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Subordination
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Frisian words heading subordinate clauses usually show an ending /t/, written as 't. Examples are relative dy'twho and interrogative wa'twho. At first sight, the element 't seems to act as a morphological marker for subordination. Although it may function in that way, it may be presented more adequately as a clitic form representing the conjunctions datthat or oftwhether.

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[+] Basic facts

Frisian conjunctions may exhibit an ending that superficially resembles a suffix. It is pronounced as [t], and written as <'t>. We only find it after conjunctions heading a subordinate clause, i.e. with the verb in final position. It occurs, for instance, in embedded interrogative sentences, as in wa'twho or wêr'twhere, based on the interrogatives wawho and wêrwhere, which is illustrated in (1)-(2):

Example 1

Ik wit wa't it die
I know who-COMP it did
I know who it did
Example 2

Ik wit wêr't er wennet
I know where-COMP he lives
I know where he lives

The element also turns up in relative clauses, as in forms like dy'twho; which or dêr't (the latter often combined with a preposition), as is shown in (3)-(5):

Example 3

de man dy't dêr wennet
the man who-COMP there lives
the man who lives there
Example 4

it doarp dêr't er wennet
the village where-COMP he lives
the village where he lives
Example 5

it hûs dêr't er yn wennet
the house where-COMP he in lives
the house in which he lives

Finally, we see it with elements heading adjunct clauses, like adverbial doe'twhen or nei'tafter, as in (6)-(7):

Example 6

Doe't er yn Ljouwert wenne, rekke er oan 'e drank
when-COMP he in Leeuwarden lived, got he on the drink
When he lived in Leeuwarden, he became an alcoholic
Example 7

Nei't er dien krige hie, ferfear er nei Amsterdam
after-COMP he done became had, moved he to Amsterdam
After he got fired, he moved to Amsterdam
[+] Analysis

According to the criterion that the element 't cannot figure as an independent word, one would be inclined to consider it a suffix. However, as has been argued in the literature, it is probably better to analyze it as a clitic, a reduction of the conjunctions datthat or oftwhether. One of the arguments for this position is the fact that 't sometimes varies with these full conjunctions, for instance wa'twho next to wa oftwho CONJwho, or nei'tafter next to neidatafter-CONJafter that. One might also apply the well known test of reduction in conjoined phrases, as in (8)-(9):

Example 8

a. Hy woe witte wannear oft en hoe oft ik dêr kaam bin
he wanted know when COMP and how COMP I there come am
He wanted to know when and how I have come there
b. Hy woe witte wannear en hoe oft ik der kaam bin
he wanted know when and how COMP I there come am
He wanted to know when and how I have come there
Example 9

a. Hy woe witte wannear't en hoe't ik dêr kaam bin
he wanted know when-COMP and how-COMP I there come am
He wanted to know when and how I have come there
b. Hy woe witte wannear en hoe't ik der kaam bin
he wanted know when and how-COMP I there come am
He wanted to know when and how I have come there

Affixes and clitics differ in that only the latter are open to reduction. We see in (8)-(9) that both oft and 't may be reduced. Hence, it might be better to interpret the element 't as a syntactic phenomenon. More information can therefore be obtained in this syntactic topic, or the one on interrogatives.

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x Literature

Brouwer (1959) calls attention to the tendency that the use of 't is increasing. A more extensive overview of the historical development is presented by Van der Woude (1960). Van Coetsem (1960) offers comparable data from other Germanic varieties. A publication in the same spirit is Van der Meer (1991), who also claims that 't is a clitic variant of the conjunction datthat. He also gives an analysis from a functional perspective, interpreting 't as a finite subclause introducer. The most extensive synchronic description of the distribution of 't can be found in the (unfortunately unpublished) paper of Hoekstra (1993), who also provides an in-depth analysis in generative terms, using the split CP hypothesis. An earlier generative analysis can be found in Reuland (1978).

References:
  • Brouwer, J.H1959Mei té of sûnder téDe Pompeblêdden5062-64
  • Coetsem, Fr. van1960De Friese relativa en conjuncties met tFryske stúdzjes oanbean oan prof.dr. J.H. Brouwer op syn sechstichste jierdei 23 augustus 1960Van Gorcum327-334
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1993The Split CP Hypothesis and the Frisian Complementizer systemUnpublishedFryske AkademyLjouwert
  • Meer, Geart van der1991The subclause signal 't in Frisian: its origin and functionLeuvensche bijdragen op het gebied van de Germaansche philologie en in 't bijzonder van de Nederlandsche dialectkunde8043-59
  • Reuland , Eric1978Principles of subordination and construal in the grammar of DutchGroningenUniversity of GroningenThesis
  • Woude, G. van der1960Oer it gebrûk fan 't by bynwurdenFryske stúdzjes oanbean oan prof.dr. J.H. Brouwer op syn sechstichste jierdei 23 augustus 1960Van Gorcum335-343
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