• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Saterfrisian
  • Afrikaans
Show all

Nominal compounds with a numeral as their first constituent are mostly endocentric. An example is fjouwerkant square, from fjouwer four and kant side. Besides endocentric compounds there are some exocentric compounds formed by Num + N as well. Both types have their stress on the first constituent, for example in IENhoarn unicorn. Exocentric NumN compounds are mostly found with animal names and affective denotations for persons. Similar to exocentric AN compounds, exocentric NumN compounds are always de-words, even if the second constituent is neuter. An example is de njoggeneach lamprey; nitpicker; carbuncle, formed on the basis of the number njoggen nine and the neuter noun it each the eye.

There are also some combinations of numeral and noun which at first sight could be qualified as univerbations. However, they do not occur independently, but occur only as the first constituent of a compound. An example is tsienrittekaart ten-ride ticket from tsien ten + ritten rides and kaart ticket and a linking element-e.


The group of nominal compounds with a number as modifier can be divided in those which are endocentric and others which have an exocentric interpretation. In some cases the endocentricity might be felt as somewhat problematic, due to the modification by a number, which could come in conflict with the concept of the noun. For instance, is a trijepoat three-leg tripod still a poat leg? Nevertheless, the endocentric spirit of this and other cases seems to be out of question. Here are some other examples of endocentric NumN compounds:

Table 1
First constituent (Num) Second constituent (N) Compound (NumN)
ien one klang sound ienklang harmony
twa two spjalt split twaspjalt discord
twa two lûd vowel twalûd diphthong
trije three kaart card trijekaart tierce
fjouwer four span team fjouwerspan four-in-hand
sân seven stjer star sânstjer Pleiades
acht eight baan track achtbaan roller coaster

The choice of the numbers that are adequate for NumN compounds is restricted. For one thing, we do not find ordinals, in contrast to a language like German. The cardinals are mainly one of the full numbers up to ten, as exemplified above. Fractions are also rare, apart from such pivotal fractions as 1/2 or 1/4 which have separate lexemes. So, we do find the fraction heal half, 1/2 in a compound like healbroer half-brother, and kwart quarter, 1/4 is represented in kwartslach quarter turn.

The endocentric NumN compounds have stress on their first constituent, for example in FIIFhoeke pentagon.


Next to the endocentric variety we also find exocentric NumN compounds. They are mostly used for animal names or act as affective, often pejorative, denotations for persons, similar to exocentric AN compounds. The second constituent is often an inalienable entity, which means that it does not exist independently from the possessor. Exocentric NumN compounds have common gender, i.e. take the definite article de, even if the formal head is neuter and therefore, if used as an independent word, would take the article it. Hence, these exocentric compounds are in conflict with the right-hand head rule: not the second constituent, but the external, semantic head determines the gender, in line with the animacy hierarchy. This is further illustrated in the table below:

Table 2
First constituent (Num) Second constituent (N) Compound (NumN)
ien one de hoarn the corn de ienhoarn the unicorn
tûzen thousand de poat the foot de tûzenpoat the centipede (animal), general dogsbody (person)
trije three de kleur the colour de trijekleur the tricolour
trije three poat leg trijepoat tripod
fjouwer four de rigel line de fjouwerrigel the quatrain
fiif five hoeke corner fiifhoeke pentagon
ien one it each the eye de ieneach the one-eyed person
njoggen nine it each the eye de njoggeneach the carbuncle
trije three it oer the teat de trije-oer the cow which gives milk from only three of her four teats

The stress in exocentric NumN compounds is also on the first constituent: IENhoarn unicorn.


Next to the NumN compounds dealt with above, we may encounter what seem to be univerbations consisting of a number and a noun. That is, the stress is on the noun, just as in the phrasal combination of a number and a noun. These only occur in the modifier position of a (wider) NN compound, however. They are not allowed independently, so considering them univerbations might be somewhat problematic. For example, we have fjouwerkleurepinne [[[fjouwer](Num)[kleur](N)](N)[pinne](N)](N), with a linking element -e, but *fjouwerkleur four-colour does not exist on its own (in contrast to the plural syntactic phrase fjouwer kleuren [(NP) [(Num)fjouwer] [(N)kleur.PL]] four colours).

If we consider heal half as a numeral, and not as an adjective, then this numeral might provide some further doubt as to whether true univerbations are at stake here, witness such formations as healmoanne half-moon, healjier six months or healpûn half pound. It is striking that the diphthong in heal in these formations is broken to /jɛ/, which points to a status of part of a word.

Examples with comparable NumN combinations as first member are listed below; linking elements are represented in boldface:

Table 3
First constituent Second constituent Compound
tsien euro ten euro briefke note tsieneurobriefke ten euro note
ien minske one man wurk work ienminskewurk work that can be performed alone
trije stjerren three stars hotel hotel trijestjerrehotel three-star hotel
fjouwer kleuren four colours pinne pen fjouwerkleurepinne four-colour pen (with truncation of n)
fiif jier five years plan plan fiifjierreplan Five-Year Plan
alve stêden eleven cities tocht tour alvestêdetocht 11-city skating race
tsien ritten ten rides kaart ticket tsienrittekaart ten-ride ticket
fjirtich dagen forty days tiid time fjirtichdagetiid Lent

This topic is partly based on (Hoekstra 1998:47-48). The univerbations are mentioned in Hoekstra 1998:56).

  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
printreport errorcite