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1.2.8 Diminutives

Diminutives are used to denote small entities. Een boekje (Dutch) or ein Büchlein (German) means: ‘a little book’. In Saterland Frisian, like in English, this is seldom the case. A little book is ‘n litjet Bouk in Saterland Frisian.

Saterland Frisian diminutives are generally, or always, lexicalised words. Most diminutives are neuter. They end in either -ke (and -je) or -ken (and -jen). Very often, they are loans from Low German. A Peerdje ‘dragon-fly’, for example, is connected to Low German Peerd ‘horse’, which does not exist in Saterland Frisian (‘horse’ is Hoangst in Saterland Frisian). Many Saterland Frisian diminutives are characterised by Umlaut (fronting), which is a regular morpho-phonological phenomenon in High and Low German, but not in Saterland Frisian (e.g. dät Hüüsken ‘toilet’, cf. Huus ‘house’). Neuter diminutives show plural forms in -ene, e.g. dät Buutje, do Buutjene ‘slice(s) of bread and butter’ and dät Hüüsken, do Hüüskene ‘toilet(s)’.

dät Bitjen, Bitsken (‘little bit’), dät Boantje (‘job’), dät Buutje (‘slice of bread and butter’), dät Bröödken (‘sandwich’), dät Düüfke (‘little girl’, literally: ‘little pigeon’), dät Düümken (‘penis’, literally: ‘little thumb’), dät Göitjen (‘clothing’), dät Hüüsken (‘toilet’), dät Kitjen (‘prison’), dät Manneken (‘male [animal]’), dät Peerdje (‘dragon-fly’)

At first sight, one may wonder whether a word that is borrowed as a whole from another language should be considered a complex word. On the other hand, diminutive morphemes are undeniably recognised by native speakers, just like the elements re- and con- in receiveandreception or conceive and conception. Moreover, all these words have an informal and familiar flavour. An expensive warehouse would sell Klodere (‘clothes’), not Göitjen (‘gear’).

Not all Saterland Frisian diminutives are neuter words. Some are exclusively feminine, other are both feminine and neuter. They feature the same diminutive affixes as their neuter counterparts (i.e. -ke(n) and -je(n)). Their plurals end in -ene (i.e. -kene or -jene), whereas most other plural feminine words end in -en(e.g. ju Bääsje, do Bääsjene ‘grandmother(s)’).

Many of those (partly) feminine diminutives refer to plants and small animals (e.g. dät/ju Häimke, cricket’).

ju Bääsje (‘the grandmother’), ju/dät Baumantje (‘wagtail’), dät/ju Häimke (‘cricket’

Feminine diminutives ending in two weak (schwa containing) syllables show plural forms in -en, possibly for phonological reasons, e.g. ju Miegelke, do Miegelken ‘ant(s)’.

ju Doderke (‘yolk’), ju/die Dröizelke (‘blackbird’), ), ju Miegelke (‘ant’), ju Tuwwelke (‘potato’, plural: do Tuwwelke), ju Wiezelke (‘weasel’)

The noun juFottelke ‘(a certain kind of) sock’ has a plural form Fottelken. The neuter synonym dät Fottelken has a plural form do Fottelkene.

Diminutive nouns are countable. The mass noun Boomwulle ‘cotton’ can be converted metonymically into a count noun by means of affixation: dät Boomwulleken ‘cotton blanket’.

Diminutive morphology is not only present in nouns, but also in adjectives and adverbs, for example in the adjective stilken ‘sneaky’, the elative compoundings klitskewäit ‘soaking wet’ and muuskenstil ‘noiseless’(cf. []), the pseudo-participles ruutjed ‘checkered’ and blöimked ‘floral’ and the adverb stilkens ‘quietly’.

The noun Bääsje ‘grandmother’ has a complex history. It is a varation of Bäästemäme ‘grandmother’, which literally means ‘best mother’. The abridged form bääs- is combined with the diminutive ending -je, just like in Dutch (besje means: ‘old lady’), cf. [1.3] shortening.

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