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Frisian has about 25 compounds that consist of a verb plus an adposition. They are all exocentric. Many have an affective connotation, and those referring to persons are always pejorative terms. The latter show common gender, taking the definite article de. An example is de flapút blab, formed from flappe to blab(ber) and út out. When referring to a thing also neuter gender occurs, with the accompanying article it, for instance in it komôf origin, descent, formed from komme to come and the postposition ôf from. The stress in these formations is always on the second constituent. It should be noted that there are also nominal compounds which do not have a preposition as their second member, but a full prepositional phrase. They are dealt with in a separate topic VPhrase.


Some 25 Frisian nominal compounds consist of a verb plus an adposition. The latter category should perhaps be stretched somewhat since the elements fuort away and wei away also occur, and these words are traditionally considered to be adverbs. However, they can also occur in the position of postpositions, for example in by ... wei by ... away away from or in the expression earne yn fuort moatte somewhere in away must accept a bad situation and move on. They can therefore be labelled as adpositions as well.

Some examples of the pattern are listed below:

Table 1
First constituent (V) Second constituent (P) Compound
flappe to blab(ber) út out flap-út blab
frette to eat op up fret-op glutton
blaze to blow wei away blaas-wei light person
komme to come ôf from kom-ôf origin
krije to grab oan on krij-oan tag (children's game)
farre to sail fuort away far-fuort energy
krûpe to crawl yn in krûp-yn sleeping-place under a box bed

We see differing orthographies for these formations in the dictionaries, with or without a hyphen between the two parts. For expository reasons, we include a hyphen.

As these complex nouns do not contain a noun as a constituting part, these formations must be exocentric. With its limited number of instances, the pattern is clearly unproductive.


The formations can refer to persons and things. References to persons are always used pejoratively, most often to describe small or puny creatures: blaas-wei blow-away, pûst-wei blow-away, waai-wei blow-away and, with a different adposition, blaas-om blow-down and waai-om blow-down. Furthermore, we have designations for a niggardly person, i.e. klau-yn gripe-in, slobber-op slobber-up and slok-op swallow-up and also for a blab (flap-út flap-out). Pejorative formations for things particularly refer to a crumbling building (fal-om fall-down; waai-om blow-down) or a small house (krûp-yn creep-in). Not pejorative, but certainly affectively used are heef-op lift-up and weef-op weave-up, both for a seesaw, and also slobber-op slubber-up appetizer. Labels for a hiding or beating are also used affectively, with terms like dek-op cover-up and stryk-op stroke-up. However, not all formations have an affective or pejorative connotation: cf. such neutral designations as far-fuort sail-away energy, drive and komôf come-from descent.


At first sight, this is a case of compounding of a verb and an adposition. An alternative analysis could be that we are dealing here with underlying particle verbs. In this way, the nouns would be derived by way of conversion, which in many cases would not be implausible semantically. There are, for example, particle verbs like opfrette up-eat to devour, weiblaze away-blow to blow away or útflappe out-blab, the last one mostly used in the expression eat der út flappe to say something that comes to mind. However, a problem for such an analysis would be the order of the elements: in particle verbs the verb is final, while it is the first element here. An example is the formation blaaswei light person, where the particle verb is weiblaze to blow away.

A tentative way out could be to derive the complex noun from a surface order in which the verb has undergone verb-second. In that case, we would probably have to rely to some process of univerbation. Nevertheless, this remains problematic since the verb and the adpositional particle are normally not adjacent in verb-second contexts. If we stick to an analysis in terms of univerbation, then the most attractive idea could be to derive these formations from a verbal expression containing an imperative. Then adjacency of verb and adposition could be the unmarked case, and also the inflectional form of the imperative would match with the verbal stem that we see in these formations. In addition, the often affective semantics would fit in with the use of an imperative.

This cannot be applied to all formations, however. To derive komôf come from descent, origin from an imperative would be fairly ridiculous. Moreover, the idea that an imperative form is involved would also meet another serious challenge under the generally accepted assumption that inflected forms do not occur as basis for further word formation.


Most formations have common gender. A few times we see neutral gender, all with nouns denoting a thing. Examples are fal-om fall-down slum, flean-op fly-up ammonia and Kofi come-from descent. In this way, these VP-combinations follow the animacy hierarchy.

[+]Phonological properties

The stress within the formations is always on the second part, i.e. on the adposition. Examples are blaas-om blow-down light person or draai-om turn-around turntable.

It is striking that only monosyllabic adpositions are selected for this pattern. That is, we do not find adpositions like bûten outside, binnen inside, boppe above or ûnder under. It is an open question whether this is a mere accident or whether it is driven by semantic considerations. However, another possible factor that can not be excluded beforehand is that the restriction is prosodic. The existing formations are all bisyllabic, with stress on the final syllable. The only exception is slobber-op slubber-up niggard; baby; appetizer, which contains three syllables, the second containing a schwa. These conditions are not met in the bisyllabic adpositions mentioned above.


The data in this topic have been drawn from (Veen 1984-2011). The pattern is briefly mentioned in Hoekstra (1998:49).

  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
  • Veen, Klaas F. van der et al1984-2011Wurdboek fan de Fryske taal - Woordenboek der Friese taalFryske Akademy
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