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  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
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Derivation is the formation of new lexemes by means of affixation, i.e. the attachment of bound morphemes to the stem forms of lexemes. The word classes that can be extended by derivation are the open or lexical classes of a language: nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. Like Dutch, Afrikaans makes use of both prefixation and suffixation (but not of infixation). Moreover, Afrikaans and Dutch have the circumfix, a combination of a prefix and a suffix, with a collective meaning, ge...te, as in geboomte collection of trees. The simultaneous use of a prefix and a suffix can also be found in so called participia praeverbalia such as behaard hairy from haar hair. In addition, Afrikaans and Dutch also also use conversion to derive new lexemes.

Derivation may change the word class of the input lexeme. The inputs for a particular derivational process are often of one particular lexical category (N, V, or A), and the outputs are also of a specific lexical category. There is also derivation in which input word and output word differ only in lexical subcategory. For instance, intransitive verbs can become transitive verbs. The processes available in Afrikaans are:

Table 1
Input > Output Type of change Source Derived word
A > N Suffixation mooibeautiful mooiheidmooi-heidbeauty
Conversion Katoliekcatholic Katoliekcatholic (person)
V > N Suffixation werkwork werkerwerk-erworker
Prefixation praattalk gepraatge-praattalking, chitchat
Conversion valfall valfall
N > N Suffixation moedermother moederskapmoeder-skapmotherhood
Prefixation mensman, human onmenson-mensbrute, beast
N > A Suffixation meestermaster meesterlikmeester-likmasterly
V > A Suffixation leesread leesbaarlees-baarreadable
A > A Suffixation bloublue blouerigblauw-igblueish
Prefixation gewoonusual, common ongewoonon-gewoonunusual
N > V Suffixation analiseanalysis analiseeranalys-eeranalyze
Prefixation huishouse verhuisver-huismove
Conversion fietsbicycle fietscycle
A > V Suffixation kalmcalm kalmeerkalm-eercalm down
Prefixation bleekpale verbleekver-bleekturn pale
Conversion suiwerpure suiwerpurify
V > V Prefixation krapscratch bekrapbe-krapscratch
Prefixation ryride berybe-ryride
There is a tendency for prefixation to be category-neutral (there are four exceptions: be-, ver-, ont- and ge-), whereas suffixation is often category-changing.

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This asymmetry between prefixation and suffixation has led some reseachers of morphology to adopt the so-called Righthand Head Rule (RHR), proposed for English by (Williams 1981), as a principle that is also valid for Afrikaans and Dutch. This rule says that the rightmost constituent of a complex word is the head of that word, and hence determines the syntactic (sub)category of the complex word. For instance, the word leesbaarreadable is an adjective thanks to its head, the suffix –baar. As suffixes are the rightmost elements in a structure, they are predicted to be category-determining, while prefixes are not. Category-determinination does not necessarily mean category change. There are suffixes, for  example, that create nouns from nouns. However, the suffix will determine the syntactic subcategory of its output. For instance, nouns with a diminutive suffix. Depending on one’s theory of syntax and morphology, the notion 'head' can be more or less useful. In the analysis of compounds, the most syntax-like kind of word formation, it has the advantage that many properties of the whole compound can be predicted from the properties of one of its constituents. After all, the head constituent also occurs as an independent word and has independent properties. If affixes, however, are treated as heads, the theory has to equip them with categorial properties. See (Bauer 1990) for a critical discussion of the notion 'head' in morphology.

Afrikaans and Dutch present some counterevidence to the RHR: the nominalizing prefix ge- and a number of verbalizing prefixes have category-changing power. What remains true, however, is that in Afrikaans and Dutch all suffixes (but not all prefixes) are category-determining.The relevance of the RHR for Dutch is defended by (Trommelen and Zonneveld 1986). They are, however, forced, to introduce certain ad hoc rules in order to cope with the cases of category-changing prefixation. Another attempt to save the RHR as a generalization for Dutch is (Neeleman 1993)which also deals with the class of category-changing prefixes.

Adverbs are special: they can only be outputs, not inputs of derivation. They can be derived from adjectives by means of suffixation, for instance lossies loosely from losloose. Exceptions are strakkiessoon and effentjies for a moment which are derived without meaning change from the adverbs straks and effens.

Some derivational processes can be used simultaneously in the formation of multiply complex words. For instance, the prefix on- and the suffix –baar work together in the formation of the adjective onuitstaanbaar unbearable that has no positive counterpart *uitstaanbaar. This does not mean that there is a circumfix *on...baar, however, because this pattern can be obtained by the combination of two independent word formation processes (Booij 2010).

  • Bauer, Laurie1990Be-heading the WordJournal of Linguistics261-31
  • Neeleman, Ad & Schipper, Joleen1993Verbal prefixation in Dutch: thematic evidence for conversionBooij, Geert & Van Marle, Jaap (eds.)Yearbook of Morphology 1992Kluwer57-92
  • Trommelen, Mieke & Zonneveld, Wim1986Dutch morphology: evidence for the right-hand head ruleLinguistic Inquiry17147-170
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