• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show full table of contents

Suffixation is the addition of a bound morpheme at the right edge of a base word. In Dutch, suffixes always determine the syntactic category of the complex word as a whole. In other words, suffixes are category-determining; they can create verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs. For instance, the diminutive suffix -tje always creates nouns, whatever the syntactic category of its base word: traan (N) tear > traantje (N) little tear, blond (A) blond  > blondje (N) blonde (pej.), speel (V) play > speeltje (N) toy, vooraf (Adv) before > voorafje (N) appetizer.


The category-determining nature of suffixes is considered evidence for the Righthand Head Rule, which claims that the rightward morphological constituent of a complex word is its head and hence determines its syntactic category (Trommelen and Zonneveld 1986).

Suffixes can be cohering or non-cohering. In the latter case they form prosodic words of their own and carry a secondary stress.

Suffixes play a central role in determining the location of the main stress of a complex word. Cohering native suffixes are mostly stress-neutral, whereas non-native suffixes may shift the main stress of the base word rightward, and often carry main stress themselves. Some suffixes are closing suffixes, which means that they do not allow for the attachment of another suffix. This applies to most adverbial suffixes and to the diminutive suffix. See Booij (2002) for more information.

  • Booij, Geert2002The morphology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Trommelen, Mieke & Zonneveld, Wim1986Dutch morphology: evidence for the right-hand head ruleLinguistic Inquiry17147-170