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6.8 Possessive pronouns

Possessive pronouns denote the possessor. They are distinguished semantically on the basis of their own person, number and gender. When referring to humans, they tend to refer to sexual gender. Otherwise, they refer to grammatical gender, but things are normally not expressed in the syntactic possessor position, being relegated instead to a PP headed by the adposition fon ‘of’. In addition, possessive pronouns undergo a limited form of agreement with a following noun for the features number and gender. However, possessive pronouns have a minimal agreement paradigm, just consisting of two forms. One form is used in case the following noun is the MSC SG, the other form is used for all other combinations of number and gender. Furthermore, only a few possessive pronouns make this agreement distinction.


We must distinguish between a possessive pronoun used with a following NP and a possessive pronoun used without a following NP, hence independently or nominalised. Below is the full paradigm for the possessive pronouns:

Table 1
MSC SG agt Min din sin hiere uus jou hiere
Nominalised Minnen dinnen sinnen hierens uzen jouens hierens
Others agt Mien dien sien hiere uus jou hiere
Nominalised Mienen dienen sienen hierens uzen jouens hierens

The following observations can be made concerning this table of possessive pronouns.

  • There is only agreement for the 1SG, the 2SG and the 3SG MSC pronoun.
  • The other pronouns do not have a paradigm, just one invariant form.
  • The 3SG FEM pronoun is identical to the 3PL pronoun.
  • The nominalised forms all end in -en or -ens.
  • The nominalising suffix -en follows stems ending in a consonant (n, s).
  • The nominalising suffix -ens follows stems ending in a vowel (e, ou).

The possessive pronouns are not usually inflected for agreement in Ramsloh. In Utende agreement may be different, see (Fort 1985). However, the details are not clear. In Scharrel, possessive pronouns may be marked with schwa before feminine nouns, as in the following example:

Uze Seelter Sproake.
our Seelter language
Our Saterland language.

In the source texts, the possessive pronouns are also often inflected. So there is variation. This is not surprising, since the binary agreement distinction of the 3SG MSC against all others hinges on a phonological distinction that is quite meagre and that is not otherwise attested in the agreement system of the NP or the AP in Saterland Frisian. There is also variation in adjectival agreement following a possessive pronoun. As possessive pronouns are definite, one would expect agreement to be absent (just the unary form in schwa), but there is variation here as well, see: AP, Agreement of APs with a following Noun and a preceding determiner (5.1). Pronouns may double a possessor NP, as in the example below:

Teikla hiere Huus.
Teikla her house
Teikla’s house.
Höhne sin Salon.
Höhne his.MSC.SG barber.shop.MSC.SG
Höhne’s barber shop.

The last example illustrates that the choice of possessive pronoun is limited to sin/sien, because Höhne is a man (sexual gender). Subsequently, sin is selected instead of sien for the purpose of agreement with the following noun, which is masculine. Possessors are usually persons. The doubling construction mostly features personal proper names. The nominalised forms can be used in positions in which NPs are found. Some examples are given below:

Aal wät mienen is, dät is ook dienen.
all what mine is that is also yours
All that is mine, is yours as well.
Is die Huund jouens?
is that dog yours.REV
Is that dog yours?
Uzen wieren oaber räi.
ours were but raw
But ours were raw (eggs).
Älk sienen, dan häd die Düwel niks.
each his then has the devil nothing
To each his own, then the devil has nothing.

The nominalised possessors can also be used to refer to one’s family.

Tuunsdai häbe uzen gouldene Hochtied.
Tuesday have ours golden jubilee
Thursday our family has a golden wedding anniversary.

The 2PL (also reverential) form jouens can be found without the s: jouen. It is not clear whether these two forms are in free variation. The few examples we saw, suggest that jouens is found in the predicative position (see the example above). There is another form: jouelke, which is used instead of jouen to refer to family:

Jouelke / Jouen wieren ook nit deer.
yours were also not there
Your folks weren’t there either.

The etymology of the form with -k- is unclear. Fort lists jouens as a lemma separate from jouelke / jouen, which are together in one lemma. Furthermore, Fort only provides a predicative example for jouens (the example above). Perhaps the -k- form is somehow derived as an associative, to which it is close in interpretation, see: The Associative.

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