This article deals with hypocoristics (pet names) in Frisian. In the linguistic literature on Frisian, hypocoristics have been noted because of their remarkable shape vis-à-vis the full form of the names they are associated with. So far, however, an in-depth analysis of hypocoristic formation has not been undertaken. This is what the present article aims at. To that end, a database has been set up, consisting of some four hundred pairs of full names and their hypocoristic counterparts.
Hypocoristic formation is viewed as an instance of the morphological process of conversion or zero-derivation. The outcome, however, is to a large extent determined by the prosodic and phonological preferences of Frisian.
Hypocoristic formation has a quantitative and a qualitative side. The first aspect is taken care of by a quantitave instruction, to the effect that the full form of the name is projected onto a trochee, which is the unmarked foot type in Frisian. This first step is followed by the implementation of a qualitative instruction, the aim of which is to provide a hypocoristic with unmarked phonological structure. Furthermore, there is the overarching principle that there remain a minimal formal relationship between the full and the hypocoristic form of the name. The quantitative instruction is a categorical requirement, implying that all hypocoristics are mono- or bisyllabic. The qualitative instruction, on the other hand, is the expression of phonological preferences and tendencies. In the unmarked case, hypocoristics consist of open syllables, with single onsets, they do not contain diphthongs or long vowels, etcetera. A result of this is, for instance, that a disporoportionally high number of hypocoristics have an onset which consists of a plosive. Nevertheless, all of these preferences and tendencies may have exceptions.
After having set up quantitative templates of the ideal mono- and bisyllabic hypocoristics, it is explored how the hypocoristics of the corpus relate to these templates. There appears to be a fairly great match.
It is also examined how the consonantism of the onset of the hypocoristics and their vocalism relate to those of the full forms from which they derive. As expected, the hypocoristics appear to greatly prefer the less marked or the unmarked phonological structures, which are attained through processes like cluster simplification, consonant strengthening, monophthongisation (of diphthongs), and denasalisation (of nasalised vowels). Special attention is paid to bisyllabic hypocoristics which display 'consonant harmony', i.e. whose syllable onsets have identical consonants or consonants with the same place of articulation. The phenomenon is related to child language, because it is quite pervasive in language acquisition, at least in the early stages of this process.