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Frisian verbs can rather easily be converted into a noun. For example, from the verb skoppeto kick we can derive the noun skopkick. We also find residues of historical ablaut, e.g. sjongeto sing > sangsong. Semantically, rather than referring to the action itself, these nouns in the majority of cases denote a more concrete aspect of it, for example the result of the action, or the means to perform it. In addition, there is a modal use. The converted nouns show a remarkable division in gender. Normally, they have common gender, but those derived from a prefixed verb are neuter. Compare for instance de falthe fall with itferfalthe decline, both related to the verb falleto fall. Converted nouns often occur in combination with light verbs and/or fixed prepositions.

For completenesss' sake, it is worth mentioning that the nominal infinitive is sometimes also considered as being an instance of conversion. The nominal character of such forms is, among others, revealed by the use of an article. The verb rinneto walk, for example, then transposes to it rinnenthe walking, where the neuter definite article it is selected. As these nominal infinitives always require an overt suffix, i.e. -en, we deal with them in the section on nominal suffixes, under the suffix -en. Information on the ending from an inflectional point of view can be found in the section on infinitives of the topic about general categories of verbal inflection.

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[+] General properties

Conversion of verbs into nouns only seems to occur in the native stock of the Frisian lexicon. With respect to the input, it is useful to distinguish between simplex verbs and complex verbs, since a sub-category of the complex verbs results in a different gender of the output noun.

In the case of simplex verbs, all converted nouns have common gender, i.e. they take the definite article dethe. Examples are given in the table below:


Table 1
Base Verb Converted Noun
falleto fall de falthe fall
biteto bite de bytthe bite
gjalpeto gush de gjalpthe gush
skoppeto kick de skopthe kick
stompeto punch de stompthe punch, the knock
waskjeto wash de waskthe wash
hâldeto hold de hâldthe hold
keapjeto buy de keapthe purchase
rinneto walk de rinthe walk
flokketo curse de flokthe curse
hateto hate de haatthe hatred
streameto stream de streamthe stream
rinneto walk de rinthe walk, the course
sliepeto sleep de sliepthe sleep
roppeto call de ropthe call
stekketo sting de stekthe sting
dreameto dream de dreamthe dream

Striking exceptions are regearjeto govern, which results in neuter it regearthe government, and soldearjeto solder and its converted noun it soldearsolder. Moreover, these input verbs are also exceptional in that they are non-native. See also the Extra on Gender and Stress below.

In other cases the connection with the base verb is less clear, due to a historical vowel change (ablaut). Sometimes, we also see differences in the consonantism. Such deviations especially occur if the input belongs to the strong or otherwise irregular verbs. Examples are given in the table below:


Table 2
Base Verb Converted Noun
rideto skate de reedthe skate
springeto jump de sprongthe jump
hingjeto hang de hangthe hang
sjongeto sing de sangthe song
heljeto pull de haalthe pull
rûketo smell de rookthe smell
geanto go de gongthe corridor; the going
feieto brush de feechthe brush
slaanto hit de slachthe blow, stroke

As can be seen, all resulting nouns again take the article dethe. An exception is the neuter noun bodoffer, connected to the strong verb biedeto offer.

As to complex verbs serving as input for nominal conversion, we have to draw a sharp division between particle verbs and prefixed verbs. Particle verbs just behave like simplex verbs:


Table 3
Base Verb Converted Noun
ôfleareto unlearn de ôflearthe unlearning
neiklappeto afterpain de neiklapthe afterpain
ynfiereto import de ynfierthe import
oantrúneto stimulate de oantrúnthe stimulation
trochsetteto persevere de trochsetperseverance
útlizzeto explain de útlisthe explanation
opstappeto go away de opstapthe step
wjerakseljeto struggle de wjerakselthe struggle
oanfalleto attack de oanfalthe attack

The output nouns all have common gender, with the exception of útstelleto postpone; to propose > it útstelthe postponement; the proposal.

The situation is different with prefixed verbs, i.e. those that take the prefixes be-, fer- and ûnt-. In this case, the output nouns have neuter gender, that is, they are accompanied by the definite article itthe. Examples are given in the table below:


Table 4
Base Verb Converted Noun
begripeto understand it begrypthe understanding
besprekketo discuss it besprekthe discussion
beweegjeto move it beweechthe movement
behelpeto manage it behelpthe aix
ferjitteto forget it ferjitthe oblivion
fersinneto be mistaken it fersinthe mistake
fersetteto resist it fersetthe resistance
ferfalleto fall into disrepair it ferfalthe decline
ûnthjitteto promise it ûnthytthe promise
ûnthâldeto remember it ûnthâldthe memory
ûntwerpeto design it ûntwerpthe design

The exception is ferkeapjeto sell > de ferkeapthe sale. Possibly, this is influenced by the high frequency of the common simplex de keapthe purchase.

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x Gender and stress

The distribution of the gender of converted nouns suggests that stress might be a factor. If the stress is on the first syllable, then the converted noun has common gender. This is the case with most simplex verbs and with the particle verbs, for example in leareto learn > de learthe doctrine and ôfleareto unlearn > deôflearthe unlearning. Prefixed verbs, not having stress on the first syllable, result in neuter nouns. So, it begrypthe understanding is converted from begripeto understand. The two exceptions in the realm of the simplex verbs follow this pattern: regearjeto govern > it regearthe government and soldearjeto solder > it soldearthe solder.

[+] Semantics

In principle, it seems possible that the converted noun denotes every aspect of the input verb. In de bou fan it hûsthe build of the housethe building of the house, for instance, is referred to the action of building (although it must be conceded that the nominal infinitive, as in it bouwen fan it hûs, is more common in Frisian). Far more often, however, the content of the noun is fairly concrete and specialized, with a special emphasis on the result of the verbal action. Compare it fallenthe falling with de falthe fall. The nominalized infinitive in it fallen merely refers to vertical downward movement, whereas de fal is mainly used for falling human beings, in particular in relation to the resulting damage. So, very often the converted noun refers to an object name, as for example in ûntwerpdesign or rooksmell, which both refer to what has been designed or smelled. It also may be the case that an instrumental reading is stressed, as in ûnthâldmemory, which is rather a faculty that makes it possible for people to memorize things. But an instrumental interpretation likewise applies to de bou, which may also refer to the construction industry.

Reasoning along these lines, it is conceivable that many punctual verbs in particular have undergone the way of conversion. Such verbs denote actions that do not continue over time, and hence the result and the action itself coincide. Examples are stomppunch, skuortear, flokcurse, suchtsigh, draaiturn and klauclaw.

Rather special is a modal interpretation, expressing an ability for the type of action to be performed. This use is exemplified below:

Example 1

Ability to {verb}
Der sit wol bûch yn dat hout
Ik ha gjin blaas mear
Hy hat wol knyp yn 'e hannen
Dy hûn hat in bêste rook
De rek is út it ilestyk
Dy baan freget in soad trochpak
Der sit gjin trochset yn dat fanke
[+] Some syntactic and idiomatic frames

The punctual action nouns in particular can often be combined with light verbs such as dwaanto do, jaanto give and litteto let. This combination of a punctual action noun and a light verb results in a description of a verbal action that is fairly synonymous with the single verb. Compare in stomp jaanto give a punch vs stompeto punch, in flok dwaanto do a curse vs flokketo curse or in sucht litteto let a sigh vs suchtsjeto sigh.

In addition, converted nouns often occur in idiomatic expressions with a prepositional phrase, like op 'e ... wêzeto be on .... Examples are op 'e kuier wêzeto have a walk, op 'e swalk wêzeto wander about and op 'e flitter wêzeto be out on a spree. The corresponding verbs are kuierjeto walk, swalkjeto wander and flitterjeto flit to and fro. Comparable examples, with other prepositions or verbs, are op 'e hark steanto eavesdrop (cf. harkjeto listen), yn 'e weef steanto be unsteady (cf. wifkjeto waver), immen op 'e tok hâldeto keep someone dangling (cf. tokjeto tempt) and immen yn 't ferlied bringeto tempt someone (cf. ferliedeto tempt).

Furthermore, converted verbs are typically used in an expression with in hiele ...a much/big/large/long etc., in order to describe an exhausting or energetic action. Examples are in hiele tôcha large burden, in hiele tila heavy lift up, in hiele traapa long and heavy cycling tour and in hiele sita long sit. The connected verbs are tôgjeto lug, tilleto lift, traapjeto step and sitteto sit, respectively.

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x Comparison with Dutch

It is often the case that where Frisian shows conversion, Dutch has a derivation in -ing, and sometimes also other means of overt word formation are chosen. Compare the examples in the table below:

Table 5
Dutch Frisian
de regering (<regeren)the government (<to govern) it regear (<regearje)the government (<to govern)
de wandeling (<wandelen)the walk (<to walk) de kuier (<kuierje)the walk (<to walk)
de aansporing (<aansporen)the stimulation (<to stimulate) de oantrún (<oantrúnje)the stimulation (<to stimulate)
de vergissing (<vergissen)to be mistaken (<the mistake) it fersin (<fersinne)to be mistaken (<the mistake)
de bespreking (<bespreken)the discussion (<to discuss) it besprek (<besprekke)the discussion (<to discuss)
de aanhaling (<aanhalen)the quotation (<to quote) de oanhaal (<oanhelje)the quotation (<to quote)
in verleiding komen (<verleiden)to be tempted to (<to tempt) yn 't ferlied komme (<ferliede)to be tempted to (<to tempt)
het geheugen (<heugen)the memory (<to be remembered) it ûnthâld (ûnthâlde)the memory (<to be remembered)
de belofte (<beloven)the promise (<to promise) it ûnthjit (<ûnthjitte)the promise (<to promise)
het doorzettingsvermogen (<doorzetten)the perseverance (<to persevere) de trochset (<trochsette)the perseverance (<to persevere)
de schuilplaats (<schuilen)the hiding-place (<hiding) it ferskûl (<ferskûlje)the hiding-place (<hiding)

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x Literature

This topic is based on Hoekstra (1998:123-124) and Hoekstra (1992). More details, especially on language use and idiomaticity, can be found in Tamminga (1963:46-48).

References:
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1992In hiele sitFriesch Dagblad19-09Taalsnipels 236
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
  • Tamminga, Douwe Annes1963Op 'e taelhelling. Losse trochsneden fan Frysk taellibben. IBoalsertA.J. Osinga
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