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Derivation: inputs and input restrictions

The system of inputs and input restrictions for Afrikaans derivation overlaps to a large extent with that of Dutch. The analysis of the Afrikaans system below is therefore based on an adapted version of Booij and Audring's topic (illustrated with inputs and input restrictions with Dutch examples).

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For a detailed discussion of the variables that restrict derivational processes and the productivity of word formation rules in Afrikaans, see (Combrink 1990)

Affixes are specified for the kinds of bases they take. Some affixes take more kinds of bases. An example is the diminutive suffix: although most of its bases are nominal. It also combines with other kinds of bases, but most of these were inherited in Afrikaans from Dutch. As a result, the dimunitive suffix can also take adjectives and verbs as inputs, and even intransitive prepositions (used as adverbs). Sometimes diminutive bases can even be non-lexical (Van Marle 1981).

Table 1
Input category Base Derived word
N vrouwoman vroutjielittle woman, sweetheart
A liefdear liefiesweetheart
V dutnap dutjienap
Num eenone enetjieone
P/Adv uit stapout uitstappieouting
PP onder onsamong each other onderonsieprivate chat
Det dit en datthis and that ditjies en datjiesodds and ends
For many affixes, the nature of possible inputs is restricted by phonological, morphological, lexical, syntactic, semantic, or pragmatic conditions.

[+] Phonological restrictions

Affixes may impose requirements on the phonological shape of their bases. For instance, the suffix -aar can only be attached to stems ending in a coronal consonant, for example, wandel-aarwalkerteken-aardesignerskakel-aarswitch In other cases, restrictions are of a prosodic nature. For example, the distribution of the two productive plural suffixes -e and -s can be accounted for by the generalization that -e occurs after a stressed syllable, for example,/ana'toom.e/ ; -s occurs after an unstressed syllable, for example,/'storm.s/. Alternatively, the condition could be formulated as a restriction on the output rather than on the input: plural nouns should end in a trochee (see here for examples and discussion).

[+] Morphological restrictions

An example of a morphological constraint is that suffixed nouns cannot function as inputs for denominal -ig suffixation (Booij and Van Santen 1998: 56):

Table 2
Base Derived adjective
aandagattention aandag-t-igattentive
afgunsjealousy afguns-t-igjealous
vyandenemy vyand-ighostile
heldin[hero(SUFFIX)]heroine *heldinnig
skolier[school(SUFFIX)]pupil *skolierig
violis[violin(SUFFIX)]violinist *violisig
Since monomorphemic nouns ending in schwa do allow for diminutive formation (e.g. tantetjie aunty), we know that the restriction is morphological rather than phonological. In general, it appears that the suffix -e functions as a closing suffix, barring further derivations.

A more general tendency concerning the morphological complexity of base words is that derivational processes are not recursive, that is, they do not apply to their own outputs. For instance, we do not find adjectives like *groen-erig-erig greenishish. An exception is the occasional doubling of a prefix for intensification, as in hiperhipergroothyper-hyper big. One might reason that the restriction is semantic rather than formal, since it is not clear what kind of meaningful use a word like groenerigerig greenishish would have. However, the diminutive suffix in Afrikaans and Dutch can also be used to express endearment, and double diminutives such as boetietjieboet-ie-tjiechap-DIM-DIM are possible, which makes it difficult to bring the restriction(s) on dubble dimunitives under rule.

[+] Semantic restrictions

The negative prefix on- usually fails to attach to different sets of adjectives, for instance colour adjectives or adjectives with a lexicalized antonym, such as ryk *on-ryk rich and dom *on-dom stupid, and adjectives in -loos : *on-asem-loos not breathless, *on-sin-loos not meaningless. The latter is a subset of the adjectives with a negative meaning, therefore we do not have to assume a specific morphological restriction for on-‘s failure to attach to adjectives ending in -loos. Note, however, that this does not follow from a general semantic incompatibility of the negative meaning of the prefix on- with negative expressions: a phrase like nie onhandig nie not clumsy, with a combination of two negative elements, is unproblematic; see also onaantreklik unhandsome which occurs with nie, as in My buurman is nie onaantreklik nie My neighbour is not unhandsome (see more on -on here). Moreover, each adjective can often be turned into its contradictory counterpart by means of the negative prefix and if it is non-native by means of the prefix non-.

[+] Syntactic restrictions

The classic example of a syntactic restriction on derivation is that the deverbal suffix -baar usually attaches to transitive verbs (there are a few exceptions, such as werkbaarworkableand dansbaardanceable, at least in its productive use (e.g. in a novel form such as skypebaarskypeable). This restriction is obviously directly related to the passive meaning contribution of this suffix, ‘being able to be V-ed’, a meaning that can only be applied to a base verb that is transitive.

[+] Pragmatic restrictions

Pragmatic restrictions pertain to improbable rather than impossible words. Generally, a complex word will not be coined if there is no use for it. For instance, the diminutive of gevaar danger, gevaartjie, is not a concept that we will often need, and hence such a word will not be readily coined, though it is a possible diminutive.

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(Van Santen 1992) also advocates the distinction between the notions 'possible word' and 'probable word'. The formal and semantic restrictions discussed so far are seem to be absolute restrictions. If they are indeed absolute, they form part of the definition of the notion 'possible complex word'. However, as argued by (Mackenzie 1985), restrictions may also be violable. This means that in that case they define the prototypical cases of a word formation type only. For instance, Mackenzie observed that deverbal ge-nominalization applies preferably to simplex verbs (as in ge-huil crying), but that base verbs with a particle or a prefix are not absolutely impossible. This also means that the words of the different subsets will differ as to the probability of their use.

The restictions on Afrikaans derivation is discussed in more depth by Combrink 1990 .

Read more on:

The meaning of affixes

Non-native morphology

  • Booij, Geert & Santen, Ariane van1998Morfologie. De woordstructuur van het NederlandsAmsterdamAmsterdam University Press
  • Marle, Jaap van1981Over de dynamiek van morfologische categorieënForum der Letteren2251-63
  • Santen, Ariane van1992Produktiviteit in taal en taalgebruikLeidenUniversity of Leiden
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