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The suffix -ber derives adjectives from verbs; examples are telle to count > telber countable and wurkje to work > wurkber workable. Adjectives ending in -ber generally refer to possibilities and potentialities; their general meaning can be described as "possible to be {verb}-ed" or "able to {verb}". The different semantic aspects correlate with the transitivity of the base and the semantics of the verbal arguments.

The suffixes -ber and -lik are sometimes interchangeable; to a certain extent they are in competition with each other. The suffix -ber is more productive than -lik.

There are a few -ber derivations based on a noun.

[+]General and semantic properties

The suffix -ber forms adjectives from verbs. In the case of transitive verbs the process is productive, but this is not the case with ergative and intransitive verbs. The meaning of the -ber-adjectives is "possible to be {verb}-ed" (passive) with transitive verbs, and "able to {verb}" (active) with ergative and intransitive verbs. The base form can consist of simple verbs, prefixed verbs or compounds. Examples with a transitive base are given in the table below:

Table 1
Base Derivation
ite to eat ytber edible
lêze to read lêsber readable
drage to carry draachber portable
tille to lift tilber liftable
mjitte to measure mjitber measurable
kontrolearje to inspect kontrolearber verifiable
betelje to pay betelber affordable
ferstelle to adjust ferstelber adjustable
fernimme to learn fernimber noticeable
oplosse to dissolve oplosber dissolvable
ôfliede to lead away (from) ôfliedber derivable
útfiere to do útfierber doable
talitte to permit talitber permissible
Here are some examples with ergative and intransitive verbs as their base:
Table 2
Base Derivation
floeie to flow floeiber liquid
ûntploffe to explode ûntplofber explosive
libje/leve to live leefber liveable
In all likelihood, however, the word leefber liveable is a direct loan from Dutch.

There is a separate group of -ber suffixes with an ergative or intransive verb of movement, for example: gean to go > geanber passable, wenje to live > wenber liveable, ride to drive > rydber driveable and farre to sail > farber navigable. These derivations have a passive meaning instead of the expected active meaning. The noun to which the derivations are predicated is a place designation. Examples are in geanbere wei a passable road and in in wenber hûs a liveable house. All these forms also occur with the prefix be-: begeanber passable, bewenber habitable, befarber navigable, berydber passable.

Some -ber adjectives have a slightly idiosyncratic meaning, e.g. betelber payable, affordable whose literary meaning payable is superseded by the conventionalized meaning affordable.

The suffix -ber attaches to native bases. A suffix in the non-native stratum that has comparable properties is -abel.

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Use of -ber

Derivations with -ber were historically not very common in Frisian. They belonged to the more formal written language. The use of -ber in the oral language is gaining ground in modern Frisian, however. Instead of a -ber derivation, a modal passive construction with a te to infinitive is invoked frequently. Compare Dutch het boek was onvindbaar the book was untraceable the book was untraceable with Frisian it boek wie net te finen the book was not to find the book was untraceable.

[+]Phonological properties

Adjectives derived with -ber [bər] are usually stressed on the last syllable before the suffix, which means that polysyllabic bases with initial stress are assigned a new stress pattern. To give an example: the stress is on the first syllable in the verb TAlitte permit, but it moves to the second syllable in the derived adjective taLITber permissible. This regularity holds for all particle verbs, in contrast to prefixed verbs which keep their stress pattern (e.g. wjerLIZZE disapprove > wjerLISber disapprovable).

[+]Morphological potential

Adjectives ending in -ber can be negated with the prefix ûn-, for example: tankber grateful > ûntankber ungrateful. Some -ber-adjectives beginning with the negative prefix ûn- seem to lack a positive form without this prefix. For example: *skeinber > ûnskeinber inviolable, *misber > ûnmisber indispensible, *kearber > ûnkearber irresistible, *ûntkomber escapable > ûnûntkomber inescapable and *bedimber > ûnbedimber uncontrollable. Negated forms inherit the particular semantics of their base: ytber edible often means pleasant to eat rather than possible to eat; consequently, ûnytber not edible usually means impossible to eat rather than unsafe to eat. However, to express negation, a syntactic infinitival construction is preferred. Hence, instead of it is ûnytber one would rather say: it is net te iten it is not to eat it is not edible.

The formations can be nominalized with the suffixes -ens (ûntankberens ingratitude) and -heid (lêsber readable > lêsberheid readability).

[+]Competition between -ber and -lik

The suffixes -ber and -lik, which both have a verb as their base, share the same semantic meaning: "tending to carry out the action referred to in the verb stem". It appears that adjectives ending in -lik generally refer to permanently operative properties, whereas those in -ber refer to possibilities and potentialities. This is illustrated with the following two words, beweechber and beweechlik. Beweechber means 'it can be moved, but it does not need to' and beweechlik rather means 'constantly on the move'. The derivation with -lik can have different gradations: tige beweechlik very active or te beweechlik too active. The use of gradations in derivations with -ber is questionable: ?tige beweechber ?very moveable or ?te beweechber ?too moveable.

In brekke to break > brekber breakable, however, it is possible to use a gradation, as is shown in the example below:

Example 1

Dy faas is tige brekber
that vase is very breakable
That vase is very breakable
In djoer servys is neat foar my, dat is my te brekber
an expensive service is nothing for me, that is me too breakable
I do not dare to have an expensive service, that is way too breakable, and I am afraid I would break it

This behaviour is understandable since the meaning of the formation brekber has evolved to easy to break.

[+]Noun as base

The -ber derivations based on a noun are listed in the table below:

Table 3
Base form Derivation
tank thanks tankber thankful
tsjinst service tsjinstber to be of service
ear honour earber honourable
striid fight striidber militant
war tangle warber diligent
kost cost kostber valuable
sicht sight sichtber visible
dier animal dierber dear
In dierber there is no direct semantic relation between the base form *dier and the -ber derivation.

The suffix -ber based on a noun can be input for further derivation with the suffixes -ens or -heid: tsjinstber to be of service > tsjinstberens / tsjinstberheid helpfulness, earber honourable > earberens / earberheid decency, warber diligent > warberens / warberheid diligence.

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This article is based on Hoekstra (1998:133-134). Regarding the difference between the suffixes -ber and -lik, see Van der Meer (1989).

  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
  • Meer, Geart van der1989Oer -ber, -lik, -eftich, -ich, -erich, -sk en -sum : (earste stik: -ber en -lik ferlike)Us wurk: tydskrift foar Frisistyk3843-54