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Nominal suffixation: person nouns

Dutch has a number of (native and non-native) suffixes for coining person nouns, including inhabitant names and their feminine counterparts. Examples of native suffixes forming person nouns are -aar and its feminine counterparts -ares and -aarster, as in wandelaar, wandelaarster walker, walker (F) (from the verb wandelen to walk), zondaar, zondares sinner, sinner (F) (from the noun zonde sin) and eigenaar, eigenares owner, owner (F) (from the adjective eigen own). A non-native example is the suffix -ator that is mostly found with roots of verbs in -eren, e.g. administrator administrator from administreren to administer, to manage; its most common feminine counterpart is -atrice, as in administratrice administrator (F).

Suffixes that typically create person nouns can also be found in nouns denoting objects, e.g. -er as in werker worker is also found in bijsluiter information leaflet and verfverdunner (paint) thinner, and -ator of administrator administrator also occurs in transformator transformer and vibrator vibrator, et cetera.

[+]Suffixes to make person nouns

Dutch has quite a number of suffixes for the formation of person nouns; they differ in input category, stratum, productivity, etc. The semantics of the person noun depends on the input category: with verbal input, the derived noun typically denotes an agent (wandelaar wandel-aar walker < wandelen to walk), with adjectival input, the derived noun most often denotes someone possessing the property described by the adjective (wreedaard wreed-aard cruel person < wreed cruel), in the case of a nominal base, the meaning is rather unspecified having to do with the base noun' (e.g. winkelier winkel-ier shopkeeper < winkel shop, schuldenaar schuld-enaar debtor < schuld debt) and if the input is a geographical name, the derived noun denotes an inhabitant (Utrechtenaar Utrecht-enaar someone from Utrecht, Amsterdammer Amsterdam-er someone from Amsterdam)). Lexicalization and meaning development is always possible: e.g. the noun Amsterdammertje Amsterdam-er-DIM lit. small person from Amsterdam can also denote a bollard, a certain cookie, or a certain type of beer glass.

The most important native suffixes found in nouns that denote persons of male or unspecified gender are listed below; many of the nouns derived with these suffixes can also have an object noun reading. Follow the links to see discussion of the individual suffixes.

Table 1
Suffix Base category Base Derived form
-aar V wandelen to walk wandelaar walker
N zonde sin zondaar sinner
A eigen own eigenaar owner
-aard A wreed cruel wreedaard cruel person
Geographical name Spanje Spain Spanjaard Spaniard
-der V besturen to govern bestuurder governor
Geographical name Alkmaar Alkmaar Alkmaar-der inhabitant of A.
-e A blind blind blinde blind person
-enaar N schuld debt schuldenaar debtor
Geographical name Utrecht Utrecht Utrechtenaar inhabitant of U.
-er V werken to work werker worker
N schip ship schipper skipper
Num tien ten tiener teenager
S doe het zelf do it yourself doe-het-zelver do it yourselfer
-erd A vies dirty viezerd dirty person
V brommen to hum brommerd someone who hums; grumbler; moped
-erik A vies dirty viezerik dirty person
-(en)ier /i:r/ N winkel shop winkelier shopkeeper
N kruid herb kruidenier grocer
-(e)ling V zuigen to suck zuigeling infant
N stad city stedeling townsman
A stom stupid stommeling stupid person
Num twee two tweeling twin

The most productive native suffix forming person nouns is -er, which is in complementary distribution with -aar and -der: the suffix -aar occurs after stems ending in a coronal consonant preceded by schwa, and -der occurs after stems ending in /r/. However, this distribution is not completely phonologically governed, since there are some nouns in -aar and -der with stems of a different phonological make up, such as ler-aar teacher' (<leren to teach) and dien-der policeman (<dien to serve). -erd (also found written as -ert) is often an informal variant.

Dutch has also quite a number of non-native person forming suffixes that combine either with words (e.g. Mohammedaan muslim (< Mohammed Mohammed) or with bound forms (e.g. gymnasiast highschool student, cf. gymnasium highschool) (read more on this so-called neo-classical word formationhere. The most important non-native person-forming suffixes are listed below (De Haas and Trommelen 1993). Note that many are also found in adjectives (e.g. koloniaal colonial can be used both as a noun and as an adjective); follow the links for a more complete discussion of the pertinent suffix.

Table 2
Suffix Base Category Base Derived form
-aal N kolonie colony koloniaal colonial
-aan, -iaan Proper name Mohammed Mohammed Mohammedaan muslim
Hegel Hegel Hegeliaan Hegelian
Geographical name Amerika America Amerikaan American
-aat Geographical name Azië Asia Aziaat Asian
bound form soldaat soldier
-air N diamant diamond diamantair diamond dealer
-ans bound form ordonnans liaison officer
-ant, -cant V prediken to preach predikant viccar
N communie communion communicant communicant
bound form remonstrant remonstrant
-aris N bibliotheek library bibliothecaris librarian
bound form secretaris secretary
-arius bound form ordinair ordinary ordinarius full professor
-ast bound form cineast filmmaker
bound form evacué evacuee
-eel, -ieel N industrie industry industrieel industrialist
bound form crimineel criminal
-een Geographical name Chili Chile Chileen someone from Chile
-ees Proper name Bhagwan Bhagwan Bhagwanees follower of the Bhagwan
Geographical name Taiwan Taiwan Taiwanees someone from Taiwan
-ein N republiek republiek republikein republican
Geographical name Rome Rome Romein Roman
-ent bound form produceren to produce producent producer
-eur, -ateur V masseren to massage masseur masseur
V restaureren to restore restaurateur restaurator, caterer, renovator
-icus N academie academy academicus academic
bound form fanatiek fanatic (A) fanaticus fanatic (N)
-ien ( /jẽ/) bound form opticien optometrist
-ier ( [i:r]) N herberg inn herbergier inn-keeper
-ier ( [je:]) N cabaret cabaret cabaretier stand-up comedian
-iet Proper name Hus Hus Hussiet follower of Hus
Geographical name Jemen Yemen Jemeniet someone from Y.
-ijn Proper name Augustus August augustijn Augustinian
Geographical name Argentinië Argentina Argentijn inhabitant of A.
-ioen kampioen champion
-is bound form amanuensis laboratory assistent
-ist N journaal travelogue journalist journalist
V componeren to compose componist composer
A modern modern modernist modernist
bound form solipsist solipsist
bound form (suppletion) Engels English (N, A) anglist scholar of English
-oot A mal stupid malloot clown
Geographical name Caïro Cairo Caïroot someone from Cairo
-or, -ator V doneren to donate donor donor
V cureren to curate curator curator
-t bound form fantast dreamer
-us A anoniem anonymous (A) anonymus anonym (N)

Most suffixes forming person nouns have a feminine counterpart (wandel-aarster female walker), but some don't (e.g. wreed-aard cruel person has no morphologically marked feminine counterpart). Feminine person nouns derived from geographical names have their own regularities: they are often formed by adding -e to the derived adjective (e.g. Utrechtse from or pertaining to Utrecht (A), woman from Utrecht (N) rather than *Utrechtenaarster or *Utrechtenares).

The most common suffixes to form feminine person nouns from verbs and other bases are -ster (for native inputs) and -(t)rice (for non-native inputs, especially with verbs on -eren). The table below gives a somewhat more complete picture of the possibilities (Booij 2002, table 3.4, page 102 and De Haas and Trommelen 1993):

Table 3
Suffix Base Masculine noun Feminine noun
-e N fotograaf photographer fotografe photographer (F)
-enne A lesbisch lesbian lesbienne lesbian woman
-es N voogd guardian voogdes guardian (F)
N in -aar zond-aar sinner zondares sinner (F)
N in -er zang-er singer zangeres singer (F)
-esse N in -aris secret-aris secretary secretaresse secretary (F)
-ette A bruin brown brunette brunette
-euse N in -eur mass-eur masseur masseuse masseur (F)
-ica N in -icus histori-icus historian historica historian (F)
-ière ( [i.ˈjε:.rə]) N in -ier ( /je:/) cabaret-ier stand-up comedian cabaretière stand-up comedian (F)
-in N hertog duke hertogin duchess
N (animal name) leeuw lion leeuwin lioness
-ine A blond blonde blondine blond woman
-rice N in -eur ambassad-eur ambassador ambassadrice ambassador (F)
-rix N in -or rector rector rectrix headmistress
-se N dominee minister domineese minister's wife
-ster V zwemmen to swim zwemster swimmer (F)
N herbergier inn-keeper herbergierster inn-keeper (F)
[hide extra information]

dievegge [di.ˈvɛ.ɣə] female thief (< dief thief) is the only word in the standard language in which the suffix-egge (originally unaccented -ege /ə.ɣə/) occurs (see WNT).

It is possible to construe the female counterpart of animal names by means of the prefixoidvrouwtjes- woman-DIM-s, e.g. vrouwtjeskikker female frog. Variants are derogatory wijfjes- (< wijf woman, bitch) and affective meisjes- (< meisje girl). Van der Wouden (2007) offers an analysis in terms of construction morphology and argues that this process does not relate to (grammatical) gender but rather to (biological) sex.

  • Booij, Geert2002The morphology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Haas, Wim de & Trommelen, Mieke1993Morfologisch handboek van het Nederlands. Een overzicht van de woordvormingSDU Uitgeverij
  • Haas, Wim de & Trommelen, Mieke1993Morfologisch handboek van het Nederlands. Een overzicht van de woordvormingSDU Uitgeverij
  • Wouden, Ton van der2007VrouwtjesgrammaticaTABU36127-147