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Negative article

In addition to a definite and an indefinite article, Frisian can be considered to possess a negative article, viz. gjin no. The 19th century form nin is now extinct. The negative article does not show number, gender or case inflection. Used independently, for example in nominal ellipsis, the word may be augmented with the suffixes -en or -t, which can also be stacked.

Gjin inherently implies negation. Generally, it can be argued that it is the indefinite article that is negated, although some quantificational elements may be negated as well. The negative article is easily associated with emphasis, also in certain fixed expressions.


The Frisian negative article is gjin [ɠjIn] no. The variants [ɠIn] and [jIn] also occur dialectically. The form nin [nIn] became extinct at the end of the 19th century. The article shows no number and gender distinctions. An inflected form can be observed in the fixed expressions te/foar ginder tiid never. This idiom is now extinct, however.

In nominal ellipsis, i.e. when the noun of the noun phrase is elided, and if in addition the negative article is immediately positioned before the elided noun, some additional forms besides the general gjin may be observed. These are gjinnen and gjint, but the suffixes -en and -t may also be stacked to the forms gjinnent and gjinten. Moreover, there is the form gjinien, which is restricted to a Noun Phrase (NP) with elided count noun.

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Data on the case ending can be found in Veen (1984-2011 s.v. gjin, 1). Data about the forms in nominal ellipsis have been drawn from Dyk (2011).

[+]Use and meaning

Issues of use and semantics of gjin will be touched upon in this section only shortly. More can be found in the syntactic part of the Taalportaal: NP negation and sentential negation, plural nouns and idiom formation with voiding of the semantic content of the noun.

The article gjin can be combined with singular nouns (both count and non-count), with plural nouns and also with proper names:

Example 1

a. Hja seach gjin skip op see
she saw no ship at sea
She did not see a ship at sea
b. Hy dronk gjin bier as er ride moast
he drank no beer if-he drive should
He drank no beer when he had to drive
c. Hja seach gjin skippen op see
she saw no ship-PL at sea
She did not see any ships at sea
d. Loltsje seach al oeren út, mar der wie gjin Gurbe te sjen
Loltsje saw already hours out, but there was no Gurbe to see
Loltsje was already watching for hours, but no Gurbe was in sight

As can be seen from these examples, gjin bears a negation feature. Usually, this can be considered the negation of the indefinite article (or its corresponding null article in case of plurals or noun count singulars). In eastern dialects, gjin may also be combined with the indefinite numerals mear more and genôch enough; it then has the meaning not as well:

Example 2

a. Wy hoege gjin mear krookjes yn 'e tún
we need no more crocusses in the garden
We do not need any more crocusses in our garden
b. Ik ha gjin genôch moal om pankoeken te bakken
I have no enough flour PRT pancakes to bake
I do not have enough flour to bake pancakes

The same holds for certain expressions with ordinary numerals:

Example 3

Hy is noch gjin fyftich
hy is still no fifty
He is not fifty yet

The negation can sometimes receive a certain emphatic connotation. For instance, in contrast to example (1c), example (1a) might also be translated as not a single ship. This emphatic connotation is quite normal in the case of proper nouns, as is shown in (1d). It is also frequent in time expressions:

Example 4

Ik haw har yn gjin tritich jier sjoen
I have her in no thirty year seen
I have not seen her in thirty years

Emphasis is also found in numerous expressions consisting of gjin plus a noun that is void of literal content, as in expressions like gjin bean, gjin byt, gjin grevel and many others. These occur in sentences like:

Example 5

a. Der is gjin grevel fan wier
there is no bit of true
It are all lies that are told
b. Dat kin my gjin byt skille!
that can me no bite matter
That does not bother me at all!

Finally, it should be noted that gjin can figure in cases of double negation.

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For a great deal, this topic is based on unfinished grammar of Frisian, written in English by Jarich Hoekstra. Lots of data on the negative article can be found in the following two dictionary articles: Veen (1984-2011 s.v. gjin; nin). Electronically at . The combination of gjin with more and enough is noted in Hoekstra (1991).

  • Dyk, Siebren2011The morphology of Frisian nominal ellipsis
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1991Gjin mearFriesch Dagblad16-03Taalsnipels 177
  • Veen, Klaas F. van der et al1984-2011Wurdboek fan de Fryske taal - Woordenboek der Friese taalFryske Akademy
  • Veen, Klaas F. van der et al1984-2011Wurdboek fan de Fryske taal - Woordenboek der Friese taalFryske Akademy