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-ske
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The unproductive suffix -ske is used to derive female nouns on the basis of nouns denoting a profession, or more broadly speaking, a certain function in society. The suffix then derives its female counterpart. An example is foarsitterchairman > foarsitterskechairwoman. Another possible meaning is 'spouse'. A domineeske, then, can not only mean a female minister, but also the wife of the minister. The suffix is unproductive and tends to get obsolete; derivations are felt to belong to old-fashioned language.

Other suffixes that derive female nouns are -e, -esse, -inne and -ster. Note also the suffix -e that derives female inhabitant names on the basis of an adjective, however.

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[+] General properties

Originally, derivations with -ske refer to the wife of the person denoted by the base form. A second meaning is to refer to the female counterpart of the person who is denoted by the base form. Thus the derivations can be ambiguous. Examples are listed below:

Table 1
Base form Derivation
masterteacher masterskefemale teacher; wife of a teacher
dokterdoctor dokterskefemale doctor; wife of a doctor
siktarissecretary siktariskefemale secretary; wife of a secretary
foarsitterchairman foarsitterskechairwoman; wife of a chariman
kastleininnkeeper kastleinskefemale innkeeper; wife of an innkeeper
smidsmith smidskefemale smith; wife of a smith
kostersexton kosterskefemale sexton; wife of a sexton
skippermaster of a ship skipperskefemale skipper; wife of a skipper
notarisnotary notariskefemale notary; wife of a notary
The interpretation of a female profession name is available in all derivations with -ske. This does not apply to the meaning wife of ... For example, if one encounters forms like hierdersketenant-SUFF or eignerskeowner-SUFF in a legal text, these terms can only refer to a female tenant or owner.
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x Exceptions

As Tamminga (1973:54-57) notes, two derivations do not have a profession as base form. These are kammeraatskefemale companion from kammeraatcompanion and snoarskesister in law from snoarsister in law. The last example is very rare in modern Frisian; it is an outsider anyhow, since the base snoar and the derived form snoarske both have the same meaning. The derivation can therefore be seen as tautologic.

[+] Syntactic properties

Derivations with the meaning wife of .. have the special property that they are only used as proper names; they therefore never occur with an article. The example below shows the difference in meaning between derivations without an article (a) and with an article (b):

Example 1

a. Kosterske moat tsjerkehimmelje
sexton-SUFF must church-clean
The wife of the sexton must clean the church
b. De kosterske moat tsjerkehimmelje
the sexton-SUFF must church-clean
The female sexton must clean the church

Originally, derivations with -ske had common gender, the accompanying definite article being dethe. However, as an effect of having its last two segments pronounced as /kə/, the suffix -ske often became reinterpreted as a diminutive, especially as a manifestation of its allomorph -ke. Due to this, derivations in -ske are also preceded by the neuter article itthe. For example, one can encounter de foarsitterskethe chairwoman next to it foarsitterskethe chairwoman, or de hierderskethe female tenant and it hierderskethe female tenant.

[+] Phonological properties

The suffix is pronounced as [skə]. In derivations with -ske the stress remains on the base, for example in MASterskefemale teacher, wife of a teacher). Accentuation of the suffix is impossible anyhow, since its vowel is a schwa, which can never be stressed (see schwa restriction).

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x Origin

According to Hoekstra (1998:92), the suffix -ske originates from metanalysis of transposed lexicalized inflected adjectives ending with the suffix -e, like Sieuskewoman from Seeland, or DeenskeDanish woman, both denoting female persons. In turn, these female inhabitant names derive from geographical adjectives formed from geographic nouns with the help of the suffix -sk. So, DeenskeDanish woman derives from the adjective DeenskDanish, which is related to DeenDane. The original combination of the two suffixes -sk plus -e would have been reanalyzed, then, as one suffix -ske.

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x Literature

This topic is primarily based on Hoekstra (1998:92). The most extensive treatment is Tamminga (1973:54-57). Some examples can also be found in Tsjepkema (1969:215), although he is wrong in categorizing the suffix as a diminutive.

References:
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
  • Tamminga, Douwe Annes1973Op 'e taelhelling. Losse trochsneden fan Frysk taellibben. IIA.J. Osinga
  • Tamminga, Douwe Annes1973Op 'e taelhelling. Losse trochsneden fan Frysk taellibben. IIA.J. Osinga
  • Tsjepkema, Hotze1969ForlytsingDe Pompeblêdden: tydskrift foar Fryske stúdzje40213-218
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