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Coordinating VV compounds are very rare. Synchronically, one can only find coordinate VV compounds in the modifier position of endocentric compounds. An example is wen-sliepkeamer living- and bedroom, in which the verbal constituents wenje to live and sliepe to sleep are coordinated and subsequently combined with keamer room.

In addition there are a number of historical formations consisting of two verbs. An example is stoareagje to gaze, from the verbs stoarje to stare and eagje to look. This pattern is not productive and shows many idiosyncracies. Its members often have an affective function and show internal rhyme or alliteration. In fact, they have many features in common with bi-verbal expressions like lette en sette to take good care (of someone) or reppe noch roere not to move at all. A major difference is the fact that in such expressions the two verbs are connected by a coordinate conjunction, which points at a syntactic construction. Other features, however, lead to the conclusion that such formations are highly lexicalized.

[+]Synchronic use

VV compounds are rare. Synchronically, one can only find VV compounds in the modifier position of nominal compounds. The VV-compound itself belongs to the coordinate type, i.e. it has no internal head. Compare also coordinate NN and coordinate AA compounds for the same feature.

An example is wen-sliepkeamer [[wen](V)[sliep)(V)](V)[keamer](N)](N) living- and bedroom, in which the verbal constituents wenje to live and sliepe to sleep are coordinated. This coordination then acts as the modifier of keamer room in the endocentric VN compound. Similar examples are fyts-kuierrûte cycle and walking route, with the verbs fytse to cycle and kuierje to walk, and mean-terskmasine mow and thresh machine, with the verbs meane to mow and terskje to thresh.

Occasionally, the coordination may figure as a basis for derivation. The mean-terkmasine, for example, is also been referred to by the word meantersker, with the suffix -er, which has the ability to form instrument names.

However, it should be stressed that independent formations like *mean-terskje do not exist synchronically.

[+]Historical formations

The picture changes somewhat if we adopt a historical perspective. The following formations could then be analysed as coordinate VV-compounds:

Table 1
first constituent (V) second constituent (V) compound (VV)
hoalje to roar foalje to pet hoallefoalje to romp
fimelje to cant tiizje to untangle fimeltiizje to squabble
giizje to jest gobje to laugh gysgobje to giggle
sûzje to rustle bolje to bulge sûzebolje to nod
hippelje to hop wipje to wobble hippelewipje to wag the tail
stoarje to stare eagje to look stoareagje to gaze
kielje to cut someone's throat moardzje to murder kilemoarje to slaughter
hotsje to sharpen fylje to file hottefylje to bicker
skite shit to hesitate skoarje to hesitate skytskoarje to hesitate

Synchronically, an analysis of these combinations as coordinate compounds is problematic as the first constituent bears the main stress. Moreover, the pattern is not productive, and some forms are not fully transparent. An example is kilemoarje to slaughter, which formally deviates from its constituents kielje, and moardzje. Kielje has a slightly different stem vowel (not the short monophthong [i] but the centring diphthong [i.ə]), and moardzje has a stem final /d/ plus a subsequent insertion of /z/ before /j/.

An exception to the stress pattern in the examples above is the VV compound achtenearje to appreciate, formed from achtsje to esteem and earje to honour, which bears the stress on the second constituent. This deviating stress pattern might be a result of analogy with derivations with the foreign suffix -earje. The element -n- between the two constituents seems to be a linking element, but it could also be a historical residue of the conjunction en and; for this feature, see the next section on biverbal expressions.

In some cases, we see a linking element -e-, for example in hoallefoalje to romp, sûzebolje to nod and hottefylje to bicker. Its distribution seems to be idiosyncratic, cf. fimeltiizje to squabble and hippelewipje to wag the tail which behave differently, although the stems of the first members both end in the cluster /əl/.

It should be noted that the members of these combinations are always synonyms or near synonyms. One may assume, therefore, that the formation of such compounds had an affective function. Note, in this respect, also the features of rhyme, as in hoallefoalje to romp and hippelewipje to wag the tail. Alliteration is found in gysgobje to giggle and skytskoarje to hesitate. See also the biverbal expressions treated in the next section.

[+]Biverbal expressions

Frisian has about 80 biverbal expressions. They show an explicit conjunction, mostly en and, but occasionally also of or and noch neither occur. The choice of the verbs is fixed by and large, and so is the order between them. Some examples are given below:

a. skriuwe en wriuwe
to engage in a polemic
b. fleane en drave
be in a rush
c. rache en skelle
rant and rave
d. lette en sette
to take good care (of someone)
e. lipe of pipe
to resist
f. reppe noch roere
not to move at all

The verbs are atelic, require an agent and express a human physical activity. The occurrence of a conjunction points at a syntactic construction, but otherwise these combinations very much act as words. Semantically, they consist of (nearby) synonyms, and hence express just one concept in essence. The second verb usually reinforces the first one. Many of these combinations have a pejorative connotation. It should be noted that these biverbal expressions may occupy one syntactic verbal position, like the final position in a subordinate clause, the second position in an main clause and the first position in an imperative sentence. This is illustrated below:

a. ... dat er de hiele dei fljocht en draaft
... that he the whole day flies and runs
... that he is in a rush all day long
b. Hy fljocht en draaft de hiele dei
He flies and runs the whole day
He is in a rush all day long
c. Fljoch en draaf doch net sa!
Fly and run PTCL not so
Don't be in a rush this way!

As can be seen, both verbs are inflected. This also applies if the combination is input to derivation: both verbs are affixed then. So, from the biverbal expression roppe en raze to shout without much sense one can derive the agent noun ropper en razer loudmouth with the help of the suffix -er, and the prefix ge- may derive the action nominal gerop en geraas bragging.

The single verbs of the combinations do not allow modification or complementation. Phonologically, the conjunction may sometimes be deleted, as in

Hald no ris op te tsieren bongeljen!
keep now PTCL up to quarrel obstruct
Please stop thwarting!

In addition, many pairs show rhyming or alliteration. There are also combinations in which one of the members, or maybe even both, are synchronically not transparent anymore, for example lette en sette to take good care (of someone) and hoaie en troaie to flatter, in which the verbs lette and hoaie (and possibly also troaie) will be unknown to present-day speakers of Frisian.

All these properties point to the conclusion that these combinations are highly lexicalized. Although not being words in the strict sense, they behave like morphological constructs.

Note that there also exist binomial and biadjectival expressions.


This topic is based on Hoekstra (1998:32 and 34), Sipma (1933:39) and Tamminga (1973:83-87).

Biverbal expressions are treated in depth by (Hoekstra 2017). Next to biverbal expressions like wrotte en wrame to work hard, he also calls attention to variants with overt reduplication, as wrotte en wrotte and those with the dummy verb dwaan to do, as in wrotte en dwaan. This article closes with a full list of the Frisian biverbal expressions identified so far.

  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
  • Sipma, Sjoerd R1933OanteikeningsDe Pompeblêdden: tydskrift foar Fryske stúdzjeV34-39
  • Tamminga, Douwe Annes1973Op 'e taelhelling. Losse trochsneden fan Frysk taellibben. IIA.J. Osinga
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