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Relative pronouns
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Relative pronouns are pronouns that introduce a relative clause like dy't efter my stietwho's standing behind me in example (a). As can be seen from the marked words in the example below, there are different types of relative pronouns. Some need a visible antecedent which they refer to - e.g. de manthe man in example (a) - while other relative pronouns can be used freely: dy't in example (e) and wa't in example (f).

Example 1

a. De man dy't efter my stiet, is âld
the man that.REL behind me stays is old
The man who's standing behind me is old
b. It hûs dat efter my stiet, is âld
the house that.REL behind me stays is old
The house where I live, is old
c. It hûs dêr't ik wenje, is âld
the house there.REL I live is old
The house where I live, is old
d. Alles wêr't ik fan hâld, haw ik dit jier dien
all where.REL I from love have I this year done
This year, I've done everything I love
e. De priis waard takend oan (dyjingen) dy't de measte punten hienen
the price became awarded to those.ones.DEM that.REL the most points had.PL
The price was awarded to those who had most points
f. Wa't dizze sin lêst, wit dat it antesedint net sichtber is
who.as this sentence reads knows that the antecedent not visible is
The one who reads this sentence, knows that the antecedent is invisible

In the sections below, the different relative pronouns will be compared with each other.

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[+] Dy and dat

Relative pronouns refer to an antecedent, which can be a person or an object or something else that can be expressed by a noun. The two most common forms are dy'tthat.REL.C.SG/PLthat and datthat.REL.N.SGthat. The distribution of these pronouns depends on the gender and number of their antecedent. In the example below, dy't is used for common gender singular nouns (a) and for all plural nouns (b and d) and dat appears with neuter singular nouns (c). Note that this distribution is comparable to what can be observed with respect to the demonstrative pronounsdy and dat.

Example 2

a. De man dy't efter my stiet, is âld
the man.C.SG that.REL.C.SG behind me stays is old
The man who stands behind me is old
b. De manlju dy't efter my steane, binne âld
the men.PL that.REL.PL behind me stay are old
The men who stand behind me are old
c. It hûs dat efter my stiet, is âld
the house.N.SG that.REL.N.SG behind me stays is old
The house that stands behind me is old
d. De huzen dy't efter my steane, binne âld
the houses.PL that.REL.PL behind me stay are old
The houses that stand behind me, are old

As can be seen from the following examples, dy't and dat are used as the basic relative pronouns, both as subject (a) and object (b):

Example 3

a. de man dy't it dien hie
the man that.REL it done had
the man who had done it
b. de man dy't ik sjoen ha
the man that.REL I seen have
the man whom I've seen
Example 4

a. it hynder dat it dien hie
the horse that.REL it doen had
the horse that had done it
b. it hynder dat ik sjoen ha
the horse that I seen have
the horse that I have seen

More information about the relative pronouns dy't and dat from a syntactic point of view can be found in the following topic: As NP argument of the verb.

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x The element 't

Dy't is a contraction of dythat.RELthat and the element 't, which can be considered a clitic form of the subordinating conjunction oftif or datthat. As can be seen in example (1), this conjunction is used in combination with more relative pronouns: wa'twho.RELwho, wêr'twhere.RELwhere and dêr'tthere.RELwhere. The use of 't is increasing; in the nineteenth century, for instance, it occurred less frequently Veen (1984-2011 part 25:118). In case of the second person singular, the inflectional ending -st is added: de man dy'tst sjoen hastthe man that.REL.2SG seen hasthe man whom you've seen. More information about the 't can be found here: Popkema (2006:203) and in the topic about inflection of conjunctions.

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x The dialect of Schiermonnikoog

The dialect of the island of Schiermonnikoog still displays a three gender system in nominals. This is also reflected in the forms of the relative pronouns. It can be summarized as follows:


Table 1
Number Gender Form
singular masculine dy('t)
feminine jò't
neuter dat
plural dà't

Compared to the other Frisian dialects, the remarkable forms consist of jò't and dà't. The former is derived from the Old Frisian feminine pronoun thio, the latter from Old Frisian plural thâ.

[+] Dat and wat

Normally, neuter objects are referred to by dat and not by wat:

Example 5

It park dat/*wat ik ynrûn, wie moai
the park that.REL/*what I in.walked, was beautiful
The park that I entered was beautiful

However, when allesall, everything, datthat, eatsomething or neatnothing is the antecedent, wat can be used too (see Popkema (2006:176) and Hoekstra (2002:74)):

Example 6

Alles wat/dat ik ha, is âld
all what.REL I have is old
All what I have, is old

In a construction like the following, wat is used as a free relative pronoun (a), while the relative dat is excluded in such a construction (b):

Example 7

a. (Dat) wat my leaf is, is myn fioele
(that.DEM) what.REL me dear is is my violin
What is dear to me is my violin
b. (Dat) *dat my leaf is, is myn fioele
(that.DEM) what.REL me dear is is my violin
What is dear to me is my violin

This issue is further discussed in the section on free relative pronouns.

A relative clause can also modify an entire sentence. In that case, dat and wat can be used; see also Hoekstra (2002:80) and Veen (1984-2011 part 3:337):

Example 8

a. Hy seit dat ik siik bin, wat/dat net sa is
he says that.REL I ill am what.REL/that.REL not so is
He says that I am ill, which isn't true
b. It reinde, wat/dat it waarberjocht oars net foarsein hie
it rained what.REL/that.REL the weatherforecast MOD not predicted had
It rained, which wasn't predicted by the weatherforecast

Finally, the relative pronomen dat may also be used in a construction in which it may refer to also non-neuter singular substantives or plural NPs, hence in contexts where otherwise the relative dy't is required:

Example 9

Joke en Truus dat sokke dogeneaten binne
Joke and Truus that such.a rascals are
Joke and Truus, who are such rascals

This, however, is only possible under certain conditions. The antecedent is preferably a noun, the relative clause is appositive and should contain a copular construction with the verb wêzeto be and a predicate noun that specifies a characteristic trait. It seems dat this relative construction has developed from or is related to a declarative, or rather exclamative, clause with an extraposed subject, cf.

Example 10

Joke en Truus, dat binne sokke dogeneaten!
Joke and Truus, that are such rascals
Joke and Truus are such great rascals
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x Literature

The use of dat in this construction has been noticed in Verdenius (1941). He also described its restrictions. See also Dyk and Hoekstra (1987:22-23).

[+] Dêr't en wêr't

When what is relativised can be considered an adverb of place, the relative pronoun is dêr't (Tiersma 1999:122). Two examples are given in (11). The pronoun dêr't can be used either for neuter nouns (it doarpthe village) or common nouns (de stêdthe city). The relative pronoun represents the entire presupposed prepositional phrase: respectively, yn it doarpin the village or yn de stêdin the city.

Example 11

a. It doarp dêr't ik wenje, is boud op in terp
the village there.REL I live, is built up a mound
The village where I live is built upon a mound
b. De stêd dêr't ik berne bin, is Ljouwert
the city there.REL I born am, is Ljouwert
The city where I was born is Ljouwert

The form dêr't tends to be replaced by wêr't, under Dutch influence. In free relatives the form wêr't is obligatory:

Example 12

a. Wêr't ik weikaam, wist ik net
where.REL I from.came, knew I not
I did not know where I came from
b. *Dêr't ik weikaam, wist ik net
there.REL I from.came, knew I not
I did not know where I came from
[+] Relative pronouns in combination with prepositions

In the case of prepositional objects, the choice of the relative pronouns changes. We already know that dy't is a common relative pronoun (13a), but in the case of a preposition wa't is used instead of dy't, see (13b) and (13c):

Example 13

a. De direkteur dy't ôfskied naam, krige in daverjend applaus
the director that.REL goodbye took, got a thunderous applause
The director who said goodbye got a thunderous applause
b. De direkteur *mei dy't
ik krekt praat hie...
the director with that.REL I just talked had
The director with whom I had just talked...
c. De direkteur mei wa't ik krekt praat hie...
the director with who.REL I just talked had
The director with whom I had just talked...

In combination with wa't the preposition has to be pied piped i.e. fronted (Hoekstra 2002:67):

Example 14

a. De direkteur mei wa't ik krekt praat hie...
the director with who.REL I just talked had
The director with whom I just had talked...
b. De direkteur *wa't ik krekt mei praat hie...
the director who.REL I with just talked had
The director with whom I just had talked...

An alternative for the contruction consisting of P + wa't is the use of a pronominal adverb, also called R-pronoun. It consists of the particle dêrthere plus the preposition. Here, pied piping is excluded, as is generally the case with pronominal adverbs in Frisian. This is shown in (15):

Example 15

a. De direkteur dêr't ik krekt mei praat hie...
the director there.REL I just with talked had
The director with whom I had just talked...
b. De direkteur *dêrmei't ik krekt praat hie...
the director there.REL I just with talked had
The director with whom I had just talked...

This wa't can be only used for persons but not for objects or animals:

Example 16

a. De frou mei wa't ik winkele hie
the woman with who.REL I shopped had
The woman with whom I had shopped
b. *De bal mei wa't ik boarte hie
the ball with who.REL I played had
The ball I had played with
c. *De hûn mei wa't ik in ein rûn hie
the dog with who.REL I an end walked had
The dog I went for a walk with

The construction with a pronominal adverb is the only alternative available to form a relative clause in such cases:

Example 17

a. De bal dêr't ik mei boarte hie
the ball there.REL I with played had
The ball I had played with
b. De hûn dêr't ik in ein mei rûn hie
the dog there.REL I a distance with walked had
The dog that I had walked with for some distance
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x Dutch influence

Under the influence of Dutch (see relative pronouns in Dutch), the w-form (wêr't instead of dêr't) is increasingly used De Haan (2001:183-184), for instance:

Example 18

(Dutch: )
*It fleantúch wêr't ik op wachte...
Het vliegtuig waar ik op wachtte
the plane where.REL I on waited
The plane which I waited for...

Furthermore, pied piping is preferred in Dutch. This construction may sometimes be heard in Frisian, too:

Example 19

(Dutch: )
*It fleantúch wêrop't ik wachte...
Het vliegtuig waarop ik wachtte
the plane where.REL.on I waited
The plane which I waited for...

Pied piping is generally disapproved by prescriptive grammarians, see Hoekstra (2001) and Gosses (1948:130). Only if the distance between the pronoun and the preposition becomes too large do pied piped w-forms tend to be accepted, as noted in Tamminga (1963:132,171) and Popkema (2006:202). For these issues, see also the syntactic topic on relative clauses as prepositional complement.

[+] Possessive heads

Possessive constructions can be relativised as well. There are four ways to do this, as shown in (20) (cf. also Hoekstra (2002:70)):

Example 20

a. It famke, [waans mem] ferstoarn is
the girl whose.POS mother died is
The girl whose mother died
b. It famke, [dy har mem] ferstoarn is
the girl that.DEM her mother died is
The girl whose mother died
c. It famke fan wa't de mem ferstoarn is
the girl from who the mother died is
The girl whose mother died
d. It famke, dêr't de mem fan stoarn is
the girl there.REL the mother of died is
The girl whose mother died

In (a) the possessive form of the interrogative pronoun (wa > waans) is used as a relative and it is pied piped. In (b) a periphrastic possessive construction is used: dy har mem; here, the demonstrative dy is used as relative pronoun. In (c) and (d) prepositional possessives (fan) are used. They show the same possibilities as prepositional objects, see dêr't en wêr't.

[+] Free relative pronouns

Most of the times the antecedent which the relative pronouns refer to is visible, like de kollegathe colleague in (21a), but there are also relative clauses that have no visible antecedent. In these relative clauses the antecedent is included within the relative pronoun; examples can be found in (b) and (c) below. In order to refer to persons, one can either choose dy't or wa't.

Example 21

a. De kollega dy't de measte artikels skreaun hie, krige de priis
they colleague that.REL the most articles written had, got the price
The colleague who had written the greatest number of articles won the price
b. De priis waard takend oan dy't/wa't de measte artikels skreaun hienen
the price became awarded to that.REL the most articles written had.PL
The price was awarded to those who had written the greatest number of articles
c. Dy't/Wa't dizze sin lêst, wit dat it antesedint net sichtber is
that.REL/who.REL this sentence reads, knows that the antecedent not visible is
Those who read this text know that the antecedent is invisible

In other cases there is no choice between the form of an interrogative or demonstrative pronoun. The example below shows that only wat can be used as a free relative pronoun and not the demonstrative dat:

Example 22

Wat/*dat er docht, hoech ik net te witten
what.REL he does need I not to know
I do not need to know what he's doing

A relative clause can also be preceded by an unspecified head as in the English expressions that which for objects and (s)he who or those who for persons. In such cases, an article (dethe.C.SG or itthe.N.SG) or a demonstrative (datthat.DEM.N.SG or dythat.DEM.C.SG/PL) in combination with -jinge(n) occurs. The examples in (23) show that itjinge/itselde dat and wat are interchangeable.

Example 23

a. Wat er docht, hoech ik net te witten
what.REL he does, need I not to know
I do not need to know what he's doing
b. Itjinge dat er docht, hoech ik net te witten
the.one that.REL he does, need I not to know
I do not need to know that which (or: what) he's doing

The use of the form -jinge is mainly restricted to written language in a formal style. Much more common as unspecified head is the demonstrative dat. In this case the relative form is wat, in order to avoid a sequence of two identical words:

Example 24

Dat wat / *dat dat er docht, hoech ik net te witten
that.DEM what.REL he does, need I not to know
I do not need to know what he's doing

If persons are concerned, the relative forms dy't and wa't are interchangeable, as has been stated above. However, this is not the case anymore when the relative is preceded by an article or demonstrative followed by -jinge or -selde; then only dy't is possible:

Example 25

a. Dejinge/Deselde dy't/*wa't meidien hat, hat in priis wûn
the.one.DEM that.REL/who.REL participated has, has a price won
(S)he who has participated has won a price
b. Dyjingen/Dyselden dy't/*wa't meidien hawwe, hawwe allegear in priis wûn
the.ones.DEM that.REL/who.REL participated have, have all a price won
Those who have participated have all won a price

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x Exclamations

The relative pronoun can also be used in a sentence without a complete antecedent clause in the case of exclamations like: aap dy'tst/datst bist!monkey that.REL are.2SGfool!Popkema (2006:301). More information about this type of exclamations can be found in Hoekstra (1987).

References:
  • Dyk, Siebren and Hoekstra, Jarich1987Ta de Fryske syntaksisFryske Akademy
  • Gosses, Godard1948Flaters en forsinnen?It Beaken10129-131
  • Haan, Germen J. de2001Grammar of Modern West-FrisianUniversity of Groningen
  • Hoekstra, Eric2001Wêryn't, wêrby'tFriesch Dagblad30-06Taalgenoat en taalgeniet 22
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1987Stjonkert datst biste!Friesch Dagblad07-11Taalsnipels 52
  • Hoekstra, Jarich2002Relativisation in FrisianPoussa, Patricia (ed.)Relativisation on the North Sea littoralMuenchen63-76
  • Hoekstra, Jarich2002Relativisation in FrisianPoussa, Patricia (ed.)Relativisation on the North Sea littoralMuenchen63-76
  • Hoekstra, Jarich2002Relativisation in FrisianPoussa, Patricia (ed.)Relativisation on the North Sea littoralMuenchen63-76
  • Hoekstra, Jarich2002Relativisation in FrisianPoussa, Patricia (ed.)Relativisation on the North Sea littoralMuenchen63-76
  • Popkema, Jan2006Grammatica FriesUtrecht/ LjouwertUitgeverij Het Spectrum BV Prisma Woordenboeken en Taaluitgaven/ Fryske Akademy
  • Popkema, Jan2006Grammatica FriesUtrecht/ LjouwertUitgeverij Het Spectrum BV Prisma Woordenboeken en Taaluitgaven/ Fryske Akademy
  • Popkema, Jan2006Grammatica FriesUtrecht/ LjouwertUitgeverij Het Spectrum BV Prisma Woordenboeken en Taaluitgaven/ Fryske Akademy
  • Popkema, Jan2006Grammatica FriesUtrecht/ LjouwertUitgeverij Het Spectrum BV Prisma Woordenboeken en Taaluitgaven/ Fryske Akademy
  • Tamminga, Douwe Annes1963Op 'e taelhelling. Losse trochsneden fan Frysk taellibben. IBoalsertA.J. Osinga
  • Tiersma, Pieter M1999Frisian Reference GrammarAfûk, Ljouwert
  • Veen, Klaas F. van der et al1984-2011Wurdboek fan de Fryske taal - Woordenboek der Friese taalFryske Akademy
  • Veen, Klaas F. van der et al1984-2011Wurdboek fan de Fryske taal - Woordenboek der Friese taalFryske Akademy
  • Verdenius, Andries A1941Een onveranderlijk relatief 'dat'De Nieuwe Taalgids35108-116
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