• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show full table of contents
Personal pronoun clitics

Most personal pronouns have a clitic form, which is the result of either vowel deletion, vowel reduction, monophthongization or schwa deletion, while there are also cases of suppletion. Full and clitic form cannot be related in a phonologically meaningful way, so an approach in terms of allomorphy is called for.

[+] Overview of the personal pronouns and their clitic allomorphs

An overview of the personal pronouns, with the independent form to the left and the clitic allomorph to the right, is provided below.

  1. Subject form
    Table 1
    Full form Clitic allomorph
    ik/ɪk/I ek
    do/do:/you (sg., familiar) -to/-to:/
    /du/you (sg., familiar) -tû/-tu/
    jo/jo:/you (sg., polite) je/jə/
    hy/hi/he er/ər/
    hij/hɛj/he hy/hi/
    hja/ja/she se/sə/
    sy/si/she se/sə/
    sij/sɛj/she sy/si/
    it/ət/it 't/ət/
    wy/vi/we we/və/
    wij/vɛj/we wy/vi/
    jim/jɪm/you (pl., familiar and polite) jem/jəm/
    hja/ja/they se/sə/
    sy/si/they se/sə/
    sij/sɛj/they se/sə/
  2. Object form
    Table 2
    Full form Clitic allomorph
    mij/mɛj/me my/mi/
    dij/dɛj/you (sg., familiar) dy/di/
    jo/jo:/you (sg., polite) je/jə/
    him/hɪm/him 'em/əm/
    har/har/her se/sə/
    it/ət/it 't/ət/
    jim/jɪm/you (pl., familiar and polite) jem/jəm/
    har/har/them se/sə/
    • The clitic allomorph jeyou (sg., polite) has a generic meaning, which the full form jo does not have, or less so.
    • er, the clitic allomorph of hy, only occurs in the position following a finite verb or a subordinating conjunction. Due to its very shape − with initial schwa − it is not allowed to occur in sentence-initial position. Following forms ending in a vowel or a sonorant consonant, the allomorph der/dər/ may show up, as in the following examples:
      Example 1

      Dat koe er/der net
      that could he not
      He could not do that
      Dêr kaam er/der oan
      there came he on
      There he came
      The allomorph analysis is advanced by Tiersma (1985:35), Tiersma (1999:31)); Popkema (2006:78), on the other hand, takes the /d/ of der to result from insertion, in much the same vein as regular /d/-insertion in the sequences /nər/, /lər/, and /rər/.
    • The clitic allomorphs ek/ək/I (ik/ɪk/) and it/ət/it may undergo further reduction, which renders them virtually vowelless. These forms, however, are realized with a very short schwa and are spelled as <'k> and <'t>, where the apostrophe denotes the place of schwa.
    • The object form ús/y:z/us does not have a clitic allomorph.
    • The Wâldfrysk subject forms sy/si/she and wy/vi/we have the clitic allomorphs se/sə/ and we/və/, respectively, whereas hy/hi/he has er/ər/. But the object forms dy/di/you (sg., familiar) and my/mi/me do not have the clitic allomorphs de/də/ and me/mə/ (see Visser (1988:188) for the latter form). The reason that de does not occur as an allomorph of dy might be, firstly, that de[də] is the clitic allomorph of the subject form do/dûyou (sg., familiar) and, secondly, that it is homophonous with the definite article dethe. This 'explanation', however, does not hold for the impossibility of me/mə/me alongside my/mi/me; the form me/mə/, however, is mentioned by Sipma (1913:66, §227), Sipma (1949:24, §4), and Fokkema (1967:47, §55).
    • The monosyllabic full forms jim/jɪm/you (subject and object form, pl., familiar and polite) and har/har/them have the extended, bisyllabic variants jimme/jɪmə/ and harren/harən/. The clitic allomorph of har/harren is se/sə/; the latter does not have a phonological relation with the former. On the other hand, both jim and jimme have the clitic allomorph jem/jəm/, which does have such a relation with the full forms. The clitic allomorph jem/jəm/ is based on the pronoun's short, monosyllabic full form jim/jɪm/. This does not seem to be a coincidence. The extended full form jimme/jɪmə/ does not have the counterpart jeme/jəmə/; a function word can have schwa as its only vowel, but a word with two schwa's as its only vowels simply seems to carry too little weight. Besides, the integration of a monosyllabic clitic into the higher level prosodic structure is more straightforward and less troublesome than that of a bisyllabic one.

[+] The phonological relation between the personal pronouns and their clitic counterparts

The ways in which the phonological relation between (the full form of) the personal pronouns and their clitic counterparts was established are depicted below.

  1. By means of vowel reduction
    Table 3
    ik/ɪk/ ek/ək/ I
    do/do:/ de/də/ you (subject form, sg., familiar)
    jo/jo:/ je/jə/ you (subject and object form, sg., polite)
    him/hɪm/ 'em/əm/ him
    wy/vi/ we/və/ we
    jim/jɪm/ jem/jəm/ you (subject and object form, pl., familiar and polite)
    sy/si/ se/sə/ she; they
    sij/sɛi/ se/sə/ she; they
    [show extra information]

    The second person singular of finite verbs and subordinating conjunctions are in agreement with each other in so far as both end in -st. Due to Progressive Voice Assimilation (see Progressive Voice Assimilation: function words beginning with /d/), the combination of such verbs (in the context of subject-verb-inversion) and conjunctions with the (familiar form of) the second person singular pronoun do/dû/de end up as -sto/-stû/-ste (/-sto:/, /-stu/, /-stə/).

  2. By means of schwa deletion
    Table 4
    ek/ək/ 'k/ək/ I
    it/ət/ 't/ət/ it
  3. By means of monophthongization
    Table 5
    dij/dɛj/ dy/di/ you (object form, sg., familiar)
    hij/hɛj/ hy/hi/ he
    mij/mɛj/ my/mi/ me
    sij/sɛj/ sy/si/ she; they
    wij/vɛj/ wy/vi/ we
    See Personal pronouns with /ɛj/ and their clitic allomorphs with /i/ in Klaaifrysk for more on this alternation.
  4. By means of truncation
    Table 6
    jimme/jɪmə/ jim/jɪm/ you (subject and object form, pl., familiar and polite)
    harren/harən/ har/har/ them; their
  5. By means of suppletion
    Table 7
    hy/hi/ er/ər/ he
    hij/hɛi/ er/ər/ he
    hja/ja/ se/sə/ she; they
    har/har/ se/sə/ her; them
    Since the full forms and their clitic counterparts cannot be related to each other in a transparant and, above all, productive way, the latter must be considered allomorphs of the former or, put differently, they must all be taken as separate lexical entries. See The personal pronoun clitic allomorph seshe, they, them for more on the phonological behaviour of se.
    [show extra information]

    The indefinite pronoun allegearre/ɔləjɛrə/all (of you, us, them) has the variant allegear/ɔləjɛr/, a pattern which links up with the one in (4).

  • Fokkema, Klaas1967Beknopte Friese SpraakkunstFryske Akademy, Leeuwarden
  • Popkema, Jan2006Grammatica FriesUtrecht/ LjouwertUitgeverij Het Spectrum BV Prisma Woordenboeken en Taaluitgaven/ Fryske Akademy
  • Sipma, Pieter1913Phonology and Grammar of Modern West FrisianLondon, New YorkOxford University Press
  • Sipma, Pieter1949Ta it Frysk IIIR. van der Velde, Ljouwert
  • Tiersma, Pieter M1985Frisian reference grammarDordrechtForis Publications
  • Tiersma, Pieter M1999Frisian Reference GrammarAfûk, Ljouwert
Suggestions for further reading ▼
  • Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show more ▼
  • Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show more ▼
  • Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show more ▼