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The suffix -ig/əɣ/ can be used to derive adjectives from other adjectives (groengreen > groeniggreenish), from nouns (rustrest > rustigcalm) or from verbs (aanhalento cuddle > aanhaligaffectionate). In some cases, the input consists of two words: twee talentwo languages > tweetaligbilingual).


  • if X is an adjective: 'more or less X' (attenuative) ziekiga little sick
  • if X is a noun: 'to resemble X' or 'with (much) X' glazigglassy, bloedigbloody
  • if X is a verb: 'with a tendency to X' or 'being X' aanhaligaffectionate, geldigvalid
In many cases, however, the meaning of the -ig-adjective is idiosyncratic and not easily recoverable from its base, see e.g. aardignice < aardnature, disposition or mondigof age, independent, mature < mondmouth. Sometimes, the category of the base is ambiguous: an adjective like vettigfatty could be derived from the adjective vetfat or the homophonous noun vetfat. In other cases, the base does not or no longer exist as an independent word, as in zuinigeconomical.

The suffix -ig has a close competitor, -erig, which has a similar, in some cases slightly more negative meaning ((Schultink 1962).

[+] General properties

The suffix --ig forms adjectives from other adjectives, nouns or noun phrases or verbs. For adjectival and nominal bases, the process is weakly productive: new forms are imaginable, even if probably not frequent in practice. The affix seems to be eclipsed by two more productive competitors, -erig and -achtig, which have a similar semantic effect. Compare the rare or novel forms sopranig, sopranerig and sopraanachtig, which all mean 'soprano-like' (although the second is slightly deprecatory).

[+] Stratum, input and phonological properties

The bases that the suffix attaches to can be Germanic (nattigwettish < natwet) or non-Germanic (fluweligvelvety < fluweelvelvet). They can be complex (bemoeizuchtigmeddlesome < bemoeizuchtmeddlesomeness) or simple jaloersiga little jealous). However, suffixing on nouns may block the derivation: *koppelariginclined to matchmaking < koppelaarmatchmaker, *wandelingigwalkish < wandelingwalk.

An interesting subclass are -ig-adjectives derived on the basis of more than one word. Examples are kortademigshort-winded, meerstemmigpolyphonic or inpandighouse-internal. Such words are formed in one derivational step; the forms without -ig do not exist (*kortadem, *meerstem, *inpand), and the simplex adjectives do not occur with the relevant meaning or at all: benigbony, stemmigsober, *pandig.

[hide extra information]

In the linguistic literature, forms such as langbeniglong-legged or meertaligmultilingual are usually called synthetic compounds. These structures can be analysed in a variety of ways, a common suggestion is that they are derived on the basis of phrases (here: lange benenlong legs, meer talenmore languages). This analysis correctly captures the semantic scope of the adjective over the noun. However, it does not explain the systematic absence of the inflectional affixes inside the compounds (*langebenig, *meertalenig). Therefore, Booij and Van Santen (1995:171f) present two different analyses, one with a binary structure ([[lang][been]]ig](A) and [[meer][tal]]ig](A)), but without assuming phrasal status for the first two constituents, the other with a ternary structure with three equal constituents.

In a number of words -- examples are zorgvuldigcareful, baldadigboisterous or wispelturigfickle -- the internal structure is opaque to the speaker. However, these words may form small clusters in which parts of the words resemble complex suffixes (as in heldhaftigheroic, manhaftigmanly and krijgshaftigbelligerent).

In some cases, the base does not exist as a word in present-day Dutch. Examples are stevigsteady, zuinigeconomical, deftigdistinguished, stately and veiligsafe.

Phonologically, -ig is a cohering suffix; bases ending in a consonant are resyllabified such that the consonant becomes the onset of the last syllable of the base. Bases ending in /ə/ lose the vowel in the derivation: eindeending > eindigending. Bases that are eligible for vowel lengthening in open syllables undergo this process before -ig: glas/ɣlɑs/glass > glazig/ɣla:zəɣ//glassy. When a base ends in /ər/, as in waterigwatery < waterwater or betweterigsmart-alecky < betwetersmart-aleck, it is not clear whether the suffix is -ig or rather -erig, with haplological deletion of /ər/.

ig-words are stressed on the last syllable before the suffix. This means that the stress pattern of the base can be preserved (/flu'weel/velvet > /flu'welig/velvety) or that the stress shifts towards the end of the base (/'weldaad/pleasure, benefaction > /wel'dadig/pleasant, benefactive).

[+] Morphological potential

Adjectives ending in -ig can be input for further derivations, the most common being the addition of the negative prefix on- (onhandigawkward, onschuldiginnocent, onrustigrestless) or nominalization with -heid (veiligheidsafety, tweetaligheidbilingualism, baldadigheidimpetuosity). Another option is verbalization, especially with a verbalizing prefix such as be-, ver- or ont-: beveiligento secure, verstevigento strengthen, ontmoedigento discourage.

  • Booij, Geert & Santen, Ariane van1995Morfologie. De woordstructuur van het NederlandsAmsterdamAmsterdam University Press
  • Schultink, Henk1962De morfologische valentie van het ongelede adjectief in modern NederlandsDen HaagVan Goor Zonen
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