Better net te witten - Better as ik net wit


  • J. Hoekstra


In this article I discuss two idiomatic parenthetic clauses in West Frisian, better net te witten and better as ik net wit, both meaning ‘to the best of my knowledge’. The former expression appears no earlier than the beginning of the 20th century and only in the written language, whereas the latter is older and also occurs in the spoken language. Similar expressions exist (or existed) in Dutch: niet beter(s) te weten and zo ik niet beter weet. Here, however, the comparative stays in what is probably its base position, i.e. the position after the negation. I investigate the syntax of both constructions and consider what might have prompted the fronting of the comparative in Frisian. It will appear that the fronting of better in better as ik net wit, which seems to be syntactically unmotivated (and even illegitimate), is comparable to a similar fronting of comparatives in an idiomatic clause in German. The origin and precise status of better net te witten remains somewhat obscure.