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Conversion can be defined as the derivation of a word without the addition of an affix. The effect of conversion is that the input word transposes to a different lexical category. In this way, for example, the nominal stem spiker nail turns into the verbal stem spiker to nail, without any phonological change of the base word. Of course, the output stem receives the inflectional affixes of the new category. So, in referring to a verb we usually employ the form of the infinitive, in this case spikerje. This verb is an instance of noun to verb conversion, which is very common and productive in Frisian, but other transitions occur as well.

Conversion is a directional process, linking an input and an output form that are formally but not semantically identical. Conversion is comparable to derivation, but there is no affix, at least not a visible one. The terms zero-affixation or implicit transposition are therefore sometimes used as synonyms.

By definition, a word cannot be converted to its own lexical category. In addition, it appears that mainly the main, open categories noun, verb and adjective are involved, and adverbs on a smaller scale. This means, all in all, that the number of conversion patterns is restricted.

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Some interjections have a verbal base, for example sjoch see, hear hear or tink think. These words are not dealt with here, as it may be assumed that they are not the result of a process of word formation, but rather of ellipsis operating in a comment clause. See for sjochHoekstra (2001). For tink, see Hoekstra (2013).


The main division in the treatment of conversion is according to the category of the output: noun, verb, adjective or adverb. For more information, follow the corresponding links:

  • Hoekstra, Jarich2001'It is sjesa gelegen' : presintative fersterking fan demonstrative ileminten yn it Westerlauwersk Frysk, it Sealtersk en oare talenUs wurk: tydskrift foar Frisistyk5085-106
  • Hoekstra, Jarich2013Salverda, tink? Ta de ûntjouwing fan it epistemyske tuskensintsje TINK IK yn it FryskDe tienduizend dingen. Feestbundel voor Reinier Salverda.Fryske Akademy449-461