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PP superlative
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Certain superlatives functioning as adverbials are preceded by the preposition opon. A possessive pronoun may be found in the position of the definite article.

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A superlative introduced by the neuter article itthe may be used as an adverbial. The example below means that the subject of the action pulled harder than all other parties involved in, for example, a rope-pulling contest. The reference set is made up of all parties involved as agent in the action described by the predicate:

Example 1

Hja lutsen it fûlst (fan alle tiims)
they pulled the hardest of all teams
They pulled the hardest of all teams

There is an alternative adverbial superlative construction which is introduced by the preposition opon, in which the neuter definite article is replaced by a possessive pronoun coreferential with the subject. The example below provides an instance of this subjective superlative. The example means that the subject of the action of pulling pulled as hard as they could. So the reference set consists of all possible degrees of pulling hard by the subject. This reference set must remain implicit:

Example 2

a. Hja lutsen op har fûlst
they pulled on their hardest
They pulled as hard as they could
b. *Hja lutsen op syn fûlst fan alle tiims / fan harsels
they pulled on their hardest of all teams / of themselves
They pulled the hardest of all teams / of themselves

In other constructions, the third person singular masculine default form synhis may also be found, presumably under the influence of Dutch. Thus we find variation with cardinal (count) quantifiers:

Example 3

a. Wy binne mei ús trijen
we are with our three
There are three of us
b. Wy binne mei syn trijen
we are with his three
There are three of us

However, coreference with the subject is the only option in the superlative construction under discussion here. Below, another example is provided, now involving a first person plural:

Example 4

?Wy lutsen op syn fûlst oan it tou
we pulled on his hardest at the rope
We pulled on the robe as hard as we could

Other adverbial constructions, however, must be used with the third person masculine singular possessive pronoun synhis. Examples are provided below, where the meaning of the superlative adverb is not determined by the possible degrees of effort on the part of the subject, that is, these expressions are not subjectively but objectively interpreted:

Example 5

a. Wy moatte op syn minst trije kear winne
we must on his least three times win
We have to win at least three times
b. *Wy moatte op ús minst trije kear winne
we must on his / our least three times win
We have to win at least three times
c. Wy sjogge dy op syn gaust moarn pas
we see you on his earliest tomorrow only
We will see you again tomorrow at the earliest
d. *Wy sjogge dy op dyn gaust moarn pas
we see you on his your earliest tomorrow only
We will see you again tomorrow at the earliest
e. *Wy sjogge dy op syn ús gaust moarn pas
we see you on his our earliest tomorrow only
We will see you again tomorrow at the earliest
f. Op syn moaist binne wy moarn klear
at the most.beautiful are we tomorrow ready
Ideally, we will be ready tomorrow

These non-subjective superlatives may also lose the fixed possessive pronoun. If they do not have the possessive pronoun, the neuter definite article must be present:

Example 6

a. With possessive pronoun
Op syn gaust
on his earliest
at the earliest
Op syn minst
on his least
At the very least
Op syn moaist
on his most.beautiful
At its most beautiful
b. With neuter definite article
Op it gaust
on the earliest
At the earliest
Op it minst
on the least
At the very least
Op it moaist
on the most.beautiful
At its most beautiful

The construction can also appear in a third guise, in which it is lengthened with the suffix -en and in which it features an indefinite article spelled as en. This form is quite archaic. The -en element is historically the remainder of an accusative case, which is no longer in use, because adjectives and articles are no longer marked for case. Examples are shown below:

Example 7

a. Op 'en gaust-en
on EN earliest-EN
At the earliest
b. Op 'en minst-en
on EN least-EN
At the least
c. Op 'en moaist-en
on EN most.beautiful-EN
At its most beautiful

The subjective superlative also combines with the prefix alder-:

Example 8

Wy lutsen op ús alderfûlst oan it tou
we pulled at our very.hardest at the rope
We pulled at the rope as hard as we could

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x Literature

More details can be found in Hoekstra (1987).

References:
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1987Op 'en moaisten, op it moaist, op syn moaistFriesch Dagblad06-06Taalsnipels 36
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