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Lesson Transcript

Michael: What are some noun suffixes in Dutch?
Atie: And why are they useful to know?
Michael: At DutchPod101.com, we hear these questions often. Imagine the following situation: Ben Lee is watching a movie. He hears an unfamiliar word, and asks his classmate, Sam Swinkels,
"What does "bibliothecaris" mean?"
Ben Lee: Wat betekent "bibliothecaris?"
Ben Lee: Wat betekent "bibliothecaris?"
Sam Swinkels: Het betekent "iemand die een bibliotheek beheert."
Michael: Once more with the English translation.
Ben Lee: Wat betekent "bibliothecaris?"
Michael: "What does "bibliothecaris" mean?"
Sam Swinkels: Het betekent "iemand die een bibliotheek beheert."
Michael: "It means "someone who manages a library." "

Lesson focus

Michael: In this lesson, you will be learning about noun suffixes in Dutch and why they are important to know.
Before we look more deeply into the topic, I'd like to quickly talk about what a suffix is. A suffix is a kind of affix and affixes are small elements of language that are attached to root words in order to form new words with modified meanings. A suffix is always attached to the end of the root word. For instance, in English, if we take the root adjective "foolish" and add to it the suffix, "-ness," then we form the abstract noun, "foolishness," which has a different meaning to the original root word. In Dutch, the word for suffix is:
Atie: achtervoegsel.
Michael: This translates directly to "behind addition," which kind of says it all.
There are many nominal suffixes in Dutch so we will be looking at some of the most common ones. We will begin by discussing suffixes that form a diminutive in combination with a root word and then we will proceed to a discussion of suffixes that combine with a root word to create nouns.
Let's begin now with the diminutives. Diminutives are very common in Dutch and are always neuter, countable nouns. They consist of a root word and a suffix. The suffixes all end with
Atie: je
Michael: but four of them are preceded by other letters, resulting in these five suffixes:
Atie: je, [pause] tje, [pause] etje, [pause] kje, [pause] pje.
Michael: The function of the diminutive suffix is to modify the meaning of the root word in such a way that, often, the new word refers to a smaller version of the thing that the root word denotes. Take, for instance, the Dutch word for "cat," which is:
Atie: kat
Michael: If we then add to it the suffix
Atie: je
Michael: we end up with the word
Atie: katje
Michael: which means kitten. A kitten, obviously, is a smaller version of a cat. This is how the diminutive suffix often functions. In fact, this is possibly the most common function of diminutive suffixes, but they can also be used to form terms of endearment such as this one, which means "little child:"
Atie: kindje.
Michael: This word is a combination of the root word,
Atie: kind
Michael: meaning "child" and the same suffix we used just a moment ago -
Atie: je.
Michael: There are several other functions that diminutive suffixes can fulfill, but we will not go into those here. If you would like to know more about diminutives, have a listen to the recordings we have made that deal with diminutives in Dutch. You will find a lot of useful information in them.
We will now be looking at nominal suffixes in Dutch. These are suffixes that combine with a root word to form a noun. The most versatile and frequently used of these suffixes is
Atie: er.
Michael: It can be used at the end of a verb like
Atie: werken
Michael: which means "to work." The resulting noun is
Atie: werker
Michael: which means "worker." There are two other suffixes that can be seen as alternatives to this one. The first is
Atie: der
Michael: and it is used after words ending in "r." Sometimes, it can follow words ending with "l" and "n" as well. Let's add it to a Dutch verb meaning "to venerate" or "to worship." The verb sounds like this:
Atie: vereren.
Michael: The root word is
Atie: vereer
Michael: and, with the suffix, it becomes the noun:
Atie: vereerder
Michael: which means a "worshipper" or "venerator." A synonym for this word is
Atie: bewonderaar.
Michael: This noun consists of the root word
Atie: bewonder
Michael: which means "to admire" and the suffix
Atie: aar
Michael: which is the other alternative to the suffix
Atie: er.
Michael: This suffix also has a feminine counterpart. The feminine suffix can be either of these two:
Atie: ares, [pause] aarster.
Michael: For instance, the feminine counterpart for
Atie: wandelaar
Michael: which means "hiker," is
Atie: wandelaarster.
Michael: and for
Atie: leraar
Michael: which means "teacher," it is
Atie: lerares.
Michael. Before we move on to the next point, let's quickly listen to those three suffixes again. They are:
Atie: er, [pause], der, [pause] aar.
Michael: You might have noticed that the nouns we just talked about all referred to a "doer" or "agent" that does the thing that the root word denotes. This is usually the case when a verb root and a suffix combine to form a noun. The noun will usually refer to one who does the thing that the verb denotes.
If, on the other hand, the root word is an adjective, then the resulting noun usually denotes a person who displays the characteristics described by the adjective. For instance, if the adjective is "cruel" or
Atie: wreed
Michael: and the suffix is
Atie: aard
Michael: then the resulting noun denotes someone who is cruel—a cruel person or a
Atie: wreedaard.
Michael: If the root word happens to be a noun, then the rules are less clear. The resulting noun will relate back to the root word in some way, but how exactly it does so is not specific. For instance, the Dutch word for "debtor," or
Atie: schuldenaar
Michael: is based on the root noun
Atie: schuld
Michael: meaning "debt." The suffix is, of course,
Atie: aar.
Michael: The two words are clearly related, as you can tell. Another example of a nominal suffix with a noun root is
Atie: winkelier
Michael: meaning, "shopkeeper." It is composed of the root noun
Atie: winkel
Michael: meaning "shop," and the suffix
Atie: ier
Michael: Because this is a new suffix, let's look at another example of a noun formed by using it and a root noun. This word means "harpooner:"
Atie: harpoenier
Michael: and you can clearly hear the suffix being added to the root noun
Atie: harpoen
Michael: which means "harpoon." Another common function of nominal suffixes is to denote an inhabitant of a geographical place. For instance, if the root word is a geographical place such as "Nijmegen," or
Atie: Nijmegen
Michael: one can then add the nominal suffix
Atie: aar
Michael: to form a word meaning "an inhabitant of Nijmegen:"
Atie: Nijmegenaar
Michael: If someone lives in Amsterdam, one would add the suffix
Atie: er
Michael: and the resulting noun would be
Atie: Amsterdammer
Michael: These are just a few of the nominal suffixes one can find in Dutch.
[Recall 1]
Michael: Let's take a closer look at the dialogue. Do you remember how Ben Lee says "What does "bibliothecaris" mean?"
(pause 4 seconds)
Atie as Ben Lee: Wat betekent "bibliothecaris?"
[Recall 2]
Michael: Now, let's take a look at our second sentence. Do you remember how Sam Swinkels says, "It means "someone who manages a library?""
(pause 4 seconds)
Atie as Sam Swinkels: Het betekent "iemand die een bibliotheek beheert."
Michael: The word that Ben Lee is asking about here is a person noun. As Sam points out, it means "someone who manages a library." This word,
Atie: bibliothecaris,
Michael: is based on the Latin word which sounds almost the same and means the same thing. Many Dutch words with the ending
Atie: -aris
Michael: are based on Latin words with the ending "arius" which means "one who does a thing." You can see, I'm sure, how this suffix then modifies the root word to mean: one who does a thing related to the root word. The root word, in this case, is
Atie: bibliotheek
Michael: which means "library." The word that Ben is asking about is the masculine form of the noun. The feminine form is
Atie: bibliothecaresse
Michael: which refers to a female librarian. It is important to mention that, while these distinctions between male and female job titles are still a feature of everyday usage in the Netherlands, they are less common in formal settings such as in job postings. If someone were advertising for a librarian for instance, they might use only the male title
Atie: bibliothecaris
Michael: and follow it with an "m"-"forward slash"-"v" in parentheses. The "m" stands for "man" or
Atie: man
Michael: and the "v" stands for
Atie: vrouw
Michael: which means "woman" of course. It's likely that this will soon become part of everyday usage too, as modern trends affect the language.
Michael: In this lesson, you learned about Dutch suffixes, including nominal suffixes and diminutive suffixes. Nominal suffixes are suffixes that, when attached to a root word, form a new noun that is a modification of the meaning of the root word. Diminutive suffixes are forms of nominal suffixes that combine with root words to form neuter, countable nouns that usually denote a smaller version of whatever the root word denotes.
Michael: Generally speaking, the meanings of diminutive forms are positive or neutral, but sometimes they can be negative in the sense that they are derogatory. Consider, for instance, this sentence, which means "What does such a simple teacher know of that?:"
Atie: Wat weet zo'n onderwijzertje daar nou van?
Michael: In this sentence, the word for "teacher"
Atie: onderwijzer
Michael: has been diminished with the suffix
Atie: tje
Michael: resulting in a rather derogatory word for "teacher." It is good to know when a suffix is being used in this way so that you can avoid any awkward mistakes!


Michael: Do you have any more questions? We're here to answer them!
Atie: Doei!
Michael: See you soon!