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Choice of copula with animate subjects

Body posture copulas having a human subject may have the same meaning as their English counterparts when they combine with Adposition Phrases (PPs) of physical location:

Example 1

a. Jouke sit by syn buro
Jouke sits at his desk
Jouke is sitting at his desk

However, they also combine with PPs of mental location, so that they can come to participate in collocations referring to mental and emotional states. Two examples are given below:

Example 2

a. Hy sit mei hiel oare problemen
he sits with quite different problems
He has quite different problems
b. Hy sit deroer yn
he sits R.about in
He is worrying about it

Although such examples are acceptable in Modern Frisian, it seems that the older language was more reluctant to use such collocations.


When referring to humans, the four verbs of body posture have the same meaning as their English counterparts. The Dutch verb of sitting has lost its postural aspect when used with humans, so that it is possibly to ask the following question without implying that Diederik is actually sitting:

Example 3

Waar zit Diederik nu weer? (Dutch)
where sits Diederik now DcP
Where the dickens is Diederik now?

The Frisian verb of sitting still tends to require that the human subject is actually in a sitting position, in Standard Frisian, though informal Frisian may be heavily influenced by Dutch. So a sentence like (3) would be more adequately translated in Frisian as follows:

Example 4

Wêr is Doede no wer?
where sits Diederik now DcP
Where is Doede now?

Copulas of body posture are regularly used with PPs referring to a mental or abstract location. In such cases, the copula sitte sit is freely used, as for instance in the following sentence:

Example 5

Fryslân sit yn 'e lytse loege, omdat de machtige hartoch fan Hollân har bedriget
Fryslân sits in the small place because the powerful duke of Holland them threatens
Fryslân is hard pressed because it is threatened by the powerful duke of Holland

Sitte sit is the unmarked copula of location. An example like the one above only tolerates the locative copula sitte sit, not the other three copulas of posture, though wêze be is occasionally found, mostly with older writers.

There may be specific collocations built on each of the four copulas. Frisian of the 17th through 19th centuries regularly features cases in which the copula wêze be is used where sitte sit would have been expected.