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Cohering and non-cohering affixes

Like Dutch, Afrikaans has cohering and non-cohering affixes (the terms were introduced in (Dixon 1977)).

The system of Afrikaans cohering and noncohering affixs overlaps with that of Dutch to a large extent. The analysis of the Afrikaans system below is therefore based on Booij 's topic, illustrated with Dutch examples.

The distinction between cohering and non-cohering affixes pertains to the interface between morphology and phonology: cohering affixes form a prosodic word with their stem, while non-cohering affixes are prosodic words of their own. Thus, the morphological boundary of a cohering affix does not necessarily coincide with a prosodic boundary. All non-native suffixes and most native suffixes are cohering. A number of native suffixes, however, are non-cohering. These are the following suffixes, which all derive historically from words: -agtig, -baar, -dom, -heid, -ling, -loos, -skap, -saam . For the same historical reason, affixoids are always non-cohering.

The distinction is easy to see by comparing the syllabification of the words rooiagtigrooi-agtigreddish and genadiggenad-iggracious. As –agtig is a non-cohering suffix, the syllable boundary of the first word falls after the final consonant of the stem rooiagtig//roi'αx.tǝx . By contrast, –ig is cohering, and so stem and word are syllabified as a unit and the final consonant becomes the onset of the last syllable: genadig/xǝ.na'dǝx/.

Afrikaans prefixes are all non-cohering, that is, they do not form one prosodic word with the stem. This can be seen in the way prefixed words are syllabified: the syllable boundaries between affix and stem match the morpheme boundaries. An illustrative example is the verb verasver-as/fεr'αs/incinerate, which forms a minimal pair with verras ver-ras/fεr'rαs/to surprise (the two /r/s are reduced to one by degemination).


While Afrikaans prefixes are non-cohering, the morphological boundary may be blurred in fast speech, because syllabification then applies across the prefix boundary, as in verenigingver-een-ig-ingsociety.

The boundary between a prefix and stem also blocks the process of prevocalic schwa-deletion that applies without exceptions within a prosodic word. For instance, the schwa of be- is not deleted in beїndrukbe-in-druk/bǝ'ǝn.drœk/to impress somebody.

Note that prefixes, although non-cohering in nature, only form a prosodic word of their own if they contain at least one full vowel. Hence, a prefix like be-/bə-/ is not a prosodic word.

If a cohering suffix is attached to a compound, it will form a prosodic word with the last prosodic word of the compound. For instance, the morphological and prosodic structure of the word godsdienstig religious, derived from the compound godsdiens religion are as follows:

morphological structure: [[[god]N[diens]N]Nig]A

prosodic structure: (γοts)ω(din.stǝx)ω

The prosodic difference between these two types of suffix can also be observed in gapping in complex words.

[show extra information]

The distinction between these types of suffixes in Dutch is discussed in detail in (Booij 1995).


  • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Dixon, R.M.W1977A grammar of YidinCambridge UP
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