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Affixation is the formation of new lexemes and word forms by means of affixes, i.e. the attachment of bound morphemes to stems or roots. The word classes that could be extended by affixation are the open or lexical classes of a language: nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. Like Dutch, Afrikaans makes use of both prefixation and suffixation (but not of infixation). Moreover, Afrikaans and Dutch have a number of circumfixes, a combination of a prefix and a suffix with a collective meaning, for example ge-...-te, as in ge·boom·te [ge[boom](N)te](N) collection of trees. The simultaneous use of a prefix and a suffix can also be found in so called participia praeverbalia such as be·haar·d [be[haar](N)d](A) hairy (from haar hair).


    Affixation may change the word class of the input lexeme. The inputs for a particular affixation process are often of one particular lexical category (N, V, or A), and the outputs are also of a specific lexical category. There is also affixation in which input word and output word differ only in lexical subcategory. For instance, intransitive verbs can become transitive verbs. The processes available in Afrikaans are:

    Table 1
    Input > Output Type of change Source Derived word
    A > N Suffixation mooi beautiful mooi·heid [[mooi](A)[heid](NMLZ)](N) beauty
    Conversion Katoliek catholic Katoliek [[Katoliek](A)](N) catholic (person)
    V > N Suffixation werk to work werk·er [[werk](V)[er](NMLZ)](N) worker
    Prefixation praat to talk ge·praat [[ge](NMLZ)[praat](V)](N) talking, chitchat
    Conversion val to fall val [[val](V)](N) fall
    N > N Suffixation moeder mother moeder·skap [[moeder](N)[skap](NMLZ)](N) motherhood
    Prefixation mens man, human on·mens [[on](CN)[mens](N)](N) brute, beast
    N > A Suffixation meester master meester·lik [[meester](N)[lik](ADJZ)](A) masterly
    V > A Suffixation lees to read lees·baar [[lees](V)[baar](ADJZ)](A) readable
    A > A Suffixation blou blue blou·erig [[blou](A)[erig](ADJZ)](A) blueish
    Prefixation gewoon usual, common on·gewoon [[on](CN)[gewoon](A)](A) unusual
    N > V Suffixation fout error fout·eer [[fout](N)[eer](VBZ)](V) to err
    Prefixation huis house ver·huis [[ver](VBZ)[huis](N)](V) to move (to another house)
    Conversion bank bank (financial institution) bank [[bank](N)](V) to bank (your money)
    A > V Suffixation kalm calm kalm·eer [[kalm](A)[eer](VBZ)](V) to calm down
    Prefixation bleek pale ver·bleek [[ver](VBZ)[bleek](A)](V) to turn pale
    Conversion suiwer pure suiwer [[suiwer](A)](V) to purify
    V > V Prefixation krap to scratch be·krap [[be](CN)[krap](V)](V) to bescratch

    There is a tendency for prefixation to be category-neutral (there are four exceptions: be-, ver-, ont- and ge-), whereas suffixation is often category changing.


    The asymmetry between prefixation and suffixation has led some researchers of morphology to adopt the so-called Right-hand Head Rule (RHR), proposed for English by Williams (1981), as a principle that is also valid for Afrikaans and Dutch. This rule says that the rightmost constituent of a complex word is the head of that word, and hence determines the syntactic (sub)category of the complex word. For instance, the word lees·baar readable is an adjective thanks to its head, the suffix -baar. As suffixes are the rightmost elements in a structure, they are predicted to be category determining, while prefixes are not.

    Category determination does not necessarily mean category change. There are suffixes, for example, that create nouns from nouns. However, the suffix will determine the syntactic subcategory of its output, for instance nouns with a diminutive suffix.

    Depending on one’s theory of syntax and morphology, the notion head can be more or less useful. In the analysis of compounds, the most syntax-like kind of word formation, it has the advantage that many properties of the whole compound can be predicted from the properties of one of its constituents. After all, the head constituent also occurs as an independent word and has independent properties. If affixes, however, are treated as heads, the theory has to equip them with categorial properties. See Bauer (1990) for a critical discussion of the notion head in morphology.

    Afrikaans present some counter-evidence to the RHR: the nominalising prefix ge- and a number of verbalising prefixes (like ver-) have category changing power. What remains true, however, is that in Afrikaans all suffixes (but not all prefixes) are category-determining.

    The relevance of the RHR for Dutch (and by implication for Afrikaans) is defended by Trommelen and Zonneveld (1986). They are, however, forced to introduce certain ad hoc rules in order to cope with the cases of category changing prefixation. Another attempt to save the RHR as a generalisation for Dutch is Neeleman and Schipper (1993), which also deals with the class of category changing prefixes.

    Adverbs are special: they can only be outputs, not inputs of affixation. They can be derived from adjectives by means of suffixation, for instance loss·ies loosely from los loose. Exceptions are strakk·ies soon and effen·tjies for a moment which are derived without meaning change from the adverbs straks shortly and effens slightly.

    Some affixation processes can be used simultaneously in the formation of multiple complex words. For instance, the prefix on- and the suffix -baar work together in the formation of the adjective on·uit·staan·baar unbearable that has no positive counterpart *uit·staan·baar. Such cases are then analysed as a circumfix on...baar. Note that some scholars (e.g. Booij 2010) differ from this viewpoint, since they argue that this pattern can be obtained by the combination of two independent word formation processes.

    • Bauer, Laurie1990Be-heading the WordJournal of Linguistics261-31
    • Booij, Geert2010Construction morphologyOxford/New YorkOxford University Press
    • Neeleman, Ad & Schipper, Joleen1993Verbal prefixation in Dutch: thematic evidence for conversionBooij, Geert & Van Marle, Jaap (eds.)Yearbook of Morphology 1992Kluwer57-92
    • Trommelen, Mieke & Zonneveld, Wim1986Dutch morphology: evidence for the right-hand head ruleLinguistic Inquiry17147-170
    • Williams, Edwin1981On the notions `lexically related' and `head of a word'Linguistic Inquiry12254-274
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