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The suffix -k can derive verbs from nouns. Examples are: brief letter > briefkje to correspond (with), fûst fist > fûstkje to shake hands and grap joke > grapkje to joke. The resulting verbs belong to the weak class II, the so-called je-verbs. The main function of the suffix is to mark the change of word class. After dental segments, especially /n/, the allomorph -tsj occurs.

The suffix -k also derives verbs from adjectives, see -k with adjective as base. Verbal bases are discussed in -k with verb as base.

[+]General properties

The suffix -k can create verbs on the basis of nouns. Here is a list of examples:

Table 1
Base form Derivation
fûst fist fûstkje to shake hands
blom flower blomkje to bloom
stjer star stjerkje to see stars
grap joke grapkje to joke
kar cart karkje to cart
piip pipe pypkje to smoke a pipe
brief letter briefkje to correspond (with)
boer farmer buorkje to run a farm
hoer whore huorkje to whore
noas nose noaskje to nose (about)
einekoer duck nest einekuorkje to make artificial duck nests
karwei job karweikje to do odd jobs
koai duck decoy koaikje to run a duck decoy
hamboai oboe hamboaikje to play oboe
bij bee bijkje to be a bee-keeper
stro pancake strookje to bake pancakes
kano canoe kanookje to canoe
judo judo judookje to practise judo
mou sleeve moukje to pull someone's sleeve
mefrou madam mefroukje to address someone as madam
mem mama memkje to cry mama repeatedly
If we extend the idea of nominal base to even include a pronominal base, than the word dookje be on first name terms could be added to the list; this verb is derived from the second person singular pronoun do you.

There does not seem to be a restriction on the phonological make-up of the base, but it is striking that a relatively large part of the formations occurs after a final vocalic segment. The derivations always belong to the inflectional second class of the weak verbs. The stem is therefore followed by the ending -je to create the form of the infinitive.

[+]Functional properties

The basic function of the suffix seems to be a change of word class. In Frisian, this is usually performed by conversion, where the result is also a weak verb of class II. One might wonder what the extra function of -k could be in this respect. After vocalic segments, -k could possibly function as a hiatus filler. If it was not there, the final vowel of the stem would be adjacent to the semi-vowel of the ending -je, or even worse, to the other endings of the paradigm, which all begin with a schwa. In other cases, -k could possibly be seen as a more salient marking of the transposition.

It is claimed by Van der Meer (for his publications, see the literature) that, as with verbal bases, the suffix -k has a frequentative or iterative function. This cannot be excluded. For example, briefkje has the meaning to have a correspondence rather than that the verb is used when only one letter is written. On the other hand, pypkje is fully correct when only one pipe is smoked. That quite some formations exhibit habitual aspect does not necessarily have to be seen as a consequence of adding -k. It could also be the outcome of conversion proper. But it remains the case that several derivations denote the activity of a certain profession, as buorkje to run a farm (from boer farmer) or bijkje to be a bee-keeper (from bij bee).


The suffix -k- has a palatalized variant -tsj-, which mainly occurs after base forms ending in /-n/ and sometimes after base forms ending in /-d/ or /-l/. Examples are given in the table below:

Table 2
Base form Derivation
sin sun sintsje to sunbathe
tean toe teantsje to tiptoe
trien tear trientsje to tear
fean peat feantsje to cut peat
tún garden túntsje to garden
kerne notch kerntsje to cut a notch
skil shell skiltsje to fish for shells
koal cabbage koaltsje to grow cabbage

At first sight, it might seem as if such forms are pure conversions of a diminutive noun. The final dental segments of the base nouns indeed select the diminutive form -tsje, as is dealt with in -DIM. However, as can for instance be seen from fean peat, not all bases are count nouns, so diminutive formation is not applicable everywhere. Therefore, one must conclude that it is a true (palatalized) allomorph of -k that is involved here.

If palatalization is the cause of the variation, then one might expect that the variant form is -tsj indeed, with a phonetically inspired insertion of [s] between /t/ and /j/ (for more phonological information, see /{s/z}/-insertion between /{t/d}/ and /jə/). There are strong indications, however, that this cluster has been reanalyzed and that the final /j/ of -tsj has migrated to the verbal ending -je. The original theoretical sequence -tsj-je would undergo degemination to /tsjə/, which could then be viewed morphologically as t(s)-je. This would be in line with the usual pattern of class II verbs with a dental stem. Indeed, we see that in the verbal paradigm of the verbs at hand only /t/ is left to the stem. The verb teantsje to tiptoe, for instance, gives hy teant-et he tiptoes, and not *hy teantsjet, which would have been the form if -tsj fully belonged to the stem. Another indication is the deverbal derivation of agent nouns with the help of the suffix -er. The verb túntsje to garden thus results in the form túnter gardener. However, also the form túntsjer exists, possibly a reflection of the original suffix -tsj. The double forms feanter ~feantsjer peat digger show the same variation. (N.B.: next to túnter and túntsjer, there is a third variant, i.e. túnker, regularly derived from the verb túnkje to garden).

A possible historical complication

It should be noted that assuming the sequence /tsj/ is not fully necessary. Historically, the first stage of the palatalization of stem-final /k/ results in /ts/, for example Old Frisian makia to make > early Middle Frisian meitse. Later these forms were levelled with the other verbs of class II, resulting in meitsje. See Loopstra (1935) for more details.

[+]Phonological properties

The formations often show breaking and shortening. The latter can be observed, for instance, in piip pipe ~ pypkje to smoke a pipe. Examples of breaking are briefkje [jI] to correspond from brief [iə] letter or teantsje [jɛ] to tiptoe from tean [Iə] toe.


The main properties can be found in Hoekstra (1998:153). However, he does not consider the element /k/ as a derivational suffix, but rather as a linking element, analysing the relevant formations as being the product of conversion proper. On the other hand, Geart van der Meer in Van der Meer (1988), Van der Meer (1988) and Van der Meer (1989) does not discriminate nominal (and adjectival) bases with verbal bases. For him, an iterative meaning aspect is central, plus the semantic nuances that can be derived from it. An earlier publication is Tamminga (1975), also published in Tamminga (1985), which gives a lot of data, although its main focus is on agent nouns derived from the verbs at hand.

  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
  • Loopstra, J.J1935De assibilatie in de Oudfriese oorkondenH.D. Tjeenk Willink & Zoon
  • Meer, Geart van der1988K-verbs in some West-Germanic languages (1)NOWELE : North-Western European language evolution1151-72
  • Meer, Geart van der1988K-verbs in some West-Germanic languages (2)NOWELE : North-Western European language evolution123-14
  • Meer, Geart van der1989Some aspects of verbal repetition and diminution (On so-called -k- verbs in Frisian and Gronings).Abraham, Werner & Janssen, Theo (eds.)Tempus - Aspekt - Modus : die lexikalischen und grammatischen Formen in den germanischen SprachenTübingenNiemeyer323-341
  • Tamminga, Douwe Annes1975Fan 'Wâldtsjers' en 'Klaeikers'It Beaken4/5315-323
  • Tamminga, Douwe Annes1985Kantekers. Fersprate stikken oer taal en literatuerStifting Freonen Frysk Ynstitút oan de Ryksuniversiteit te Grins (FFYRUG)
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