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1.1.1 Compounds and their heads

Usually, a compound is composed of two parts, e.g. Taaskenbouk (‘pocket book’). The first part normally modifies the final part, which – in its turn – serves as head of the compound. A Taaskenbouk is a kind of Bouk (‘book’), that is to say: one that can be kept in a Taaske (‘pocket’). A compound normally shares the grammatical features of its head: dät Taaskenbouk (neuter) and do Taaskenbouke (plural), like: dät Bouk(neuter), do Bouke(plural).

Compounding is recursive. Both the modifier and the head can be compound words, for example Kloosterfermoats-steen (‘a brick of monastery size’) or Skipstimmermon (‘ship carpenter’). (Note: Klooster is the Low German counterpart of Saterland Frisian Klaaster.)

Compounds are extremely frequent. All major word categories include compounds, although verbal compounds are rare. For example: the noun Taaskenbouk ‘pocket book’, the adjective kriedewiet ‘chalk white’, the adverb eerjäärsene ‘the day before yesterday’, the preposition bieloangs ‘along’ and the numeral fjauerhunnert ‘four hundred’.

Like everything else in Saterland Frisian, compounding is sensitive to interference. Pure Saterland Frisian words feature in compoundings less frequently than in simplex words. The ‘pure’ noun Fräige ‘question’ is hard to find in compounds like Froa(ge)bouk ‘catechism book’ and Froageteken ‘question mark’ (which may well be loan words as a whole, cf. German Fragebuch, Fragezeichen).

More information can be found by following in the sections below.

[+]Nominal headed compounds

Nominal compounds are compounds containing a nominal head, that is: their head is a noun. For example:

Table 1
N+N Taaskenbouk (‘pocket book’), Säärkdore (‘church door’), Bäidensbäiden (‘grandchild’), Skeepflaask (‘mutton’)
A+N Ooldbjoor (‘altbier’), Gräinlound (‘grassland’)
V+N Bakougend (‘baking oven’)
P + N Apdrift (‘carriage drive’), Buppereende (‘upper end’), Uutfaal (‘attack’), Ättersumer (‘late summer’)
Adv + N Wäildäid (‘benefit’), Wierbäide (‘renaissance’)
Q + N (Q+N) Trjokaant (‘triangle’), Eenstaal (‘one horse carriage’), Fjodendeelsjier (‘trimester’)
? + N Buzemon (‘boogeyman’)

Nominal compounds can become intransparant over time, especially nominal compounds. For example: Buzemon is etymologically derived from a verb which is ow obsolete. A Grodore ‘stable door’ is a Grootdore (lit. ‘large-door’) and a Froabouk (‘catechism book’) is a Froagebouk (lit. ‘question book’). A Blaumon is not a ‘blue man’ but a workman’s overall. The word is metonymical. Metonymy can give rise to possessive or exocentric compounds (like redhead), cf. [].

The modifier part of a nominal compound doesn’t always refer to something associated with the head. A Folemäre (lit. ‘foal-mare’) is a mare which is a foal too. The Lottospil is the game that is called Lotto. Some other examples are Juniemound ‘the month of June’ and Knientjebuk ‘male rabbit’.

The modifier element of a N+N type nominal compound is not always homophonic with the corresponding lexical item. The word Säärkdore (church door), for instance, is composed of Säärke (church) and Dore (door). This kind of allomorphy will be discussed in (linking elements).

Although the concept of allomorphy wil be discussed extensively in [], it is important to touch upon a few details here. Elision (like Säärkdore, ‘church door’ from Säärke and Dore) is not the only source of compounding allomorphy. In NN compounds, the modifying part often reflects an obsolete genitival ending, either from Saterland Frisian itself (e.g. Bäidensbäiden, ‘grandchild’) or through High German interference (e.g. Taaskenbouk, ‘pocket book’).

Some compounding forms ending in -e, -en or -er have a ‘plural’ ring to them, e.g. Stenehopen (‘heaps of bricks’) versus Steengruus (‘brick dust’), cf. die Steen (sg.), do Stene (pl.), ‘stone, brick’. Although there is no one-to-one correspondence between plural-like allomorphy and semantic plurals – Steensätter, ‘tiler’, is a counter-example, for instance – , it is undeniable that plurality does play a role in nominal compoundings, as evidenced by unambiguously ‘plural’ compounds like Fäite-ende (‘foot-end of a bed’), cf. die Fout, do Fäite (the foot, the feet’).

[+]Adjectival compounds

Adjectival compounds are compounds containing an adjectival head (i.e.: their head is an adjective). For example:

(NA): pieperjuur (‘very expensive’, lit. ‘pepper-expensive’), kriedewiet (‘as white as chalk’), skeeldenfräi (‘debt free’)
(AA): ljoachtblau (‘pale blue’), lauwoorm (‘luke warm’)
(AdvA): juustgliek (‘indifferent’)
(PA): foarluud (‘cheeky’, cf. German vorlaut)
(VA): faalduun (‘very drunk’, lit. ‘fall-drunk’), böädeläärm (‘very poor’, lit. ‘beg-poor’)

The ADV+A type (e.g. juustgliek, ‘indifferent’) and the P+A type adjectival compounds (e.g. foarluud, ‘cheeky’) are rare. The adjective juustgliek is only used predicatively, e.g.: dät is mie juustgliek (‘it’s indifferent to me’). Adjectives like leetriep (late-ripe) can be considered as phrasal compounds (see

The N+A and A+A types are more productive. Some of these compounds exhibit a truly modifying first element, e.g.:

griestjuusterch (‘grey dark’), hädboaken (‘hard-boiled’), jeelblau (‘yellowish blue’), oairuund (‘oval’, lit. ‘egg-round’), katskietenjeel (‘sulphur yellow’, lit. ‘catshit-yellow’).

Some other compounds denote a certain degree of a certain property, for instance:

fäästetjuk (‘as thick as a fist’), hondebreed (‘as boad as a hand’), fouthooch (as high as a foot), holichslieten or hoolfslieten (almost worn off, lit. half-worn’), ruuchskeen (‘provisionally cleaned’)

In many other instances, the first element is only meant to intensify the meaning of the head, causing it to get a high degree reading, e.g.

kriedewiet (as white as chalk), gäärsgräin (as green as grass), böädeläärm (very poor).

This type of compounds will be discussed in (elative compounds).

Adjectives like skeeldenfräi (free from debts) will be discussed in

In some N+A type compounds, the nominal modifier may vary from the corresponding noun, e.g. skietewies(conceited), huundsgemeend (very mean) muzegries(mouse-grey), see (linking elements).

Adjectival compounds like doofstum or stumdoof (‘deaf and dumb’) contain – as it were – two semantic heads. This type of compound is discussed in (coordinative compounds).

[+]Verbal compounds

Verbal compounds are compounds with a verbal head. In West Germanic languages, verbal compounds tend to be improductive. Verbal compounds like räidslo (‘to deliberate’) are rare, and räidslo may even be borrowed from High German (‘ratschlagen’, lit. ‘to counsel-beat’). It is an inseparable complex verb with a full paradigm: iek räidslo, iek räidsluuch.

On the other hand, Saterland Frisian disposes of many inseparable verbal compounds showing Noun Incorporation, for example:

eedgreeuwe (‘to extact turf’), tuwwelkeloundhakje (lit. ‘to potato-land-hew), ponkoukebakke (lit. ‘to pankace-bake’), ougendheetmoakje (‘to heat the oven’, lit. ‘to oven-hot-make’), gäärsmjo (‘to mow grass’), boomoutakje (‘to remove tree branches’), piepeskeenmoakje (‘to cleanse a pipe’)

Complex verbs like these only occur in infinitival use, e.g. uus Mäme waas an ’t ponkoukebakken (‘our mother was baking pancakes’).

Just like noun incorporation verbs, the verb grootdwo (‘to boast’, lit. ‘to big-do’) is inseparable and only used in its infinitival forms: grootdwo, (tou) grootdwoon.

Not all speakers appear to use a full paradigm of räidslo. Some of them only use the infinitival forms.

Some verbal compounds may derive from synthetic compounds (see For example, the verb häkkebiete (lit. ‘to heel-bite’) refers to aggressive little dogs called Häkkebietere (‘heel-biters’). The same is true of mulebale (‘to flatter’) and ruuchhaue (‘to fumble’), for instance. Such verbs tend to be used in infinitival contexts only, just like Noun Incorporation Verbs.

Reduplicative verbal compounds like hikhakje (‘to argue’), where the morpheme hik- is a meaningless sound effect, will be discussed in (Reduplicative Verbal Compounds).

Headless complex verbs like nikkopje, ‘to nod’, will be discussed in (Exocentric Verbal Compounds).

A great many complex verbs (for instance beetkriege, ‘to grasp’) are separable, which is evidenced by their inflected forms: iek kriege ‘t beet (‘I grasp it’). Those verbs will be discussed in (Separable Complex Verbs). Particle verbs (like uutdwo, to put off) will be discussed in

Verbs like blienddoukje (‘to blindfold’) cannot be considered verbal compounds, because there is no verb *doukje. Such verbs originate from nouns through conversion, in this case Blienddouk (‘a blindfold’). Conversion is traditionally regarded as a subclass of derivation (see: 1.2, derivation).

  • Dyk, Siebren: Noun Incorporation in Frisian. Diss. RU Groningen, 1997.
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