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Derivation: non-native morphology

The Dutch lexicon can be divided into two layers or strata, a native (Germanic) layer, and a non-native (in particular Romance) one. Derivational processes may be sensitive to this division. A general restriction on the use of suffixes of non-native origin is that they attach to base words of non-native origin. In this respect, they differ from native suffixes, which can be used for both native and non-native stems.

This division of labour can be illustrated by the non-native suffix -iteit that competes with the native suffix -heid (though Read more for exceptions):

Table 1
Stratum of the stem Derived word with native -heid Derived word with non-native -iteit
native blindheid blindness *blinditeit
doofheid deafness *doviteit
non-native stabielheid stability stabiliteit stability
diversheid diversity diversiteit diversity
Non-native prefixes, by contrast, are often free to combine with native or non-native stems. For example, the non-native prefix infra- combines both with the non-native noun structuur structure > infrastructuur infrastructure and with the native adjective rood red > infrarood infrared.

Complex words with non-native morphology may have been derived in Dutch or borrowed as a whole.

The term 'non-native' is not meant to suggest that all speakers of Dutch know the historical origin of these stems, roots and suffixes, but it suggests that the foreignness of such words is recognizable. There are phonological cues for being non-native: non-native stems contain often at least two full vowels. Non-native suffixes bear the main stress of the word, they always contain a full vowel and they are always vowel-initial.

See below for a list of the non-native suffixes and prefixes in Dutch.

[+]Exceptions: non-native affixes with native bases

The generalization that suffixes of non-native origin attach to base words of non-native origin has two exceptions. First, creative language use occasionally coins words with native stems and non-native suffixes. Examples are stommiteit stupidity (from the native adjective stom stupid), malloot idiot (< mal funny, strange), arbeiderisme proletarianism(< arbeider worker) and veralgemeniseren to generalize(< algemeen general). Such mixes often have a comical or pejorative flavour. Second, some historically non-native affixes were introduced into Dutch at such an early stage that they combine with native stems in a natural way. Two examples are lekkage leakage from native lekken to leak and winkelier shop keeper from native winkel shop.

In a complex word containing both non-native and native suffixes the non-native suffix always precede 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.


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). As shown in Booij (1995), there is also no phonological argument for level ordering of this kind. A general discussion of level ordering can be found in Booij (2000c).This account can also handle so-called morphological bracketing paradoxes. For instance, the noun ongrammaticaliteit ungrammaticality has been derived from the adjective ongrammaticaal ungrammatical, and this adjective in its turn has been derived from grammaticaal grammatical. That is, native affixation has preceded non-native affixation in this case. This is a problem in a theory of level ordering in which all non-native morphology is ordered before all native morphology. In the approach outlined above, however, there is no problem: the adjective ongrammaticaal remains [-native] because the prefix on- is not category-determining, and hence does not make ongrammaticaal a native word. Therefore, it is still possible to attach the [-native] suffix -iteit to this complex adjective.

[+]Non-native suffixes in Dutch

The following non-native suffixes are found in Dutch:

Table 2
Suffix Input category Output category Example
-aal N A synodaal synodical
-aan N N parochiaan parishioner
-aat N N doctoraal doctorate
-air N A hypothecair mortgage-
-ant V N predikant reverend
-aris N N bibliothecaris librarian
-ast N N gymnasiast
-atie V N organisatie organization
-eel N A fundamenteel fundamental
-eer N V parfumeer perfume
-ees N N Taiwanees Taiwanese
-ein N N republikein republican
-erie N N parfumerie perfume shop
-esse N N secretaresse secretary
-ette N N operette operetta
-esk N A clownesk clownish
-eur N N ambassadeur ambassador
-eus N A rancuneus vindictive
-iaan N N presbyteriaan presbyterian
-ide N N bromide bromide
-ier N N juwelier jeweller
-iet N N metropoliet metropolitan
-ieus N A modieus fashionable
-ine A N blondine blonde
-isch N A algebraisch algebraic
-iseer A V banaliseer banalize
-isme A N absurdisme absurdism
-ist N N propagandist propagandist
-oir N A/N emancipatoir emancipatory/ urinoir urinal
-oot N N psychoot psychotic

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 taken to have the lexeme virus virus as its base, since vir- can be considered a stem allomorph of virus.

Many suffixes also combine with bases that do not occur as independent words, i.e. with roots. An example is the suffix –aal in radicaal radical. A number of non-native suffixes (almost) only co-occur with roots. A sample of such root suffixes:
Table 3
Suffix Output category Example
-abel A acceptabel acceptable
-ade N serenade serenade
-ans N stimulans incentive
-arius N ordinarius full professor
-asme N sarcasme sarcasm
-een N Chileen Chilean
-ement N rendement profit
-ent N docent teacher, lecturer
-et N kwartet quartet
-ica N fanatica (female) fanatic
-icus N fanaticus fanatic
-ie N agressie aggression
-íe N fonologie phonology
-iek A/N fonetiek phonetics/ fanatiek fanatical
-ijn N Argentijn Argentinian
-ioen N visioen vision
-is N basis base
-itis N bronchitis bronchitis
Complex words with these 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.

The participation of a word in a morphological network is a reason for analysing it as formally complex even though not all of its constituents may be available individually. For instance, in reductie reduction we recognize the morphological structure re-ductie because the root -ductie also appears in productie production, inductie induction, deductie deduction, etc. Similarly, in fanatiek fanatic we recognize a root fanat- , and hence a suffix -iek, because the root recurs in the related words fanatisme fanaticism and fanaticus fanatic. Another reason for assigning 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 centraal central, where the ending -aal predicts that the word is an adjective.

Direct borrowings (sometimes with adaptations) from the Romance lexicon typically belong to a high register of language use in which meta-linguistic awareness of word structure may lead to new coinings by language users. A number of non-native suffixes have thus gained a certain productivity, for instance -eer, -esk, -iaan, -isch, -iseer, -isme, -ist, and -iteit. However, the use of such derived non-native words is restricted to specific registers of written language. The productivity of non-native suffixes also manifests itself in the fact that they can be attached to proper names of persons, countries and the like. In such cases, it does not even matter if the base word is native or non-native, but these words do retain an intentional flavour:

a. Schultinkiaan
follower of Schultink (Dutch morphologist)
b. Finlandiseren
to finlandize
c. Bruegelesk
in the style of Bruegel

In this context, the denominal adjectival suffix -isch has a special status. It is not a suffix of Romance, but of Germanic origin, and it is used very productively in German. It behaves as a non-native suffix in that it combines very easily with non-native stems. On the other hand, it is also used for making geographical adjectives from geographical nouns with a native shape, for instance Belgisch Belgian < België Belgium and Normandisch Norman < Normandië Normandy. In this use, the coinings are felt to be native words, without a marked status. Hence, the status of the suffix -isch appears to be a hybrid one, since it is used in both the native and the non-native domain (Heynderickx 1994).

[+]Non-native prefixes in Dutch

Prefixes, too, can be divided into native and non-native, but there are only a few historically non-native prefixes that attach to non-native bases only. An example is the negative prefix in- which can be contrasted with its native counterpart on-:

Table 4
Stratum of the stem Derived word with native on- Derived word with non-native -in
non-native onhumaan inhuman inhumaan inhuman
onstabiel unstable instabiel unstable
native onaardig unfriendly *inaardig
ongezond unhealthy *ingezond
Similar restrictions hold for a- (as in asociaal anti-social), non- (as in nonverbaal non-verbal; an exception may be the anglicism non-issue non-issue), and de- (as in decentraal decentralized). However, most of the historically non-native prefixes attach to both non-native and native stems. The table illustrates this for native base words:
Table 5
Prefix Example
anti- anti-godsdienstig anti-religious
co- co-ouderschap shared parentship
contra- contragewicht counterweight
ex- ex-man ex-husband
hyper- hypergevoelig hypersensitive
infra- infrarood infrared
loco- loco-burgemeester vice-mayor
meta- metataal metalanguage
micro- microgolf microwave
mono- monorail monorail
neo- neo-gereformeerd neo-protestant
pre- pre-pensioen early retirement
pro- pro-apartheid pro-apartheid
pseudo- pseudo-wetenschap pseudo-science
semi- semi-overheid semi-government
sub- subgroep subgroup
super- supergaaf super cool
turbo- turbo-koe very productive cow
ultra- ultrazacht ultra soft
vice- vice-voorzitter vice-chairman
This list of prefixes is not exhaustive because, in addition to borrowed Greek and Latin prefixes, many non-native roots now function as prefixes, for example pseudo- and macro-. We might, for instance, consider the roots euro- and tele- as prefixes, since they productively combine with both native and non-native stems, as in euro-beleid euro-policy and tele-ingenieur telecommunications engineer. Morphemes such as tele have also been called combining forms or confixes because they need some morphological complement in order to be usable.

A possible explanation for this 'promiscuous' behaviour of the non-native prefixes is that they form prosodic words of their own, and hence have a word-like appearance. Thus, these prefix-word combinations are similar to compounds, which can consist of a non-native and a native word. Some of these prefixes have also developed into lexemes:

a. Jan is anti
John does not agree
b. mijn ex
my former husband/wife
c. deze biefstuk is super
this steak is superb
d. je moet dit macro bekijken
you have to consider this at macro-level
Non-native prefixes are also found in complex words with a non-native root that is not a lexeme, as in excuseren to excuse and subversief subversive.

Read more on:

Inputs and input restrictions: impossible and improbable combinations

The meaning of affixes

  • Heynderickx, Priscilla & Marle, Jaap van1994Over het hybride karakter van -isch: op de grens van inheems en uitheemsSpektator23229-39
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