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The suffix -ling, or its variant -eling, derives nouns from adjectives (fanatyk fanatical > fanatikeling fanatic), verbs (beskermje to protect > beskermeling ward), nouns (haad head > haadling noble) and numerals (ien one > ienling solitary). Besides, there are a few -(e)ling derivations which have an opaque base (*trut > trutling distant relative).

The suffix is only productive with adjectival bases. Between the base and the suffix the linking element -e- can be added, except with base forms ending in a vowel or /r/.

Most of the derivations in -(e)ling denote personal names or animal species, always of common gender, cf. de flechtling the fugitive (vs *it flechtling) or de ferkeardling the bad person (vs *it ferkeardling). Other derivations in -(e)ling often denote object names, mostly neuter. Hence they take the definite article it the, but some words still have the article de the.

[+]Adjective as base

The suffix -ling productively derives nouns from adjectives. Most formations denote a person that has the property named by the adjective. A naïveling, for example, is a person that is naive. Examples are given in the table below:

Table 1
Base form Derivation
naïef naive naïveling simpleton
frjemd strange frjemdling stranger
dead dead deadeling idiot
snoad smart snoadeling bright person
swak weak swakkeling weakling
ryk rich rikeling rich person
lam blind drunk lammeling stinker
stom stupid stommeling fool
slop weak sloppeling weakling
nuver strange nuverling queer customer
apart strange aparteling eccentric
nuet tame nuetling queer customer
healwiis idiotic healwizeling / healwiisling idiot
eigenwiis cocksure eigenwizeling a know-it-all
nij new nijeling newcomer
beroerd miserable beroerdeling rotten fellow
ferkeard wrong ferkeardeling bad person
ferwoast fierce ferwoasteling brute
ûnhuer dirty ûnhuerling unsavoury
ferwezen depressed ferwezeling depressed person
Derivations that denote an object name are wyt white > wytling bottom sheet and koart short > koartling a small piece of wood.

[+]Verb as base

The suffix -ling also derives nouns from verbs. The derived nouns denote object names. The suffix binds the theme argument of the verb, therefore the input verb always has to be transitive or ergative. Most of these derivations denote a person. Examples are given in the table below:

Table 2
Base form Derivation
flechtsje to flee flechtling fugitive
leare to learn learling pupil
oankomme to arrive oankommeling junior
oerkomme to come over oerkommeling an incorrigible rogue
ynkomme to arrive ynkommeling immigrant
ferswije to keep silent about ferswigeling an illigal
oerwinne to conquer oerwinneling illegitimate child
ferskoppe to cast out ferskoppeling outcast
ferstekke to move ferstekkeling stowaway
straffe to punish strafling punished person
hiere to hire hierling hireling
stjerre to die stjerling mortal
One derivation denotes an animal species (meste to fatten up > mestling a fatted animal), and there are a few derivations denoting an object name: foarmje to form > foarmeling something formed in clay, stekke to take cuttings of plants > stekkeling cutting, bite to bite > bytling bit and riede to guess > riedling riddle.

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Verbal or adjectival base?

Some of the derivations above can also be interpreted as a derivation from an adjective. For example, in oerkommeling, the base form could also be the adjectivally used past participle oerkommen came over, with truncation of /ən/ (or /n/).

In nij-ynkommeling newly arrived immigrant one must in any case assume that it is a derivation from an adjective. The prefix nij- only occurs before adjectivally used past participles. Nij-ynkommeling must therefore be derived from adjectival nij-ynkommen newly arrived, with truncation of /en/.

[+]Noun as base

A few derivations with -ling have a nominal base. Examples are given in the table below:

Table 3
Base form Derivation
hôf garden hofling courtier
hok cage hokkeling yearling
hûs house húsling opening in the blade of an axe, into which the stick fits
foet foot fuotling anklet
tomme thumb tommeling tumble
hoarn horn hoarnling illegitimate child
keat link keatling chain
nebbe beak nebling kind of eel

[+]Numeral as base

The suffix -(e)ling can also derive nouns from numerals:

Table 4
Base form Derivation
fjouwer four fjouwerling quadruplets
earst first earsteling first-born
twa two twaling / twilling twins
trije three trijeling / trjilling triplets
fiif five fiifling quintuplets
mear more mearling multiple birth
The variants twilling twins and trjilling triplets are remnants of older forms of the stem. The derivation always denotes a set, the base indicating the number of the members.

[+]Opaque base

Some words with the suffix -ling have a non-existing base. A few examples are given in the table below:

Table 5
Opaque base Derivation
*trut trutling distant relative
*wezel wezeling weasel
*grind grindeling gudgeon
*goat goatling casting

[+]Phonological properties

In many derivations a linking schwa may be inserted between -ling [lIŋ] and the base, resulting in the sequence -eling [əlIŋ]. This is not possible, however, if the base ends in a vowel or /r/. Thus from twa two one may derive twaling twins, but not *twa-eling. We likewise have stjerling mortal and not *stjerreling (from stjerre to die). The linking -e- is often lacking after the consonants /d, t, z, s, n, k, v, f./. Examples are fremdling stranger instead of fremdeling stranger, apartling eccentric next to aparteling eccentric and hokling yearling next to hokkeling yearling.

Bases ending in /ən/ are truncated. This applies to ferwezen depressed > ferwezeling depressed person and possibly also in formations which contain the participle kommen of the verb komme to come, as in oerkommeling incorrigible rogue or ynkommeling immigrant.

[+]Morphological potential

The plurals of the derivations denoting persons can only be formed with the suffix -en; the alternative plural suffix -s is excluded. For example, the plural of flechtling fugitive is flechtlingen fugitives and not *flechtlings. If the formation refers to an object, then -s may also be used. Examples are keatling-en/keatling-s chain-PL chains and bekling-en/bekling-s back-PL backs (of a chair).

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This section is based on Hoekstra (1998:103-104). More details can be found in Hoekstra (1990) and Hoekstra (1990). For the formation of plurals, see Hoekstra (2011:287-288).

  • Hoekstra, Jarich1990Hjerringen of hjerringsFriesch Dagblad10-03Taalsnipels 138
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1990AakliksmaFriesch Dagblad18-08Taalsnipels 156
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
  • Hoekstra, Jarich2011Meervoudsvorming in het Westerlauwers Fries en het Nederlands (en patroniemvorming in het Noord-Fries)Taal en Tongval63281-301