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The suffix -ich is the most productive suffix to derive adjectives from nouns (rêst rest > rêstich calm), from other adjectives (grien green > grienich greenish), and from verbs (ridelje shiver > ridelich shaking).

When the base form is a noun, the derivation has the meaning "to resemble {noun}" or "with much {noun}", for example: glês glass > glêzich glassy and hier hair > hierrich hairy. When the base form is an adjective, the derivation has the meaning "more or less {adjective}", for example: siik sick > sikich a little sick. When the base form is a verb, the derivation has the meaning "with a tendency to {verb}", for example: frette have a nibble > fretterich liking to eat a lot. There are a few -ich derivations which can be added to an adverb. The derivation then has the meaning "with a tendency to {adverb}", for example: fuort gone > fuorterich liking to go out.

In some cases, however, the meaning of the -ich-adjective is idiosyncratic and not easily recoverable from its base, see e.g. aardich nice < aard nature, disposition. Sometimes, the category of the base is ambiguous: an adjective like fettich fatty could be derived from the adjective fet fat or the homophonous noun fet fat. In other cases, the base does not or no longer exist as an independent word, as in sunich economical < *sún.

The suffix -ich has a variant -erich. This suffix only occurs after nouns (tried thread > triedderich stringy) or verbs (flybje slobber > fliberich slobbery). -erich can be analysed as a derivation in -ich, of which the base form is extended with the augment -er-. More information can be found in the section on linking below.

It should be noted that the suffix -ich is also involved in the formation of synthetic compounds, in combination with an adverb and a noun, and with a numeral and a noun.

[+]General properties

The suffix -ich forms adjectives from nouns, other adjectives, verbs or adverbs. The affix has a close competitor -eftich, which has a similar semantic effect.

The suffix -ich is often used where the Dutch language uses other suffixes or suffixoids. Examples are the Dutch suffixes -achtig (compare Dutch babbelachtig talkative with Frisian babbelich talkative), -rijk (compare Dutch bosrijk woody with Frisian boskich woody), -ziek (compare Dutch plaagziek teasing with Frisian pleagerich teasing), -gierig (compare Dutch leergierig inquisitive with Frisian learderich inquisitive) and -lustig (compare Dutch vechtlustig truculent with Frisian fjuchterich truculent). Besides this, Frisian sometimes uses the suffix -ich where Dutch has a present participle (compare Dutch trillende vingers trembling fingers with Frisian trillerige fingers trembling fingers).

In some cases, the base does not exist as a word. Examples are given in the table below:

Table 1
Base form Derivation
*steef stevich steady
*sún sunich economical
*deft deftich distinguished, stately
*feil feilich safe
*ept eptich neatly
*leid leidich tempting
*gjir gjirrich stingy
*weet wetich pedantic
*sloar(d) sloarderich untidy
An interesting subclass is -ich-adjectives derived from more than one lexical category. The base then consists of a combination of adjective/numeral + noun. More information on such derivations can be found under synthetic compounds.

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Diminutive as input

In Frisian, a diminutive can also be the base of an -ich-derivation. The final schwa is deleted then: bledsje leaflet > bledsjich with a lot of leaflet-like plants, plakje spot > plakjich spotted. Or the sequence -je is completely deleted at all: kerltsje grain > kerltsich granular, houtsje small piece of wood > houtsich woody. This is a very uncommon process, however.

[+]Noun as input

When the base form is a noun, the derivation has the meaning "to resemble {noun}" or "with much {noun}". Examples are given in the table below:

Table 2
Base form Derivation
toarst thirst toarstich thirsty
oast knot oastich knotty
oalje oil oaljich oily
hier hair hierrich hairy
tar(re) tar tarrich tarry
smots mud smodzich muddy
koarts fever koartsich feverish
lok luck lokkich lucky
swevel sulphur swevelich sulphur-like
wantrouwen distrust wantrouwich distrustful
opstân rebellion opstannich rebellious
taalkunde linguistics taalkundich linguistic
-ich derivations from nouns are sometimes used as an adjectival addition to the verbs smeitsje to taste and rûke to smell (stink), instead of the adjectival wordgroup smeitsje nei ... to taste like... and rûke nei ... to smell like .... This is shown in the example below:

Example 1

a. Dizze wyn smakket nei hars
this wine tastes to resin
This wine tastes like resin
a.' Dizze wyn smakket harsich
this wine tastes resinous
This wine tastes like resin
b. It rûkt nei ferve
it smells to paint
It smells like paint
b.' It rûkt fervich
it smells painty
It smells like paint

-ich derivations can also have the meaning "fond of {noun}", examples are fisk fish > fiskich fishy, kwis quiz > kwissich fond of quizzes. Derivations with this denotation are negative polarity items; they can only be used in a construction like net sa ... wêze not so ... to.be not liking ... that much. In this use the suffix can also take proper names as a base. Examples are provided in (2):

Example 2

Net sa fiskich wêze
not so fishy be
Not liking fish that much
Net sa kwissich wêze
not so quizzy be
Not liking quizzes that much
Ik wie doe net sa Kokkich
I was then not so Kok-SUFF
In those days, I was not a supporter of prime minister Kok

The same usage can be found in derivations with -eftich and -man.

[+]Adjective as input

When the base form is an adjective, the derivation has the meaning "more or less {adjective}". Examples are given in the table below:

Table 3
Base form Derivation
read red readich reddish
soer sour soerich sourish
wiet wet wietich a little wet
âld old âldich oldish
oranje orange oranjich orange-like
beroerd miserable beroerdich somewhat miserable
min bad minnich a little bad
foars sturdy foarsich a little sturdy
-ich derivations from adjectives are only possible with adjectives that can undergo modification; absolute adjectives (they have a meaning that is generally not capable of being intensified or compared) do not allow -ich: besibbe related > *besibbich, rjocht straight > *rjochtich or dea dead > *deaïch. Nor can the suffix be added to the adjectives ending in -ich of which the base form cannot be recognized anymore (see table above). Apparently, two adjacent instances of the same affix are prohibited (possibly to be related to some constraint like the Stuttering Prohibition or the Repeated Morph Constraint). Instead the suffix -jes is added: sunich economical > *sunigich > sunichjes a little economical, stadich slow > *stadigich > stadichjes a little slow. (Follow the corresponding link for more details about the -DIMs suffix). Derivations with -ich from adjectives ending in /ɣ/ are doubtful in any case, which is shown by the following examples: smoarch dirty > ?smoargich grubby, wurch tired > ?wurgich a little tired, slûch sleepy > ?slûgich a little sleepy (compare slûchjes a little sleepy, with -DIMs) and droech dry > ?droegich somewhat dry (compare droechjes somewhat dry, with -DIMs).

In Dutch, -ich derivations from an adjective often have a linking element -er-, which is impossible in Frisian. For example Dutch groenerig greenish vs Frisian *grienerich / grienich greenish.

In some cases -ich is only added to the base form to make the adjective more suitable for attributive use. This contrast is shown in the examples (3) and (4):

Example 3

a. ?In fjouwerkante keamer
a square chamber
A square chamber
b. In fjouwerkantige keamer
a square-SUFF chamer
A square-like chamber
Example 4

a. ?In felette blom
a violet flower
A violet flower
b. In felettige blom
a violet-SUFF flower
A violet-like flower
[+]Verb as input

When the base is a verb, the derivation has the meaning "with a tendency to {verb}". Examples are given in the table below:

Table 4
Base form Derivation
hoastje to cough hoasterich coughy
gûle to whipe gûlderich tearful
gnize to chuckle gnizerich inclined to chuckle
trilje to tremble trilderich inclined to tremble
krimmenearje to whine krimmenearderich inclined to whine
opdwaan to pretend opdwaanderich pretentious
dreame to dream dreamerich dreamy
slingerje to swing slingerich swinging
broeie to brew broei(er)ich sultry
jilde to count jildich valid
neinimme to be attracted neinimmich sensitive
knoffelje to stumble knoffelich easily stumbling
As can be seen, -ich derivations from verbs often have an addition of -er- to the base. This is the case when the last syllable of the stem of the verb is stressed: dreame to dream > DREAM > dreamerich dreamy. When the final syllable of the base is unstressed, the suffix is added directly to this base form: slingerje to swing > SLINGer > slingerich swinging. Next to this productive linking element -er-, one can sometimes find the lexicalized linking elements -el-, -en- and -st-: bite to bite > bit-el-ich bitish, tize to tangle > tiz-en-ich tangled or brimme to hem > brim-st-ich ruttish. The items with a linking element -el- or -en- have a variant with linking -er-: bit-el-ich bitish next to bit-er-ich bitish and tiz-en-ich tangled next to tiz-er-ich tangled.

Sometimes, -ich derivations from verbs, just like -ich derivations from nouns, are used as an adjectival addition to the verbs smeitsje to taste and rûke to smell (stink). This is shown in the example below:

Example 5

a. It iten smakket branderich
this food tastes burned
This food tastes burned
b. It rûkt hjir rikkerich
it smells here smoky
It smells smoky in here

The -ich-formations derived from a verbal base can also have the meaning "fond of {verb}". An example is tútsje to kiss > tuterich fond of kissing. However, derivations with this denotation are negative polarity items; they can only be used in a construction with net sa ... wêze not so ... to.be not liking ... that much. An example is:

Example 6

Net sa tuterich wêze
not so kiss-SUFF be
Not liking kissing that much

The same usage can be found in derivations with -eftich and -man.

[+]Adverb as input

There are a few -ich derivations from adverbs, which are semantically comparable with -ich derivations from verbs: "with a tendency to {adverb}", for example fuort away > fuorterich to like going out and út out > uterich to like going out. Examples with these -ich derivations are given below:

Example 7

Ik bin net sa fuorterich
I am not so away-SUFF
I do not like going out that much
Hy is frijwat uterich
he is quite out-SUFF
He rather likes going out

Possibly these formations have been derived from the semantic verbal predicates fuortGEAN to go away and útGEAN to go out. There is a comparable ellipsis of the verb gean to go in Frisian syntax.

[+]Phonological properties

Phonologically, -ich [əx] is a cohering suffix; bases ending in a consonant are resyllabified so that the consonant becomes the onset of the last syllable of the derivation. Bases ending in [ə] lose this vowel in the derivation: moude dustlike soil > moudich sandy.

-ich-words are stressed on the last syllable before the suffix. This means that the stress often shifts towards the end of the base (EARmoed poverty > earMOEdich poorly and NEInimme to take it hard > neiNIMmich sensitive to).

A strange phonological phenomenon occurs in the following derivations: grouwélich averse to (< grouwel aversion) and mandélich communal (< mande common). The [ə] from the baseform is 'strengthened' to [e:]: /mɔndə/ > /mɔnde:lɪɣ/. The explanation should be sought in the fact that the stress shifts to the final syllable of the base form.

Base forms ending in /ɣ/ do not easily take -ich. Instead, they often get the suffix -eftich, for example: berch mountain > ?bergich hilly > bercheftich hilly.

When the base form ends in /r/, /d/ is obligatorily added: seure to whine > seur cry > *seurerich whiny > seurderich whiny. When the base form ends in a /l/ or /n/, this process is optional: tril shiver > trillerich shivery > trilderich shivery. More details can be found in the topic about d-insertion.


Some of the -ich derivations which have a noun or verb as base form can have an extra form with the linking -er-, resulting in -erich [ərəx]. Examples are given in the table below:

Table 5
Base form Derivation
streek line strek(er)ich streaky
gat hole gat(ter)ich full of holes
klut lump klut(er)ich lumpy
wyn wind winich/wynderich windy
skeinsprút sunspot skeinsprút(er)ich freckled
Dutch has a suffix -erig. In Frisian this suffix is seen as a variant of the suffix -ich with the linking element -er-.

Sometimes, there is a difference in meaning between the form with -er- and without -er-: bluodderich bloody vs bloedich difficult. There are also words that only occur with -er-: triedderich stringy vs *trieddich and wielderich luxuriant vs *wieldich.

Next to -er-, there are three -ich derivations with the linking element -en-: dize mist > diz-en-ich misty, wolk cloud > wolk-en-ich cloudy and geizen sick > geiz-en-ich sickly/unhealthy. However, the forms dizich misty, wolkich cloudy and geizich sickly/unhealthy also exist.

A -t- linking element can be found in bien-t-ich bony < bien bone and wjirm-t-ich worm-eaten < wjirm worm. The word dei-st-ich daily < dei day shows a rare linking element -st-.

[+]Morphological potential

Adjectives ending in -ich can be input for further derivations, the most common being the addition of the negative prefix ûn- (ûnhandich awkward, ûnskuldich innocent, ûnrêstich restless) or nominalization with -heid or -ens (feilichheid/feiligens safety, twatalichheid/twataligens bilingualism). Note, however, that the part ich is not an independent suffix in all the words ending in the sequence ichheid, as there is also an independent suffix -ichheid. For example, in the following cases the form without -heid is ungrammatical: *gauwich hurried vs gauwichheid hurriedness and *wissich sureness vs wissichheid sureness. See the topic on -heid, -ichheid and -ich for more details about these suffixes.

Another option for morphological potential is verbalization, especially with a verbalizing prefix such as be-, fer- or ûnt-: befeiligje to secure, ferstevigje to strengthen, ûntmoedigje to discourage.

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This topic is based on Hoekstra (1998:127-130).

  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy