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Geographical adjectives

Geographical adjectives are used to express that an entity is related to a geographical unit. Geographical adjectives are formed in three ways. In the default case, the corresponding adjective of the toponym is created by means of suffixation with -s /s/, such as the examples Amsterdams, Gronings, Surinams and Spaans in table 1 show, or –isch /is/, shown in the examples Egyptisch and Syrisch (with truncation of stem-final –e or –en). There are also individual cases of stem allomorphy, as illustrated by Spaans:

Table 1
Toponym Geographical adjective
Amsterdam Amsterdam Amsterdam-sAmsterdams Amsterdam
Groningen Groningen Groning-sGronings Groningen
Suriname Surinam Surinaam-sSurinaams Surinamese
Spanje Spain Spaan-sSpaans Spanish
Egypte Egypt Egypt-ischEgyptisch Egyptian
Syrië Syria Syr-ischSyrisch Syrian

The second way in which geographical adjectives for toponyms are formed is by means of suffixation with –s or –isch of the corresponding inhabitant names. This applies to all those toponyms for which there is an inhabitant name formed with a non-native suffix (examples Amerikaans, Cypriotisch and Portugees in table 2) often accompanied by stem allomorphy, or not morphologically derived at all from the toponym, as is the case with the last three examples in table 2:

Table 2
Example no. Toponym Inhabitant Geographical adjective
Amerika America Amerik-aanAmerikaan American Amerikaan-sAmerikaans American
Cyprus Cyprus Cypr-iootCyprioot Cypriot Cypriot-ischCypriotisch Cypriotic
Portugal Portugal Portug-eesPortugees Portugees
Zweden Sweden Zweed Swede Zweed-s Swedish
Rusland Russia Rus Russian Russ-sisch Russian
Finland Finland Fin Fin Fin-s Finnish

Thirdly, there are adjectives that denote native geographical entities and end in –er, as shown in the follwing examples:

Example 1

Geographical adjective
a. de Heerder politie
de Heerd-er politie
the Heerden police
b. Edammer kaas
Edam-mer cheese
Edam cheese

    Geographical adjectives in –s or –isch not only refer to a geographical entity, but can also be used to denote the language spoken in a geographical entity. In that case, they are to be interpreted as conversions of these adjectives into neuter nouns, as in het Amerikaans the American language or het Amsterdams the Amsterdam dialect.

    When the base form ends in /s/, this segment will disappear before the suffix –s due to degemination, as the following examples in 3 show:

    Table 3
    Underlying form Geographical adjective
    /Fries-s/ Fries Frisian
    /Canad-ees-s/ Canadees Canadian

    For native toponyms there are also geographical adjectives in –er (with truncation of the stem). This is shown in table 4.

    Table 4
    Toponym Geographical adjectives
    Groningen Groning-sGronings/ Groning-erGroninger Groningen
    Assen Assen-sAssens/ Ass-erAsser Assen
    Deventer Deventer-sDeventers/ Devent-erDeventer Deventer

    The adjectives in –er appear to have a more restricted use. They can only be used in atrributive position, and are not inflected in this position, unlike other adjectives that end in /ər/, as shown in table 5.

    Table 5
    *Deze koek is Deventer
    *Deventer-e koek Deventere koek Deventer cake / lekker-e koeklekkere koek delicious cake

    These adjectives are used in phrases to denote the geographical origin, as in Groninger archieven archives of Groningen, Asser museum museum in Assen, and Deventer koek cake produced in Deventer. The corresponding geographical adjectives in –s appear to have a wider use. For instance, they can be converted to nouns in order to denote the language spoken in the geographical region, unlike geographical adjectives in –er (het Gronings/ *Groninger the Groningen dialect. This restricted usability is a reflex of the historical origin of the –er-adjective as a case form of the toponym. When the geographical adjective receives a property interpretation, the adjective in –er cannot be used. For instance, we find Amsterdamse arrogantie Amsterdam arrogance, but not *Amsterdammer arrogantie.

    As shown in table 6, female inhabitant names are formed with these geographical adjectives as bases.

    Table 6
    Toponym Geographical adjective Female inhabitant
    Amerika Amerikaan Amerikaans-eAmerikaanse American
    Zweed Zweeds Zweeds-eZweedse Swedish, N
    Amsterdam Amsterdams Amsterdams-eAmsterdamse Amsterdam
    Egypte Egyptisch Egyptisch-eEgyptische Egyptian

    A revealing set of words for the analysis of geographical adjectives as being derived from the inhabitant name, and of female names as being derived from the geographical adjective is the following sequence shown in table 7.

    Table 7
    Friesland Friesland
    Fries /friz/ Frisian, N
    Fries /friz-s/ Frisian, A
    Friese /friz-s-e/ female Frisian

    The underlying form of the inhabitant name Fries Frisian ends in /z/, as the plural form is Friezen /frizən/. This stem-final /z/ disappears before the adjectival suffix –s /s/, due to voice assimilation and degemination. Hence, the inflected form of the adjective Fries is Friese, not *Frieze. Similarly, the female inhabitant name is Friese /frisə/, not *Frieze /frizə/.

    The restricted usability of adjectives in –er can also observed here, as female names such as *Assere Asser-e are impossible. The suffix –isch is always chosen when the toponym ends in –ië, as shown in the examples in table 8:

    Table 8
    Toponym Geographical adjective
    Syrië Syria Syr-ischSyrisch Syrian
    Georgië Georgia Georg-ischGeorgisch Georgian