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The suffix -ig /əɣ/ can be used to derive adjectives from other adjectives (groen green > groenig greenish), from nouns (rust rest > rustig calm) or from verbs (aanhalen to cuddle > aanhalig affectionate). In some cases, the input consists of two words: twee talen two languages > tweetalig bilingual).


  • if X is an adjective: 'more or less X' (attenuative) ziekig a little sick
  • if X is a noun: 'to resemble X' or 'with (much) X' glazig glassy, bloedig bloody
  • if X is a verb: 'with a tendency to X' or 'being X' aanhalig affectionate, geldig valid
In many cases, however, the meaning of the -ig-adjective is idiosyncratic and not easily recoverable from its base, see e.g. aardig nice < aard nature, disposition or mondig of age, independent, mature < mond mouth. Sometimes, the category of the base is ambiguous: an adjective like vettig fatty could be derived from the adjective vet fat or the homophonous noun vet fat. In other cases, the base does not or no longer exist as an independent word, as in zuinig economical.

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 (nattig wettish < nat wet) or non-Germanic (fluwelig velvety < fluweel velvet). They can be complex (bemoeizuchtig meddlesome < bemoeizucht meddlesomeness) or simple jaloersig a little jealous). However, suffixing on nouns may block the derivation: *koppelarig inclined to matchmaking < koppelaar matchmaker, *wandelingig walkish < wandeling walk.

An interesting subclass are -ig-adjectives derived on the basis of more than one word. Examples are kortademig short-winded, meerstemmig polyphonic or inpandig house-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: benig bony, stemmig sober, *pandig.


In the linguistic literature, forms such as langbenig long-legged or meertalig multilingual 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 benen long legs, meer talen more 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 zorgvuldig careful, baldadig boisterous or wispelturig fickle -- 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 heldhaftig heroic, manhaftig manly and krijgshaftig belligerent).

In some cases, the base does not exist as a word in present-day Dutch. Examples are stevig steady, zuinig economical, deftig distinguished, stately and veilig safe.

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: einde ending > eindig ending. 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 waterig watery < water water or betweterig smart-alecky < betweter smart-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- (onhandig awkward, onschuldig innocent, onrustig restless) or nominalization with -heid (veiligheid safety, tweetaligheid bilingualism, baldadigheid impetuosity). Another option is verbalization, especially with a verbalizing prefix such as be-, ver- or ont-: beveiligen to secure, verstevigen to strengthen, ontmoedigen to 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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