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Inflection of adpositions is a heavily restricted process. Only a few local ones show a suffix -en, and then only after one of the prepositions neito or fanfrom. An example is nei efterenbackward.

Note that some adpositions may also be suffixed by the superlative ending -ste. These derivations are considered here as instances of word formation.


Adpositions form a category that is never inflected in the normal case. Nevertheless, the local adpositions foarbefore, efterbehind, boppeabove and ûnderunder may receive a suffix -en. However, this only occurs in the context that the adposition is governed by the preposition neito or fanfrom. This results in the following directional phrases:

Example 1

a. fan foaren from before-SUFF from the front
b. nei foaren to before-SUFF forward
Example 2

a. fan efteren from behind-SUFF from behind
b. nei efteren to behind-SUFF backward
Example 3

a. fan boppen from above-SUFF from above
b. nei boppen to above-SUFF upward
Example 4

a. fan ûnderen from under-SUFF from below
b. nei ûnderen to under-SUFF downward

One might also expect that the suffix would manifest itself after the local adpositions binneninside and bûtenoutside, but this is not the case, as is shown by the ungrammaticality of forms like *nei binnenento inside-SUFFinward or *fan bûtenenfrom outside-SUFFfrom the outside. This may have to do with the fact that these adpositions already end in the sequence -en by themselves.

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x Analysis

In the Frisian grammatical tradition the assumption prevails that it is not adpositions that are suffixed here, but rather adverbs. It is indeed the case that the adpositions are in a special configuration, since a noun phrase, otherwise always part of an Adposition Phrase (PP), is lacking. Their dependency on a preceding preposition suggests that we are dealing with a case of inflection. In addition, it might be tempting to assume that the suffix -en marks the transposition to the adverbial word class. However, since the occurrence of -en is dependent on the preceding preposition nei or fan, it may probably be more convenient to analyze this suffix as an instance of structure-dependent morphology. Note that within the scope of a preposition a suffix -en may also show up after adjectives and nouns, and after cardinal numerals. What all these cases have in common is the fact that the cluster headed by the preposition acts as an adverbial phrase.

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x Literature

This suffix -en is, apart from the Frisian grammars, briefly dealt with in Hoekstra (1990). The suffix also exists in the Dutch dialect of Westfries, which is based on a Frisian substratum.The fact that it also available there after binneninside and buitenoutside leads Hoekstra (2000) to some speculations about the nature of language contact.

  • Hoekstra, Eric2000Grammaticale functies van -E en -EN in het Westfries en het Fries en taalcontactgestuurde veranderingenTaal en Tongval52136-149
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1990Fan hertenFriesch Dagblad04-08Taalsnipels 194
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