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The clitic allomorph ent /ənt/ of the adverb of negation net /nɛt/ not

The adverb of negation net /nɛt/ not has the clitic allomorph ent /ənt/. The latter's use and distribution are the subject of this topic.


The adverb of negation net /nɛt/ not has the clitic allomorph ent /ənt/ (see Van der Meer and De Graaf (1986:308), Riemersma (1979:53), Visser (1988:216-217). Examples of its use are given in (1):

Example 1

Examples of the use of 'ent'
Dat ha'k ent [hakənt] heard that have I not heard I did not hear that
Dat hat er ent [hatərənt] sein that has he not said He did not say that
As ik Jaap ent [ja:pənt] fertrouwe kind hie, dan ... if I Jaap not trust (infinitive) can (past participle) had, then ... If I could not have trusted Jaap, then ...

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The sequences ha'k ent and Jaap ent can be realized as either [hakənt] and [ja:pənt] or as [hakŋt] and [ja:pm̩t], so as schwa + plain [n] or as syllabic (and assimilated) /n/. The latter is an indication that ent and the word preceding it make up one phonological word (see Syllabic sonorant consonants).

In principle, net and ent occur in the same positions. However, since ent a) has schwa as its only vowel and b) also begins with this vowel, heavy limits are imposed on its distribution.

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This is quite different in English, where the distribution of the full form not and its reduced counterpart n't are markedly different (see Zwicky and Pullum (1983).

The element ent cannot function as an independent word, that is, it cannot stand on its own. It is a typically enclitic form, it has to find a host word to its left, which is why it cannot occur in the configurations in (2):

Example 2

configurations in which ent cannot occur
a. In phrase-initial position
Net/*ent dat it my wat skele kin, mar ... not that it me something care can, but ... I do not care, but ...
Net/*ent allinne ..., mar ek ... not only ..., but also ... Not only ..., but also ...
b. Separated from the host word by a pause
Dat ha'k net/ent heard / dat ha'k ... net/*ent heard that have I not heard I did not hear that
c. In double negations
Dêr kom ik noait hast net/*ent there come I never almost not I hardly ever go there
Nimmen wie der net/*ent no one was there not There was no one at all
Ik haw der gjin sin oan net/*ent I have there no liking on not I do not feel like it (at all)
Ut noch yn net/*ent out nor in not Not at all
d. As a negative prefix
Foar net-leden/*ent-leden jildt in hegere priis for nonmembers obtains a higher price Nonmembers have to pay a higher price
As net-smoker/*ent-smoker wurdt men foarlutsen as nonsmoker is one favoured As a nonsmoker one is given preferential treatment
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ent may not occur in the context of a double negation in case the negation words are separated by other words ((2c)), which seems to link up with the impossibility for clitics to occur in conjoined phrases (see Cliticization). However, things are different when net is adjacent to a negation word, as in Dêr kom ik noait net I absolutely never go there (lit. there come I never not and Hja is neat net bang she is not chicken-hearted at all (lit. she is nothing not afraid), where noait net and neat net can be realized as both [no:jtnɛt]/ [nɪətnɛt] and [no:jtn̩t]/ [nɪətn̩t], so with the full form net /nɛt/ and the clitic allomorph ent /ənt/, respectively (the latter is realized with a syllabic /n/ ( [n̩]).

The relation between base form and allomorph can be expressed as follows:

net ~ ent relation

Figure 1

[click image to enlarge]

  • Meer, Geart van der & Graaf, Tjeerd de1986Sandhi phenomena in FrisianAndersen & Henning (eds.)Sandhi phenomena in the languages of EuropeBerlin/ New York/ AmsterdamMouton de Gruijter301-328
  • Riemersma, Tr1979Sylabysjerring, nazzeljerring, assymyljerringLjouwertKoperative Utjowerij
  • Visser, Willem1988In pear klitisearringsferskynsels yn it FryskDyk, dr. S. & Haan, dr. G.J. (eds.)Wurdfoarried en Wurdgrammatika. In bondel leksikale stúdzjesLjouwertFryske Akademy, Ljouwert175-222
  • Zwicky, Arnold M. & Pullum, Geoffrey K1983Cliticization vs. inflection: English n't'Language59502-513