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The suffix -e can form field names with a cardinal numeral as base. For example, five, based on the numeral fiif five, is a piece of land with a surface area of five pûnsmiet (where one pûnsmiet is 3674 square metres).

[+]General properties

Field names can be derived by adding the suffix -e to a numeral. This numeral applies to the surface area in so-called pûnsmiet (cf. Dutch pondemaat), an old surface unit that stands for an area of 3674 square metres. It seems that this type of formation of field names is indeed restricted to those regions in which this unit is current. In the south, for instance, where rather the unit bunder hectare is in use, this pattern is unknown. Here are some examples:

Table 1
Base Derivation
trije three trije
fjouwer four fjouwere
fiif five five
tsien ten tsiene
alve eleven alve
trettjin thirteen tret-iene/tretjinne/ trettsiene
All derivations have common gender, i.e. they select the definite article de the.

The lowest numbers ien one and twa two do not seem to occur as possible input. On the other hand, halves are also possible, strictly speaking, however only in the conservative system in which the part -heal halve is attached to an ordinal (for details, see the section on complex fractions). For example, a piece of land that counts 6.5 pûnsmiet can be referred to by de san-de-heal-e the seven-ORD-halve-SUFF (where ORD is the ordinal suffix).

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Possible origin

Possibly the origin of the ending -e is nothing more than the former ending of the dative. It should be noted that the dative suffix -e typically occurred after nouns, and not after numerals. However, the base is probably not a numeral but rather a numeral converted into a noun. An indication is the fact that in some regions also field names like fiif five or acht exist, hence with a bare numeral, and with the definite article de, hence de fiif or de acht. As in the variants with the suffix -e, the addition of the definite article is natural as the formations have a unique referent. In addition, names of territories easily occur in the context of prepositional phrases, with prepositions governing the dative, like in in or op on. The high frequency of the converted numerals showing a dative ending might have been generalized then in such a way that this final schwa became used in all morphosyntactic positions. For a similar historical effect, this time concerning the selection of (the form of) the definite article, see the section variation of de and it in the topic on definite articles.

It is suggested in the lemma tiene ten-SUFF in the dictionary of early Dutch (Pijnenburg (2001)) (where one can find a similar Flemish formation from the year 1291) that the ending is a reduction of the ordinal. In the relevant attestation the origin would have been tiende. However, this idea makes little sense in the light of the Frisian facts. If the field names had been ordinals, one would not expect forms like achte in the light of the ordinal achtste, or even worse, a field name like trije where the corresponding ordinal is the form tredde.

[+]Phonological properties

The suffix is pronounced as the schwa ( [ə]). If the base already ends in a schwa, for example in trije three or tolve twelve, the suffix phonologically merges with the base form, and in such a case the base and the derivation are identical in pronunciation and also in orthography.

[+]Morphosyntactic properties

The derivations function as a name, and therefore no posibilities for morphological extension are available. For example, plural formation or diminuation is not allowed. Because of its unique denotation, derivations are always accompanied by the definite article, in this case de the.C the.

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Breuker (1978:22) seems to be the only one to have paid some attention to this suffix. He also calls attention to some interesting variation in the part -tien-/ -tsien-/-tjin- for the numbers between 12 and 20, which not necessarily has to coincide with the pronunciation of the number tsien ten itself. This stresses the name-like character of the derived forms, and it might be an indication that the derivation is not synchronically active anymore.

  • Breuker, Philippus Hillebrand1978Toponymy fan BoazumFryske NammenLjouwertFryske Akademy
  • Pijnenburg, Wilhelmus J.J. & Gysseling, Maurits2001Vroegmiddelnederlands woordenboek: woordenboek van het Nederlands van de dertiende eeuw in hoofdzaak op basis van het Corpus-GysselingGopher Publishers/Instituut voor Nederlandse Lexicologie