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The suffix -k can derive verbs from verbs. An example is dripkje to drip slowly from drippe to drip. The base verbs belong to the weak class I (e-verbs), but the resulting formation always behaves like class II (je-verbs). The basic function of the suffix is that it indicates a repetition, hence it could be characterized as iterative or frequentative. Often, this has also a "softening" effect. In a few cases we see stacking with the likewise iterative suffix -el.

The suffix -k is also used with nominal and adjectival bases. As its function seems different there, i.e. primarily to indicate a transposition to verbs, these bases will not be dealt with in this topic. For more information, see here for nouns and here for adjectives as a base.

[+]General properties

The suffix -k derives verbs from other verbs. It seems that these bases are always so-called e-verbs, i.e. they belong to class I of the weak inflection. However, after addition of the suffix -k the paradigm of je-verbs (class II) is followed. For the two weak verbal classes in Frisian, see weak verbs. Hence, in their infinitival form the morphological make-up of the derived formations is base + -k + /-je/. Examples are given in the table below:

Table 1
Base form Derivation
aaie to stroke aikje to caress
roeie to row roeikje to row gently
flaaie to flatter flaikje to flatter
slomje to slumber slomkje to slumber
drippe to drip dripkje to drip slowly
farre to sail farkje to sail
sluere to slide sljurkje to slide gently
loere to leer at luorkje to leer at
susse to soothe suskje to soothe
oankûse to cuddle up oankûskje to cuddle up
drave to trot drafkje to trot along
driuwe to float driuwkje to float
gnize to smirk gnyskje to sneer, to smirk
brûze to foam brûskje to foam lightly
In some cases, the relation between the base form and its derivation can barely be recognized anymore, as might be the case in weve to weave > wifkje to wafer, heevje to lift > hifkje to check, or hearre to hear > harkje to listen. According to Van der Meer (1988:63), many more verbs in -k have an opaque base.

[+]Semantic properties

The main purpose of the suffix -k seems to be the indication of repetition of the action or event denoted by the base verb. In this way iterative or frequentative verbs are formed. An example is trapkje to stamp one's feet next to traapje to step. Almost inevitably, a repeated action implies that each individual move is less forceful. This will be the reason that many -k-verbs have a softening meaning when compared to the base, even if the base verb already implies a repeated action by itself. An example is roeie to row, which requires a repeated movement of oars, and hence is already an iterative verb semantically. Next to this, there is roeikje. This derived verb typically has the flavour of a more relaxed leisure activity. In the literature, the term diminutive is used in this respect, which may have been chosen because of the formal correspondence with the nominal diminutive form -ke, but which also might be appropriate semantically because of the "smaller" impact of the verbal action.


The suffixes -el and -er likewise indicate iterativity. The suffixes -k and -el can be stacked, in that order, although this phenomenon is quite rare. The only cases are far-k-el-je to go boating (from farre to sail) and driuw-k-el-je to float slowly (from driuwe to float). In addition, we have trip-k-el-je to trip, next to the forms tripkje and trippelje with the same meaning (but the base form trippe is extremely rare).

An alternative analysis could be to derive these "double" forms from derivations with the suffix -k. For example, we would then get the development farre > far-k-je > far-k-el-je. In this way, the assumption of stacking is not necessary.

[+]Phonological properties

The addition of /k/ results in a complex consonant cluster, which can easily cause shortening in the vowel of the base. In the table above we can readily observe this in aaie ~ aikje, flaaie ~ flaikje and gnize ~ gnyskje. Although not directly reflected in the spelling, shortening also occurs in drave ~ drafkje and brûze ~ brûskje. As can be expected, breaking also applies, as in loere ~ luorkje and also the rare alternation that can be observed in sluere ~ sljurkje.

[hide extra information]

For a good number of examples, see Tamminga (1975:318-319). An in-depth study into the suffix -k, and especially its sometimes vague semantics, has been carried out by Geart van der Meer, see Van der Meer (1989), Van der Meer (1988a) and Van der Meer (1988b). He also pays attention to the use of the suffix in neighbouring dialects, especially the one of Groningen. In addition, he presents an overview of the research history, and the history of the suffix itself. In contrast to Hoekstra (1998:142-143, 153) and the view presented here, he does not draw a sharp division between verbal bases on the one hand and nominal and adjectival bases on the other. Stapelkamp (1951) briefly discusses the older Germanic use of -k as an intensifier en provides petrified forms, for instance harkje to hark, which is historically related to hearre to hear. His view that also the modern derivations are still intensifying does not seem correct, however. For a historical treatment in Germanic perspective, see also Hofmann (1961).

  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
  • Hofmann, Dietrich1961Die k-diminutiva im Nordfriesischen und in verwandten SprachenBöhlau
  • Meer, Geart van der1988K-verbs in some West-Germanic languages (1)NOWELE : North-Western European language evolution1151-72
  • Meer, Geart van der1988K-verbs in some West-Germanic languages (1)NOWELE : North-Western European language evolution1151-72
  • Meer, Geart van der1988K-verbs in some West-Germanic languages (2)NOWELE : North-Western European language evolution123-14
  • Meer, Geart van der1989Some aspects of verbal repetition and diminution (On so-called -k- verbs in Frisian and Gronings).Abraham, Werner & Janssen, Theo (eds.)Tempus - Aspekt - Modus : die lexikalischen und grammatischen Formen in den germanischen SprachenTübingenNiemeyer323-341
  • Stapelkamp, Chris1951Frisiaca VIII. PielkjeIt Beaken13162-163
  • Tamminga, Douwe Annes1975Fan 'Wâldtsjers' en 'Klaeikers'It Beaken4/5315-323