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poer-
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The prefix poer- is very productive in Frisian. It creates adjectives out of adjectives, and has an intensifying function. Examples are lilkangry > poerlilkvery angry and drokbusy > poerdrokvery busy. The prefix has some exceptional properties. In a couple of cases, it allows for degrammaticalization, but also for further expansion by infixation. Phonologically, final /r/ is not subject to deletion.

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[+] General properties

The prefix poer- is very productive in Frisian. It forms adjectives out of adjectives. Its function is one of intensification. Examples of derivations with poer- are given below:


Table 1
Base form Derivation
razendfurious poerrazendvery furious
swartblack poerswartcompletely black
tsjusterdark poertsjustercompletely dark
neakennaked poerneakencompletely naked
allinnealone poerallinneall alone
mâlcrazy poermâlvery crazy
senuweftichnervous poersenuweftichvery nervous
gesellichcosy poergesellichvery cosy
tafallichaccidental poertafallichcompletely accidental
bangscared poerbangvery scared
benaudanxious poerbenaudvery anxious
bêstwell poerbêstvery well
minbad poerminvery bad
droechdry poerdroechvery dry
fetfat poerfetvery fat
gekcrazy poergekcompletely bonkers
ferlegenshy poerferlegenvery shy
frjemdstrange poerfrjemdvery strange
wyldwild poerwyldvery wild
gleonevil poergleonvery evil
sljochtcrazy poersljochtvery crazy
sterkstrong poersterkvery strong
geskiktpleasant poergeskiktvery pleasant
[+] Grammaticalization and degrammaticalization

Etymologically, the prefix is probably related to French pur. The Frisian dictionaries categorize poer as an adverb. In the same vein, Sipma (1949:59) considers combinations of poer plus adjective as compounds. However, it appears that poer does not occur independently as an adverb in Frisian when it has an intensifying meaning. The only cases that could stand as counterexamples are expressions like poer op 'e romtepure in the spaceon the outskirts and poer derop tsjinpure there.on againstcompletely against it, where poer modifies an Adposition Phrase (PP). These PPs are strongly idiomatic, however, and can therefore be regarded as one word. The conclusion must be that poer grammaticalized to a prefix.

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Comparison with Dutch

The Dutch equivalent for poer is puur. This word, in contrast, occurs independently as in examples like puur toevalpure coincidencepurely accidental, puur goudpure goldpure gold and pure chocoladepure chocolatedark chocolate. In Frisian poer may not be used in such cases. Possible alternatives are klearebare tafalpure coincidencepurely accidental, suver goudpure goldpure gold and bittere sûkeladebitter chocolatedark chocolate.

In a few cases, however, we may also observe a movement in a different direction, as a result of which the prefix turns up as an independent word, i.e as an adjective (which, however, only may be used predicatively). We could characterize this development as an instance of degrammaticalization. An example is given below:

Example 1

Hja waard poer, doe't ik dat tsjin har sei
she became angry when I that against her said
She became angry when I told her that

In this example, poer should be considered as an elliptic form of poerlilkvery furious or poerrazendidem.

Degrammaticalized poer also appears in examples like the following, although with a different meaning:

Example 2

a. Hy wie poer mei har
he was crazy with her
He was crazy about her
b. De bern binne poer om iis
the children are crazy about ice
The children want to have ice-cream very badly

In the (a)-example, we may assume an elliptic form of poermâlquite crazy. The (b)-example rather points to an abbreviation of poersljochtidem.

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On the status of poerlik

In the light of the discussion above it is interesting to observe that poer has also been suffixed to poerlikcompletely, with the help of the suffix -lik. It seems reasonable to suppose that this occurred in the stadium that poer had not yet grammaticalized to a prefix. The derivation poerlik is used as an intensifying adverb. Examples are poerlike neakencompletely naked and poerlike frjemdcompletely strange (both with an emphatic suffix-e).

[+] Further intensification by reduplication

As with other intensifying prefixes, further intensification can be performed by reduplication. Both occurrences of the prefix are concatenated by the conjunction enand, for instance in poer-en-poerneakencompletely naked. However, in most cases the historical form ende is preferred. We then get formations like poer-ende-poerswartcompletely black, poer-ende-poerfrjemdextremely strange or poer-ende-poertsjusterextremely dark, to mention a few.

[+] Further intensification by infixation

The prefix poer- is one of those few elements that allow infixation. Its function is to even further intensify the adjectival base. Examples are poergleongekextremely crazy, poergekhastichextremely hasty and poerstrontmâlextremely angry. An alternative analysis would be that the prefix poer- is attached to complex adjectives. The possibly presumed base forms *gleongek, *gekhastich and *strontmâl are ungrammatical, however, and therefore formations like poer-gleon-gek cannot be analyzed as being prefixed by poer-. Instead, one may assume that the existing forms poergekvery crazy, poerhastichvery hasty and poermâlcompletely crazy act as base, and that the elements -gleon-, -gek- and -stront- have been added as infixes. See the topic on infixation for more information.

[+] Phonological properties

The prefix poer- is pronounced as [pu.ər]. As an exception, the final /r/ is not subject to R-deletion. Stress always falls on the prefix: POERswart, POERbêst, POERsterk.

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Literature

This topic is based on Hoekstra (1998:73-74) and Hoekstra (1991). In both publications, the author extensively argues for poer- having the status of a prefix.

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x Literature

This topic is based on Hoekstra (1998:73-74) and Hoekstra (1991). In both publications, the author extensively argues for poer- having the status of a prefix.

References:
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1991Poer op 'e romteFriesch Dagblad18-05Taalsnipels 185
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
  • Sipma, Pieter1949Ta it Frysk IIR. van der Velde, Ljouwert
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