Conditions for the Borrowing of Irregular Plurals in an Intense Language Contact Situation


  • N. Stefan
  • A. Versloot



This article is devoted to borrowing in Frisian of Dutch irregular plurals formed by suffixation and stem vowel lengthening; e.g. dak [dak] ‘roof’ - daken [da:k?/da:kn?] ‘roofs’ instead of Frisian dak [dak] - dakken [dakn?]. Irregular plural formation is unproductive in Dutch and uncommon in Frisian (except in a couple of historical borrowings). Although the appearance of irregular Dutch plurals in Frisian had not previously been described or investigated, we hypothesize their existence in spoken Frisian, based on analogical cases. However, they would not be borrowed without any limitations as various factors would affect their borrowability; e.g. words frequency, phonotactic constraints or paradigm alternation. This study is based on approximately 175 interview recordings. The participants were asked to name different objects shown to them during the interview picture task. The results confirm both the (quite frequent) use of Dutch irregular plurals in Frisian and the involvement of different (morphological) factors in the borrowing processes. Accordingly, borrowing of such plurals is not only a lexical matter, but also a grammatical one. Phonotactic factors do not appear to play any significant role, but paradigm alternation seems to be decisive in whether a plural can successfully be borrowed or not.