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2.1.2 Gender and case

Saterland Frisians distinguishes three grammatical genders: masculine, feminine and neuter. All nouns are specified for gender. It has two cases: nominative and oblique.


Gender is generally unpredictable. There is no morphological or semantic rule behind the fact that (die) Punkt ‘point’ is masculine, (ju) Oarbaid is feminine and (dät) Klood ‘dress’ is neuter. However, there are some tendencies to be observed. Feminine nouns often end in a schwa, e.g. ju Siede ‘side’. Underived nouns ending in -em, -en, -el or -er are often masculine, e.g. die Bäizem ‘broom’, die Touden ‘tower’, die Moantel ‘cloak’, die Reger ‘heron’. There are, however, exceptions, e.g. ju Biebel ‘bible’ and ju Wuttel ‘carrot’.

Nouns denoting people usually follow their biological gender, especially when they refer to relatives or agents. The same is true of explicitly male or female animals. For example:

ju Mäme ‘mother’, die Bäbe ‘father’, die Smid ‘blacksmith’, die Kening ‘king’, ju Keninginne ‘queen’, die Bakker ‘baker’, ju Bakkerske ‘baker’s wife’, ju Säister ‘needlewoman’, die Düütske ‘German (man)’, ju Düütske ‘German (woman)’; ju Ku ‘cow’, die Hone ‘rooster’, ju Hanne ‘hen’

Famous counterexamples are: dät Wucht ‘girl’, dät Wieuw ‘woman’, dät Moanske ‘the woman’ and their compounds.

Nouns denoting small people or animals are usually neuter, e.g. dät Bäiden ‘child’, dät Farich ‘piglet’, dät Kolich ‘calf’. Likewise, diminutives are neuter, e.g. dät Känken ‘small can, jug’, plural do Känkene. (Some nouns denoting small animals, however, are feminine, although they look like diminutives, e.g. ju Wiezelke ‘weasle’, ju Miegelke ‘ant’; plural do Wiezelken, do Miegelken).

The gender of proper names is often predictable. Person names follow their biological gender, e.g. (die) oolde Hinnerk ‘old Henry’. The names of the months are masculine: die Januoar, die Feber etc. Most river names are feminine, especially local river names: ju Wezer ‘Weser’, ju Äi ‘Sater-Ems’, ju Oamze ‘Ems’ etc. Language names are neuter, e.g. dät Seeltersk ‘Saterland Frisian’. Geographical names (i.e. those which lack an article by nature) are neuter by default: dät oolde Jeruzalem ‘ancient Jerusalem’. (But also: in de Bround ‘in Hollenbrand’, because the village of Hollenbround ‘Hollenbrand’ is also called die Bround in Saterland Frisian.)

Simplex tree names are feminine, e.g. ju Danne ‘pine’, ju Eke ‘oak’, ju Päppel ‘poplar’. Names of seasons are masculine, e.g. die Sumer ‘sommer’. Weekdays are also masculine, e.g. die Moundai ‘Monday’, die Midwiek ‘Wednesday’.

Nominalised infinitives are neuter: dät Eedgreeuwen ‘turf extraction’.

Agent nouns suffixed by -er or -ker are masculine and usually refer to men (e.g. die Moaker ‘the maker’, die Iemker ‘the bee keeper’). Agent nouns in -ske or -in are feminine and refer to women (e.g. ju Bakkerske ‘the baker’s wife’). Abstract nouns in -(k)aid, -else, -enge and -te are feminine (e.g. ju Fjurigaid ‘inflammation’, ju Ferskienelse ‘appearance’, ju Delenge ‘division’, ju Bratte ‘broadth’). Abstract nouns ending in -sel are neuter (e.g. dät Skäpsel ‘creature’). See also: derivation. Deverbal nouns ending in /t/ are feminine: ju Jacht ‘hunting’.

Suffixless deverbal nouns are usually masculine. This group includes in the first place deverbal nouns created by zero conversion, e.g. die Loop ‘walk’, die Besluut ‘decision’, die Ferbruuk ‘consumption’. There are some exceptions, e.g. dät Ferdäk ‘deck’ and dät Ferblieuw ‘residence, stay’. Another subgroup consists of nouns created by ablaut. They are masculine, too, e.g. die Sproang ‘jump’, die Skot ‘shot’.

Deverbal nouns prefixed by ge- are neuter, e.g. dät Gebaal ‘talking’.

Semantic factors sometimes overrule or compete with formal gender assignment: die Slunshäkke ‘slob’ is masculine, though ju Häkke ‘heel’ is feminine. Conversely, die Bruller ‘mooing cow’ is grammatically masculine, although it refers to a female animal.

[+]Case (nouns)

Saterland Frisian has only two cases: nominative and oblique. Remnants of an obsolete genitive case are visible in the lexicon (e.g. smäidens ‘in the morning’, Bäidensbäiden ‘grandchild, Jans Jikkel ‘John’s coat’ etc.).

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