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Nominal suffixation: person nouns

Dutch has a number of (native and non-native) suffixes for coining person nouns, including inhabitant names and their feminine counterparts. Examples of native suffixes forming person nouns are -aar and its feminine counterparts -ares and -aarster, as in wandelaar, wandelaarsterwalker, walker (F) (from the verb wandelento walk), zondaar, zondaressinner, sinner (F) (from the noun zondesin) and eigenaar, eigenaresowner, owner (F) (from the adjective eigenown). A non-native example is the suffix -ator that is mostly found with roots of verbs in -eren, e.g. administratoradministrator from administrerento administer, to manage; its most common feminine counterpart is -atrice, as in administratriceadministrator (F).

Suffixes that typically create person nouns can also be found in nouns denoting objects, e.g. -er as in werkerworker is also found in bijsluiterinformation leaflet and verfverdunner(paint) thinner, and -ator of administratoradministrator also occurs in transformatortransformer and vibratorvibrator, et cetera.

[+] Suffixes to make person nouns

Dutch has quite a number of suffixes for the formation of person nouns; they differ in input category, stratum, productivity, etc. The semantics of the person noun depends on the input category: with verbal input, the derived noun typically denotes an agent (wandelaarwandel-aarwalker < wandelento walk), with adjectival input, the derived noun most often denotes someone possessing the property described by the adjective (wreedaardwreed-aardcruel person < wreedcruel), in the case of a nominal base, the meaning is rather unspecified having to do with the base noun' (e.g. winkelierwinkel-iershopkeeper < winkelshop, schuldenaarschuld-enaardebtor < schulddebt) and if the input is a geographical name, the derived noun denotes an inhabitant (UtrechtenaarUtrecht-enaarsomeone from Utrecht, AmsterdammerAmsterdam-ersomeone from Amsterdam)). Lexicalization and meaning development is always possible: e.g. the noun AmsterdammertjeAmsterdam-er-DIMlit. small person from Amsterdam can also denote a bollard, a certain cookie, or a certain type of beer glass.

The most important native suffixes found in nouns that denote persons of male or unspecified gender are listed below; many of the nouns derived with these suffixes can also have an object noun reading. Follow the links to see discussion of the individual suffixes.

Table 1
Suffix Base category Base Derived form
-aar V wandelento walk wandelaarwalker
N zondesin zondaarsinner
A eigenown eigenaarowner
-aard A wreedcruel wreedaardcruel person
Geographical name SpanjeSpain SpanjaardSpaniard
-der V besturento govern bestuurdergovernor
Geographical name AlkmaarAlkmaar Alkmaar-derinhabitant of A.
-e A blindblind blindeblind person
-enaar N schulddebt schuldenaardebtor
Geographical name UtrechtUtrecht Utrechtenaarinhabitant of U.
-er V werkento work werkerworker
N schipship schipperskipper
Num tienten tienerteenager
S doe het zelfdo it yourself doe-het-zelverdo it yourselfer
-erd A viesdirty viezerddirty person
V brommento hum brommerdsomeone who hums; grumbler; moped
-erik A viesdirty viezerikdirty person
-(en)ier/i:r/ N winkelshop winkeliershopkeeper
N kruidherb kruideniergrocer
-(e)ling V zuigento suck zuigelinginfant
N stadcity stedelingtownsman
A stomstupid stommelingstupid person
Num tweetwo tweelingtwin

The most productive native suffix forming person nouns is -er, which is in complementary distribution with -aar and -der: the suffix -aar occurs after stems ending in a coronal consonant preceded by schwa, and -der occurs after stems ending in /r/. However, this distribution is not completely phonologically governed, since there are some nouns in -aar and -der with stems of a different phonological make up, such as ler-aarteacher' (<lerento teach) and dien-derpoliceman (<diento serve). -erd (also found written as -ert) is often an informal variant.

Dutch has also quite a number of non-native person forming suffixes that combine either with words (e.g. Mohammedaanmuslim (< MohammedMohammed) or with bound forms (e.g. gymnasiasthighschool student, cf. gymnasiumhighschool) (read more on this so-called neo-classical word formationhere. The most important non-native person-forming suffixes are listed below (De Haas and Trommelen 1993). Note that many are also found in adjectives (e.g. koloniaalcolonial can be used both as a noun and as an adjective); follow the links for a more complete discussion of the pertinent suffix.

Table 2
Suffix Base Category Base Derived form
-aal N koloniecolony koloniaalcolonial
-aan, -iaan Proper name MohammedMohammed Mohammedaanmuslim
HegelHegel HegeliaanHegelian
Geographical name AmerikaAmerica AmerikaanAmerican
-aat Geographical name AziëAsia AziaatAsian
bound form soldaatsoldier
-air N diamantdiamond diamantairdiamond dealer
-ans bound form ordonnansliaison officer
-ant, -cant V predikento preach predikantviccar
N communiecommunion communicantcommunicant
bound form remonstrantremonstrant
-aris N bibliotheeklibrary bibliothecarislibrarian
bound form secretarissecretary
-arius bound form ordinairordinary ordinariusfull professor
-ast bound form cineastfilmmaker
bound form evacuéevacuee
-eel, -ieel N industrieindustry industrieelindustrialist
bound form crimineelcriminal
-een Geographical name ChiliChile Chileensomeone from Chile
-ees Proper name BhagwanBhagwan Bhagwaneesfollower of the Bhagwan
Geographical name TaiwanTaiwan Taiwaneessomeone from Taiwan
-ein N republiekrepubliek republikeinrepublican
Geographical name RomeRome RomeinRoman
-ent bound form producerento produce producentproducer
-eur, -ateur V masserento massage masseurmasseur
V restaurerento restore restaurateurrestaurator, caterer, renovator
-icus N academieacademy academicusacademic
bound form fanatiekfanatic (A) fanaticusfanatic (N)
-ien (/jẽ/) bound form opticienoptometrist
-ier ([i:r]) N herberginn herbergierinn-keeper
-ier ([je:]) N cabaretcabaret cabaretierstand-up comedian
-iet Proper name HusHus Hussietfollower of Hus
Geographical name JemenYemen Jemenietsomeone from Y.
-ijn Proper name AugustusAugust augustijnAugustinian
Geographical name ArgentiniëArgentina Argentijninhabitant of A.
-ioen kampioenchampion
-is bound form amanuensislaboratory assistent
-ist N journaaltravelogue journalistjournalist
V componerento compose componistcomposer
A modernmodern modernistmodernist
bound form solipsistsolipsist
bound form (suppletion) EngelsEnglish (N, A) anglistscholar of English
-oot A malstupid mallootclown
Geographical name CaïroCairo Caïrootsomeone from Cairo
-or, -ator V donerento donate donordonor
V curerento curate curatorcurator
-t bound form fantastdreamer
-us A anoniemanonymous (A) anonymusanonym (N)

Most suffixes forming person nouns have a feminine counterpart (wandel-aarsterfemale walker), but some don't (e.g. wreed-aardcruel person has no morphologically marked feminine counterpart). Feminine person nouns derived from geographical names have their own regularities: they are often formed by adding -e to the derived adjective (e.g. Utrechtsefrom or pertaining to Utrecht (A), woman from Utrecht (N) rather than *Utrechtenaarster or *Utrechtenares).

The most common suffixes to form feminine person nouns from verbs and other bases are -ster (for native inputs) and -(t)rice (for non-native inputs, especially with verbs on -eren). The table below gives a somewhat more complete picture of the possibilities (Booij 2002, table 3.4, page 102 and De Haas and Trommelen 1993):

Table 3
Suffix Base Masculine noun Feminine noun
-e N fotograafphotographer fotografephotographer (F)
-enne A lesbischlesbian lesbiennelesbian woman
-es N voogdguardian voogdesguardian (F)
N in -aar zond-aarsinner zondaressinner (F)
N in -er zang-ersinger zangeressinger (F)
-esse N in -aris secret-arissecretary secretaressesecretary (F)
-ette A bruinbrown brunettebrunette
-euse N in -eur mass-eurmasseur masseusemasseur (F)
-ica N in -icus histori-icushistorian historicahistorian (F)
-ière ([i.ˈjε:.rə]) N in -ier (/je:/) cabaret-ierstand-up comedian cabaretièrestand-up comedian (F)
-in N hertogduke hertoginduchess
N (animal name) leeuwlion leeuwinlioness
-ine A blondblonde blondineblond woman
-rice N in -eur ambassad-eurambassador ambassadriceambassador (F)
-rix N in -or rectorrector rectrixheadmistress
-se N domineeminister domineeseminister's wife
-ster V zwemmento swim zwemsterswimmer (F)
N herbergierinn-keeper herbergiersterinn-keeper (F)
[hide extra information]

dievegge[di.ˈvɛ.ɣə]female thief (< diefthief) is the only word in the standard language in which the suffix-egge (originally unaccented -ege/ə.ɣə/) occurs (see WNT).

It is possible to construe the female counterpart of animal names by means of the prefixoidvrouwtjes-woman-DIM-s, e.g. vrouwtjeskikkerfemale frog. Variants are derogatory wijfjes- (< wijfwoman, bitch) and affective meisjes- (< meisjegirl). Van der Wouden (2007) offers an analysis in terms of construction morphology and argues that this process does not relate to (grammatical) gender but rather to (biological) sex.

  • Booij, Geert2002The morphology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Haas, Wim de & Trommelen, Mieke1993Morfologisch handboek van het Nederlands. Een overzicht van de woordvormingSDU Uitgeverij
  • Haas, Wim de & Trommelen, Mieke1993Morfologisch handboek van het Nederlands. Een overzicht van de woordvormingSDU Uitgeverij
  • Wouden, Ton van der2007VrouwtjesgrammaticaTABU36127-147
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