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-schap [sχαp] is a non-cohering Germanic suffix found in nouns, e.g. martelaarschap martyrdom, broederschap fraternity and zwangerschap pregnancy. Suffixation with -schap respects the stress pattern of the base word, the suffix bears secondary stress. This suffix can be attached productively to nouns referring to persons, creating neuter nouns with the meaning ‘the function of being N’. In addition, there are closed sets of non-neuter nouns in -schap based on either nouns or adjectives, and with different meanings, the set of N’s, the property of being A. A few non-neuter nouns in -schap are based on verbs (in their infinitival form), e.g. wetenschap science (< weten to know). A general semantics for these deverbal cases is 'the activity of the base V'.

Table 1
base -schap derivation
broeder brother (N) (het) broederschap being a brother
(de) broederschap fraternity
zwanger pregnant (A) (de) zwangerschap pregnancy
weten to know (V) (de) wetenschap science

The fact that the suffix -schap creates different subcategories of nouns (neuter en non-neuter nouns), correlating with different meanings of -schap, suggests that this is not a straightforward case of one polyfunctional suffix. (Booij 2002: 90) therefore concludes that there are two suffixes -schap - although historically, they go back to the same source (see Etymologiebank).


Read more on productive -schap, creating neuter nouns such as martelaarschap martyrdom from nouns in here.

Both -schap suffixes are non-cohering, as shown by the possibility of gapping: zwanger- en moederschap pregnancy and motherhood.

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Note that zwangerschap pregnancy is of common gender, whereas moederschap motherhood is of neuter gender. Booij (1985) argues that in these cases, coordination is a prosodic phenomenon.

Read more on unproductive -schap, creating nouns of common gender from nouns (e.g. broederschap fraternity), from adjectives (e.g. zwangerschap pregnancy), and from infinitival forms of verbs (e.g. wetenschap science) here.

  • Booij, Geert1985Coordination reduction in complex words: a case for prosodic phonologyHulst, Harry van der & Smith, Norval (eds.)Advances in non-linear phonologyDordrechtForis Publications143-160
  • Booij, Geert2002The morphology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press