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Second person singular

On a moderate scale Frisian shows the phenomenon of what is often called "complementizer agreement". A verbal inflectional ending thereby also manifests itself after a conjunction (in a broad sense; also relatives and subordinating interrogatives are involved). In Frisian only the ending -st of the second person singular is involved. An illustration of the phenomenon is ik hoopje datst komst I hope you will come. Here we see the second person ending -st not only in the finite verb komst, but also after the conjunction dat that.


In Frisian, it is possible to add a verbal inflectional ending also to a conjunction. An example is provided in (1):

Example 1

Ik hoopje [datst komst]
I hope that-2SG come-2SG
I hope you will come

We see the verbal ending -st, belonging to the second person singular, not only on the finite verb (i.e. komst), but also on the conjunction (in datst). The ending may also occur after other categories introducing a subordinate clause, like relatives, e.g. dy'tst who-COMP-2SG who or interrogatives, e.g. wa'tst who-COMP-2SG who. It should be noted that these two categories also display the subordinate marker't in the orthography. In actual pronunciation, this /t/ is deleted before the cluster /st/ (for phonological information, see the topic on t-deletion before the suffix -st), resulting in the pronunciation [va:st] for wa'tst.

In the example in (1) a subject is lacking, which is an instance of so-called pro-drop. The second person pronoun do you may come up to the surface, however, here resulting in the form datsto, always with assimilation of the initial dental stop /d/ of the function word do to the voiceless preceding /t/. We also encounter reduced forms of this pronoun, resulting in a sequence datste, with a final schwa (i.e. [dɔstə]).

The phenomenon of inflection of conjunctions is restricted to the second person singular. It is not acceptable with other grammatical persons; for example, we do not see it with the plural ending -e, as in (2):

Example 2

*Ik hoopje datte jim komme
I hope that-PL you come-PL
I hope you will come

The ending after the conjunction is dependent on the existence of an inflected finite verb. Compare the variants in (3):

Example 3

a. Ik bin grutter asto bist
I am bigger than-2SG-you are-2SG
I am bigger than you are
b. *Ik bin grutter asto
I am bigger than-2SG-you
I am bigger than you
c. Ik bin grutter as do
I am bigger than you
I am bigger than you

In such a comparative construction the copula may also be omitted, but then there is no space left for an inflected conjunction.

There is an additional requirement: the inflected conjunction should head a canonical subordinate clause in which the verb is in final position. Frisian may sometimes also display main clause order in embedded sentences, but then inflection is ungrammatical, as shown in (4):

Example 4

a. Hy sei, datst(o) soks net leauwe moatst
he said that-2SG(-you) such not believe should-2SG
he said that you should not believe such a thing
b. *Hy sei, datst(o) moatst soks net leauwe
he said that-2SG(-you) should-2SG such not believe
c. Hy sei, dat do moatst soks net leauwe
he said that you shoiuld-2SG such not believe

It has been a subject of ongoing debate whether this ending /st/ should be a analysed as an inflectional suffix or as an instance of cliticisation. It appears that the outcome so far has been that an inflectional analysis seems preferable. For arguments, see the topic on complementiser agreement: agreement or clitic in the syntactic part.

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The debate on the status of -st originates already in the fifties. De Boer (1952), who is possibly the first one to call attention to the phenomenon in Frisian, eventually arrives at a solution in terms of cliticization. He is attacked by Hoekema (1955). Under the influence of generative studies elsewhere, this inflectional stance is taken over in the eighties by Willem Visser in Visser (1988) and Visser (1988) and by J. Hoekstra & L. Marácz (see Hoekstra (1989) and Hoekstra (1989)). In reaction, Van der Meer (1991) once more takes up an analysis in terms of cliticization. He is criticized by G. de Haan in De Haan (1994) and De Haan (1997), again opting for inflection.

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  • Haan, Germen J. de1994'Inflection and cliticization in Frisian -sto, -ste, st'Nowele2375-90
  • Haan, Germen J. de1997Voegwoordcongruentie in het FriesHoekstra, E. & Smits, C. (eds.)Vervoegde voegwoorden: lezingen gehouden tijdens het Dialectsymposion 1994Cahiers van het P.J. Meertens-Instituut 9Amsterdam50-67
  • Hoekema, T1955Konjugaesje, kumulphoby of folksetymologyske analyse fan enklisefoarmingen?It Beaken1713-18
  • Hoekstra, Jarich & Marácz, Lázlo1989On the position of inflection in West-GermanicWorking papers in Scandinavian syntax4475-88
  • Hoekstra, Jarich & Marácz, Lázlo1989Some implications of I-to-C-movement in FrisianBennis, Hans, Kemenade, Ans van & Algemene Vereniging voor Taalwetenschap (Netherlands). Meeting (eds.)Linguistics in the Netherlands, 1989Dordrecht; Providence RI, U.S.A.81-90
  • Meer, Geart van der1991The 'conjugation' of subclause introducers : Frisian -stNOWELE : North-Western European language evolution Nowele1763-84
  • Visser, Willem1988Wêrom 't progressive assimilaasje yn it Frysk net bestietTydskrift foar Fryske Taalkunde41-20
  • Visser, Willem1988In pear klitisearringsferskynsels yn it FryskDyk, dr. S. & Haan, dr. G.J. (eds.)Wurdfoarried en Wurdgrammatika. In bondel leksikale stúdzjesLjouwertFryske Akademy, Ljouwert175-222