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The suffix -s derives adverbs from nouns indicating a period of time, for example: wykein weekend > wykeins in the weekend or wike week > wyks in every week. The suffix has different semantic effects depending on the role of the base noun in the division of time. If the time period is, so to say, inherently followed by itself, then the derivation has a distributive meaning. An example wike week in trije kear wyks three times a week. Discontinuous concepts, on the other hand, invoke a categorial meaning, for example in moarns in the morning, in general.

These derivations with -s may also be used in a construction with a specific meaning. In this case, they must be preceded by a definite article or a demonstrative pronoun. Examples are de jûns on that evening or dy maaies in that month of May. This construction may also show pre- and postnominal modifiers. Furthermore, to a certain extent the suffix is optional in this construction, and also shows some dialectical variation.

[+]General properties

The suffix -s, historically derived from the genitive, can be added to nouns indicating a period of time, resulting in adverbs of time. The relevant nouns are the units oere hour, dei day, wike week, jier year and - although rare - ieu century. The form *moannes, from moanne month, does not exist. Also involved are parts of the day, like moarn morning, the days of the week, like snein sunday, moandei monday etc., and the parts of the year, like maitiid spring, simmer summer and the like. Relevant time periods that themselves are not part of the time system are skoft pause and miel meal. Of the names of the months, only maaie May is involved. Some examples are given in the table below:

Table 1
Base form Derivation
middei afternoon middeis in the afternoon
freed Friday freeds on Friday
maitiid spring maitiids in the spring
simmer summer simmers in the summer
krysttiid Christmas time krysttiids during Christmas time
jûn evening jûns in the evening
nacht night nachts at night
tiisdei Tuesday tiisdeis on Tuesday
The allomorph -mis

Instead of *hjersts in the autumn (< hjerst autumn) one finds hjerstmis with the suffix -mis [məs], which can be interpreted as an allomorph of -s. It possibly emerged from Old Frisian mêl time plus -s, compare German Mal and Dutch maal. According to Hoekstra (1989:3), this allomorph is selected to avoid the improper sequence /sts/. For the phonological background, see Visser (1993).

Adverbial derivations with -s seem to be productive, although the group of bases to which it can be added is limited. However, if a new noun indicating a period of time were to be introduced, an adverbial derivation with -s is presumably possible. This is shown by the relatively recently formed concept wykein weekend, which allows derivation with -s in the form wykeins in the weekend.

[+]Semantic properties

The semantic effect of attachment of the suffix depends on the question as to whether the base noun denotes a continuous time period or not. The noun wike week, for instance, is continuous: after a week is finished, we get another week. Comparable concepts are oere hour and jier year. The word dei day also falls in this category if it means 'twenty-four hours'. However, dei is ambiguous as it can also mean 'part of the day when it is light'. In this meaning, then, the concept is discontinuous, since it is inevitably followed by the night. It appears that most words for periods of time denote discontinuous concepts. This applies to parts of the day, parts of the year and the names of days of the week.

Derivations of nouns denoting a discontinuous time period have a generic meaning. An adverb like moarns means something like 'in the morning in general', as in hy yt moarns Brinta he eats Brinta every morning.

Such a reading is not available for continuous time spans, as this would boil down to some vague as 'always'. In contrast, derivations like wyks week-SUFF get a distributional meaning, simply translated as 'per N'. Examples are given in (1)-(2):

Halbe giet wyks twa kear te tennisjen
Halbe goes week-SUFF two times to tennis
Halbe is playing tennis twice a week
Nim trije pil-tsje-s deis
take three pill-DIM-PL day-SUFF
Take three pills a daily

Other examples are dei day > fiif tillefoantjes deis five phone calls a day, jier year > ien kear jiers once a year and oere hour > hûndert kilometer oers one-hundred kilometres an hour.

Spans outside the time system

As noted, some adverbs are derived from nouns that are not part of the units that divide the time axis. Examples are miel meal > miels a meal and skoft pause > skofts during a part of the day. Although such words denote a definite concept which is limited to the time the event lasts, there is no contrast with the time that the event does not occur, in contrast to words denoting a discontinuous period of time. For example, after hjerst autumn we enter the season winter winter, but after miel meal there is not a specific event that has to follow. After a meal we inevitably get another meal, even though there might be some time in between. As a result, such words behave in the same way as those that denote a continuous period of time:

Afke skylde fyftich jirpels miels
Afke peeled fifty potatoes meal-SUFF
Afke peeled fifty potatoes for every meal
[+]Construction with a determiner

Almost all mentioned forms with -s can also occur in a construction with a determiner. This determiner is either the definite article or a demonstrative pronoun. For example, we both have de moarns the morning-SUFF and dy moarns that morning. Excluded from this construction is the unit oere hour, i.e. we do not have *dy oers. Also excluded are the nouns denoting a concept that is not part of the system that divides the time axis, such as miel meal and skoft pause. Hence, we also do not find *it miels or *it skofts. On the other hand, the word kear time is allowed.

Compared to the derivations dealt with above, these constructions show a significant difference in meaning. Where, for example, moarns usually means 'in the morning, in general', de moarns refers to a specific morning. The difference is illustrated in the pairs (4) and (5):

Hy dronk moarns / *de moarns altiten twa bakjes kofje
he drank morning-SUFF / the morning-SUFF always two cups coffee
In the morning, he always drank two cups of coffee
De gearkomste begjint *jûns / de jûns om acht oere
the meeting begins evening-SUFF / the evening-SUFF at eight hour
The meeting begins at eight o'clock that evening

In example (4), the event of drinking coffee is valid for all mornings, so there cannot be a specific morning which is singled out, which makes *de moarns inappropriate. On the other hand, an individual meeting in the example in (5) has to occur on a specific time, which implies that *jûns can not be applied.

This construction with a determiner can be extended by modifiers, prenominally by ordinals and words like selde same, foarich last and oar next. The choice of postnominal modifiers is even freeer. These modifiers can help to mark the event on the time axis. For example, selde same is typically used to express simultaneity.

The status of the suffix -s in this construction is not the same as the -s of the expressions dealt with earlier in this topic. Here are some differences:

  • Where in the bare adverbials we only saw a suffix -s, here one can find dialectical variation. That is, the suffixes -es or -e also occur. Example are de moarnes, de fredes and de moarne, de frede (from moarn morning and freed friday, respectively). Next to these forms, also de moarns and de freeds occur.
  • There is variation among speakers in using the suffix in some specific combinations, for instance in it foarige jier(s) last year or dy kear(s) that time.
  • The suffix combines with a phrase.
Possible analyses

The optionality of the suffix and the fact that the suffix is added to a phrase leads Hoekstra (1989:29-31) to the proposal to consider the suffix an adverbial augment, and to subsume it under the suffix -s that marks adverbials.

However, it is questionable whether both elements are identical. For one thing, the variation in this temporal construction is restricted: the choice not to use -s is for example not open if the temporal noun is preceded by the definite article: de freeds that friday versus *de freed. Secondly, with respect to the adverbial -s, we do not see the dialectical variation with the endings -es and -e. And perhaps most importantly, although the adverbial -s may indeed combine with combinations of words that could be interpreted as phrases, one never finds determiners in such phrases. For example, there is an adverb bûten-dyk-s outside-dike-SUFF at the outer side of the dike, but not *bûten-de-dyk-s, with an overt definite article de.

Therefore, it might be advisable to give the suffix -s in expressions like de freeds that Friday or dy middeis a separate status. This could be done analyzing it as an example of construction-dependent morphology. In that case the use of the determiner is no problem, as affixes in construction-dependent morphology can be combined with full syntactic phrases.

[+]Phonological properties

In case the base form ends in schwa, the schwa is truncated before -s, for example wike week > wyks and oere hour > oers. The form moarns in the morning shows breaking, nasalization and subsequent lengthening, resulting in [mwã:s].

The suffix -s can be assumed to be /z/ underlyingly. This comes to light when the adverbs of time are used adjectively, and then receive an inflectional schwa. For instance, sneins Sundays can be used in sneinze klean cloths to wear on Sunday. This is opposed to deize klean cloths to wear during midweek, from deis daily. Another indication is a conversion of the noun sneon Saturday to a verb like sneonzje Saturday-SUFF-INF do the work typical for a Saturday.


The seminal paper on this subject is Hoekstra (1989). A good summary can be found in Hoekstra (1998:157-160). A first impression of the field was given in Tamminga (1973:60-62). He also calls attention for the allomorphs -es and -e. The etymology of the allomorph -mis is discussed in Buma (1974).

  • Buma, Wybren J1974Nijfrysk hjerstmisUs Wurk2382-84
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1989Bywurden fan tiid op -sTydskrift foar Fryske Taalkunde51-32
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1989Bywurden fan tiid op -sTydskrift foar Fryske Taalkunde51-32
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1989Bywurden fan tiid op -sTydskrift foar Fryske Taalkunde51-32
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
  • Tamminga, Douwe Annes1973Op 'e taelhelling. Losse trochsneden fan Frysk taellibben. IIA.J. Osinga
  • Visser, Willem1993In kwestje fan haastjen: oer hoe't yn it Frysk de sekwinsjes -sts en -tj mijd wurdeTydskrift foar Fryske Taalkunde8123-130
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