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-schap (het)

The Germanic suffix -schap [sχαp] combines productively with nouns referring to persons. It is non-cohering and bears secondary stress. The result is abstract neuter nouns, selecting the neuter definite singular article het.


the function of being N

Table 1
base -schap derivation
moeder mother moederschap being a mother, motherhood
martelaar martyr martelaarschap martyrdom
kandidaat candidate kandidaatschap candidacy
hogepriester pontiff hogepriesterschap high priesthood
agent agent agentschap agency

There is also a non-productive subtype of -schap formations denoting industries and administrative units, e.g. waterschap waterboard.

[+]General information

Note that Dutch also has an unproductive affix -schap, creating nouns of common gender such as broederschap fraternity from nouns and zwangerschap pregnancy from adjectives. Historically, both affixes go back to one affix, which derives from a female noun related to modern scheppen to create as a righthand compound part (see Etymologiebank).

[+]Morphosyntactic properties

The Germanic suffix -schap [sχαp] forms nouns of neuter gender from nouns denoting person names. They take the neuter definite singular article het.

There is a (non-productive) subtype of -schap formations denoting industries and administrative units. In this case, input is names of things. Cases in point are hoogheemraadschap Water Board, waterschap Water Board and genootschap society.

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Exceptional are the lexicalized juridical terms vennootschap company and maatschap partnership, because they are of common gender, taking the singular definite article de(De Haas and Trommelen 1993:251).

To complicate matters even more, Dutch also has a neuter noun schap shelf that can occur in compound nouns. A string such as winkelschap, then, can theoretically be parsed both as a compound [[winkel](N)[schap](N)](N) shopshelf and as a derivation [[winkel](N)[-schap]suff](N) shop union.

[+]Phonological properties

The suffix -schap [sχαp] is a non-cohering suffix. -schap suffixation respects the stress pattern of the base word, the suffix bears secondary stress.

[+]Input restrictions

Productive -schap can take simplex or complex, Germanic or foreign nouns denoting personal nouns.

Table 2
base -schap formation
moeder N (Germanic) mother moederschap being a brother, motherhood
minister N (foreign) minister (political function) ministerschap being a minster
leider leid.er N (Germanic) leader leiderschap leadership
docent doc.ent N (foreign) teacher docentschap lectureship, teaching position
hoogleraar hoog.[ler.aar] N (Germanic) professor hoogleraarschap professorship

-schap does not attach to derivations formed with female person name suffixes (-ster, -in etc.), with Germanic suffixes -erd, -erik, -e, nor with a number of non-native suffixes such as -arius, -icus and -ist.

[+]Semantic properties

The general meaning of -schap derivations is ‘the function of being N’.

[+]Inflectional properties

Due to their abstract meaning, many -schap formations do not have a plural, but if applicable, the plural is in -en, e.g. genootschappen societies, docentschappen teaching jobs.

[+]Morphological potential

Some -schap formations have a diminutive form in (regular) -je: docentschapje docent-schap-je small teaching position, genootschapje small society. Apart from that, derivations with productive -schap cannot be input to new derivational processes.

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There are a few neuter -schap formations that can be turned into an adjective by means of the suffix -elijk, e.g. lexicalized landschap landscape > landschappelijk as regards the landscape and bondgenootschap alliance > bondgenootschappelijk allied; the resulting adjectives have a relational semantics which has implications for various morphological and syntactic properties: no predicative use, no comparatives or superlatives, no or rarely on- prefixation.

(het) heerschap gentleman (< heer gentleman (usually depreciatory)) has an exceptional semantics.

The noun gereedschap tool, tools may be derived from the adjective gereed ready but it is exceptional because the relationship to the base adjective is opaque, it would be the only de-adjectival -schap derivation with a concrete semantics, and it is of neuter gender.

-schap (as found e.g, in landbouwschap agricultural board) has developed into an independent noun with the meaning 'trade organization, industrial board', possibly a case of degrammaticalisation.

  • Haas, Wim de & Trommelen, Mieke1993Morfologisch handboek van het Nederlands. Een overzicht van de woordvormingSDU Uitgeverij