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Pronoun > N

Of the personal pronouns, only hy he and sy she may undergo conversion. The resulting nouns refer to the male and female variety of the lapwing.


Conversion of a pronoun to a noun is a marginal affair, but, interestingly, the two existing cases are in the midst of an important aspect of Frisian rural culture, i.e. the search in the early spring for the eggs of the lapwing. The female bird is called sy, and the male bird hy, on the basis of the personal pronounssy she and hy he. Both converted nouns have common gender, and hence take the definite article de. Occasionally, these words are also used for other birds.

According to Hof (1933:87), this conversion only occurs in the area where the bird is dubbed ljip, or one of its phonological varieties. It is not found in the south, where onomatopoetic kivyt is in use. Moreover, the pronunciation of the nouns hy and sy is with the diphthong [ɛi], hence as [hɛi] and [sɛi], even in the region where the pronouns have [i] as vowel.

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It should be borne in mind that many speakers only have these words in the diminutive form, as hyke and syke. For such speakers, the option might also be open that they do not convert the pronouns to a noun, but rather derive these diminutive forms by way of suffixation in a direct way, on the basis of the pronouns. In addition, it should be noted that historically another personal pronoun, i.e. Old Frisian hio, likewise may have undergone the transition to a noun. If this has been the case, then the simplex form jok female lapwing must be a backformation of a diminutive form. More details can be found in the section on diminutives on the basis of pronouns in the topic on diminuation.

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Some dialectical information can be found in Hof (1933:87). See also the entries hij II and sij II in Veen (1984-2011). For details about the form jok, see (Tamminga 1993).

  • Hof, Jan Jelles1933Friesche dialectgeographieMartinus Nijhoff
  • Hof, Jan Jelles1933Friesche dialectgeographieMartinus Nijhoff
  • Tamminga, Douwe Annes1993Wêr komt it subst. JOK (wyfkeljip) wei?Tydskrift foar Fryske Taalkunde8159-161
  • Veen, Klaas F. van der et al1984-2011Wurdboek fan de Fryske taal - Woordenboek der Friese taalFryske Akademy