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-te
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-te/tə/ is a Germanic, unstressed suffix found in nouns of common gender, usually derived from simplex native adjectives, e.g. groottesize < grootbig, large. The general meaning is the property A, but there is a lot of idiosyncracy. The suffix is found in a great number of derivations, but new formations are rare; occasionally the basis is verbal, e.g. schaamteshame < (zich) schamento shame (oneself).

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-te/tə/ is a Germanic suffix found in nouns of common gender. Most bases are simplex native adjectives, which are typically monosyllabic (hoogteheight < hooghigh) or bisyllabic with a schwa in the second syllable (tengerte/'tɛŋərtə/slenderness < tenger/'tɛŋər/slender). The base cannot end in a vowel, and if it ends in a consonant cluster, the antepenultimate consonant is always a dental sonorant, e.g. kalmtetranquility < kalmcalm(Zwarts 1975), (De Haas and Trommelen 1993: 250). The base meaning is abstract the property of A, but often the semantics of -te formations is idiosyncratic and unpredictable, e.g. groentevegetable(s) < groengreen, flauwtefainting < flauwfaint, weak.

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(De Haas and Trommelen 1993: 250) point out that there exist a few -te formations from (formally) complex bases, such as gemeentecommunity < gemeencommon, menigtecrowd < menigmany and goedkooptecheapness < goedkoopgood.buycheap. They also mention a few deverbal -te derivations: schaamteshame < (zich) schamento shame (oneself), sterftemortality < stervento die, begeertelust < begerento desire and beroertestroke < beroerento touch. In lengtelength < langlong and hitteheat < heethot we see vowel change. leemtegap, weakness has no synchronic base; historically it derives from lamlame(Van der Sijs 2010). An allomorph -de in liefde/livdə/love < lief/lif/nice, sweet(Haeseryn et al. 1997); koudecold < koudcold has a competing -esuffix(Van der Sijs 2010).

The suffix -te is not productive, but occasionally one meets new coinings ((Baayen 1989: 34-36)); allegedly, gektecrazyness was created in the 1980's by artist Wim T. Schippers; Baayen mentions windstiltewind-stillnesscalm as a -te formation on a complex basis (windstilcalm).

Formations with -te are of common gender, selecting the definite singular article de. -te derivations with an abstract meaning usually have no plural form, in more concrete uses, plural can be either -en (hoogtenheights) or in -s (hoogtesheights); De Haas and Trommelen (1993: 250) think the latter alternative is more frequent; differences in meaning or level of formality may occur.

Derivations in -te easily enter into compounding: hoogtemeteraltimeter, gemeentebelangmunicipal interest, waterhoogtewater height, kustgemeentecoastal town. Diminutive formation is in general impossible, either for semantic reasons (diminutives are usually made from count nouns, and many -te nouns have an abstract, non-count meaning), or for phonological ones (there is a general ban on combining the diminutive suffix -etje with nouns derived by means of a suffix ending in schwa (Booij 2002: 92)).

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Especially in Belgium one finds groentjesa bit of vegetables < groentevegetable(s). The default reading in the Netherlands is greenhorns, to be analyzed as the plural form of the diminutive form of groengreen, something green.

Note that there are other suffixes -te /tə/, e.g. the one found in past tense formation (in complementary distribution with -de /də/), as in werkteworked < werkento work or the righthand part of the circumfix ge...te found in collective nouns based on nouns such as gevogeltepoultry < vogelbird.

References:
  • Baayen, R. Harald1989A corpus-based approach to morphological productivity: statistical analysis and psycholinguistic interpretationVrije Universiteit AmsterdamThesis
  • Booij, Geert2002The morphology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Haas, Wim de & Trommelen, Mieke1993Morfologisch handboek van het Nederlands. Een overzicht van de woordvormingSDU Uitgeverij
  • Haas, Wim de & Trommelen, Mieke1993Morfologisch handboek van het Nederlands. Een overzicht van de woordvormingSDU Uitgeverij
  • Haas, Wim de & Trommelen, Mieke1993Morfologisch handboek van het Nederlands. Een overzicht van de woordvormingSDU Uitgeverij
  • Haeseryn, Walter, Romijn, Kirsten, Geerts, Guido, Rooij, Jaap de & Toorn, Maarten C. van den1997Algemene Nederlandse spraakkunstGroningenNijhoff
  • Sijs, Nicoline van der2010Etymologiebank, http://etymologiebank.nl/
  • Sijs, Nicoline van der2010Etymologiebank, http://etymologiebank.nl/
  • Zwarts, Frans1975-aar, -arij, -sel en -teTABU69-23
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