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The suffix -en and its variant -enien, which are attached to adjectives, primarily function as a marker of nominal ellipsis. In a few cases, the so-marked adjectives do not need an antecedent noun. In that case, the nominalized adjective usually refers to a person that has the property described by the adjectival base. An example is apart strange > aparten(ien) strange one. The derived nouns only occur in indefinite noun phrases, in line with their restriction in the case of nominal ellipsis. A suffix with a comparable background is -e.


The suffix -en (and its allomorph -enien) is comparable to the suffix -e. Both can play an active role in nominal ellipsis, as is described in the topic on noun ellipsis. As is the case with -e, some instances of ellipsis can be assumed to have been lexicalized. Having been so, their interpretation is no longer dependent on the syntactic context. Instead, most derivations with -en or -enien refer to persons that have the characteristic, mostly psychological, property described by the adjectival base. Here are some examples:

Table 1
Base form Derivation
lyts small lytsen(ien) baby
apart strange aparten(ien) strange guy
moai beautiful moaien(ien) nice one
nuver strange nuveren(ien) strange guy

One derivation refers to an object, i.e. skjinnen(ien) glass of gin (from the adjective skjin clean).

The difference from nominal ellipsis is illustrated by the following pair of examples:

Example 1

a. Is dat dyn nij knyn? Wat in moaien(ien)!
is that your new rabbit? what a beautiful.one
Is that your new rabbit? What a beautiful one
b. No, do bist ek in moaien(ien), do litst dyn kaaien dochs net yn 'e glêsbak falle?
well, you are also a beautiful one, you let your keys still not in the bottle.bank fall.INF
Well, you are a nice one, you do not throw your keys in a bottle bank, do you?

In the (a)-example, it is clear that a noun knyn rabbit is elided. Such a contextual interpretation is not available in the example in (b). There, the phrase in moaien(ien) inherently refers to a person.

Another example is this:

Example 2

a. Myn boesgroentsje is wat suterich, dat ik lûk in skjinnen(ien) oan
my shirt is a.bit rumpled, that.CONJ I put a clean.SUFF on
My shirt is a bit rumpled, so I'll change my shirt
b. Wolst ek in skjinnen(ien) of hast leaver in wyntsje?
want.2SG also a clean.SUFF or have.2SG rather a wine.DIM
Would you like to drink a glass of gin or rather a glass of wine?

In the (a)-sentence the word skjinnen(ien) refers to boesgroentsje, which is elided there. In the (b)-sentence the same word has got the special meaning ( gin) and does not need a context anymore.

The derivations can only occur in indefinite noun phrases:

Example 3

Wy hawwe in/*de lytsenien krigen
we have a/the small.SUFF got
We've got a baby

This is fully in line with the suffix -en(ien) that figures in nominal ellipsis, which obeys the same restriction. The suffix differs in this respect from -e, which is not dependent on definiteness.

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This topic is primarily based on Hoekstra (1998:108). See also Dyk (2011) for a constructionist account. A description in the Taalportaal from the perspective of ellipsis can be found in cases of absolute ellipsis, as a part of an account of morphological markers of nominal ellipsis in general. For a description from a syntactic point of view, see the topic about indefinite -enien in the Adjective Phrase (AP) section (syntax) and the topic about noun ellipsis in the Noun Phrase (NP) section (syntax).

  • Dyk, Siebren2011The morphology of Frisian nominal ellipsis
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy