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Use of the definite article
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The superlative Adjective Phrase (AP) is preceded by a definite article when it is used in a predicative or adverbial construction. The article's distribution differs depending on the construction in which it is used.

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The superlative is accompanied by a definite article when it is used in a predicative or adverbial position. In older Frisian, the superlative could be found without an accompanying article. In adverbial position, the article is neuter gender and the schwa of the superlative is optional, as shown in the examples below:

Example 1

a. Atsje draaft it hurdste / it hurdst
Atsje runs the.NG fastest
Atsje runs fastest
b. *Atsje draaft de hurdste / de hurdst
Atsje runs the.CG fastest
Atsje runs fastest

The article cannot be omitted in adverbial position:

Example 2

*Atsje draaft hurdst
Atsje runs fastest
Atsje runs the fastest

However, irregular superlatives, which are necessarily frequent and which seem to have undergone some meaning specialisation, may occur without article, as the examples below show:

Example 3

a. Ik bliuw (it) leafst so
I stay the dearest at.home
I like staying at home best
b. Hja praat meast oer harsels
she talks mostly about herself
She talks mostly about herself
c. Rintsje wie earst
Rintsje was first
Rintsje was first

The last example involves the form earstfirst, which is both the superlative of ierearly and the ordinal form of the numeral ienone. Ordinals can generally occur without the article:

Example 4

Rintsje wie twad
Rintsje was second
Rintsje was second

The examples below shot that, in predicative position the article may be neuter gender or common gender:

Example 5

a. Maribel is it moaiste
Maribel is the.NG beautiful.SUP
Maribel is the most beautiful
b. Maribel is de moaiste
Maribel is the.CG beautiful.SUP
Maribel is the most beautiful

The article cannot be omitted in predicative position:

Example 6

*Maribel is moaist / moaiste
Maribel is beautiful.SUP
Maribel is the most beautiful

If the article is common gender, then the schwa of the superlative is obligatory. This is shown in the examples below:

Example 7

a. Maribel is de moaiste
Maribel is the.CG beautiful.SUP
Maribel is the most beautiful
b. *Maribel is de moaist
Maribel is the.CG beautiful.SUP
Maribel is the most beautiful

This probably indicates that the superlative has been nominalized. However, with ordinary adjectives, neuter nominalisations also require the schwa to be present:

Example 8

a. De moaie
the.CG beautiful
The beautiful one
b. It moaie
the.NG beautiful
The beautiful, beauty

In attributive position, a bare superlative is not accompanied by an article. However, the noun is itself accompanied by its own definite article, in case a superlative is attributed to it. This is shown in the following examples:

Example 9

a. De moaiste frou
the.CG most.beautiful woman
The most beautiful woman
b. It moaiste frommes
the.NG most.beautiful woman
The most beautiful woman
c. *De it moaiste frou
the.CG the.NG most.beautiful woman
The most beautiful woman
d. *It de moaiste frommes
the the.CG most.beautiful woman
The most beautiful woman

If the superlative is expanded, it is possible in spoken language to repeat the definite article:

Example 10

a. ?De yn alle wedstriden de moaiste frou
the.CG in all contests the.CG most.beautiful woman
The woman who is the most beautiful in all contests
b. *De yn alle wedstriden it moaiste frou
the.CG in all contests the.NG most.beautiful woman
The woman who is the most beautiful in all contests
c. ?It yn alle wedstriden it moaiste frommes
the.NG in all contests the.CG most.beautiful woman
The woman who is the most beautiful in all contests
d. *It yn alle wedstriden de moaiste frommes
the.NG in all contests the.NG most.beautiful woman
The woman who is the most beautiful in all contests

In addition, it must be noted that if two articles are adjacent, the second one is dropped. Recall that neuter superlatives take the neuter article. This article may be dropped, and usually is dropped in spoken language, when it follows the article of a noun, regardless of the gender of the noun's article:

Example 11

a. De [(it) glêdst strutsen] broek
the.CG the.NG smoothest ironed trouserss
The trousers that were ironed the smoothest
b. It [(it) glêdst strutsen] broekje
the.NG the.NG smoothest ironed trouserss.DIM
The briefs that were ironed the smoothest

If the two are not adjacent, then the article of the neuter superlative must be present:

Example 12

a. De [troch Rintsje it glêdst strutsen] broek
the by Rintsje the.NG smoothest ironed trouserss.CG
The trousers that were ironed the smoothest by Rintsje
b. ?De [troch Rintsje glêdst strutsen] broek
the by Rintsje smoothest ironed trouserss.CG
The trousers that were ironed the smoothest by Rintsje

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x Literature

More details can be found in Hoekstra (1989) and Hoekstra (1989).

References:
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1989Om it heechste (I)Friesch Dagblad23-09 Taalsnipels 122
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1989Om it heechste (II)Friesch Dagblad07-10Taalsnipels 123
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