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-ies (ADJZ)
Table 1
Formal category Suffix
Functional category Adjectiviser (ADJZ)
Orthographic form -ies (e.g. metafor·ies metaphoric; film·ies cinematic)
Phonological form /is/
Phonological properties
  • Cohering
  • Stress-shifting (fixing)
Allomorphs None. Note that -ies is changed to -s due to identical vowel deletion when -ies attaches to words ending in ie.
Semantic properties (meaning)
  • [related to SEM(X)] (metafor·ies metaphoric)
  • [quality related to SEM(X)](film·ies cinematic)
Input restrictions: categories
  • Noun (N) (film·ies cinematic)
  • Proper noun (PR) (Kopt·ies Coptic)
  • Root (opt·ies optic)
Input restrictions: stratum Mostly with Classic roots; only with a few Germanic words
Output: categories Adjectives (ADJ) that can often also function as adverbs (ADV)
Output: morphological potential
  • Not available for derivational suffixation
  • Available for negative prefixes (e.g. on- or nie-)
  • Available for attributive -e
  • Depending on the semantics, it is also available for degrees of comparison with -er and -ste
  • Often combines with interfixes: -ist·ies, -ar·ies, -at·ies, -et·ies and -n·ies
Schema(ta) [[x](N|PR|root)[ies](ADJZ)](A) (e.g. film·ies cinematic; Kopt·ies Coptic; opt·ies optic)
  • Fully productive, especially with regards to roots or nouns from the Classic stratum

  • Sometimes competes with -iek (e.g. polit·ies vs. polit·iek political)

Etymology (stratum) Classic
English equivalent -ic; -(a)tic-ical
Dutch equivalent -isch

Afrikaans -ies behaves the same as Dutch -isch.

This description of -ies is based by and large on Kempen (1969) and De Haas and Trommelen (1993).

[+]Phonological and orthographic properties

The suffix -ies is a cohering suffix and does not bear stress. It attracts the main stress of the base, which ends up in the syllable before the suffix: drama /ˈdra.ma/ drama > drama·t·ies /draˈma.tis/ dramatic.

With regard to the orthography of Afrikaans, AWS-11, rule 9.20 states that derivations with proper names as bases, using -is, -isme, -ist·iek and -ist·ies could be written with either an initial upper case or lower case letter (e.g. Angl·is·ist·ies or angl·is·ist·ies Anglicistic).

[+]Semantic properties

The meaning relation between the base and the resulting adjective is consistent: [quality related to SEM(X)] (e.g. simbol·ies [quality related to symbol] symbolic); or simply [related to SEM(X)] (e.g. osean·ies [related to ocean] oceanic).

When the semantics allows it, -ies adjectives can appear in the comparative and the superlative, e.g. hy is krit·ies·er as sy he is more critical than she.


The suffix -ies attaches to nouns (e.g. allotrop·ies [[allotroop](N)[ies](ADJZ)](A) allotropic), proper names (e.g. Nuwe Testament·ies [[Nuwe Testament](PR)[ies](ADJZ)](A) New Testamentical), or roots (e.g. opt·ies [[opt](root)[ies](ADJZ)](A) optic).

It rarely attaches to Germanic bases; the only examples are film·ies cinematic, wett·ies law-abiding, and the obsolete af·god·ies idolatrous.


The suffix -ies is an adjectiviser. Words ending in -ies can usually also function as adverbs.

Adjectives in -ies are not available for further derivation by means of suffixation. However, derived forms with negative prefixes occur regularly, such as on- (e.g. on·log·ies illogical; on·krit·ies uncritical); and nie- (e.g. nie·-·Asia·t·ies non-Asian). Similar forms with non-native prefixes, such as a- (e.g. a·simmetr·ies asymmetric) usually have been borrowed as a whole.

Nominalization by means of conversion does not occur for -ies adjectives, but there is a systematic correlation between adjectives in -ies and nouns in -iek:

Table 2
krit·ies critical krit·iek criticism
trag·ies tragic trag·iek tragedy
problem·at·ies problematic problem·at·iek difficulty

Prenominal attributive adjectives in -ies are always inflected with the attributive -e (e.g. outokrat·ies·e styl autocratic style).

[+]Schema(ta) and/or paradigm(s)
  1. [[x](N|PR|root)[ies](ADJZ)](A)

    -ies combines with a noun (N), proper noun (PR), or root.

    [Other examples include: wett·ies law-abiding; film·ies cinematic; simbol·ies symbolic; osean·ies oceanic; eksemplar·ies exemplary]
    [Other examples include: achill·ies Achillean; And·ies Andean; hippokrat·ies Hippocratic; Frank·ies Franconian; Kopt·ies Coptic]
    [Other examples include: a·kinet·ies akinetic; choler·ies choleric; genet·ies genetic; kom·ies comic, funny]

    When combining with roots or nouns from Classical origin, various morphonological changes can be observed.

    • When the base ends in schwa, the vowel is deleted before -ies: metode method > metod·ies methodical.
    • The final vowel of the base is often lengthened: ikon /ˈi.kɔn/ icon > ikon·ies /iˈko.nis/ iconic; alfabet /ˈɑl.fɑ.bɛt/ alphabet > alfabet·ies /ɑl.fɑˈbe.tis/ alphabetic.
    • In a few cases, the final schwa of the base is changed into a full vowel: apostel /ɑˈpɔ.stəl/ apostle > apostol·ies /ɑ.pɔˈsto.lis/ apostolic.
    • We also observe s-t alternation, a change of stress and lengthening of the last vowel of the base in cases like chaos /ˈxa.ʔɔs/ chaos > chaot·ies /xaˈʔo.tis/ chaotic. Other examples include erot·ies erotic; ellipt·ies elliptic; skept·ies sceptic; sintakt·ies syntactic. It is also noticable in words ending in the Classic confix -kras·ie -crac·y: outo·kras·ie /œu.tu.krɑˈsi/ autocracy > outo·krat·ies /œu.tuˈkra.tis/ autocracy; aristo·kras·ie /ɑ.rə.stu.krɑˈsi/ aristocracy > aristo·krat·ies /ɑ.rə.stuˈkra.tis/ aristocratic. We can therefore postulate the following schema for words like aristo·krat·ies.
      > >

      There is only one word in Afrikaans ending in the Classic confix -sinkrasie -syncrasy (literally temperament, mixture of personal characteristics (Etymonline)), viz. idio·sinkrasie idiosyncrasy. When the affix -ies attaches to idio·sinkrasie it follows the same pattern as other words ending in -kras·ie, despite the fact that -sinkrasie and -kras·ie are semantically unrelated: idio·sinkrasie idiosyncrasy > idio·sinkrat·ies idiosyncratic.

    • When a noun of Greek origin ends in the root -gnose, vowel shortening and t insertion occur; for example dia·gnose /di.ɑgˈno.sə/ diagnosis > dia·gnost·ies /di.ɑgˈnɔs.tis/ diagnostic, and pro·gnose /prɔxˈno.sə/ prognosis > pro·gnost·ies /prɔxˈnos.tis/ prognostic.
    • When -ies attaches to nouns of Greek origin ending in se (irrespective of the original root), it is replaced by t; see psig·ose psychosis > psig·ot·ies psychoticbelow. Other examples include hipo·tet·ies hypothetical; genet·ies genetic; sim·bio·t·ies symbiotic; analit·ies analytical.
      > >
  2. [[x...ie](N)[s](ADJZ)](A)

    Due to identical vowel deletion, -ies is changed to -s when the base ends on ie, for example:

    akadem·ie /ɑ.kɑˈde.mi / academy  > akadem·ie·s /ɑ.kɑˈde.mis / academic

    In most cases, stress is corrected (shifted) when -s is added, while a vowel change can also be observed in some cases, for example:

    ana·log·ie /ɑ.nɑ.luˈxi/ analogy   > ana·log·ie·s /ɑ.nɑˈlo.xis/ analogical
  3. [[x](N|PR|root)[y](LK)[ies](ADJZ)](A)

    • With N as base: alarm·ist·ies alarmist; drama·t·ies dramatic
    • With PR as base: darwin·ist·ies Darwinian; drako·n·ies draconian
    • With root as base: ekstrem·ist·ies extremist; bio·n·ies bionic

    Base words and stems that combine with -ies exhibit various alternations typical of non-native stem allomorphy, of which the insertion of interfixes is the most prominent; witness the examples from here to here.

    [Common nouns and roots can serve as bases before the interfix -ar-; with common noun: legend·ar·ies legendary < legende legend; eksempl·ar·ies exemplary < eksemplaar example; tabell·ar·ies tabular < tabel table; with root: agr·ar·ies agrarian; sekt·ar·ies sectarian; veget·ar·ies vegetarian]
    [Other examples include: diagramm·at·ies diagrammatic; programm·at·ies programmatic; emblem·at·ies emblematic; simptom·at·ies symptomatic; sistem·at·ies systematic]
    [When -ies attaches to nouns of Greek origin ending in ma, the interfix -t- is used; other examples include: aroma·t·ies aromatic; dogma·t·ies dogmatic; skema·t·ies schematic; tema·t·ies thematic.]
    [Proper names, common nouns and roots can serve as bases before the interfix -n-; with proper name: drako·n·ies draconian (from the Greek statesman Drako); with common noun: bi·ëmbrio·n·ies bi-embryonic; with root: bio·n·ies bionic]
    [Proper names, common nouns and roots can serve as bases before the interfix -t-; with proper name: Asia·t·ies Asian; with common noun: kameleon·t·ies chameleonic; with root: ekso·t·ies exotic; fantas·t·ies fantastic]
    [One should not confuse examples like alchem·ist·ies alchemistic and gimn·ast·ies gymnastic with this category; the latter should rather be analysed as [[[gimn](root)[ast](NMLZ)](N)[ies](ADJZ)](ADJ], and where the final t of gimn·ast is normally deleted through general Afrikaans phonological processes.]

    In complex bases, the relation is often one of affix replacement rather than addition, compare krit·iek criticism > krit·ies critical. The direction of the derivation cannot always be ascertained. Yet other instances do not show any relation to other existing words; witness forms such as drasties drastic, or sporadies sporadic.


    Note the following paradigms:

    Table 3
    akoestiek acoustics akoestikus acoustician akoesties acoustical
    chemie chemistry chemikus chemist chemies chemical
    morfologie morphology morfoloog morphologist morfologies morphological
    altruïsme altruism altruïs altruist altruïsties altruistic
    Ø akrobaat acrobat akrobaties acrobatic
    antiek antique antikwaar antiquary antikwaries antiquarian
    biokinetika biokinetics biokintetikus biokineticist kineties biokinetic
    alkohol alcohol alkoholis alcoholic alkoholies alcoholic

Adjectivisation with the suffix -ies is a common process. However, its productivity is difficult to ascertain because it mostly occurs with bases or roots from Classic origin, which form a relatively closed, even if large, list. (See Kempen 1969:505-506.) Yet, we can state correspondences such as that -ies adjectives are systematically available for nouns ending in -is, e.g. out·is autist > out·ist·ies autistic, as well as for many nouns ending in -iek, e.g. atlet·iek athletics > atlet·ies athletic.

The suffix -ies often competes with -iek; compare the following examples from the AWS: alfa·numer·iek or alfa·numer·ies alphanumeric; artist·iek or artist·ies artistic; balsem·iek or balsam·ies balsamic; fanat·iek or fanat·ies fanatic; fis·iek or fis·ies physical; ident·iek or ident·ies identical; lakon·iek or lakon·ies laconic; log·ist·iek or log·ist·ies logistical; melan·chol·iek or melan·chol·ies melancholic; numer·iek or numer·ies numerical; polit·iek or polit·ies political.


Afrikaans -ies relates to Dutch -isch, English -ic, and French -ique, from Latin -icus, or cognate Greek -ikos in the manner of; pertaining to (Etymonline).

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