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The suffix -e derives nouns from adjectives. Most of the time, the derivations refer to persons. An example is blyn blind > bline blind person. A special subcase consists of female inhabitant names (i.e. Amsterdamske), based on adjectives (i.e. Amsterdamsk) related to a geographical name (i.e. Amsterdam Amsterdam). Some formations may also refer to objects, for example eigene own-SUFF everything that is typical of something. Derivations referring to persons have common gender, those referring to objects are neuter. The suffix formations derived by this suffix can be considered as lexicalized instances of nominal ellipsis.


Adjectives in prenominal position are inflected, mostly with a suffix -e, for example in it reade hynder the.N red-INFL horse.N the red horse (see adjective in prenominal position for more information on prenominal adjectival inflection). Such adjectives can occur without an accompanying noun in elliptical constructions: it wite hynder en it reade the.N white-INFL horse and the red the white horse and the red one. In this context, the combination it reade can be interpreted as referring to a horse. However, such formations may also break free from their syntactic context and may be able to stand alone. Such nominalized adjectives then denote general categories like persons and objects having a property described by the adjective.

The suffix -en and its allomorph -enien, markers of nominal ellipsis, have undergone a similar development. This is described in -en topic.

[+]Reference to persons

If the nominalized adjective refers to persons, it necessarily has common gender. Examples are listed below:

Table 1
Base form Derivation
dea death deade dead person
blyn blind bline blind person
siik sick sike sick person
âld old âlde old person
lyts small lytse small one

That the derivation in -e acts like a real noun is confirmed by the fact that it can be input for pluralisation and that it can become part of a nominal compound. The example below, in which the base form is sike sick person, illustrates this:

Example 1

Der lizze in soad siken op 'e sikeseal
there lay a lot sick.PL on the sick.room
There are a lot of patients in the infirmary

There are also pluralia tantum. The derivations Roomsk catholic > Roomsken catholic persons and fyn strictly religious > finen strictly religious persons only exist in their plural form.

[+]Reference to female inhabitant names

A special subcase of reference to persons is reference to female inhabitants. The base is formed by geographical adjectives ending in -sk, or, for that matter, -ysk (for these suffixes, see -sk). An example is the adjective Amsterdamsk of Amsterdam, derived from the greographical name Amsterdam Amsterdam. This adjective Amsterdamsk can then be input for further suffixation by -e: Amsterdamsk of Amsterdam > Amsterdamske female inhabitant of Amsterdam. More examples, always referring to female inhabitants, are:

  • Wenen Vienna > Weensk Viennese > Weenske female inhabitant of Vienna;
  • Yslân Iceland > Yslânsk Icelandic > Yslânske female inhabitant of Iceland;
  • Dútslân Germany > Dútsk German > Dútske female inhabitant of Germany.
  • etc.
Geographical adjectives of place names or regions within Friesland are normally derived with the suffix -er). This -er is itself inert for further suffixation. In order to nevertheless perform various forms of suffixation, an auxiliary suffix -sk inserted (see especially morphological and syntactic restrictions in -er and the suffix -sk as a last resort). This strategy is applied in the formation of female inhabitant names as well. Thus the relational adjective of the Frisian capital Ljouwert Leeuwarden is Ljouwerter. From this, it is impossible to generate a female inhabitant *Ljouwertere. Instead, we get Ljouwerterske, from an existing adjective Ljouwertersk.

(N.B. Male inhabitants have their own suffix, i.e. -er).

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Hoekstra (1998:108) argues that a separate suffix deriving female inhabitant names does not exist. In this case, the suffix -e would be nothing more than the general suffix -e that derives persons as dealt with in reference to persons. In his view, the fact that -e after geographical adjectives does not refer to male inhabitants is caused by blocking. That Amsterdamske does not refer to a male inhabitant of Amsterdam would be caused by the existence of the formation Amsterdammer inhabitant of Amsterdam. Likewise, Sweedske cannot be a male inhabitant of Sweden. The word Sweed inhabitant of Sweden exists separately.

[+]Reference to objects

Occasionally a derivation with the suffix -e can also refer to objects, locations in particular:

Example 2

a. Op it droege sitte
on the dry.SUFF sit.INF
We are high and dry
b. Ik waard op myn earste wurkdei fuort yn it djippe smiten
I became on my first work.day straight in the deep.SUFF thrown
On my first working day, I was immediately thrown in at the deep end
c. Wetter, greiden en it Frysk, dat is it eigene fan Fryslân
water, pasture and the Frisian, that is the own.SUFF of Fryslân
Water, pasture and Frisian, that's what makes Fryslân Fryslân

The few derivations referring to objects have neuter gender. They do not have any morphological potential. The derivation it djippe the deep for instance does not allow a plural form (*de djippen the deeps) nor can it be input for a compound (*djippemeter deep meter).

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An inflectional or a derivational suffix?

The origin of -e is probably the inflectional suffix -e that is so prominent in adjectival inflection. However, Hoekstra (1998:107) offers two arguments why the suffix as it is dealt with in this topic had better be considered derivational. The first one has to do with adjectively used passed participles. Those of the second weak class (for the full paradigm, see paradigm of class II) already end in a schwa, but it appears that such participles cannot occur with this nominalizing suffix -e. A short schematic overview of the various possiblities of the main verbal classes is presented below:

Table 2
Verb class Infinitive Past participle Derivation in -e
Strong fertinke to suspect fertocht suspected fertochte suspect
Weak I leare to learn leard learnt learde scientist
Weak II skilderje to paint skildere painted *skildere painted person

Other examples in which the derivation is blocked are *útnoege invited person (from the verb útnoegje to invite), *dage defendant (from daagje to summon) or *detinearre detainee (from detinearje to detain). If -e had been nothing more than the inflectional ending -e, it would have been odd that the participle, which is fully acceptable adjectively in a Noun Phrase (NP) like de útnoege gast the invited guest, would be blocked in nominalized cases like *útnoege invited person. Other derivational suffixes may be blocked for the same reason, for example the suffix -ens in *strukturearrens structuredness, which would have been derived from strukturearre structured (from the verb strukturearje to structure).

Hoekstra mentions as a second argument that an inflectional -e could not explain why formations like Amsterdamske are restricted to female inhabitants (although he weakens this argument at the same time by claiming that the male interpretation is blocked by the existence of formations like Amsterdammer; see blocking above).

Dyk (2011) also assumes that -e is derivational. Because of its restricted morphological potential he considers -e referring to objects to be a case of construction-dependent morphology.

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This topic is mainly based on Hoekstra (1998:107-108).

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