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The suffix -en is one of the two infinitival suffixes in Frisian. One of its functions is to transpose verbs into nouns. An example is skriuwe to write > skriuwen writing. An interesting difference from Dutch is the fact that not only pure action nouns are derived, but that in some cases these can be individualized. Examples are lêze to read > lêzen something to read or trouwe to marry > trouwen marriage. All these nouns have neuter gender and do not allow plurals.

[+]Transposition from verb to noun

Frisian has two infinitives, one ending in -e and and the other ending in -en. In the part on verbal inflection these are dubbed infinitive I and infinitive II. The infinitives obey a strict distribution, depending on syntactic context, as is described in the section infinitive of the topic on general categories of verbal inflection. Monosyllabic verbs like sjen to see or gean to go are the exception: their infinitive invariably ends in -n. For monosyllabic verbs, see strong inflection - monosyllabic verbs.

If a verb is transposed to a noun, which in the unmarked case is an action noun, it always has the ending -en. The gender of the noun is neuter, as can be detected from the selection of the neuter definite article it or the neuter demonstrative pronoun dat. Hence, we have it rinnen the walking or dat riden that skating. As can be seen from these examples, the occurrence of -en is independent of the existence of the two weak inflectional classes in Frisian: it can be attached to verbs that have their infinitive I ending in -e and in -je alike. The nominalized infinitive can occur in various syntactic configurations; see complementation of infinitival Noun Phrases (NPs) for an impression.

[+]Semantic specialisation

A difference from Dutch is the fact that Frisian shows more semantic specialization in these nominal infinitives. Possibly, this is an effect of the circumstance that the language has this special infinitive -en for nominal contexts, and/or this suffix is used quite frequently for such contexts, at the cost of other suffixes, like -ing. To illustrate this, Frisian and Dutch are put side by side in this section. The first examples are:

Example 1

a. Sy hat yn har trouwen net folle wille hân
she has in her marrying not much fun had
She has not had much fun during her marriage
a.' Zij heeft tijdens haar huwelijk niet veel lol gehad
she has while her marriage not much fun had
She has not had much fun during her marriage
Example 2

a. Der wie fan 'e moarn dopen yn tsjerke
there was this morning baptising in church
They baptised this morning during the church service
a.' Er werden vanochtend in de kerk kinderen gedoopt
there were this morning in the church children baptised
This morning children were baptised in the church

In the corresponding examples, Dutch rather uses a noun or a different verbal description.

Frisian also allows for the nominalisations dwaan doing, sizzen saying and kommen coming, while in Dutch a different expression has to be used. Examples are:

Example 3

a. Sok dwaan mei ik net oer
such doing may I not over
I do not like this kind of behaviour
a.' Van zulk gedrag houd ik niet
of such behaviour love I not
I do not like this kind of behaviour
Example 4

a. Syn sizzen wie dat de ierde plat wie
his saying was that the earth flat was
He said that the earth was flat
a.' Hij zei dat de aarde plat was
he said that the earth flat was
He said that the earth was flat
Example 5

a. Har kommen joech in soad trelit
her coming caused a lot of commotion
Her appearance caused a lot of commotion
a.' Haar komst bracht veel tumult met zich mee
her coming brought much commotion with its with
Her appearance caused a lot of commotion

Furthermore, in a number of cases the suffix -en can be used to form object nouns. The most important are:

Table 1
Infinitive I Infinitive II as object noun
ite to eat iten food
drinke to drink drinken drink(s)
fretten to feed fretten fodder
struie to scatter struien litter
lêze to read lêzen reading matter
naaie to sew naaien needlework
breidzje to knit breidzjen knitting
strike to iron striken clothes for ironing; ironed clothes
ôfwaskje to wash the dishes ôfwaskjen dishes

In such cases, Dutch usually takes recourse to the usual instruments of word formation, like compounding or conversion:

Example 6

a. Hast wol wat lêzen mei foar ûnderweis?
have.you well what reading with for on.the.way
Have you brought something to read for on the way?
b. Heb je wel wat leesvoer mee voor onderweg?
have you well what reading-matter with for on.the.way
Have you brought something to read for on the way?
Example 7

a. Der stie fan in wike ôfwaskjen op it oanrjocht
there stood of a week dish-washing on the sink
There were dirty dishes of one week on the sink
b. Er stond afwas van een week op het aanrecht
there stood dish-washing of a week on the sink
There were dirty dishes of one week on the sink

Finally, Frisian nominal infinitives with -en may be used in a construction with the preposition op on:

Example 8

a. op besjen
on looking
for your perusal
b. op prebearjen
on trying
on trial
c. op ôfbeteljen
on part-paying
on hire purchase

Again, Dutch uses full nouns here, as in op zicht for your perusal or op afbetaling on hire purchase.

[+]Phonological properties

The suffix is basically pronounced as [ən]. Mostly, however, /n/ becomes syllabic, after deletion of the schwa (more information in syllabic sonorant consonants). As the suffix is pronounced with a schwa, it bears no stress, and suffixation with -en does not alter the stress pattern of the base.

[+]Morphological potentials

Nouns in -en do not allow a plural: skriuwen writing > *skriuwens writing-PL). An exception is the lexicalized form oantinken souvenir > oantinkens souvenirs. Nor can the derivations constitute the first part of a compound: ôfbeteljen part-paying > *ôfbeteljensysteem part-paying-system hire purchase system. However, lexicalized exceptions exist, as in frisdrinkensflesse soft-drink-LINK-bottle soft drink bottle, with a linking element -s-.

[hide extra information]
Construction der is gjin ....sein oan

There is another notable exception to the rule that these nouns cannot be the first part of a compound. This concerns the idiomatic construction der is gjin ....sein oan there is no ...-LINK-end on there's no end to ..., where -s- is a linking element. An example is this:

Example 9

Der is gjin trochkommensein oan
there is no through.coming-LINK-end on
It is impossible to get through

According to Hoekstra (1998:116) this construction is possibly a contamination of der is gjin .... oan there is no....on, with a nominal infinitive, and der is gjin ein oan there is no end on, with the noun ein end.

[hide extra information]

The main source for this topic is Hoekstra (1998:116-117). The author claims in Hoekstra (1990:282-283) that the suffix -en effects a sheer transposition to a noun.

  • Hoekstra, Jarich1990Adjectiefnominalisatie in het FriesInterdisciplinair Tijdschrift voor Taal- en tekstwetenschap9273-285
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy