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Frisian adjectives may be converted into nouns on a moderate scale. From the adjective djip deep, for example, one may derive the noun djip, which is a deep waterway. The derived nouns predominantly display the property inherent to the adjectival source. The pattern can be considered productive in the realm of colour terms and languages. Examples are read red > it read the red colour, or Sweedsk Swedish > it Sweedsk the Swedish language. The use of other converted nouns is often restricted to certain fixed patterns or expressions. Most derived nouns have neuter gender, but those referring to persons are common.

[+]General properties

Conversion of an adjective into a noun usually results in a property meaning: the output noun typically refers to something that has the property denoted by the adjective. The converted nouns differ with respect to gender. If it refers to a thing, the converted noun is neuter, and therefore takes the definite article it the:

Table 1
Adjectival Base Converted Noun
ljocht not dark, bright it ljocht light
tsjuster not light, not bright it tsjuster dark
heech high it heech high place
wiid spacious it wiid width
fet much fat, not skinny it fet fat
smel narrow it smel small pieces of meat on both sides of the spine of a slaughtered pig
djip deep it djip deep water
grien green it grien the colour green
read red it read the colour red
blyn blind it blyn blindage
sâlt salty it sâlt (common) salt
soer sour it soer pickles
rjocht straight it rjocht justice
tsjok thick it tsjok grounds
fjouwerkant square formed it fjouwerkant square
wiet wet it wiet the wet
gehiel whole it gehiel the whole
orizjineel original it orizjineel the original

The names of languages can be added to this stock. So, from the adjective Frysk from Friesland can be derived it Frysk Frisian, and we have the language it Sineesk Chinese from the adjective Sineesk from China. This conversion of geographical adjectives to the names of languages can be considered productive, as is the conversion in the realm of colour terms. In other areas, the productivity of the pattern is strongly restricted. Note that the geographical adjectives themselves are derived from geographical names by suffixation.

Conversion to nouns denoting an animal is extremely rare. There are only jong young > it jong young animal and wyld wild > it wyld game. Both formations have neuter gender, but they differ in that it jong is a count noun, where it wyld is a mass noun.

Conversion to nouns referring to persons does not occur frequently either. In this case, the gender of the converted noun is common, hence it takes the definite article de the. Examples are listed below:

Table 2
Adjectival base Converted noun
ferwoest very angry de ferwoest wild person
gek crazy de gek lunatic
komyk comic de komyk comedian
autochtoan autochthonous de autochtoan native
krimineel criminal de krimineel criminal
liberaal liberal de liberaal liberal

As can be seen from these cases, non-native adjectives are relatively open for conversion to a personal noun.


One aspect that may point to restricted productivity is the property that many formations preferably occur in a collocation, for instance in an Adposition Phrase (PP) with a fixed preposition. Examples are iepenbier public > yn it iepenbier in the public publicly, or its counterpart geheim secret > yn it geheim in the secret secretly. We see the same preposition in the kind of clothing: yn it wyt in the white (dressed) in white (from wyt white) or yn it lang in the long in a long dress (from lang long).

Other examples of collocations show an almost obligatory additional specification, embodied in a PP, like it weak (fan 't liif) the soft (of the body) the soft tissues (of the body), it giel (fan 't aai) the yellow (of the egg) the egg yolk or it toar (fan 't spek) the lean of the bacon the lean part of the bacon.

We can also find frequent mostly metaphorically used binominal expressions, like swiet en soer sweet and sour the rough and the smooth of life, ryp en grien ripe and green people with all kinds of qualifications; everybody, wiet en droech wet and dry food en drinks. Such binominal expressions may also refer to persons, as in slop-en-taai soft and tough tall person who is skinny and weak or meager-en-kwea slim and evil long and weak mischievous. The latter expressions are preferably used predicatively, in an indefinite noun phrase (NP).

In addition, some other results of A>N conversion denoting a person can likewise only occur with the indefinite article in a(n), and only if they occur in comparisons. Examples are ... as in wyld ... as a wild (looking) like a wild one, prate as in âld talk like an old talk like a grown-up and sûpe as in kreupel booze like a cripple get pissed.

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This topic is based on Hoekstra (1998:106).

  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy