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The suffix -ste

The suffix -st is an agreement suffix. The suffix -sto is an agreement suffix to which the 2SG subject pronoun do you has been cliticised. In addition to these two there is a third suffix -ste. This suffix would seem to be a combination of 2Sg agreement and the weak form de of the full pronoun do. However, if this is correct, it would only show up on hosts preceding it: on the complementiser and on the tensed verb in inverted main clauses, that is, clauses in which the subject is not clause-initial. A further expectation would be that it does not show up on the tensed verb of subject-initial main clauses. These expectations are not met in a superficial investigation of the Frisian Language Corpus.


The complementiser datste that.2SG shows up in the Frisian Language Corpus in sources which mostly involve Frisian of the 18th and 19th centuries. Furthermore, the presence of -ste on the complementiser strongly correlates with the presence of -ste on the verb in the self-same clause (but not vice versa, as will be seen), as in the example below:

Example 1

Wel, wiif, ik moat dy sizze, datste dy fan dizze wike wat opskranderje moatste
well wife I must you say that.2SG yourself of this week a.little up.tidy must
Well, wife, I should tell you that you should tidy things a bit up this week

The suffix -ste is present on the tensed verb moatste of the embedded clause. This makes it impossible to derive the schwa on the suffix from an incorporated clitic pronoun, seeing that clitic pronouns do not follow the tensed verb of an embedded clause. Instead, it must be clear that -ste, in nineteenth-century Frisian, should be analysed as an agreement marker. If this is correct, this marker would also be expected on the verb in subject-initial main clauses, which is actually the case. Consider the example below:

Example 2

Dou tinkste, datste noch faak te merk gean silste
you think.2SG that.2SG still often to funfair go shall.2SG
You think that you will continue to go to many fairs

Here the tensed verb tink of the main clause exhibits the suffix -ste.

Let us have a closer look at the presence of -ste on the tensed verb, by investigating the form biste are.2SG. This verb form, in contrast to the complementiser datste that.2SG, is not restricted to nineteenth-century Frisian. It is found in many sources from the twentieth-century. The following sentence is an example of a main clause featuring a non-subject in first position:

Example 3

Logika, wêr biste?
logic where are.2SG
Logic, where are you?

But there are also twentieth-century examples in which the 2SG suffix is found on the tensed verb of embedded clause, though not on the complementiser:

Example 4

Siest oer dat laam Gods yn, datst net nei skoalle gien biste?
sat.2SG about that lamb God's in that.2SG not to school gone are.2SG
Were you worried about that lamb of God, that you did not go to school?

So the nineteent-century featured the following correlation: if -ste is found on the complementiser, then it is found on the verb of the same clause. The (early) twentieth-century features this suffix on verbs, but not complementisers. Consider also the following example:

Example 5

Wêrom soene wy net ris wat lêze watsto graach wolste
why should we not DcP read what.2SG.you eagerly want.2SG
Why shouldn't we read something that you would like us to read?

Here the verb of the embedded clause features the suffix, the complementiser has agreement to which the full pronoun has been cliticised.

It is also possible to find twentieth-century examples of this suffix on the tensed verb of main clause subject-initial sentences, though they tend to belong to the first half of the twentieth-century or to the nineteenth-century:

Example 6

a. Welmoed, do biste út it goede hout
Welmoed, you are.2SG out the good wood
Welmoed, you are made of the right stuff
b. Do biste myn leave blommetún
you are.2SG my sweet flower.garden
You are my sweet garden of flowers

To sum up, the twentieth-century optionally features -ste on verb forms in any of its positions, but not on the complementiser. Further research is needed to confirm the chronological differences in the distribution of the suffix over the three verb positions and the complementiser.