• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Saterfrisian
  • Afrikaans
Show all
1.2.1 Derivation: theoretical issues

Theoretical issues on derivation involve:

  • Restrictions on input and output
  • Definition
  • Allomorphy
  • Native and non-native affixes
  • Interference from High and Low German
  • Coherent and non-coherent affixes
  • Stress
[+]Input and Output Restrictions

Derivation combines word stems with affixes (mostly prefixes or suffixes). That does not mean that all word-affix combinations are allowed. There are morphological, semantic, syntactic and other restrictions on the input and output of derivations. For instance, the adjectival suffix -elk cannot attach to derived words, so *frjuundinnelk ‘girlfriendly’ is out, contrary to frjuundelk ‘friendly’ (morphological restriction). Adjectives ending in -loos (‘-less’) must be about something positive, so lieuwendloos (‘lifeless’) is OK, but doodloos (‘deathless’) is not (semantic restriction). A similar restriction holds for adjectives prefixed by uun- (‘un-‘). Uungliek (‘unequal’) is an existing word, but the non-existent word *uunuurs (‘undifferent’) sounds weird. Adjectives ending in -beer or -boar (‘-able’) must combine with transitive verbs (syntactic restriction), for example dreechboar (‘portable’). The prefix ge- in nouns which denote activities (e.g. Gesnoater ‘chattering’) is not compatible with verbs from formal language ( Gekommuniseer), unless the newly formed derivation is meant ironically. This is also true for nouns ending in –(er)äi, e.g. Kommuniseerderäi.

When an affix is combinable with different kinds of words, that doesn’t imply that the affix has the same meaning everywhere. Adjectives prefixed by uun- have a logically-negative meaning, for example uunglukkelk (‘unhappy’), which is the negation of glukkelk (‘happy’). The same meaning can be argued for in some nouns like Uungjucht (‘inequity’), but not in the pejorative derivations Uundiert (‘monster’) or Uunlound (‘bad land’).

Saterland Frisian derivational morphology seems to be rather tolerant towards complex inputs. The word Huusbundjer ‘stay-at-home person’ consists of a suffix -jer (an allomorph of -ker and -tjer) on the one hand and a phrase-like base Huus-bund on the other hand: ‘a bound-to-home person’. This is reminiscent of the Groningen dialect word pot-en-paanjer (‘a merchand of pots-and-pans’). The adjective fonhoundsk (‘[the horse] on the right side’) likewise combines a suffix with a phrase. This adjective fonhounsk is synonymous with fonhound (cf. behot and behotsk ‘careful’). It is very unlikey, however, that fonhoundsk is derived from fonhound. The former seems to be a derivation based on a prepositional phrase, the latter a conversion of the same phrase. The noun Lootjeräi is a bit problematic. It may be derived of a Low German diminutive (‘a small lot in a lottery’) or else from the infinitival form of the verb lootje (‘to draw lots’). We presume that the base is the just mentioned diminutive. In that case, the derivation behaves – again – like a compound (cf. muuskenstil, ‘noiseless’, lit. ‘little-mouse-quiet’).


It is not always easy to decide what is an affix and what is not. For example, the element -riek in gloorriek (‘glorious’) is on its way from a lexeme status (‘rich’) to an affix status. Such affixoids are discussed in []. On the other hand, some elements may be viewed as affixes-no-more. The element -el- in frequentative verbs like babbelje (‘to chatter’), rabbelje (‘to gossip’) and gnauelje (‘to gnaw’) has very little morhological status synchronically, although some of these verbs alternate with shorter variants (e.g. gnauelje ‘to gnaw bits and pieces’ and gnaue, ‘to gnaw’). Frequentative verbs in -elje and -erje are always je-verbs, by the way, even when they alternate with e-verbs (like gnaue and gnauelje). (See: Inflection.) Sound symbolism and similar phenomena do not count as morphological elements either (e.g. Juks ‘fun’, Skups ‘a blow, kick’, Wierks ‘some thing’). But they may exhibit regularity.


Allomorphy is a relevant issue in the context of compounding (cf. [] Linking Elements). But allomorphy shows up in derived words as well. Allomorphy affects both word stems and affixes. The irregular verb dwo (‘to do’) is represented in the nouns Gedoute and Gedwoonte (both meaning: ‘gesticulation’). The first form is based on the imperative, the second on the gerundial infinitive. The irregular verb sjo (‘to see’) appear as -sju- in sjunelk (‘visible’) and stiksjunelk (‘short-sighted’) but it also appears as -sjoon- in fersjonelk (‘smart’) and uunsjonelk (‘unappetising’).

The suffix -lik surfaces as -lik (sierlik, ‘elegant’), -elk (sierdelk, ‘elegant’), or -liek (epentlik, epentliek, ‘openly’). The distribution seems to be phonological. The variant -elk is attached to syllables with full and stressed vowels, whereas -lik and -liek generally follow unstressed syllables (with schwas). This phonological restriction has morphological consequences, for -elk does not combine well with derived bases, unlike -liek (skienboarliek ‘imaginary’).

Phonologically motivated allomorphy of suffixes is very common anyway in Saterland Frisian. The material adjectives stäilen (‘steel’), wullen (‘wool’), sälwern (‘silver’) and ierzen (‘iron’) are derived from Stäil, Wulle, Sälwer and Ierzen respectively, for instance. Another instance of allomorphy is ju Lotteräi alongside ju Lootjeräi ‘the lottery’.

[+]Native and non-native affixes

The term ‘non-native’ is traditionally used for French and Latinate elements in Germanic languages. Non-native affixes generally occur in loan words from German. They can be attached to non-native words or stems, e.g. die Soldaat ‘the soldier’ or dät Pasturaat ‘the chaplaincy’. Some non-native affixes attached to native words are used in informal speech, e.g. ju Pakkeloazje ‘luggage’. The same is true of vebs like wunderierje ‘to be amazed by sth.’.

Strictly speaking, elements and words borrowed from German (either High German or Low German) are non-native as well, but German affixes do not usually exhibit recognisably different behaviour from Frisian affixes with respect to stress, phonological properties and so on. These elements will be discussed in the following section (on Interference).


Interference from High and Low German plays a crucial role throughout Saterland Frisian grammar. Derivational morphology is no exception. For instance, the affixes -beer (Frisian) and -boar (Low German) compete with each other (bruukbeer, bruukboar, ‘useful’). The suffix -oartich in deechoartich (‘like dough’) is a loan from High German (-artig). Fort 2015 does not include such words, but Kramer 2010 does.

Many diminutives are in fact loans from Low German, e.g. dät Hüüsken (‘toilet’) and dät Peerdjen (‘dragon-fly’). The prefix är- in ärbarmlik ‘miserable’ is a loan from High German.

[+]Cohering and non-cohering affixes

Cohering affixes are affixes that merge phonologically into the derived word. Non-coherent affixes do not.

The adjectival affix -ich is cohering, for example. Fooldich (‘wrinkly’) is morphologically derived from Foold ([foːlt], ‘wrinkle’) but syllabified as fool-dich. The suffix -haftich is always non-cohering.

The affixes -elk, -ich and -erch sometimes trigger final devoicing, because of their cohering nature, for example fjuntelk (‘friendly’), sountich and sounterch (‘sandy’). This phenomenon could also be phonologically motivated. The sequences -nd(ə)l- and -nd(ə)r- are hard to pronounce with a voiced coronal, especially when the liquids /l/ and /r/ are syllabic. There is however no doubt that these suffixes are in principle coherent, e.g. rodelk (‘reddish’), foolderch (‘wrinkly’) and jeeldich (‘valid’).

All prefixes are non-coherent, e.g. uuneens (‘disagreeing’).


Native suffixes are generally unstressed (e.g. OARbaider ‘worker’). This holds true of Germanic suffixes generally. Non-native (non-Germanic) suffixes are always or generally stressed (e.g. GymnasiAST, ‘gymnasium student’).

The female personal suffix -inne in KeningINNE (‘queen’) and BodINNE (‘female messenger’) is an exceptional stressed native suffix.

The adjective epenBEER (‘public’) is an apparent counter-example to the generalisation that native suffixes are unstressed. The element -beer is from a word meaning ‘bare’ (cf. boarfouts ‘barefeet’), see Philippa e.a. 2003-2009. It has no connection to the suffix -beer and its Low German counterpart -boar (in e.g. tilbeer and tilboar ‘portable’).

The adjective gliekgultich (‘immaterial’) can be pronounced GLIEKgultich or gliekGULtich. It is a loan from High German (gleichgültig).

  • Fort, Marron Curtius. 2015. Saterfriesisches Wörterbuch. Hamburg: Buske.
  • Kramer, Pyt. 2010. Düütsk – Seeltersk. Woudelieste. (Self-published.)
  • M. Philippa, F. Debrabandere, A. Quak, T. Schoonheim en N. van der Sijs. 2003-2009. Etymologisch Woordenboek van het Nederlands, Amsterdam
    printreport errorcite