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NV (particle verbs)

In contrast to cases of noun incorporation, Frisian has also a couple of NV combinations that are separable. In this respect, these verbs follow the pattern of particle verbs that show a separable adposition as first member. An example with a first member noun is dielnimme part-take to take part, which is separated in main clauses as hy naam juster diel oan it petear he took yesterday part in the discussion he took part in the discussion yesterday. This class of separable NV combinations is unproductive and undergoes idiomatization in various respects.


In addition to particle verbs as their first member an adjective, an adverb, or - most productively - an adposition, there are also a few formations which have a noun as first member. The essential property of particle verbs is that the first member, the particle, may be separated from the verb. As to nominal first elements, this feature sets them apart from cases of noun incorporation.

Separability manifests itself in main clauses (example ), in contrast to subordinate clauses, as in example . Another context in which we find separation is in infinitival constructions with om + te. This is exemplified in :

a. Hy naam juster diel oan it petear
he took yesterday part in the discussion
He took part in the discussion yesterday
a.' ... dat er juster oan it petear dielnaam
... that he yesterday in the discussion part-took
... that he took part in the discussion yesterday
... om oan it petear diel te nimmen
... CONJ in the discussion part to take
in order to take part in the discussion

Here are some examples of such separable NV combinations:

Table 1
first constituent (N) second constituent (V) compound (NV)
broek trousers sette to set broeksette to endeavour
dei day sizze to say deisizze to greet
hoeke corner hâlde to hold hoekhâlde to hold on
hûs house hâlde to keep húshâlde to run the household
piano piano spylje to play pianospylje to play piano
pleats place hawwe to have pleatshawwe to take place
rjocht law sprekke to speak rjochtsprekke to administer justice
stân state hâlde to hold stânhâlde to hold out, to persist
tank thank sizze to say tanksizze to express one's gratitudes

Since Frisian also has noun incorporation at its disposal, one sometimes sees that Dutch displays a separable NV combination where in a comparable case Frisian has an inseparable one. The Dutch verb gelukwensen to congratulate is a case in point. It is separable, exemplified in hy wenst haar geluk he wishes her happiness he congratulates her. The Frisian counterpart is hy lokwinsket har, where lokwinskje to congratulate is an incorporation verb. Other cases are inseparable Frisian sykhelje breath-take to breathe versus separable Dutch ademhalen and inseparable Frisian hynsteride horse-ride to do horse-riding versus Dutch separable paardrijden.

There are a few cases in which a certain combination shows both varieties, i.e. a separable and an inseparable variant. This can be observed with verbs denoting the playing of a musical instrument, although we see a minor semantic difference here. In separated hja spilet piano she plays piano it is claimed that the subject is able to play (even if not actually performing). On the other hand, in hja pianospilet this ability is not implied; it rather denotes a situation in which someone plays the piano, perhaps not mastering the instrument well.

Apart from such subtle semantic differences and separability there are more features that divide both classes. One is that the separable class is not productive, where noun incorporation is. Furthermore, it could be upheld that cases of noun incorporation are semantically more transparent, the noun usually functioning as the Patient argument of the verb, and the verb keeping its literal meaning. This is often not clear with these separable verbs, many suffering from idiomatization. In line with this is the fact that particle verbs do not have a syntactic counterpart in which the noun may act as the head of a noun phrase, as is normally the case with incorporation verbs. For example, the verbs stânhâlde to persist and pleatshawwe to take place are not allowed to be expanded to

a. *de stân hâlde
[(NP)de stân] hâlde
the state hold
b. *de pleats hawwe
[(NP)de place] have
the place have

However, there is also a common feature. This is stress, which is on the noun in both classes.


Particle verbs with a nominal first member are briefly treated in Hoekstra (1998:61-62) and in Dyk (1997:8-9).

  • Dyk, Siebren1997Noun incorporation in FrisianLeeuwardenFryske Akademy
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
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