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Stratal restrictions

Afrikaans is typologically categorised as an Indo-European, West Germanic, Low Franconian language. Like in Dutch, the Afrikaans lexicon and word formation processes can be divided into two primary layers or strata: a native (Germanic, specifically Low Saxon-Low Franconian) stratum, and a non-native (Classic, i.e. Latin and Ancient Greek) one. However, other languages also had an influence on the genesis of Afrikaans. An important secondary native stratum is the English stratum, while secondary non-native strata of the Afrikaans lexicon include a Khoe stratum (mainly Cape Khoekhoe and Nama/Khoekhoegowab), a Creole Portuguese stratum, a Malay stratum, and a Bantu stratum (Coetzee 1987;Combrink 1990:365).

The term stratum is used here loosely to refer to diachronic layers/tiers of the lexicon and grammar ( i.e. etymological and grammatical "growth rings", so to speak), rather than in the strict sense of 'contact language' as it used traditionally in historical linguistics, and language politics.

Derivational processes in Afrikaans are especially sensitive to the two primary strata. A general rule of thumb is that affixes of non-native origin attach to bases of non-native origin, while native affixes attach to both native and non-native bases. However, non-native prefixes often combine more freely with native and non-native bases, in contrast with non-native suffixes that have a stronger preference to combine only with non-native bases. For example, the non-native prefix infra- combines with both the non-native noun struktuur structure > infra·struktuur infrastructure, and with the native adjective rooi red > infra·rooi infrared. In contrast, the non-native confix-logie combines exclusively with non-native bases, as can be illustrated parallel to the native confix -kunde (originally an independent word, which developed into a confix):

Table 1
Base Derived word with native -kunde Derived word with non-native -logie
Native stratum: dier animal dier·kunde zoology *dier·o·logie
Native stratum: wis know.PST wis·kunde mathematics *wis·o·logie
Non-native stratum: insek insect insekt·e·kunde entomology insekt·o·logie entomology
Non-native stratum: klimaat climate klimaat·kunde climatology klimat·o·logie climatology

In some cases, non-native affixes underwent phonological or orthographical changes to such a degree that they look and behave like native affixes, and we can therefore say that they have been nativised (Grant 2012:116). A prime example is nominalising -yn, which is used to form person names (e.g. praktis·yn practitioner). This suffix derives from French -in, and ultimately from Latin -inus or -ina.

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Phonological properties (or cues) of morphemes from the Classic stratum include:

  • While roots often contain only one full vowel (e.g. strukt-), stems always contain at least two full vowels (e.g. strukt·uur).
  • Suffixes often are cohering and stress-bearing, e.g. strukt·uur /strœkˈtyr/ [[strukt](root)[uur](NMLZ)](N) structure.
  • Suffixes always contain a full vowel, and often are vowel-initial, e.g. -uur. If a suffix is not vowel-initial, it tends to require a linking morpheme when combining with a root, e.g. -ment in depart·e·ment department.

The division of the lexicon and word formation processes in different strata does not suggest that speakers know the historical origin of words, stems, roots and suffixes, or that they overtly use such stratum information to form new words. It should rather be seen as covert background information that plays an important role in online word formation processing. Moreover, it should be noted that many complex words with non-native morphology have been borrowed in their entirety (Bauer, Lieber and Plag 2013:35), rather than being formations of Afrikaans. For example, we might be able to analyse words like ambassad·eur ambassador and ambassad·rise female ambassador as complex words with the suffixes -eur and -rise, but that does not mean that these words have been formed in Afrikaans. Rather, they have been borrowed in their entirety via Dutch from French. Unless it can be proven that new Afrikaans words are formed using these suffixes, they should be considered unproductive in Afrikaans.

The lists below of non-native prefixes and suffixes in Afrikaans should therefore not necessarily be seen as lists of productive affixes, but rather of non-native affixes that could be identified in words that became part of the Afrikaans lexicon. Some of these might of course very well be productive in Afrikaans, such as the suffix -ees that is used productively to derive inhabitant names (i.e. person names) from geographical names (e.g. place names), e.g. Tshwane·es inhabitant of Tshwane.

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The description of the non-native morphology of Afrikaans is based on the Dutch topic on non-native morphology.

Read more on Afrikaans (and Dutch) non-native morphology:

[+]Classic prefixes in Afrikaans

Classic prefixes tend to be morphologically promiscuous, in that there are very few Classic prefixes that attach to Classic bases only. The table illustrates this for some of the Classic prefixes that attach to native bases.

Table 2
Classic prefix Example with native base
anti- anti·godsdienstig anti-religious
kontra- kontra·gewig counterweight
eks- eks·man ex-husband
hiper- hiper·gevoelig hypersensitive
infra- infra·rooi infra-red
meta- meta·taal metalanguage
mikro- mikro·golf microwave
mono- mono·toon monotonous
pre- pre-BTW-prys pre-VAT price
pro- pro-Afrikaans pro-Afrikaans
pseudo- pseudo·wetenskap pseudo-science
semi- semi·soet semi-sweet
sub- sub·groep subgroup
super- super·gaaf very nice
turbo- turbo·aangejaag turbocharged
ultra- ultra·sag ultra soft
vise- vise·voorsitter vice-chairman

However, there are other Classic prefixes that combine with Classic stems only. Compare for instance the Classic negation prefix in- (which only combines with Classic stems), with its native counterpart on- (which combine with both native and some non-native stems):

Table 3
Stratum of the stem Derived word with native on- Derived word with Classic in-
Classic *onhumaan inhuman inhumaan inhuman
Classic onstabiel unstable instabiel unstable
Germanic onaardig unfriendly *inaardig
Germanic ongesond unhealthy *ingesond

Similar restrictions hold for prefixes like a- (as in a·sosiaal asocial), non- (as in non·verbaal non-verbal), and de- (as in desentraal decentralised).

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The reason for the promiscuity of many of the non-native prefixes is that they form prosodic words of their own, and therefore have word-like appearances. These prefix + word combinations are thus similar to compounds, which can consist of a non-native and native word.

The word-like status of some of these Classic prefixes is illustrated by their development into independent words.

Example 1

a. Al die debatte pro of anti is eweneens aan my bekend.
All the debates pro and anti are known to me as well.
b. Tienermeisie dreig om Bieber se eks te vermoor
Teenage girl threatens to murder Bieber's ex
c. Thanks, Elke, Deidré, dit was super, konings of te not.
Thanks, Elke, Deidré, that was super, even despite the kings.
d. Ek stel nog nie belang in mikro en makro nie.
I'm still not interested in micro and macro.

Non-native prefixes are also found in complex words with non-native roots that are not lexemes, e.g. eks·kus·eer to excuse (where *kus·eer is not a lexeme), and sub·vers·ief subversive (where *vers·ief is not a lexeme).

Morphemes like pseudo- and bio- are called combining forms or confixes because they need some morphological complement in order to be usable. Many Classic confixes now function as prefixes, since they productively combine with both native and non-native stems, as in pseudo·gewelf pseudo-arch (native) and pseudo·miksoom pseudo-myxoma (non-native), or bio·brandstof bio-fuel (native) and bio·logie biology (non-native).

[+]Classic suffixes in Afrikaans

Classic suffixes combine either with roots or stems. Compare for instance the suffix -aal that combines with the root radik- in radik·aal radical, or with the stem dokt·or in doktor·aal doctoral. A number of non-native suffixes (almost) only co-occur with roots, such as -ans in stimul·ans incentive.

The following table contains a list of some of the most prominent non-native suffixes in Afrikaans words, not all of which are necessarily still productive.

Table 4
Suffix Input category Output category Example
-aal N A doktor·aal doctoral
-aan N N Luther·aan Lutheran
-aat N N doktor·aat doctorate
-abel root A present·abel presentable
-ade root N seren·ade serenade
-ans root N stimul·ans incentive
-ant V N predik·ant clergyman
-aris N N bibliotek·aris librarian
-arius root N ordin·arius full professor
-as root N gimn·as gymnast
-asie root N organis·asie organisation
-asme root N sark·asme sarcasm
-eel N A departement·eel departmental
-een N (place name) N Chil·een Chilean
-eer N V debatt·eer debate
-ees N (place name) N Taiwann·ees Taiwanese
-ein N N republik·ein republican
-ent root N dos·ent teacher, lecturer
-êr (Dutch -air) N A famili·êr documentary
-erie N N parfum·erie perfume shop
-esk N A kafka·esk Kafkaesque
-esse N N sekretar·esse secretary
-et root N okt·et octet
-ette N N oper·ette operetta
-eur N N ambassad·eur ambassador
-eus N A ambis·i·eus ambitious
-ide N N brom·ide bromide
-ie root N aggress·ie aggression
-iek root N fonet·iek phonetics
-iek root A fanat·iek fanatical
-ier N N juwel·ier jeweller
-ies N A algebra·ïes algebraic
-iet N N meteor·iet meteorite
-ine A N blond·ine blonde
-ioen root N vis·ioen vision
-isme A N absurd·isme absurdism
-is N N propagand·is propagandist
-is root N bas·is base
-itis root N bronch·itis bronchitis
-oot N N psig·oot psychotic
-ment root N rend·e·ment profit
-teit root N majes·teit majesty
-yn N (place name) N Argent·yn Argentinian

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In many cases, the base of a non-native suffix has a form that is different from the corresponding lexeme. For instance, the adjective viraal viral can be said to have the lexeme virus virus as its base, since vir- can be considered a stem allomorph of virus.

[+]Classic affixes combining with native bases

The generalisation that suffixes of non-native origin attach to bases of non-native origin has two sorts of exceptions. Firstly, creative language use occasionally coins words with native stems and non-native suffixes or combining forms. Examples are Kuifie·logie Tintinology (the study of the fictional character Kuifie Tintin), or Nuwe Testament·o·logie study of the New Testament (TK).

Secondly, some non-native affixes have been introduced into Afrikaans (via Dutch) at such an early stage that they combine with native stems in a natural way. Two examples are the suffix -asie (French -age) in words with native bases like lekk·asie leakage , and pakk·asie luggage; caboodle; or the suffix -ier in words with native bases like winkel·ier shop keeper, and tuin·ier gardener.

[+]Classic and native affixes in combination

When a complex word contains both non-native and native suffixes, the order of these suffixes is always such that the non-native suffix precedes the native suffix. This follows from the constraint that non-native suffixes normally attach to non-native stems. As the suffix determines the subcategory to which a word belongs, a +native suffix will render the whole word +native, which means it will not be available for non-native suffixation.

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The important theoretical implication of this account is that we do not need the mechanism of level ordering (with the level of non-native affixation ordered before that of native affixation) for morphological purposes. This kind of level ordering has been defended in early generative studies of English morphology (cf. Spencer 1991:79ff). A general discussion of level ordering can be found in Booij (2000), while Booij (1995:124) argues that there is also no phonological argument for level ordering of this kind.

This account can also handle so-called morphological bracketing paradoxes. For instance, the noun on·grammat·ik·al·i·teit ungrammaticality has been derived from the adjective on·grammat·ik·aal ungrammatical, and this adjective in its turn has been derived from grammat·ik·aal grammatical. The word can therefore be analysed as follows: [[[on](CN)[[grammatika](N)[aal](ADJZ)](ADJ)](ADJ)[i](LK)[teit](NMLZ)](N). As is indicated with the brackets, native affixation has preceded non-native affixation. This is a problem in a theory of level ordering in which all non-native morphology is ordered before all native morphology. In the account outlined above, however, the adjective on·grammat·ik·aal remains -native because the prefix on- is not category-determining, and hence does not make on·grammat·ik·aal a native-like word. Therefore, it is still possible to attach the -native suffix -iteit to the complex adjective.

[+]Classic affixes and paradigmatic word formation

Complex words with root suffixes can have two sources: They have either been borrowed as a whole, or created paradigmatically. In paradigmatic word formation, a non-native suffix is replaced with another one, based on a network of relations between non-native complex words.

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The participation of a word in a morphological network is a reason to analyse it as formally complex even though not all of its constituents may be available individually. For instance, in re·duks·ie reduction we recognise the morphological structure [[re][duks][ie]], because the root -duks- (from Latin ducereto bring) also appears in examples like pro·duks·ie production, in·duks·ie induction, de·duks·ie deduction, etc. Similarly, in fanat·iek fanatical we recognise a root fanat- and a suffix -iek, because the root recurs in the related words fanat·isme fanaticism and fanat·ik·us fanatic. Another reason to assign an internal morphological structure to such words is that their suffixes, as in ordinary derivations, allow predictions about the word class. A good example is sentr·aal central, where the suffix -aal predicts that the word is an adjective.

Direct borrowings (sometimes with adaptations) from the Classic stratum oftentimes belong to a more formal, academic or technical register of usage, and new coinings by language users occur due to a meta-linguistic awareness of word structures. Numerous non-native suffixes have thus become productive in Afrikaans, for instance -eer, -esk, -(i)aan, -ies, -(is)eer, -isme, -is, and -(i)teit.

Non-native suffixes are also used productively in derivations of proper nouns such as person names, geographical names, and the like. In such cases, the base could be from any of the primary or secondary strata.

Example 2

a. Chomsk·i·aan
b. balkan·is·eer
c. Bruegel·esk
like the style of Bruegel
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From a paradigmatic (a.k.a. Word-and-Paradigm) perspective we note various cross-stratum phenomena. Compare for example the denominal adjectiviser -aans, as in Fidji·aans Fijian; relating to Fiji or its people, language, or culture. From a morpheme-based (a.k.a. Item-and-Arrangement) approach this example should strictly speaking be analysed as [[[Fidji](PR)[aan](NMLZ)](N)[s](ADJZ)](A), where Fidjiaan Fijian; inhabitant of Fiji is formed first by means of the Classic nominaliser -aan, and only then followed by the Germanic adjectiviser -s. Such an analysis is problematic in two regards:

  1. Since Fidji·aan·s is derived from Fidji·aan, logically it should be paraphrased as relating to people from Fiji. This is not true, since Fidjiaans means relating to Fiji or its people, language, or culture. Compare for instance Fidjiaanse dollar that refers to the currency of Fiji, and not the currency of the people from Fiji.
  2. In other, similar derived words, such as Amerikaans American; related to America or its people, or culture, such an analysis is impossible, since *Amerikaan is not a valid word in Afrikaans.

Instead, if we acknowledge -aans from a paradigmatic perspective as an adjectiviser of proper names, and accept that it is a fusion of the Classic suffix -aan and the Germanic suffix -s, we can accept -aans as a productive morpheme in Afrikaans, rendering analyses such as [[Fidji](PR)[aans](ADJZ)](A), and [[Amerika](PR)[aans](ADJZ)](A) possible.

  • Bauer, Laurie, Lieber, Rochelle & Plag, Ingo2013The Oxford Reference Guide to English MorphologyOxford University Press
  • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Booij, Geert2000The phonology-morphology interfaceCheng, Lisa & Sybesma, Rint (eds.)The first Glot International state-of-the-article book. The latest in linguisticsBerlinMouton de Gruyter287-306
  • Coetzee, A.E1987Morfologiese aspekte van stratumkenmerke in die Afrikaanse leksikon.South African Journal of Linguistics = Suid-Afrikaanse Tydskrif vir Taalkunde51-23,
  • Combrink, J.G.H1990Afrikaanse morfologie: capita exemplaria.Academica
  • Grant, A. 2012Copies versus Cognates in Bound MorphologyBound morphology in English (and beyond): copy or cognate?Leiden: Brill99-122
  • Spencer, Andrew1991Morphological Theory: An introduction to Word Structure in Generative GrammarOxfordBlackwell
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