house vs. it twadde hûsthe second house. Hence, we have in twadde hûsa second house and not *in twad hûs.
    [hide extra information]
    x Literature

    See for the inherent ending in a schwa and its consequences Hoekstra (1989). See also Pseudo deviations.

  • From the absolute meaning of ordinal numerals it follows that degree modification and comparison are impossible:

    Example 2

    a. *Hy wie mear twadde as syn broer
    he was more second as his brother
    He was more second than his brother
    b. *He wie krekt sa twadde as syn broer
    he was just as second as his brother
    He was equally second as his brother

    Approximative modification, however, is possible. Certain approximators can occur both before and after the determiner:

    Example 3

    a. Dit is de likernôch hûndertste kear datsto dit seist
    this is the approximately hundredth time that.you this says
    This is about the hundredth time you say so
    b. Dit is likernôch de hûndertste kear datsto dit seist
    this is approximately the hundredth time that.you this says
    This is about the hundredth time you say so

    The elements earstefirst and lêstelast are superlatives originally and, just like most other superlatives, they can be prefixed with the strengthening prefix alder-, as in de alder-earste autothe first car ever. Lêste is also part of the following construction:

    Example 4

    a. ien-nei-lêste
    one but last
    b. twa-nei-lêste
    second but last
[+] Ordinals in elliptic constructions

In case of nominal ellipsis with a clear antecedent, next to the default form the ending -en and -enien may appear (see Dyk (2011:16)):

Example 5

Ik haw al trije glêzen bier hân, mar ik mei ek noch wol in fjirde/fjirden/fjirdenien
I have already three glasses beer had, but I like also still PART a fourth/fourth-en/fourth-enien
I already had three glasses of beer, but I would like a fourth

These elliptical endings also occur after adjectives, see special elliptic suffixes.

Ordinals may also show special suffixes in an absolute elliptical construction, where the notion 'participant' seems to be omitted. The suffix -e can be deleted with a stem tredthird as a result, but also the endings -s, -es and -st may show up here (see Dyk (2011:63)). Thus we can get:

Example 6

Gurbe is tredde/tred/treds/treddes/tredst
Gurbe is third
Gurbe has the third position

It can be seen from this example that something special is at stake, semantically speaking. Usually, there is a semantic equation between the attributive and predicative use. Thus from Gurbe is âldGurbe is old we can infer the attributive de âlde Gurbethe old Gurbe. However, from the example above it is impossible to infer *de tredde Gurbethe third Gurbe. If we did so, we would have a set of at least three Gurbes, which is not what is meant in this context. Rather, the example above implies that there is a set with a minimum of three participants. Hence, all the variants of the example above invoke that something like 'participant' has been omitted. It should further be noted that all these special forms only show up without a preceding article. So for instance, *in treddesa third or *de treddesthe third are unacceptable.

[hide extra information]

In an expression like Willem de treddeWillem the third, the combination of the name and the numeral indicates a title of a person. In this case it means that Willem is the third king of the Netherlands with that name.

Frisian has a suffix -ens which can be used in an enumeration (see Dyk (2011:68)):

Example 7

Earstens is it sa dat ..., twaddens moat sein wurde dat ..., en treddens ...
first-ens is it so that ..., second-ens should said been that ..., and third-ens ...
Firstly is it the case that ..., secondly it should be said that..., and thirdly ...

Note that there is no preceding preposition in front of the numeral. There is an alternative suffix available, i.e. -s. Thus instead of twaddens or treddens, one could also say twads or treds. This suffix cannot be attached to the initial numeral, so *earsts is ungrammatical. Especially in the written language an alternative system without suffixes exists. Among others, it uses some older suppletive forms: foarstfirstly, oardsecondly, tredthirdly, fjird, etc.

[+] Morphological potential of ordinals

Ordinal numbers are one of the building blocks of fractions, for example: trijefjirdethree fourth (see fractions).

Ordinals also occur in a number of univerbations such as twaddemachtsecond power, tredderangsthird rank, fjirdeklasserfourth grader, etc. These univerbations are all examples of subconstructions with their own syntactic properties and morphological potential. For instance, twaddemachtsecond power is the first of a potentially non-finite series that may occur in larger syntactic constructions such as fjouwer-ta-de-twadde-machtfour to the power of two. It may also occur in morphological constructions like tredde-machts-ferlikingcubic equation.

Apart from that, ordinal numbers have very little morphological potention: although they behave syntactically more or less like adjectives, they do not show adjectival inflection, and comparative and superlative formation is impossible. Derivational processes that take adjectives as input (ûn- prefixation, -eftich suffixation, etc.) fail to apply to ordinals as well.

[hide extra information]

More about the syntactic aspects of Ordinals may be found in the Attribution in the syntactic part of Taalportaal.

  • Dyk, Siebren2011The morphology of Frisian nominal ellipsis
  • Dyk, Siebren2011The morphology of Frisian nominal ellipsis
  • Dyk, Siebren2011The morphology of Frisian nominal ellipsis
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1989Ús nij hûsFriesch Dagblad08-07Taalsnipels 113
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