List of derivation methods

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The purpose of this page is to collect a fairly comprehensive list of derivational morphology methods (e.g., affixes) which can be used to derive more vocabulary from existing roots. Several existing conlangs have extensive derivational morphology methods (e.g., Volapük, Esperanto, Ithkuil, Ladekwa, and many others), but as far as we can tell there is no comprehensive list comparing all their affix inventories, those of natural languages, and other possible ways to derive more words from roots.

Gary Shannon has made a start at a list of derivation functions.

Good sources would include the Ithkuil site, the Ladekwa site, the gjâ-zym-byn site, a list of Esperanto affixes, & ditto for Volapük and Ido. Rick Harrison's article on "Verb Aspect" covers several possibilities for using aspect-marking to derive one verb/action word from another.

Other resources include these CONLANG mailing list threads:

And this konyalanguage mailing list thread, on semantic conversions between nouns, verbs, modifiers and adpositions:

And this list of types of noun-noun compounds by Ivan Derzhanski and John Cowan.

This list can't be exhaustive of the possibilities. For instance, in Hixkaryana several of the verb > noun patterns can involve tense distinctions; in addition to some of the affixes mentioned below there are others with the same basic meaning but a different tense. Esperanto does a limited amount of this with its tense/aspect distinctions in participles.

List of affixation semantic patterns Edit

Derivation pattern Example derivations Conlang and Natlang parallels
Opposite (quality) happy > sad
clear > vague
English "un-"
French "des-"
Swedish "o-"
Volapük "ne-"
Esperanto "mal-"
Opposite (reverse action) - agent and patient remain the same, action of the verb changes earn <==> spend
stretch <==> squeeze
borrow <==> repay
Esperanto "mal-"
Azjherben Ab.JPG
Opposite/passivization - agent and patient or experiencer and focus swap places to hit > to be hit by
to like > to be pleasing to
to see > be seen by
Ceqli "be-"
Opposite (complementary action) - swap agent of ditransitive verb with source/recpient, leaving patient the same throw <==> catch
lend <==> borrowgive <==> receive
gjâ-zym-byn "-θaj"
Causative (derive VERB "causing PATIENT to become ADJ") know > to teach
healthy > to heal
English "-ify"
Volapük "-ük"
Esperanto "-ig"
Causative from other verb (increase transitivity, turn impersonal verb into agent-intransitive, intransitive verb into transitive, transitive into ditransitive) to rain > to water (plants, etc.)
to die > to kill
to have > to give
Navaho "-ł"
Maori "whaka-"
Kele "te-"
Motion purpose: go somewhere in order to do VERB to buy > to go shopping Mandarin "lái-"
Relationship > person which is in that relationship to someone else fatherhood > father
marriage > spouse
Volapük "mat" > "matan"
Person who is doing VERB at the moment (nominal participle) run > runner English "-er"
Esperanto "-anto" (also future "-onto" and past "-into")
Person who does VERB in company with someone else to travel > travel companion
to have sex > lover
to conspire > co-conspirator
Hixkaryana "-hɨyemɨ"
Greek "syn-"
English "co-~-er/-or"
Esperanto "kun-~-anto"
Person who does VERB habitually / as an amateur... conlang > conlanger English "-er"
Esperanto "-em-ul-"
gjâ-zym-byn "-pja"
Person who does VERB professionally / is concerned with NOUN professionally play music > musician
teeth > dentist
English "-ist", "-er", "-or"
Esperanto "-ist-"
gjâ-zym-byn "-tla"
Place where VERB is typically done to cook > kitchen
to sleep > bedroom
Hixkaryana "-toho"
Esperanto "-ej-"
gjâ-zym-byn "-kô"
Japanese "-sho", "-ba"
Place with lots of NOUN book > library
tree > forest
house > city
Esperanto "-ej-"
gjâ-zym-byn "-ĵwa"
Time when VERB is typically done to sleep > night
to snow > winter
to work > workday
to rest > weekend, vacation?
Hixkaryana "-toho"
Payment received for something professional work > salary
menial work > wages
murder > blood money
Hixkaryana "-txhetɨ"
Tool used for doing VERB to write > writing-implement
to dig > shovel
Esperanto "-il"
Substance used for doing VERB to wash > soap
to write > ink, graphite, etc.
Esperanto "-ajx"
gjâ-zym-byn "-ha"
Body part/faculty used for doing VERB walk > legs and feet
think > mind or brain?
gjâ-zym-byn "-ŋĭw"
Thing or substance to which VERB is typically done to read > text
to eat > food
to think > ideas
gjâ-zym-byn "-kar"
Thing or substance resulting from VERB to cry > tears
to sweat (v.) > sweat (n.)
to lactate > milk
Hixkaryana "-nɨ-...-nɨ"
gjâ-zym-byn "-Φa"
ADJ pertaining to NOUN mind > mental
forest > arboreal
world > global, universal
Ido "-ala"
gjâ-zym-byn "-za"
Japanese "-teki"
ADJ = made of NOUN gold > golden
wood > wooden
gjâ-zym-byn "-na"
ADJ = resembling, savoring of NOUN cat > catlike
mint > minty
English "-like", "-ish", "-y"
Esperanto "-eca", "-eska"
gjâ-zym-byn "-tan"
Japanese "-ppoi"
ADJ = supplied with, having some/much NOUN money > solvent or rich
word > expressive or verbose
trash > messy
liquid > wet

English "-ful"                     Volapük "-er"
Esperanto -hava, -plena
gjâ-zym-byn "-ža" having some amount of, "-da" having lots of

ADJ = lacking or sparsely supplied with NOUN teeth > toothless
money > poor
water > dry or thirsty?
food > hungry
thing > empty
light > dark
Greek "a-"
English "-less"
Esperanto "sen-~-a"
gjâ-zym-byn "-ta"
Japanese "mu-"
Scattering, chaosizing break > shatter
fall > fall apart
Volapük "dä-"
Augmentation big > huge
house > mansion
cat > lion
Hixkaryana "ymo"
English "mega-", "super-", "-zilla"
Volapük "da-" and "le-" (different degrees)
Esperanto "-eg"
Japanese "dai-"
Pejoration man > scoundrel
child > brat
to talk > to chatter, babble
conlang > lame relex of English
Hixkaryana "tho"
Volapük "lu-"
Esperanto "-aĉ"
ADJ = tending to often do VERB / be ADJ think > thoughtful
forget > forgetful, absentminded
sad > depressed
English "-ful"
Esperanto "-em"
Japanese "-nbō"
To VERB more than / to a greater degree than does NOUN be sold > outsell
perform > outperform
English "out-"
Relationships by marriage or remarriage derived from basic blood kinship terms sister > sister-in-law
son > stepson
English step-~, ~-in-law
Volapük "lü-"
Esperanto "bo-"
gjâ-zym-byn "-mla" (spouse of one's relative) and "-tôl" (relative of one's spouse)
ADVERB = for the purpose of VERB Hixkaryana "-so"
ADVERB = while doing VERB Hixkaryana "-toko", "-wawo" (see Derbyshire 1979 for distinction)
Esperanto "-ante"
Japanese "-nagara"
ADVERB = after doing VERB Hixkaryana "-txhe"
Esperanto "post-~-e"
VERB = to use NOUN in a typical way

tongue > to lick
lips > to kiss
hammer (n.) > to hammer (v.)

English: zero-derivation with many tool words, a few body part words (e.g. finger)
Esperanto: simple "-o" > "-i" verb derivation in many cases, "-umi" in others
VERB = to have a NOUN Hixkaryana (need to look up exact suffixes used for this)
NOUN is made from (not of) NOUN sucrose > caramel
coal > diamond
flour > bread
Finnish: -nen
NOUN = style or method of doing VERB fight > martial art
write > script, orthography
speak > language
Japanese "-kata"
Name of bacterium, viruse, parasite etc > name of disease caused by same amoeba > diarrhoea
Yersinia pestis > black plague
No known examples

List of compounding semantic patterns Edit

Compounding pattern Example derivations Conlang and Natlang parallels
HEAD which has quality MODIFIER young + person => child bluebird
a HEAD originating from MODIFIER society + language => natlang
individual + language => conlang
HEAD for the purpose/benefit of MODIFIER walk + organ => legs and feet
fly + organ => wings
baby food
refugee camp
to do verb HEAD to object MODIFIER babysit
an equal or roughly equal mixture of HEAD and MODIFIER materials sodium + chlorine => salt
fear + sadness => despair
a hybrid or combination of HEAD and MODIFIER horse + donkey => mule
human + horse => centaur
mostly HEAD with a little MODIFIER mixed in carbon + iron => steel
salt + water => saline
a HEAD made of MODIFIER material meat + cow => beef gjâ-zym-byn "ķârn-byj"

References Edit

  • Hixkaryana, Desmond C. Derbyshire. Lingua Descriptive Studies. North-Holland Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1979.
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