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Breaking: the environment
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Breaking is the alternation between the centring diphthongs /iə, yə, uə, ɪə, oə/ in simplex words and the glide + vowel sequences [jɪ, jø, wo, jɛ, wa] in complex words. It occurs in a wide variety of morphological environments, an overview of which is presented in this topic.

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The morphological environments in which Breaking occurs are enumerated and exemplified in the overview in (1), which is largely based on Tiersma (1979:19-46) and Tiersma (1980:56-58):

Example 1

Overview of the contexts of Breaking (together with some examples)
a. In inflected forms
a1. Noun plurals
stien /stiən/ stone ~ stiennen [stjɪnn̩] stones
tried /triəd/ thread ~ triedden [trjɪdn̩] threads
flues /flyəz/ fleece ~ fluezen [fljøzn̩] fleeces
koer /kuər/ basket ~ kuorren [kworn̩] baskets
foet /fuət/ foot ~ fuotten [fwotn̩] feet
goes /guəz/ goose ~ guozzen [gwozn̩] geese
beam /bɪəm/ tree ~ beammen [bjɛmm̩] trees
tean /tɪən/ toe ~ teannen [tjɛnn̩] toes
doar /doər/ door ~ doarren [dwarn̩] doors
soan /soən/ son ~ soannen [swann̩] sons
a2. The comparative and/or superlative of adjectives
fier /fiər/ far ~ fierder [fjɪdr̩] farther ~ fierst [fjɪst] farthest
swier /swiər/ heavy ~ swierder [swɪdr̩] heavier ~ swierst [swɪst] heaviest
ear /ɪər/ early ~ earder [jɛdr̩] earliest
leaf /lɪəv/ gladly ~ leaver [ljɛ(:)vər] rather ~ leafst [ljɛfst] preferably
moai /mo:j/ beautiful ~ moaier [mwa.jər] more beautiful ~ moaist [mwa.jst] most beautiful
a3. Verbal forms
sliep(e) /sliəp/ to sleep
do sliepst [sljɪpst] you sleep
hy sliept [sljɪpt] he sleeps
ik sliepte [sljɪptə] I slept
wy hawwe sliept [sljɪpt] we have slept
doar(e) /doər/ dare
do doarst [dwast] you dare
hy doart [dwat] he dares
ik doarst [dwast] I dared
wy hawwe doarst [dwast] we have dared
dream(e) /drɪəm/ to dream
do dreamst [drjɛmst] you dream
hy dreamt [drjɛmt] he dreams
ik dreamde [drjɛmdə] I dreamt
wy hawwe dreamd [drjɛmt] we have dreamt
[Note: Originally,doareis a preterite-present verb in Frisian, so the third person singular present tense form washy doar[doər]he dares, without Breaking. Due to leveling, the third person singular present tense form is becoming, or has become,hy doart[doət], made up of verb stem +/t/, as is the normal case with verbs with an infinitive ending in/ə/. Significantly, the broken form only shows up indoart, where final[-t]provides a context for shortening, hence for Breaking (Tiersma (1979:27)).]
b. In derived forms
b1a. Diminutives
stien /stiən/ stone ~ stientsje [stjɪntsjə] small stone
tried /triəd/ thread ~ triedsje [trjɪtsjə] little thread
brief /briəv/ letter ~ briefke [brjɪfkə] note
papier /papiər/ paper ~ papierke [papjɪrkə] piece of paper
flues /flyəz/ fleece ~ fljuske [fljøskə] small fleece
foet /fuət/ foot ~ fuotsje [fwotsjə] small foot
koer /kuər/ basket ~ kuorke [kworkə] small basket
beam /bɪəm/ tree ~ beamke [bjɛmkə] small tree
tean /tɪən/ toe ~ teantsje [tjɛntsjə] small toe
doar /doər/ door ~ doarke [dwarkə] small door
soan /soən/ son ~ soantsje [swantsjə] little son
[Note: A pattern concerning the occurrence of Breaking in nouns is that when the plural form shows Breaking, the diminutive tends to do so as well. The implicational relation thus is from plural to diminutive. As toVowel Shortening, this works just the other way around: if the diminutive shows shortening, the plural form tends to do so as well. It should be borne in mind, however, that all this is no more than a tendency. To give an example, the diminutives ofbriefletterandpapierpaperarebriefke[brjɪfkə]noteandpapierke[papjɪrkə]piece of paper, with a broken diphthong, whereas the plural forms arebrieven[briəvən]andpapieren[papiərn̩], with a centring one.]
b1b. 'Diminutive verbs' (with-/k/)
b1b1. From nouns
boer /buər/ farmer ~ buork(je) [bwork] run a farm
hoer /huər/ whore ~ huork(je) [vwork] to whore, go to prostitutes
koer /kuər/ basket ~ kuork(je) [kwork] make baskets
toer /tuər/ tower ~ tuork(je) [twork] to tower
stoel /stuəl/ chair ~ stuolk(je) [stwolk] be based (on)
noas /noəz/ nose ~ noask(je) [nwask] nose around
priem /priəm/ awl, bodkin ~ priemk(je) [prjɪmk] to pierce
b1b2. From adjectives
blier /bliər/ cheerful ~ blierk(je) [bljɪrk] look cheerful
fier /fiər/ far ~ fierk(je) [fjɪrk] stare into the distance
skier /skiər/ greyish ~ skierk(je) [skjɪrk] become grey
b1b3. From verbs
slier(e) /sliər/ to slide ~ slierk(je) [sljɪrk] slide softly
loer(e) /luər/ to leer (at) ~ luork(je) [lwork] to peep, to peek
gloer(e) /ɡluər/ to peep, to peek ~ gluork(je) [ɡlwork] to peep, to peek
beroer(e) /bəruər/ to touch ~ beruork(je) [bərwork] to fix (up)
b2. With certain suffixes
b2a. With -(ich)heid -/(əx)hid/
wier /viər/ true ~ wierheid [vjɪrhit] truth
klear /klɪər/ clear ~ klearrichheid [kljɛrəxhit] clarity
b2b. With -ens -/əns/
moai /mo:j/ beautiful ~ moaiens [mwa.jə̃s] beauty
swier /swiər/ heavy ~ swierens [swɪrn̩s] heaviness
wiet /viət/ wet ~ wiettens [vjɪtn̩s] wetness
b2c. With -te -/tə/
b2c1. From adjectives
fier /fiər/ far ~ fierte [fjɪtə] distance
grien /ɡriən/ green ~ griente [ɡrjɪntə] vegetable
swier /swiər/ heavy ~ swierte [swɪtə] weight; heaviness
wiet /viət/ wet ~ wiette [vjɪtə] wetness
b2c2. From nouns
beam /bɪəm/ tree ~ beamte [bjɛmtə] trees
stien /stiən/ stone ~ stiente [stjɪntɛ] rock; stone
b2d. With -sel -/səl/
ried(e) /riəd/ to guess ~ riedsel [rjɪtsl̩] riddle
b2e. With -ling -/lɪŋ/
goate /ɡoətə/ gutter ~ goatling [ɡwatlɪŋ] huge kettle
hoale /hoələ/ cave, hole ~ hoalling [vwalɪŋ] fingerstall
keat /kɪət/ link ~ keatling [kjɛtlɪŋ] chain
ien /iən/ one ~ ienling [jɪ̃lɪŋ] only child
[Note: The wordstwilling[twɪlɪŋ]twins(<twjilling) andtrjilling[trjɪlɪŋ](set of) tripletsderive from the obsolete numeralstwietwoandtrie/triə/three(nowadaystwaandtrije, respectively).]
b2f. With -ing -/ɪŋ/
flier /fliər/ floor ~ flierring [fljɪrɪŋ] attic
b2g. With -eftich -/ɛftəɣ/
beam /bɪəm/ tree ~ beameftich /bjɛmɛftəx/ tree-like
stien /stiən/ stone ~ stieneftich /stjɪnɛftəx/ stone-like
[Note:-eftichhas all the morphological properties of a suffix, but phonologically it behaves as a word;beameftich, therefore, is both a derivation and a (kind of) compound.]
b2h. With -(er)ich -(ər)əɣ/
beam /bɪəm/ tree ~ beammich [bjɛməx] wooded, forested
blier /bliər/ blister ~ blierrich [bljɪrəx] with blisters (of paint)
bloed /bluəd/ blood ~ bluodderich [blwodərəx] bloody
keal /kɪəl/ calf ~ keallich [kjɛləx] young and foolish
kies /kiəz/ molar ~ kiezzich [kjɪzəx] moody, surly
miel /miəl/ milk yield ~ miellich [mjɪləx] varying in milk yield (of a cow)
stien /stiən/ stone ~ stiennich [stjɪnəx] stony
b2i. With -lik -/lək/
foar /foər/ before ~ foarlik [fwalək] precocious
goed /ɡuəd/ good ~ guodlik [gwodlək] gentle; meek
ien /iən/ one ~ ienlik [[jɪ̃lək] solitary, lonely
noed /nuəd/ concern ~ nuodlik [nwodlək] risky, dangerous
wier /viər/ true ~ wierlik(en) [vjɪlək(ən)] truly
b2j. Wint -en -/ən/
fear /fɪər/ feather ~ fearren [fjɛ(:)rn̩] of feathers
spoen /spuən/ chip ~ spuonnen [spwonn̩] of split-wood
stien /stiən/ stone ~ stiennen [stjɪnn̩] stone, of stone
tien /tiən/ osier ~ tiennen [tjɪnn̩] of osier
b2k. With -skip -/skɪp/
broer /bruər/ brother ~ bruorskip [brworskɪp] brotherhood
boade /boədə/ messenger ~ boadskip [bwatskɪp] message
keap(je) /kɪəp/ to buy ~ keappenskip [kjɛpm̩skɪp] trade, business
b2l. With -sum -/səm/
ien /iən/ one ~ iensum [jɪ̃:sm̩] solitary, lonely
b2m. With -sk -/sk/
moarn /moən/ morning ~ moarnsk [mwã:sk] moody in the morning
priem /priəm/ awl, bodkin ~ priemsk [prjɪmsk] with a very sharp point
b2n. With -s -/s/
moarn /moən/ morning ~ moarns [mwã:s] in the morning
b2o. With -ster -/stər/
Boarn /boən/ name of a village
Boarnster [bwã:str̩] inhabitant of, related to Boarn
Tersoal /tərsoəl/ name of a village
Tersoalster [tərswalstr̩] inhabitant of, related to Tersoal
Ie /iə/ name of a village
Iester [jɪstr̩] inhabitant of, related to Ie
b2p. In noun/adjective/verb-to-verb conversion
b2p1. From nouns
flier /fliər/ floor ~ flier(je) [fljɪr] lay a floor
hier /hiər/ hair ~ ferhier(je) [fəjɪr] to moult
priem /priəm/ awl, bodkin ~ priem(je) [prjɪm] to pierce
sied /siəd/ seed ~ sied(zje) [sjɪd] to sow
lean /lɪən/ pay, wages ~ lean(je) [ljɛn] to pay; be worth
heak /hɪək/ hook ~ heak(je) [jɛk] to hook (up)
keal /kɪəl/ calf ~ keal(je) [kjɛl] to calve
foer /fuər/ feed, forage ~ fuor(je) [fwor] to feed
stoel /stuəl/ chair ~ stuol(je) [stwol] be based (on)
b2p2. From adjectives
koel /kuəl/ cool ~ kuol(je) [kwol] to cool (down/off)
weak /vɪək/ soft ~ weak(je) [vjɛk] to soak
wiet /viət/ wet ~ wiet(sje) [vjɪt] to wet, to moisten
b2p3. From verbs
gloer(e) /ɡluər/ to peep, to peek ~ gluor(je) [ɡlwor] to peep, to peek
beroer(e) /bəruər/ to touch ~ beruor(je) [bərwor] to fix (up)
c. In compounds
c1. The left-hand part
c1a. With a noun/verb/adjective as such
c1a1. With a noun
stien /stiən/ stone ~ stien#krobbe /stjɪn/ wood louse
ierde /iədə/ earth, soil ~ ierd#bei /jɪd/ strawberry
koer /kuər/ basket ~ kuor#fol /kwor/ basketful
stoel /stuəl/ chair ~ stuol#kessen /stwol/ chair-cushion
ear /ɪər/ ear ~ ear#izer /jɛr/ head brooch
earm /ɪərm/ arm ~ earm#takke /jɛrm/ elbow
koal /koəl/ cabbage ~ koal#sied /kwal/ rape
kloat /kloət/ ball, testicle ~ kloat#sek /klwat/ bastard; idiot
c1a2. With a verb
sliep(e) /sliəp/ to sleep ~ sliep#keamer /sljɪp/ bedroom
c1a3. With an adjective
heal /hɪəl/ half ~ heal#oere /jɛl/ half an hour
earm /ɪərm/ poor ~ earm#moed /jɛrm/ poverty
[Note:Tiersma (1979:43-45)notices that some left-hand members of a compound may occur with either a broken or a centring diphthong. An example is the verb stemsliep/sliəp/sleep, which shows up as/sljɪp/- insliep#keamerbedroomand as/sliəp/- insliep#seksleeping bag. There is clear tendency for new compounds not to occur with a broken diphthong. Existing compounds with a broken diphthong, moreover, tend to be reanalyzed with a centring one. The partsliep-ofsliepkeamerbedroomis a case in point; it used to be realized as[sljɪp-], but it is being replaced by[sliəp-], especially with younger speakers. Breaking is thus receding in scope here, as it is in general. This is also shown by forms likemoal#pûde/mwal/-flour baganddea#kiste/djɛ-/coffin; these were the normal realizations in 19th century Frisian, but the current forms have become/moəl/and/dɪə/.]
c1b. With a noun/adjective extended with schwa
c1b1. With a noun
skiep /skiəp/ sheep ~ skieppe#tsiis /skjɪpə/ sheep's cheese
rier /riər/ heifer ~ rierre#stâl /rjɪrə/ stall for a heifer
stoel /stuəl/ chair ~ stuolle#dûns /stwolə/ musical chairs
heak /hɪək/ hook ~ heakke#krús /jɛkə/ swastika
keal /kɪəl/ calf ~ kealle#fleis /kjɛlə/ veal
broer /bruər/ brother ~ bruorre#folk /brworə/ kinspeople
c1b2. With an adjective
oar /oər/ other ~ oarre#mem /vwarə/ grandmother
c2. The right-hand part
hear /hɪər/ lord ~ lân#hearre /jɛrə/ landlord
[Note: Breaking in the (unstressed) right-hand part of a compound is very uncommon. It may therefore not be without significance that inlân#hearrelandlord, the monosyllabic nounhearlordhas been extended with schwa, which makes for a favourable context for Breaking. There seem to be two more such instances of Breaking, viz.skoar#stien[skwas(t)jən]chimney (lit. supporting stone)− seeTiersma (1979:45-46)− and in the seven cardinal numbers ending in-tjinteen, for instancefjir#tjin[fjɪtjən]fourteenandsan#tjin[sɔntjən]seventeen. These might be assumed to derive from the broken form ofstien/stiən/stoneandtien/ti.ən/ten,[stjɪn]and[tjɪn], respectively. However, since the full vowel[ɪ]does not show up in these words, the schwa inskoarstien[skwas(t)jən]andtrettjin[trɛtjən],fjirtjin[fjɪtjən], etc. can just as well be considered the direct outcome of reduction of the diphthong[iə], so that Breaking can be confined to stressed syllables (seeHoekstra and Tiersma (1994:293)for this line of reasoning).]
c3. In synthetic compounds
achtjierrich /axt+iər+əɣ/ (eight+year+ich) [axtjɪrəx] eight years old
fiifjierrich /fi:v+iər+əɣ/ (five+year+ich) [fi:vjɪrəx] five years old
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There are doublets of verbs with a centring and with a broken diphthong (Tiersma (1979:28-29)); see the overview below:

Example 2

a. /ɪə/ ~ /jɛ/
hear(e) /hɪər/ ~ hearr(e) /jɛr/ to hear
meal(e) /mɪəl/ ~ meall(e) /njɛm/ to grind
neam(e) /nɪəm/ ~ neamm(e) /njɛm/ to call, to name; to mention
b. /iə/ ~ /jɪ/
bien(e) /biən/ ~ bjinn(e) /bjɪn/ to polish; to scrub
fiel(e) /fiəl/ ~ fiell(e) /fjɪl/ to feel
kiem(e) /kiəm/ ~ kjimm(e) /kjɪm/ to comb
spiel(e) /spiəl/ ~ spiell(e) /spjɪl/ to rinse (out (of))
c. /oə/ ~ /wa/
doar(e) /doər/ ~ doarr(e) /dwar/ dare

The alternation may have set out as 'normal' instances of Breaking, but has become a matter of dialectal variation: the forms without Breaking are found in the north, those with Breaking in the south of the language area. It is a striking fact that it is predominantly the front vowels which take part in the alternation.

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The Breaking alternation belongs to the main (and mainland) dialects Klaaifrysk and Wâldfrysk. The island dialects, instead, have a shortening relation, that is, where Klaaifrysk and Wâldfrysk have the glide + vowel sequences [jɪ, jø, wo, jɛ, wa] in complex words, these dialects have a short vowel, as appears from the examples of word pairs below (taken from the dialect of the island of Schiermonnikoog):


Table 1
Schiermonnikoogs Mainland Frisian Gloss
pr[iə]m ~ pr[ɪ]mmen pr[iə]m ~ pr[jɪ]mmen awl ~ awls
tr[iə]d ~ tr[ɪ]dden tr[iə]d ~ tr[jɪ]dden thread ~ threads
st[yə]l ~ st[o]llen st[uə]l ~ st[wo]llen chair ~ chairs
f[yə]t ~ f[o]tten f[uə]t ~ f[wo]tten foot ~ feet
p[aj]l ~ p[ɛ]llen p[ɪə]l ~ p[jɛ]llen post ~ posts
h[aj]k ~ h[ɛ]kken h[ɪə]k ~[jɛ]kken hook ~ hooks
b[øə]r ~ b[ɐ]rje b[oə]r ~ b[wa]rje drill ~ to bore, to drill

The third main dialect, Súdwesthoeksk, does not have the combinations [wa] and [wo], though it does have [jɪ] and [jɛ]. Since the latter do not occur in all words in which they can be expected, the words in which they do occur might be taken as loans from neighbouring Klaaifrysk. In many cases, Súdwesthoeksk has the short vowel [ɛ] or [ɪ] where Klaaifrysk has the glide + vowel sequence [jɛ] or [jɪ], as in b[ɛ]mmen ~ b[jɛ]mmentrees and str[ø]tte (< str[ɪ]tte) ~ str[jɪ]ttestreet. This pattern led Miedema (1958) to the conclusion that the island dialects never had Breaking, but only shortening of the long monophthongs (in simplex words, these developed into centring diphthongs after shortening had taken place). In doing so, he made a stand against the Frisian dialectologist J.J. Hof, who claimed − in Hof (1933) − that Súdwesthoeksk once had broken diphthongs, which have undergone simplification by deleting the glide portion (as a matter of fact, this kind of deletion is quite common in Súdwesthoeksk). This view was defended in Visser (1990) and, much more forcefully, in Versloot (2002). According to Versloot only the dialect of the island of Schiermonnikoog fares better with an analysis in terms of shortening of the long monophthong.

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In case the centring diphthong was preceded by a glide, Breaking resulted in a sequence of two glides; there are only instances with /wɪə/ (<wea>) and /wiə/ (<wie>), see the examples in (3):

Example 3

sweal /swɪəl/ > [*swjɛl] > [swɛl] swallow
swierder /swiər+ər/ > [*swjɪdr̩] > [swɪdr̩] heavier
twielûd /twiə#lu:d/ > [*twjɪlu:t] > [twɪlu:t] diphthong
twiere /twiərə/ > [*twjɪrə] > [twɪrə] whirlwind

A sequence of two glides seems to be prohibited in Frisian. Although the right-hand glides − the ones which are part of the broken diphthong − systematically have to leave the field, the forms resulting from deletion of the left-hand glide − [sjɛl], [sjɪdr̩], [tjɪlu:t], and [tjɪrə] − are impeccable from a phonological/phonotactic point of view, cf. words like sjen/sjɛn/see; look, sjippe/sjɪpə/soap, and tjirk/tjɪrk/redshank. The reason that, for instance, swirder (<swierder>) ousts sjirder might be that the former resembles the basic form swier+er more than does the latter.

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Breaking of [uə] in the sequence -joer- ([-ju.ər-]) deserves some comment. Take the adjective djoer/djuər/expensive, with Breaking in the comparative djoerder/djuər+ər/more expensive and the superlative djoerst/djuər+st/most expensive. In line with the scenario set out in the previous extra, the broken forms would have to be realized as [djodr̩] ( < [*djwodr̩]) and [djost] ( < [*djwost]), with deletion of stem-final /r/. However, their common realizations are [djødr̩] and [djøst]. More instances of the alternation [juər] (<joer>) ~ [jør] (<jur>) are given in (4):

Example 4

fjoer fire ~ fjurke small fire , fjurje fire , fjurwurk firework
stjoer steering wheel ~ stjurman helmsman
Sjoerd man's name ~ Sjurdsje woman's name
tsjoer tether ~ tsjurje tether

Miedema (1958) doubts whether the alternation between fjoer and fjurje should be analyzed as an instance of Breaking. Instead, he proposes an analysis in which fjoer and fjurje have preserved the Old Frisian rising diphthong: fjoor[fio.r] ~ fjorren[fiorən], forms which have undergone diphthongization and palatalization, resulting in fjoer ~ fjurren . In this analysis, [jø] in fjurren is the continuation of a long vowel, shortened as early as in the Old Frisian period. Whatever the right analysis may turn out to be − Old Frisian shortening or Modern Frisian Breaking − the change from [o] to [ø] has to be accounted for separately. The vowel [ø] seems to be a compromise between the frontness of the glide [j] and the backness of the vowel [o].

Not all instances of Breaking mentioned in the above overview are realized by all speakers. There is a lot of individual and dialectal variation. The spread of Breaking is also receding; there has been extensive leveling, mostly favouring the form with the centring diphthong, though there are also cases in which the broken diphthong has won the day (Tiersma (1978), Tiersma (1982), Tiersma (1983)). Clearly, Breaking no longer is a productive process.

References:
  • Hoekstra, Jarich & Tiersma, Peter Meijes1994FrisianKönig, Ekkehard & Auwera, Johan van der (eds.)The Germanic LanguagesRoutledge505-531
  • Hof, Jan Jelles1933Friesche dialectgeographieMartinus Nijhoff
  • Miedema, Hendrikus T.J1958De nieuwfriese 'breking' en zijn verspreidingTaal en Tongval148-156
  • Miedema, Hendrikus T.J1958De nieuwfriese 'breking' en zijn verspreidingTaal en Tongval148-156
  • Tiersma, Peter M1978Bidirectional leveling as evidence for relational rulesLingua4565-77
  • Tiersma, Peter M1979Breaking in West Frisian: a historical and synchronic approachUtrecht working papers in linguistics81-41
  • Tiersma, Peter M1979Breaking in West Frisian: a historical and synchronic approachUtrecht working papers in linguistics81-41
  • Tiersma, Pieter M1979Aspects of the phonology of Frisian based on the language of GrouMeidielingen fan de stúdzjerjochting Frysk oan de Frije Universiteit yn Amsterdam4
  • Tiersma, Pieter M1979Aspects of the phonology of Frisian based on the language of GrouMeidielingen fan de stúdzjerjochting Frysk oan de Frije Universiteit yn Amsterdam4
  • Tiersma, Pieter M1979Aspects of the phonology of Frisian based on the language of GrouMeidielingen fan de stúdzjerjochting Frysk oan de Frije Universiteit yn Amsterdam4
  • Tiersma, Pieter M1980The lexicon in phonological theoryBloomington, Ind.Indiana University Linguistics ClubThesis
  • Tiersma, Pieter M1982Local and General MarkednessLanguage58832-849
  • Tiersma, Pieter M1983The nature of phonological representation: evidence from breaking in FrisianJournal of linguistics1959-78
  • Versloot, Arjen P2002Brekking yn it Skylger Frysk en SúdwesthoekskIt beaken : meidielingen fan de Fryske Akademy Oer 'brekking'; [bijdr.: Willem Visser, Arjen Versloot, Siebren Dyk]. Speciaal nr. van: Beaken64247-271
  • Visser, Willem1990Breking en de gevolgenTijdschrift voor Taal en Taalwetenschap9255-272
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