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Shortened verbs and complementizers in combination with personal pronoun clitics

Some complementizers and finite verbs with final /-t/ show up with a /t/-less variant when followed by the clitic allomorphs of some personal pronouns. This has led to more or less 'fixed' combinations. They are the subject of this topic.


In Frisian complementizers end in /t/, which is either an integral part of the complementizer or it is the 'conjunction morpheme' t /t/ − written 't −, with which relative and interrogative pronouns and temporal and local adverbs are inflected in case they function as a complementizer. Some complementizers show up without /t/ when combining with the clitic allomorph of some personal pronouns. Overviews of the relevant complementizers and clitics are given in (1) and (2), respectively (see also Visser (1988:206-212)):

Example 1

The complementizers with a /t/-less variant
dat /dɔt/ that [complementizer]
at /ɔt/ as; when; it [complementizer]
oft /ɔt/ whether [complementizer]
dat /dɔt+t/ which [relative pronoun; dat is a demonstrative pronoun]
dy't /di+t/ which [relative pronoun; dy is a demonstrative pronoun]
wat /vɔt+t/ which [relative pronoun; wat is an interrogative pronoun]
doe't /doe+t/ when [doe is a temporal, demonstrative adverb]
dêr't /dɛ:r+t/ where [dêr is a locative, demonstrative adverb]
wêr't /vɛ:r+t/ where [wêr is a locative, interrogative adverb]
Example 2

The clitics which combine with the /t/-less variants complementizers in (1)
'k /k/ I (full form: ik /ɪk/ )
we /və/ we (full form: wy /vi/ or wij /vɛi/ )
je /jə/ you (sg, polite) (full form: jo /jo:/ )
jem /jəm/ you (pl.) (full form: jim(me) /jɪm(ə)/ )

The modal verb moatte /matə/ must − to be precise, its stem moat /mat/ − joins this pattern. Examples are given in (3). Note that not all sequences in bold are recognized in the official spelling.

Example 3

Examples of /t/-less complementizers and 'moat' with a clitic
Se sizze dat 'k [dɔk] op ús heit lykje they say that-I on our father look like I am said to look like my father
Dat moat 'k [mak] noch in kear neirekkenje that must-I still a time run through I have to run through that again
Hja freget oft we [ɔvə] hast klear binne she asks whether-we almost ready are She asks whether we have almost finished
Dat moat we [mavə] noch in kear neirekkenje that must-we still a time run through That we have to run through again
Alle boeken dy't je [dijə] lêzen hawwe all the books which-you (sg., polite) read have All the books which you have read
Sa moat je [majə] net tinke so must-you (sg., polite) not think You should not think like that
De tiid doe't jem [dujəm] noch lyts wienen the time when-you (pl.) still little were The time when you were still young
Wêr moat jem [majəm] dat wei helje? where must-you (pl.) that away fetch Where do you have to get that from?
It plak dêr't 'k [dɛ:k] hinne moat the place there I to must The place I have to go to

Of the clitics in (2), 'k is the only one without a vowel. This implies that 'k does not add a syllable to the host word it joins, so that sequences like dat 'k en moat 'k end up as monosyllabic. There are limits to the consonant sequences a syllable may accommodate. For reasons of sonority profile, the final sequence /-tk/ of dat 'k /dɔtk/ and moat 'k /matk/ cannot survive. It seems 'logical' that the final /t/ of dat and moat gives in, in favour of /k/, since otherwise the clitic 'k would be lost altogether. This is why the full forms dat and moat can only combine with ik's reduced variant ek /ək/. In that case, however, the /t/-less variants of dat and moat are out, for their amalgamation with vowel-initial ek would create the ill-formed configuration of two word-internal vowels in hiatus (see The resolution of vocalic hiatus): da ek /*dɔək/ and ma ek /*maək/, respectively. Since we, je, and jem are not vowel-initial, they can freely combine with the /t/-less variants, as exemplified in (3).

The forms in (2) above − 'k /k/ I, we /və/ we, je /jə/ you (SG, polite), and jem /jəm/ you (pl., familiar and polite)− all happen to be the clitic allomorphs of the subject form of personal pronouns. That this is not coincidental, is shown by je and jem. These are a) personal pronouns with identical forms for the subject and the object form and b) personal pronouns the forms of which equal those of the related possessive pronouns. Now see the examples in (4):

Example 4

a. With je /jə/ 'you (sg., polite)'/'your (idem)
      Dat je [dɔtjə] [dɔjə] net meidwaan wolle, raast oan'e protters that you (subject form, sg., polite) not join in want, cries to the starlings It is a crying shame that you do not want to join in
      Dat je [dɔtjə] [*dɔjə] soks op skoalle leard is, docht my gjin nij that you (object form, sg., polite) such a thing at school taught has been does me no new It does not surprise me, that you have been taught things like this at school
      At je [ɔtjə] [*ɔjə] hûs ferkocht wurdt, dan ... if your (sg., polite) house sold is, then ... If your house is sold, then ...
      Dat moatt' je [matjə] [majə] net sizze that must you (subject form, sg., polite) not say You should not say that
      Wy moatt' je [matjə] [*majə] dat ôfriede we must you (object form, sg., polite) advise against We have to advise you against that
      Wy moatt' je [matjə] [*majə] boar even brûke we must your (sg., polite) drill a while use We have to use your drill just for a while
b. With jem /jəm/ 'you (pl., familiar and polite)'/'your (idem)'
      At jem [ɔtjəm] [ɔjəm] net meidogge, dan ... if you (subject form, pl., familiar and polite) not join in, then ... If you do not join in, then ...
      At jem [ɔtjəm] [*ɔjəm] dit wol wat taliket, doch dan ek mei if to you (object form, pl., familiar and polite) this all right seems, then also join in If this seems a good idea to you, then also join in
      At jem [ɔtjəm] [*ɔjəm] hûs ferkocht wurdt, dan ... if your (pl., familiar and polite) house sold is, then ... If your house is sold, then ...
      Dat moatt' jem [matjəm] [majəm] net dwaan that must you (subject form, pl., familiar and polite) not do You should not do that
      Wy moatt' jem [matjəm] [*majəm] wat fertelle we must you (object form, pl., familiar and polite) something tell We have to tell you something
      Wy moatt' jem [matjəm] [*majəm] auto even brûke we must your (pl., familiar and polite) car a while use We have to use your car just for a while

There appears to be an asymmetry here between the subject form on the one hand and the object form/possessive pronoun on the other. As yet, there does not seem to be a ready explanation for the above pattern.

The relation between the full form of the complementizers and their /t/-less variant in host word + clitic combinations might be expressed as follows:

relation between complementizers and their /t/-less variants

Figure 1

[click image to enlarge]

A similar statement must be made with respect to the verb moat:

relation between moat and its /t/-less variant

Figure 2

[click image to enlarge]

[hide extra information]

The clitic se/ze /{s/z}ə/ she; they does not combine with /t/-less complementizers and the shortened stem of moatte must. This means that, for instance, combinations like dat se that she, that they; which she, which they, dy't se which she, which they, and moatt' se must she, must they cannot be realized as [*dɔzə], [*dizə], and [*mazə], but only as [dɔtsə], [ditsə], and [matsə]. It should be noted that /z/ is not likely to be preceded by short vowels, like /ɔ/ and /i/ (see The obstruents: the fricatives). The sequence /azə/, however, meets with less reluctance, as shown by the noun hazze /hazə/ hare and the verb-clitic combination ha se /hazə/ have they. The ill-formedness of moatt' se [*mazə] therefore cannot be explained on phonotactic grounds.

  • Visser, Willem1988In pear klitisearringsferskynsels yn it FryskDyk, dr. S. & Haan, dr. G.J. (eds.)Wurdfoarried en Wurdgrammatika. In bondel leksikale stúdzjesLjouwertFryske Akademy, Ljouwert175-222