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The suffix -man primarily derives personal nouns from nouns, although also verbal and prepositional bases occur, and in one case even a pronoun. The suffix grammaticalized from the noun man man. However, its gender semantics has mostly been backgrounded to something like 'person'. The suffix is mainly used to denote people with a certain profession or activity (grienteman greengrocer, from griente vegetables), origin (stedman a man who lives in a city from stêd city) or preference (fjildman a man who likes to be in the open from fjild field). The suffix also differs formally from its origin, which may have a plural form by addition of -lju: manlju men. In case of the suffix -man, the plural form -lju is not attaching but rather replacing: we then get a plural stedlju, and not *stedmanlju.

[+]General properties

The Frisian noun man man has, if figuring as the second part of a compound, been grammaticalized to a suffix. In that case, the meaning has been bleached from 'male person' to 'person'. The main properties remain intact: what is derived is a noun, and the base is also a noun. Only exceptionally, some other lexical categories can play a role as base, as will be dealt with in the section on derivations in -man with other bases.

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Frisian versus Dutch

One indication that Frisian -man is a suffix might be that Dutch sometimes also uses a suffix for the same concept. For example, for Frisian aventoersman a man who likes adventures Dutch has a derivation with the suffix -ier, i.e. avonturier (< Dutch avontuur adventure). A telling example is also Frisian fokkeman foremast man. The Dutch cognate is a derivation with a variant of the suffix -ist, i.e. fokkenist (< Dutch fok foresail).

The table below gives some examples:
Table 1
Derivation category Base form Derivation
1. brêge bridge brêgeman bridge keeper
widdo widow widdoman widower
2. winkel shop winkelman shopkeeper
griente vegetables grienteman greengrocer
krante newspaper kranteman newspaperman
saak business sakeman businessman
3. doarp village doarpsman a man who grew up in a village
stêd city stedman a man who grew up in a city
4. doarp village doarpsman a man who likes living in a village
stêd city stedman a man who likes living in a city
aventoer adventure aventoersman a man who likes adventures
fjild field fjildman a man who likes the field
hynder horse hynsteman a man who likes horses
According to semantic differences between them, the nominal derivations can be divided into four categories. In the first, -man still has the meaning "male person". The other categories show a wider sense. The second consists of people with a specific activity or profession. Derivations, as in the examples of the third category, can also point at a certain origin. In this way inhabitant names are formed, although they seem te be restricted to a certain region. Here, one can also think of a klaaiman someone who lives in the "Klaai" region, a wâldman someone who lives in the "Wâlden" region or a polderman someone who grew up in a polder, etcetera. Finally, a derivation with -man can denote someone with a specific interest or hobby. The list of possible derivations is almost unlimited here. One can be a knineman a man who likes rabbits or a katteman a man who likes cats, a pastaman a man who likes pasta or an ierappelman a man who likes potatoes, a Wildersman a man who supports the politician Wilders or a SP-man a man who supports the political party SP, et cetera. As can be detected from the examples, bases in this category may also consist of a proper noun.

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Negative polarity

Derivations of the fourth category especially occur in a negative polarity context, for example in the construction net sa'n {noun} man wêze not being someone who likes {noun} that much. Examples are given below:

Example 1

a. Hy is net sa'n hûneman
he is not such.a dog-man
He does not like dogs very much
b. Ik bin net sa'n stedman
I am not such.a city-man
I do not like cities very much

In this use, the suffix may also be attached to personal names. Other suffixes with the same behaviour are -eftich (for the point at hand, see the section general properties in that topic) and -ich, which is especially dealt with in the section noun as input.

There are also formal arguments that -man has a different status from the noun man in a compound. If it were the head of a compound, it should show the same plural form as the noun. The Frisian noun man has two possible plurals. Usually, it forms its plural by attaching the element -lju, which is an instance of irregular plural formation. It gives the plural form mânlju (with lengthening of the stem vowel, hence the slightly different spelling). The, in itself regular, plural suffix -en is also available; it results in the plural form mannen. These different plural forms imply a meaning difference. Semantically, manlju men is the unmarked plural, whereas mannen has a collective interpretation.

In the case of category 1 in the table above, words like brêgeman bridge keeper or widdoman widower can only have a plural ending in -en, i.e. brêgemannen bridge keepers and widdomannen widowers.

The other categories have, two forms for the plural, like the base word man. However, formally there is not a complete parallel. The plural ending -lju is not attached to the form -man, as happens in the base form manlju, but it rather replaces the suffix. Hence, the plural is grientelju greengrocers, and not *grientemanlju. Semantically, we also see a difference from the base man, in that the ending -en does not denote a collective meaning now. Rather, the ending -lju does! Compare:

Example 2

a. Dit doarp hat twa grientemannen/*grientelju
this village has two vegetable.men
This village has two greengrocers
b. Grientelju/*grientemannen hawwe in drok bestean
vegetable.men have a busy existence
Greengrocers have a busy life

When we refer to two specific greengrocers like in (2a), grientemannen is the only possibility, while when we speaking about greengrocers in general like in (2b), only the plural form grientelju is possible.

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What to say about women?

As has been stated, most derivations with -man have the property that the gender feature is less outspoken. This cannot be carried so far, however, that a female person could be referred to by a derivation with -man as well. The option -frou is also not available, or only in a parasitic way, in order to stress the femininity of the person. We then get ?winkelfrou female shopkeeper, ?stedfrou a woman who grew up in a city, ?hynstefrou a woman who likes horses, etc. To refer to a woman one would rather use a different construction. As in (a) in the examples below resp. ?pastafrou pasta-woman and ?SP-frou SP-woman are doubtful, the alternatives in (b) are far more common.

Example 3

a. ?Ik bin in echte pastafrou
I am a real pasta-woman
I am crazy about pasta
b. Ik bin gek op pasta
I am crazy on pasta
I am crazy about pasta
Example 4

a. ?Ik bin in SP-frou
I am a SP-woman
I support the SP
b. Ik bin foar de SP
I am for the SP
I support the SP

Another solution is to use other suffixes. This applies especially to cases of the fourth category, in which a sentence as (a) can also be expressed with the suffixes -eftich (b) or -ich (c):

Example 5

a. Ik bin net sa'n hûneman
I am not such.a dog-man
I am not a big fan of dogs
b. Ik bin net sa hûneftich
I am not so dog-SUFF
I am not a big fan of dogs
c. Ik bin net sa hûnich
I am not so dog-SUFF
I am not a big fan of dogs

Where (a) will probably only be applied to a man, (b) and (c) are possible both for men and women.

[+]Derivations in -man with other bases

There are two derivations in -man that have a verbal base: keapman salesman which comes from keapje to buy and spylman minstrel which comes from spylje to play. There are also two derivations that have an adverbial base: foaroan in front > foaroanman highly placed man and tusken between > tuskenman mediator. Finally we find a pronominal base in ik I > ikman egoist.

The derivations with a verbal base form their plural with -lju; the other bases preferably take -en.

[+]Phonological potentials

The suffix -man does not effect the stress pattern of the base form: BRÊge bridge > BRÊgeman bridge keeper and KEAPje to buy > KEAPman salesman.

Sometimes, the base undergoes an extra phonological shift after the addition of -man. In stêd [stɛ:t] city, for instance, the vowel has undergone shortening in stedman [stɛdmɔn] a man who lives in a city.


If hynder [hindr̩] horse is suffixed, we get the allomorph hynste [hi:ⁿstə]; hence hynsteman [hi:ⁿstəmɔn] a man who likes horses. The same allomorph appears in ordinary compounding. More information about compound allomorphs can be found in nouns with final schwa as the left-hand member of compounds.


Sometimes, a linking element -s- shows up. Examples are doarpsman a man who grew up in a village or aventoersman a man who likes adventures. We see a linking element -e- in a cases like sakeman [sa:kəmɔn] business man, from saak [sa:k] business, or hûneman someone liking dogs (from hûn dog). This is in line with the linking elements -s- and -e- that we see in nominal compounding.

[+]Morphological potentials

The suffix -man cannot be input for other suffixes, with the exception of the diminutive suffix: sakemantsje business-man-DIM business man (see -DIM).

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This topic is mainly based on Hoekstra (1998:100-101).

  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy