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Indefinite: -enien

The suffix -en is used as a marker of indefinite noun ellipsis. It consists of the suffix -en followed by the indefinite pronoun ien one.


The suffix -enien consists of the suffix -en followed by the indefinite pronoun ien one. It is glossed as NEIP, 'noun ellipsis indefinite pronominal'. The suffixes -en and -enien have the same distribution. Just like -en, -enien is found in indefinite contexts, as shown below:

Example 1

a. *De reade bal of de grien-enien
the red ball or the green.NEIP
The red ball or the green one
b. In reade bal of in grien-enien
a red ball or a green.NEIP
A red ball or a green one

The indefinite pronominal suffix -ien cannot be separated from the inflection by intervening material. -ien is homophonous to the numeral pronoun ien. The numeral pronoun differs from the indefinite pronominal suffix in that the pronoun can be diminutivised, whereas the suffix cannot. This is shown in the examples below:

Example 2

a. *In grien-en-ien-tsje
a green.NEI.one.DIM
A littlte green one
b. Se hat ien-tsje sjoen, net twa
she has one.DIM seen not two
She has seen one, not two

However, the diminutive form may be a loan from Dutch, as it has a low frequency and it is only found after 1859, according to the Dictionary of the Frisian Language (Wurdboek fan de Fryske Taal). The indefinite pronoun, either as a numeral pronoun or as a pronominal suffix, cannot be pluralised, as it can in English.

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More details can be found in Hoekstra (1989).

  • Hoekstra, Jarich1989In aparten ienFriesch Dagblad15-07Taalsnipels 114