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Endocentric VN compounds are very common and productive in Frisian. They are often formed by combining a bare verbal stem with a noun, where the noun is the right-hand head. An example is roeiboat row-boat rowing boat, formed from the verb roeie to row and the noun boat boat. In some VN compounds we see the insertion of a linking element. The commonest is the linker -ers, which is still productive in Frisian. Other, less common elements are -e, -el, -er, -en and -s.

Most VN compounds are endocentric, that is, they denote a subset of what is conceived by the head. A roeiboat rowing boat is therefore a kind of boat. Some VN formations set an exocentric interpretation. An example is bemuoial meddler, formed of bemuoie to meddle in and al everything. Endocentric as well as exocentric VN compounds have stress on their first constituent.

[+]Endocentric VN compounds

A nominal VN compound is the fusion of a verbal first element and a nominal second one. The result is a noun. An example is roeiboat row-boat rowing boat, formed from the verb roeie to row and the noun boat boat. VN compounds are a very common type of compounding in Frisian. The stress is on the first constituent, for example in roeiboat rowing boat. Many formations just show a bare verbal stem as first constituent, but it is also not uncommon that the first member is extended by a linking element. These elements will be dealt with in separate sections below. Examples with bare verbal stems are:

Table 1
First constituent (V) Second constituent (N) Compound (VN)
roeie to row boat boat roeiboat rowing boat
timmerje to hammer man man timmerman carpenter
stopje to fill up nulle needle stopnulle darning needle
kjiffe to gnaw dier animal kjifdier rodent
nifelje to do handiwork ding thing nifelding a thing to do craft work with
pisje to have a pee hoekje corner pishoekje a corner to pee in
skeare to shave apparaat device skearapparaat electric shaver
fjochtsje to fight groppe trench fjochtgroppe trench
printsje to print flater error printflater print failure
bine to bind jern twine byntjern binder twine (with an inserted /t/)
knipe to pinch tange tongs knyptange pair of pincers
sliepe to sleep keamer room sliepkeamer bedroom
gongelje to walk with a walking stick stôk stick gongelstôk walking stick
kuierje to go for a stroll paad path kuierpaad footpath
seine to signal boade messenger seinboade messenger
fleane to fly masine machine fleanmasine aeroplane

There is a peculiar restriction in the formation of VN compounds: if a verb accepts a transparent nominalization with the suffix -ing, then the NN compound with such a nominalization as the first constituent is preferred over the VN compound. This is the reason why ferlytsingswurd diminutive (from ferlytsing reduction + word word), uteringsmooglikheid means of expression (utering expression + mooglikheid possibility) or ynskriuwingsformulier registration form (ynskriuwing registration + formulier form) are used instead of *ferlytswurd, *utermooglikheid or *ynskriuwformulier. However, these NN compounds do not differ from their putative VN counterparts semantically. Note that the nominalized first constituents of these NN compounds with the suffix -ing take a linking element-s.

The expression der is gjin V + en + s + ein oan

Verbal first members show up in the shape of the verbal stem. There is an exception, however. In expressions like

Der is gjin begjinnensein oan
there is no begin-SUFF-LK-end on
Why even start

we see a verb with an infinitival ending II, i.e. -en, here followed by the linking element -s-. Other examples of this pattern are formations with the verb trochkomme to get through, helpe to help, oprêde to tidy and there are many others. What is essential is the fact that such formations only occur in the frame der is gjin ... oan there is no ... on it makes no sense to .... These compounds can therefore be qualified as an instance of construction-dependent morphology.

Instead of a VN compound, we might alternatively analyse such formations as belonging to the NN pattern, as the suffix -en is able to convert verbs to nouns but only if we assume that -en is a nominalizing suffix.

[+]Exocentric VN compounds

Some VN compounds show an exocentric interpretation, that is, they do not denote a subset of the head, but rather they have a semantic head outside the compound as they usually refer to a person. Some examples are listed below.

Table 2
First constituent (V) Second constituent (N) Compound (VN)
freegje to ask it al universe de freechal nosy Parker
doge to be good (only with negation) it neat nothing de dogeneat good-for-nothing (with -e-linking)
bemuoie to meddle in it al universe (everything) de bemuoial meddler
parte to share it lot fate de partelot life partner (with -e-linking)
drippe to drip de noas nose de dripnoas someone with a runny nose

All these forms have the stress on their first constituent, except for partelot life partner, which has stress on the second constituent (according to Dijkstra (1900-1911)). Exocentric VN compounds have common gender, even if the second constituent is neuter, as is illustrated by the bold printed articles in the table above. These exocentric VN compounds therefore conflict with the right-hand head rule: not the second constituent, but the external, semantic head determines the gender. They are, however, in line with the animacy hierarchy, which, among others, states that nouns referring to people have a preference for having common gender.

There is also a group of exocentric compounds that are clearly used pejoratively. They all refer to persons:

Table 3
First constituent (V) Second constituent (N) Compound (VN)
rabbelje to chatter skûte barge rabbelskûte chatterbox
sangerje to nag doaze box sangerdoaze nag
jeuzelje to whine gat hole jeuzelgat bore
eamelje to keep whining sek bag eamelsek bore
gnize to smirk bek snout gniisbek smirk
seure to nag kont bottom seurkont nag

Note that in many cases the nominal element in these compounds already has a negative connotation. More examples of exocentric NV compounds can be found in the sections dealing with the linking elements -e and -en.

[+]Linking element -ers

In a number of the Frisian VN compounds we see the insertion of a linking element. The only one that is productive is -ers. An example can be found in itensiedersboek cookery book, formed on the basis of itensiede to cook and boek book. A possible alternative analysis, assuming this word actually is a NN compound with a left-hand noun ending in the agentive suffix -er followed by a linking element -s (i.e. itensieder someone who is cooking + -s + boek book), is not really plausible for semantic reasons: an itensiedersboek cookery book is not the book of someone who is cooking, but a book to be used for cooking.

More examples of VN compounds with a linking element -ers are listed below:

Table 4
First constituent (V) Second constituent (N) Compound (VN)
boartsje to play guod goods boartersguod toys
toudûnsje rope-skipping tou rope toudûnserstou rope for rope-skipping
oankrûpe to cuddle waar weather oankrûperswaar raw weather
ôfdroegje to wipe dry doek cloth ôfdroegersdoek tea towel
jirpelskile to peel potatoes meske small knife jirpelskyldersmeske potato peeler
útfanhûzje to stay the night keamer room útfanhûzerskeamer visitor's room
smoke to smoke ark gear smokersark smoker's requisites
hierdroegje to dry the hair kape hood hierdroegerskape hair drier
ferstjoere to send kosten costs ferstjoerderskosten shipping costs
ferklaaie to dress up klean clothes ferklaaiersklean clothes to dress up with
hoastje to cough drankje drink hoastersdrankje cough syrup

The insertion of this linking element does not seem to follow fixed rules. However, it is clear that some verbs have a certain preference for extension by -ers. An example is boartsje to play. If this verb occurs as the left-hand member of a nominal compound, then it is always augmented with -ers. Examples are boarterstún playground and boartersbear teddy beer. The verb boartsje to play only occurs with a bare stem in the now obsolete words boartlapke a multi-coloured cloth to function as a doll during playing and boartfeint playfellow (boy) / boartfaam playfellow (girl).

Insertion of -ers can also be triggered by certain nouns when they act as the nominal right-hand member of VN compounds. Examples are guod goods/ware(s), tiid time and waar weather. Compounds with these nouns are shown in the table below:

Table 5
First constituent (V) Second constituent (N) Compound (VN)
toskboarstelje to brush one's teeth guod goods/ware(s) toskboarstelersguod toothpaste
ferdôvje to anaesthetize guod goods/ware(s) ferdôversguod anaesthetic
rûke to smell guod goods/ware(s) rûkersguod perfume
skuonpoetse to clean shoes guod goods/ware(s) skuonpoetsersguod shoe polish
ôfwaskje to do the dishes guod goods/ware(s) ôfwaskersguod washing-up liquid
hierwaskje to wash hair guod goods/ware(s) hierwaskersguod shampoo
melke to milk tiid time melkerstiid milking time
ite to eat tiid time iterstiid dinner time
kofjedrinke to drink coffee tiid time kofjedrinkerstiid coffee time
slute to close tiid time sluterstiid closing time
sile to sail waar weather sylderswaar suitable weather for sailing
oanpakke to assault waar weather oanpakkerswaar dark, misty weather (in which one can easily be assaulted)
ride to ice skate waar weather riderswaar suitable weather for ice-skating
bûten sitte to sit outside waar weather bûtensitterswaar suitable weather to sit outside
droegje to dry waar weather droegerswaar drying weather

The word baas fellow attracts the linker -ers in a similar way:

Table 6
First constituent (V) Second constituent (N) Compound (VN)
fjochtsje to fight baas fellow fjuchtersbaas hooligan
swetse to blether baas fellow swetsersbaas boaster
flokke to swear baas fellow flokkersbaas a guy who swears a lot
lige to lie baas fellow ligersbaas inveterate liar

These formations, denoting persons, have a slightly pejorative connotation. The second constituent baas fellow has lost its literal meaning and could therefore be interpreted as a suffix-like element, which is used to form nouns from verbs. Next to these compounds with baas fellow there are derivations with the suffix -er which have the same meaning: swetser, flokker and liger.

[+]Linking element -e

The -e- augment occurs in affective (mostly pejorative) denotations for persons. Examples are listed below.

Table 7
First constituent (V) Second constituent (N) Compound (VN)
gnoarje to grunt bek snout gnoarrebek grumbler
skite to shit broek trousers skitebroek coward
tútsje to kiss bekje little snout tutebekje favourite
pronkje to flaunt pop doll pronkepop show-off
swalkje to drift about broer brother swalkebroer tramp
tize to disentangle kop head tizekop scatterbrain
habbe to have (variant of hawwe) gek idiot habbegek skinflint

VN compounds formed with the verb tize to make a mess also have an -e- augment in words meaning tangle. Examples are tizeboel, tizebosk, tizewinkel and tizenêst. There are also some neutral (i.e. non-pejorative) terms denoting objects that also take a linking element -e. Examples are like heinebal fives ball (heine to catch + bal ball) and lokkebrea bait (lokje to entice + brea bread). It is striking that most VN compounds with linking -e are exocentric.

[+]Linking element -el

The linking element -el is unique for VN compounds. The element is not productive. Examples are listed below:

Table 8
First constituent (V) Second constituent (N) Compound (VN)
ferjitte to forget boek book ferjittelboek oblivion (only in the fixed expression pass into oblivion)
krûpe to crawl hin hen krûpelhin bantam hen
wurkje to work dei day wurkeldei working day
skite to shit doek cloth skiteldoek nappy
drinke to drink deade dead person drinkeldeade drowned body
treaste to comfort bier beer treastelbier beer to drink at funerals
snjitte to fling away flok flake snjittelflok big snowflake
skiede to separate muorre wall skiedelmuorre dividing wall
krûpe to crawl dauwe dew krûpeltsjedauwe ground fog (+ a diminutive linker -tsje)

The verb hingje to hang is always augmented with -el- in a compound with a noun:

Table 9
First constituent (V) Second constituent (N) Compound (VN)
hingje to hang lampe lamp hingellampe hanging lamp
hingje to hang slot lock hingelslot padlock
hingje to hang boarst breast hingelboarst hanging breast
hingje to hang liif body hingelliif potbelly
hingje to hang ear ear hingelear floppy ear
hingje to hang lippe lip hingellippe hanging lip
hingje to hang matte mat hingelmatte hammock
hingje to hang plant plant hingelplant hanging plant
[+]Linking element -er

The linking element -er- is quite uncommon in Frisian. It only occurs in heinderbal fives ball (< heine to catch + bal ball) and wyndermole winnow fanner (< wynje to winnow + mole mill). Note that both compounds show /d/-insertion.

[+]Linking element -en

Just as rare is the linking element -en, which only occurs in two words meaning crybaby: gappenbek and lipenbek. They are formed from gapje to yawn / lipe to whine and bek snout. Both VN compounds are exocentric.

[+]Linking element -s

The number of VN compounds with a linking element -s- is limited. The most relevant cases are listed below:

Table 10
First constituent (V) Second constituent (N) Compound (VN)
skiede to separate muorre wall skiedsmuorre dividing wall (also: skiedelmuorre)
skiede to separate rjochter judge skiedsrjochter referee
skiede to separate man man skiedsman arbiter
liede to lead man man liedsman guide
riede to advise man man riedsman adviser
prate to talk man man praatsman conversationalist
hiere to hire man man hiersman tenant

Arguably, these cases are VN compounds originally, and have then been reanalyzed as NN compounds, where the linking element -s is relatively common. Note that the first constituents also occur as converted nouns.

A distinct case is glydsbaan slide (besides glidersbaan and glierbaan). This is possibly developed from glidersbaan, with truncation of -er-. The same historical truncation can be found in hyns horses from hynders horses and the pronunciation of [to.əⁿzdi] for tongersdei thursday. The word breidspriemmen knitting needles probably had a similar development, in this case from breiderspriemmen, again with truncation of -er-.


This topic is mainly based on Hoekstra (1998:43-46 and 49). He mentions the construction der is gjin V-en-s-ein oan on page 116 en in Hoekstra (2002:255). The historical development of the linking element -el received some attention in the literature. Data concerning -el- can be found in Tamminga (1963:112-115). Reker (1985) assumes that -el developed from an earlier -e, with insertion of /l/ for phonological reasons. He is countered by Hoekstra (1987), who argues that the element -el is morphological in the first place and that it is a product of analogy on the basis of verbs ending in /əl/, partly representing the iterative suffix -el. He also makes proposals as to the origin of the other linking elements in VN compounds. For a balanced position see Faltings (1995), an article which is mainly based on North Frisian material.

  • Dijkstra, Waling1900-1911Friesch Woordenboek (Lexicon Frisicum)Meijer & Schaafsma
  • Faltings, Volkert F1995Die Kompositumsbildung mit L-Einschub im FriesischenNowele251-23
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1987It augmint yn gearsettingen fan it type VNTydskrift foar Fryske taalkunde31-16
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
  • Hoekstra, Jarich2002Genitive Compounds in Frisian as Lexical PhrasesThe Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics6227-259
  • Reker, S.J.H1985Invoegen van -(e)l- in Nederlandse, Groninger en Friese woordenUs wurk3488-98
  • Tamminga, Douwe Annes1963Op 'e taelhelling. Losse trochsneden fan Frysk taellibben. IBoalsertA.J. Osinga
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