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Frisian counts some 25 complex verbs which - unique for verbal compounds - have the verb as left member. It might therefore be argued that these compounds are left-headed. An example is skodholje shake-head to shake one's head, from the verb skodzje to shake and the noun holle head. The nouns are always body parts, and the verb, as does the compound as a whole, often denotes a frequent movement.


Next to the very productive category of noun incorporation (NV) we have a set of about 25 complex verbs which are compounded of a noun and a verb in the opposite order. The nouns are always body parts. Here are some examples, ordered from head to toe:

Table 1
1st constituent (V) 2nd constituent (N) compound (VN)
plôkje to pluck hier hair plokhierje to tussle
skodzje to shake holle head skodholje to shake one's head
stoarje to stare each eye stoareagje to stare
lûke to pull ear ear lûkearje move one's ear(s) (by nervous, angry horses)
pûlje to bulge mûle mouth pûlemûlje to murmur
knarselje to grind tosk tooth knarseltoskje to grind one's teeth
klappe to clap hals neck klaphalzje to flap (sound made by a stork)
skokke to shake skouder shoulder skokskouderje to shrug one's shoulders
wippe to hop gat ass wipgatsje to put up one's ass continuously
wippe to hop kont ass wipkontsje to kick out while lifting the ass (by a horse)
giselje to swing sturt tail giselsturtsje to swing with the tail
slingerje to sway skonk leg slingerskonkje to sway on one's legs
stampe to stamp foet foot stampfuotsje to stamp one's feet
slepe to drag soal sole sleepsoalje to shuffle

Sometimes it is hard to decide whether a verb belongs to this class. The compound hûkearzje to sit on one's heels with the noun ears ass is a case in point. There is no verb *hûkje in the dictionaries, but it could readily be formed by conversion from the noun hûk crouching position (cf. the German verb hocken). Or with respect to the second member, the complex verb stoareagje to stare might equally well be analysed as a VV compound, where the second member would be the converted verb eagje to stare rather than the noun each eye.

The compound usually denotes a frequent movement of the body part, often out of control of the subject. The latter is in contrast with cases of noun incorporation, which require a volitional Agent. Another difference is the role of the noun with respect to the verb. Incorporated nouns usually are Patients, while the nouns of this class of compounds are less outspoken in this respect; often, they can perhaps more adequately be classified as Instruments.

Another issue is headedness. The verbs are inflected on the right, which might be in favour for the noun to be the head of the compound. On the other hand, the lexical category of these verbal compounds is the same as the left-hand verb. Also semantically it makes sense to view these compounds as left-headed. In the end, the compound skodholje to shake one's head is a form of skodzjen shaking.

The stress in these compounds is always on the first member, for example in skodholje to shake one's head. Note that the second member may undergo breaking, as in stampfuotsje to stamp one's feet (from foet foot).


This class of verbs has been dealt with briefly by Hoekstra (1993) and in Dyk (1997:7-8). The classical treatment is Weggelaar (1986), who mentions the existence of this class in Frisian, however without providing any Frisian data. For some Dutch examples, see the topic on verbal compounds in the Dutch part of Taalportaal.

  • Dyk, Siebren1997Noun incorporation in FrisianLeeuwardenFryske Akademy
  • Weggelaar, C1986Noun incorporation in DutchInternational Journal of American Linguistics52301-305
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