• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show full table of contents

The suffix -zaam (/za:m/ or /sa:m/) is an unproductive affix occuring in combination with verbs and forming adjectives with the meaning 'having a tendency/ability to X': zwijgen to be silent > zwijgzaam taciturn, waken to watch > waakzaam watchful. In other cases, the stem is nominal or adjectival rather than verbal: deugd virtue > deugdzaam virtuous, zelden rarely > zeldzaam rare or is not a currently existing free lexical item, as in moeizaam difficult.

[+]General properties, input, stratum

-zaam attaches mainly to stems of transitive verbs, the resulting meaning is 'having a tendency/ability to X': sparen to save > spaarzaam thrifty. economical, voeden to feed > voedzaam nourishing. In the few cases where the base verb is ergative, the adjective does not relate to the subject of the verb, but to another semantic element: groeien to grow > groeizaam weer weather favourable for growing.

In some cases, the semantic relationship between the base and the derived adjective is idiosyncratic: minnen to love > minzaam amiable, hand hand > handzaam handy, manageable, herbergen to house > (on)herbergzaam (in)hospitable.

Most verbal bases are Germanic and monomorphemic. Exceptions to the latter are words such as behoedzaam be-hoed-zaam cautious, verdraagzaam ver-draag-zaam tolerant, mededeelzaam mede-deel-zaam communicative, opmerkzaam op-merk-zaam attentive.

A number of complex adjectives ending in -zaam have non-verbal bases; examples are the denominal deugdzaam virtuous (from deugd virtue and vreedzaam peaceful (from vrede peace) and deadjectival langzaam slow (from lang long), gemeenzaam common, shared (from gemeen common) and zeldzaam rare (from zelden rarely). Special cases are bedachtzaam cautious, deliberate which has as its base a past participle (the stem of the verb being bedenk think (about), consider) and behulpzaam helpful, based on a lost variant of (zich be)helpen to help (oneself). Finally, there is eenzaam lonely, a loan translation from German, where it is based on a numeral.

In some cases, syntactic properties from the base carry over to the derivation. For example, the verb werken to work occurs with the prepositions bij with, at or voor for; both prepositions also appear with the derived adjective werkzaam: werkzaam bij working with/at, werkzaam voor working for.

[+]Phonological properties

-zaam has two phonologically conditioned allomorphs: /za:m/ and /sa:m/. The latter occurs as the result of progressive assimilation after stems ending in a voiceless obstruent. -zaam is a non-cohering affix and does not bear stress. However, it can influence the stress pattern of the base as it requires the main stress to be on the last stem syllable: opmerken /'opmerken/ remark > opmerkzaam /op'merkzaam/ remarkable. If a base ends in a syllable with schwa as nucleus, this syllable is deleted before the affix vrede peace > vreedzaam peaceful, mededogen compassion > mededoogzaam compassionate, zelden rarely > zeldzaam rare.

[+]Morphological potential

Adjectives ending in -zaam can serve as input for other words, especially nominalizations in -heid (buigzaamheid flexibility) and adjectives prefixed with on- (onbuigzaam rigid. In some cases, only the on--form exists: onachtzaam careless but *achtzaam. Verbalization is not possible, with the exception of veronachtzamen to neglect, vereenzamen to grow lonely en verlangzamen to slow down, all of which have the verbalizing prefix ver-.