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The suffix -enis derives nouns on the basis of verbs and adjectives. An example of a derivation with a verbal base is tsjûgenis testimony, from tsjûgje to witness. The word tsjusternis darkness is an example with an adjectival base is, as it is derived from tsjuster dark.

The suffix shows some formal variation. On the one hand, we see shorter forms in that it shows up without the initial schwa, for example in kennis knowledge (from the verb kenne to know). On the other hand, the suffix may sometimes be extended by a final schwa, hence -(e)nisse, although such variants have a somewhat old-fashioned flavour. An example is groetnisse greeting, from the verb groetsje to greet.

The suffix is not productive. Derivations with a verbal base are rather formal words, often loans from Dutch.

[+]Formal properties

The suffix -enis is pronounced as [ənIs]. If the stem of the verb ends in /v/, then this consonant becomes voiceless. An example is begrave to bury > begraffenis to bury, or drôvich sad > drôfenis sadness in case of an adjectival base. More on the phonological side of this devoicing, which is triggered by the suffix, can be found in the topic on the phonological domain of Final Devoicing.

In a few cases the suffix shows up without an initial schwa. These are kenne to know > kennis knowledge, witte to know > witnis knowledge, ferjitte to forget > ferjitnis oblivion, hinderje to handicap > hindernis handicap and skiednis history, which has an opaque base. An explanation for the shorter form cannot always be given, although in a word like hindernis it must have been preferred in order to avoid a sequence of two schwa syllables. Sometimes both variants are allowed, as in groet(e)nis greeting (from the verb groetsje to greet).

Another source of variation is the addition of a final schwa, resulting in -(e)nisse. This heavier variant often has an old-fashioned flavour. Examples are kennisse knowledge, dearnisse compassion or groetnisse greetings. This variant has been lexicalised in the (old-fashioned) noun skriftekennisse literature, which finds its base in the verb kenne to know.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that sometimes extra consonants can be inserted between the verb stem and the suffix. Examples are the insertion of the [t] in bekenne to confess > bekentenis confession and the insertion of the [r] in the suffix itself in the word wyld wild > wyldernis wilderness.

[+]Verb as base

A few verbs may take the suffix -enis in nominalizations. Some examples are given below:

Table 1
Base form Derivation
tsjûgje to witness tsjûgenis testimony
belide to profess belidenis profession
besnije to circumcise besnijenis circumcision
ferriizje to rise ferrizenis resurrection
lykje to look like likenis similarity

The derivations have a quite formal character, and therefore influence of the Dutch suffix -enis cannot be excluded beforehand. In most cases they are loans from Dutch. All nouns have common gender and a plural in -en. The only exception with respect to the gender is tsjûgenis testimony, which is a neuter noun. The derivation ferjeffenis forgiveness is opaque. Historically, it belongs to the verb ferjaan to forgive.

It seems that the core function of -enis is to derive action nouns, although a result reading is also often available. But a word like hindernis obstacle, on the other hand, has a subject function.

[+]Adjective as base

The suffix -enis can also derive nouns from a few adjectives. Examples are listed below:

Table 2
Base form Derivation
tsjuster dark tsjusternis darkness
drôf sad drôfenis sadness
wyld wild wyldernis wilderness
finzen imprisoned finzenis prison
folmakke perfect folmakkenis perfection

Again, all nouns have common gender. They do not have a plural form, with the exception of finzenis, which can be pluralized to finzenissen prisons. The extended suffix -(e)nisse is not possible either. To derive drôfenis sadness, the suffix -ich of the base drôvich sad must have been truncated.

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This topic is based on Hoekstra (1998:121-122).

  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy