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Words consisting of two adjectives can be divided in different types. First, we have the conventional endocentric compounds, with the second member as the head and the first member as the modifier. An example is donkergrien [[donker](A)[grien](A)](A) dark-green, which is a kind of green. Secondly, there are compounds of the coordinate type, like read-grien red-green, which refers to something that is both red and green. Next, we have combinations which have been the result of univerbation. These particularly, but not exclusively, consist of a second member that has been converted from a participle. The adjective heechsteand high-standing high-minded is an example. Finally, we also have a few elative compounds, where the first adjective has the function of intensifying the second one.

[+]Endocentric compounds

Examples of endocentric compounds of the format AA are given in the table below:

Table 1
first constituent (A) second constituent (A) compound (AA)
ier early ryp ripe ierryp precocious
stil silent deunsk in heat stildeunsk in heat without noticeable signs
heal half gear done healgear half-done
wiid wide ferneamd famed wiidferneamd far-famed
ljocht light blau blue ljochtblau light-blue
blij happy read red blijread clear-red
donker dark grien green donkergrien dark-green

These compounds follow the endocentric pattern, with the second member as the head and the first member functioning as modifier. For example, donkergrien dark-green is a kind of green.

The stress in these compounds is on the second member, i.e. donkergrien dark-green. However, if used attributively, stress is placed on the first one: it donkergriene blêd the dark-green-INFL leaf the dark-green leaf, as a result of stress retraction.

[+]Coordinate compounds

Since there are also coordinate NN compounds, we can find coordinate compounds of the AA format. In fact, we have a productive pattern here. Examples are read-grien red-green, Frysk-Hollânsk Frisian-Dutch and manysk-depressyf manic-depressive. The semantics is coordinative. For example, in read-grien boesgroentsje is a boesgroentsje blouse which is both read en grien red and green. This is to be distinguished from an endocentric compound readgrien as in in readgrien boesgroentsje, where the blouse has a reddish green color.

The main stress is on the second member, however with a strong secondary stress on the first one. However, if the coordinate adjective is in attributive position, then the stress shifts to the first member, as a result of stress retraction. Compare de pasjint is manysk-depressyf the patient is manic-depressive with de manysk-depressive pasjint the manic-depressive patient.

As is the case with their nominal siblings, coordinate AA compounds are spelled with a hyphen between both members.

Parallel with coordinate NN compounds, extension with more members is possible: read-wyt-blau red-white-blue. Inflection is always on the end of the compound, as in de read-wyt-blauwe flage the red-white-blue-INFL flag the red-white-blue flag. Coordinate compounds may also take the modifier position of another compound: it read-grienrútsjese boesgroentsje the red-green-checked blouse.

Bi-adjectival expressions

Since there are binomial expressions, Frisian also has more or less fixed combinations of two adjectives which could be called bi-adjectival expressions. They resemble coordinate AA compounds, but show an explicit conjunction, usually en and, although other coordinate conjunctions are not excluded. Some examples are given below:

a. bûnt en blau
black and blue
b. koart en klien
smashed to pieces
c. heech en dreech
high and dry
d. hyt noch kâld
hot nor cold
e. lyts mar krigel
small but touchy

With colour terms, the conjunction can also be replaced by the preposition mei with, however with a slightly different semantics. In read mei blau red with blue, the main colour is red, with blue being less prominent. This implication is absent in the expression read en blau.

As with coordinate compounds, the adjectival inflection occurs on the second part, for example de bûnt en blauwe earm the bruised arm or it lyts mar krigele famke the small but touchy girl.


Another category of AA formations consist of combinations of an adjective and a present or past participle of a verb. Examples are given in the table below:

Table 2
first constituent (A) second constituent (A as present or past participle) univerbation (AA)
wiid wide fiemjend fathoming wiidfiemjend comprehensive
frij free bliuwend lasting frijbliuwend free of obligations
heech high steand standing heechsteand high-minded
sels self rizend raising selsrizend self-raising
sêft soft sean cooked sêftsean soft-boiled
heech high achte respected heechachte highly esteemed
niis just neamd mentioned niisneamd just mentioned
nea never tocht thought neatocht never thought
leech empty dronken drunk leechdronken emptied (of a bottle)

Such formations can best be analysed as combinations of two adjectives, in which the second member must be seen as a result of conversion from a verb. They are therefore subsumed under the AA pattern, rather than under AV. The reason is that they only show participial forms; complex verbs as *selsrize or *neatinke do not exist.

In all likelihood, the formations above are univerbations. Some of them are on their way to a status of a genuine compound. The comparative form might signal how far the process has gone. The comparative of sêftsean soft-boiled, for example, is sêfter sean softer boiled, and never *sêftseaner, which points into a relatively independent status of the adjective sêft. In frijbliuwend free of obligations the opposite pattern can be seen; it is never *frijer bliuwend, but frijbliuwender more free of obligations. In other formations, both forms may occur. For example, wiidfiemjend comprehensive can both have wider fiemjend more comprehensive and wiidfiemjender more comprehensive as its comparative form. Possibly, stress is a signal as well. In frijbliuwend it is not on the first, but on the second member, where the other examples have it on the first one.

It is not always feasible to analyse these combinations of adjective and participle as a result of univerbation, however. This is particularly the case with the adjectives nij new and eigen own in expressions like de nijseane jirpels the freshly-boiled potatoes or in eigenbreide trui a self-knitted jersey, where the adjectives show deviating meanings and for that reason had better be considered as prefixoids. For discussion, see the topic on eigen- and nij- in the part on prefixation.

[+]Elative AA-compounds

Although marginally, some AA-formations can be classified as elative compounds. Here, the left-hand member just has an intensifying function. The adjectives gleon glowing and dea dead in particular are popular in acting as the intensifying first member. Here are some examples.

Table 3
first member (A) second member (A) elative compound (AA)
wyld wild frjemd strange wyldfrjemd completely strange
rein clean ferlegen in need for reinferlegen urgently in need for
gleon glowing hjit hot gleonhjit red-hot
gleon glowing read red gleonread crimson
gleon glowing hastich hasty gleonhastich in quite a hurry
gleon glowing lilk angry gleonlilk extremely angry
dea dead wurch tired deawurch dead-tired
dea dead gewoan common deagewoan quite common
dea dead stil silent deastil deathly quiet
dea dead goed good deagoed good to a fault

A synonym of deawurch deadly tired is deaôf. Formally, this looks to be an instance of the pattern AdvP, but following (Veen 1984-2011) s.v. ôf, II, 2, the postposition ôf can probably best be analysed as an adjective here (albeit only used predicatively). The adjective dea dead is also somewhat problematic here, as it is homophonous with the noun dea death, so it is quite possible that (some of) these forms could be interpreted as NA compounds as well.

It is not only adjectives that can act as first member of elative compounds; nouns and verbs can have an intensifying function as well.


This topic is mainly based on Hoekstra (1998), the pages 32 for coordinate compounds, 33-34 for bi-adjectival expressions and 56 for univerbations. For the latter, see also Hoekstra (1991). On functional grounds, Hoekstra (1998) classifies the elative compounds as cases of prefixation, because of the intensifying property of the first member. A discussion can be found on the pages 75-76.

  • Hoekstra, Jarich1991Nijmakke en eigenoanretFriesch Dagblad21-09Taalsnipels 201
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
  • 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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