Derivational Morphology

Direvá n praols

8.1 Formation of Nouns

8.1.1 People from Nouns

Certain suffixes added to nouns indicate a person in some way connected with that noun. This is particularly common in Tunisian to form demonyms (indicating a resident of a particular place), but can also be used to form agent nouns that typically indicate professions or trades. Almost all such nouns have distinct masculine and feminine forms and can also freely be used as adjectives.

When referring to people, Tunisian demonyms are typically formed with the suffix -iá (feminine -iane, plural -iais). It has a variant form /-ane/-ais without the /j/ glide used if the stem ends in a consonant cluster. When added to a stem ending in /k/ or /g/, these lenite to /ʃ/ and /ʒ/ respectively.

Word Meaning Person (M) Person (F) Meaning
Tenès [tə.ˈnɛs] Tunisia tenèsiá [tə.ˈne.sjaː] tenèsiane [tə.ˈne.sjʌ.nə] Tunisian
Ambricce [ˈaːm.bri.kə] America ambriçiá [ˈaːm.bri.ʃaː] ambriçiane [ˈaːm.bri.ʃʌ.nə] American
Yorupe [ˈjɔ.ru.pə] Europe yorupiá [ˈjɔ.ru.pjaː] yorupiane [ˈjɔ.ru.pjʌ.nə] European
Yspne [ˈis.pnə] Spain yspná [is.ˈpnaː] yspnane [ˈis.pnʌ.nə] Spaniard
Ustre [ˈus.trə] Austria ustrá [us.ˈtraː] ustrane [ˈus.trʌ.nə] Austrian
Sħén [ˈsˤeːn] China sħéniá [ˈsˤeə.njaː] sħéniane [ˈsˤeə.njʌ.nə] Chinese

This same suffix may appear on a few nouns and adjectives that are not demonyms, but this has limited productivity. These are almost always derived from other proper nouns (typically people’s names), and are either survivals from Latin or Old Tunisian, or are calques from other European languages employing the -ian suffix or some variation thereof: crestá [krəs.ˈtaː] “Christian” (feminine crestane [krəs.ˈtaː.nə], hegeliá [ˈː] “Hegelian” (feminine hegeliane [ˈʌ.nə]).

A small group of demonyms use a different suffix -is (feminine -ise, plural -iss). There is no clear rule as to when one or the other is used; the proper forms must simply be memorized, much as with the English cognates -ian and -ese 1 . However, demonyms in -is are almost entirely limited to Europe.

Word Meaning Person (M) Person (F) Meaning
Aigltère [ˈə] England aiglis [ˈaj.glis] aiglise [ˈaj.gli.sə] English(wo)man
Freicce [ˈfrej.kə] France freiccis [ˈfrej.kis] freiccise [ˈə] French(wo)man
Rusie [ˈrus.jə] Russia rusis [ˈru.sis] rusise [ˈə] Russian
Soètçe [ˈswe.tʃə] Sweden soètçis [ˈswe.tʃis] soètçise [ˈswe.tʃi.sə] Swede

The suffix -al (feminine -ale, plural -als) forms professions from nouns or places associated with that profession.

Word Meaning Person (M) Person (F) Meaning
post [ˈpost] mail postal [pus.ˈtaːl] postale [ˈpos.tʌ.lə] mail(wo)man, courier
ví [ˈviː] wine vinal [vi.ˈnaːl] vinale [ˈvi.nʌ.lə] winemaker
pulicie [pu.ˈliː.sjə] police pulicial [pu.ˈliː.sjaːl] puliciale [pu.ˈliː.sjʌ.lə] police officer
dend [ˈdeːn] tooth dèndal [ˈdeːn.daːl] dèndale [ˈdeːn.dʌ.lə] dentist
ministre [ˈmi.nis.trə] ministry ministral [ˈmi.nis.traːl] ministrale [ˈmi.nis.trʌ.lə] minister

The suffix -ay [aj] (feminine -aire [ajrə], plural -aires [ajrəz]) indicates a person who produces or sells the base item.

Word Meaning Person (M) Person (F) Meaning
pay [ˈpaj] bread penay [pə.ˈnaj] penaire [pə.ˈnaj.rə] baker
caun [ˈkawŋ] meat caunay [ˈkaw.ŋaj] caunaire [ˈkaw.ŋaj.rə] butcher
pesc [ˈpɛsk] fish pescay [pəs.ˈkaj] pescaire [pəs.ˈkaj.rə] fisher
sħabat [ˈsˤaː.bʌt] shoe sħabetay [sˤʌp.ˈtaj] sħabetaire [sˤʌp.ˈtaj.rə] cobbler, shoemaker
fond [ˈfoːn] fountain fonday [ˈfoːn.daj] fondaire [ˈfoːn.daj.rə] plumber

The suffix -ist (feminine -iste, plural -içs) typically forms hobbies, sports, or artistic trades from associated nouns. It also indicates followers of a movement or philosophy. It tends to correspond strongly with English -ist.

Word Meaning Person (M) Person (F) Meaning
art [ˈaːrt] art artist [ˈaːr.tist] artiste [ˈaːr.tis.tə] artist
yspórt [is.ˈpoːrt] sport, sports yspórtist [is.ˈpoːr.tist] yspórtiste [is.ˈpoːr.tis.tə] athlete
flaot [ˈflawt] flute flaotist [ˈflaw.tist] flaotiste [ˈflaw.tis.tə] flutist
comunism [ˈkoːɪm] communism comunist [ˈkoːm.nist] comuniste [ˈkoːm.nis.tə] communist
optimism [ˈop.ti.mi.zɪm] optimism optimist [ˈop.ti.mist] optimiste [ˈop.ti.mis.tə] optimist

8.1.2 Nouns from Other Nouns

The suffix -árie (plural -áris) forms locations from personal nouns in -ay or from common objects, generally indicating stores and shops. It occasionally appears augmented as -sárie when the stem does not allow for easy addition of -árie, as in tçaisárie “teahouse” below; this is generally believed to be a generalization of the plural suffix (i.e., based on tçays “teas” rather than tçay “tea”).

Word Meaning Noun Meaning
qaoe [ˈqaː.wə] coffee qaoárie [qʌ.ˈwaː.rjə] cafe
tçay [ˈtʃaj] tea tçaisárie [tʃaj.ˈzaː.rjə] teahouse
libr [ˈli.bɪr] book librárie [li.ˈbraː.rjə] bookstore
caunay [ˈkaw.ŋaj] butcher caunárie [ˈkaw.ŋa.rjə] butchershop
pescay [pəs.ˈkaj] fisherman pescárie [pəs.ˈkaː.rjə] fishmarket

The suffix -al (plural -als) forms nouns associated with other common objects, such as containers.

Word Meaning Noun Meaning
crave [ˈkraː.və] key craval [krʌ.ˈvaːl] key ring
prát [ˈpraːt] plate prátal [ˈpraː.taːl] cupboard
ifcre [ˈif.krə] bee ifcral [if.ˈkraːl] beehive
acce [ˈaː.kə] water acal [ʌ.ˈkaːl] water bottle, canteen
edizt [ˈe.dist] edict ediztal [ˈe.dis.taːl] bulletin board

The suffix -ay (plural -aires) forms the names of trees from their fruit.

Word Meaning Noun Meaning
zaitúne [ˈzaj.tuː.nə] olive zaitúnay [ˈzaj.tuː.naj] olive tree
tambre [ˈtaːm.brə] date tambray [ˈtaːm.braj] date palm
tefahe [tə.ˈfaː.xə] apple tefahay [tə.ˈfaː.xaj] apple tree
púlgane [ˈpuːl.gʌ.nə] orange púlganay [ˈpuːl.gʌ.naj] orange tree
rose [ˈrɔ.sə] rose rosay [ru.ˈsaj] rose bush

The suffix -ér (plural -éres) forms the names of orchards, fields, or forests from the names of fruits, vegetables, trees, or other plants.

Word Meaning Noun Meaning
púlgane [ˈpuːl.gʌ.nə] orange púlganér [ˈpuːl.gʌ.neːr] orange grove
vit [ˈvit] grapes vitér [vi.ˈteːr] vineyard
tefahe [tə.ˈfaː.xə] apple tefahér [tfʌ.ˈxeːr] orchard
gran [ˈgraːn] wheat granér [grʌ.ˈneːr] wheat field
pí [ˈpiː] pine pinér [pi.ˈneːr] pine forest

The suffix -ism (plural -isms) forms abstract nouns denoting doctrine, philosophy, and occasionally state. Despite appearance, nouns ending in this suffix are considered feminine.

Word Meaning Noun Meaning
naciun [ˈnaː.sjuːn] nation naciunalism [ˈnaː.sju.nʌ.li.zɪm] nationalism
inarchist [i.ˈnaːr.kist] anarchist inarchism [i.ˈnaːɪm] anarchy
capital [ˈkaː.pi.taːl] capital capitalism [ˈkaː.pi.tʌ.li.zɪm] capitalism
magnet [ˈmaː.njət] magnet magnetism [ˈmaː.njə.ti.zɪm] magnetism
íćèíst [ˈiː.ˈθe.jist] atheist íćèísm [ˈiː.ˈθe.ji.zɪm] atheism

8.1.3 People from Adjectives

For the most part any adjective used to describe people can also be used to refer to people with zero derivation, simply treating the adjectival form as a noun to mean “person who is X” or ”people who are X”.

8.1.4 Nouns from Adjectives

For forming abstract nouns from adjectives, the most common suffix used in Tunisian is -itá. It is common for stems ending in -iC- to undergo metathesis to -Ci- before this suffix.

Word Meaning Noun Meaning
égal [ˈeə.gaːl] equal égalitá [ˈeə.gʌ.li.taː] equality
fahil [ˈfaː.xiːl] easy fahlitá [ˈfaː.xli.taː] ease
neutral [ˈnew.traːl] neutral neutralitá [ˈnew.trʌ.li.taː] neutrality
fedèl [fə.ˈdeːl] loyal fedèlitá [fə.ˈː] loyalty
crèativ [ˈkre.jʌ.tiv] creative crèatvitá [ˈkre.jʌ.tfi.taː] creativity

Some nouns with this suffix may appear to have no corresponding adjective in the language or have an unusual derivation. Such forms typically derive from Latin words ending in -itās, but where the base adjective was eventually lost or underwent a divergent evolution. Examples include calitá [ˈkaː.li.taː] “quality” (no corresponding adjective 2 ) and libritá [ˈli.bri.taː] “freedom” (expected **librtitá).

A smaller set of nouns form abstract adjectives simply through pluralization, usually with the suffix -s. Forms such as dolcs [ˈdoːlks] “sweetness” could be thought of as literally meaning “sweet things”, although historically this is a reanalysis of the historical Latin suffix -itia, with dolcs being cognate with Italian dolcezza.

Word Meaning Noun Meaning
dolc [ˈdoːlk] sweet dolcs [ˈdoːlks] sweetness
grav [ˈgraːv] sad gravs [ˈgraːvz] sadness
forut [ˈfɔ.rut] strong foruts [ˈfɔ.ruts] strength
rnegat [ɪr.nə.ˈgaːt] angry rnegats [ɪr.nə.ˈgaːts] anger
ífinit [ˈiː.ˈfi.nit] infinite ífinits [ˈiː.ˈfi.nits] infinity

The suffix -le forms concrete or tactile nouns from adjectives, as well as many terms for behavior and certain illnesses and physical conditions.

Word Meaning Noun Meaning
frid [ˈfrid] cold fridle [ˈfrid.lə] cold, coldness
acriç [ˈaː.kriʃ] rough acriçle [ˈaː.kriʃ.lə] roughness
çic [ˈʃik] blind çicle [ˈʃi.klə] blindness
sać [ˈsaːθ] drunk saćle [ˈsaːθ.lə] drunkenness
imfur [ˈiːm.fuːr] outside imforule [ˈiːə] diarrhea

The suffix -ure is often used to create nouns of extent or dimension.

Word Meaning Noun Meaning
inèlt [i.ˈneːlt] high inèlture [i.ˈneːl.ˈtu.rə] height
prefond [prə.ˈfoːn] deep prefondure [prə.ˈfoːn.du.rə] depth
loug [ˈlowg] long lougure [ˈə] length
vocal [vu.ˈkaːl] loud vocure [ˈvɔ.ku.rə] volume
tèmprat [ˈteːm.prʌt] mild temperature tèmprature [ˈteːm.prʌ.tu.rə] temperature

Language names consist of the plural forms of regular demonyms. The use of the plural rather than the singular as in other Romance languages is a North African areal feature, with the intended meaning of words like tenèsiais “Tunisian language” being “Tunisian words” rather than “Tunisian tongue”.

Word Meaning Language Meaning
tenèsiá [tə.ˈne.sjaː] Tunisian tenèsiais [tə.ˈne.sjajz] Tunisian
aiglis [ˈaj.glis] English aigliss [ˈaj.gliz] English
freiccis [ˈfrej.kis] French freicciss [ˈfrej.kiz] French
arabí [ʌ.rʌ.'biː] Arab arabis [ˈaː.rʌ.biz] Arabic
sħéniá [ˈsˤeə.njaː] Chinese sħéniais [ˈsˤeə.njajz] Chinese

8.1.5 People from Verbs

Agent nouns are derived from verbs with the pattern weak stem + -ator/-atre for Conjugation I verbs and strong stem + -or/-re for all other verbs. The plural is formed with -atores/-ores.

Word Meaning Person (M) Person (F) Meaning
cretá [krə.ˈtaː] create cretator [krə.ˈtaː.toːr] cretatre [krə.ˈtaː.trə] creator
imá [i.ˈmaː] love imator [ˈi.mʌ.toːr] imatre [ˈi.mʌ.trə] lover
yscribey [ˈis.kri.bej] write yscribor [ˈis.kri.boːr] yscribre [ˈis.kri.brə] writer
iggesey [ˈi.gə.sej] inform iggesor [ˈi.gə.soːr] iggesre [ˈi.gəs.rə] journalist
vèndey [ˈveːn.dej] sell vèndor [ˈveːn.doːr] vèndre [ˈveːn.drə] merchant

8.1.6 Nouns from Verbs

The simplest form of verb–to–noun derivation is the infinitive itself. Unlike other Romance languages with the partial exception of Romanian 3 , the Tunisian infinitive is a true noun, capable of inflection, adjectival modification, and determination 4 . The meaning is typically an instance of or the process of the action itself, though by extension a resultative sense is also very common.

The table below is intended purely as an illustrative guide to the verbal and nominal senses of Tunisian infinitives, which can be translated into English either as verbs or as nouns. In Tunisian, there is no formal distinction between these differing translations.

Word Meaning as Infinitive Meaning as Noun
prelá [prə.ˈlaː] to speak speaking, speech
imá [i.ˈmaː] to love fondness, affection
travelé [ˈtraː.və.leː] to work working, labor
chyntá [kiːn.ˈtaː] to sing singing
pretí [prə.ˈtiː] to leave departure

Much as with people, the suffixes -ator (Conjugation I) and -or can also be used to deriving inanimate agent nouns from verbs, typically denoting tools or devices. The feminine forms in -atre/-re are relatively uncommon with inanimate nouns, but, when used, typically denote a small object.

Word Meaning Noun Meaning
fridsé [frit.ˈseə] chill fridsor [frit.ˈsoːr] refrigerator
telèvisí [təl.ˈvi.ziː] televise telèvisor [təl.ˈvi.zoːr] television set
difondey [di.ˈfoːn.dej] spray difondre [di.ˈfoːn.drə] sprinkler
brecá [brə.ˈkaː] indicate, point brecator [brə.ˈkaː.toːr] street sign
freví [frə.ˈviː] boil frevor [frə.ˈvoːr] boiling point

The suffix -zte /stə/ is frequently used to form resultatives. For Conjugations I, II, and IV, it is preceded by the verb's theme vowel (i.e., -azte, -ezte, -izte). In Conjugation III, there is no theme vowel, and the suffix may displace any stem-final consonant. The plural form is -ćs /θs/.

Word Meaning Noun Meaning
ystá [is.ˈtaː] be ystazte ['is.tʌs.tə] season
viçené [ˈvi.ʃə.neː] see viçenezte [ˈviʃ.nəs.tə] vision
cufondey [ku.ˈfoːn.dej] confuse cufozte [ˈku.fus.tə] confusion
diçená [ˈdi.ʃə.naː] eat breakfast diçenazte [ˈdi.ʃə.nʌs.tə] breakfast
entreduccey [ˈeːn.trə.ˈdu.kej] introduce entreduzte [ˈeːn.trə.ˈdus.tə] introduction

The suffix -ciun is also a resultative, particularly common with abstract nouns. It is ultimately loaned from French -tion, and thus is the default in many internationalisms. Its plural form is -cius /sjuz/. The behavior at the margin between stem and suffix is more unpredictable from a synchronic perspective, as these forms tend to be learned borrowings from Latin, French, or English; for instance, revoltciun “revolution” below more closely reflects Latin revolūtiō than modern Tunisian rvouvey “rotate, direct [towards]”.

Word Meaning Noun Meaning
aggey [ˈaː.gej] act, behave acciun [ʌk.ˈsuːn] action
rvouvey [ɪr.ˈvow.vej] rotate, direct [towards] revoltciun [rə.ˈvoːl.sjuːn] revolution
civilisí [ˈː] civilize civilisaciun [ˈsi.vil.zʌ.sjuːn] civilization
cumbená [ˈkuːm.bə.naː] combine cumbinaciun [ˈkuːm.bnʌ.sjuːn] combination
ímgrá [ˈiːm.graː] immigrate ímgraciun [ˈiːm.grʌ.sjuːn] immigration

The suffix -mind /min/ forms abstract or collective resultatives. It is attached to the strong grade form of the verb stem.

Word Meaning Noun Meaning
cumeztá [ˈku.məs.taː] begin cumiztmind [ˈku.mis.miːn] beginning
yudcá [jut.ˈkaː] judge yudcmind [jut.ˈkmiːn] judgment
ystyntá [ˈis.tiːn.taː] stand ystèntmind [is.ˈteːn.miːn] building
vèstí [vis.ˈtiː] dress vèstmind [vis.ˈmiːn] clothing
sèndey [ˈseːˈn.dej] feel, touch sèndmind [ˈseːn.miːn] feeling

The suffix -ure forms concrete resultatives. The verb stem typically appears in the weak grade.

Word Meaning Noun Meaning
peztá [pəs.ˈtaː] paint pezture [pəs.ˈtu.rə] paint, pigment
yscribey [ˈis.kri.bej] write yscrefture [ˈis.krəf.tu.rə] text
velá [və.ˈlaː] fly velure [və.ˈlu.rə] [a] flight
s-ífremá [ˈsiː.frə.maː] become sick ífremure [ˈiː.frə.mu.rə] illness
jerá [ʒə.ˈraː] injure jerature [ˈʒraː.tu.rə] wound

The suffix -cl [ku] (plural -cls [kuz]) forms terms for tools, typically smaller or handheld ones. It also forms the names of some types of rooms based on an action performed there.

Word Meaning Noun Meaning
yscribey [ˈis.kri.bej] write yscripcl [ˈis.krip.ku] pencil
íflemá [ˈiː.flə.ˈmaː] light on fire íflamcl [ˈiː.ˈflaːm.ku] lighter
iscèndey [i.ˈseːn.dej] go up iscèndcl [i.ˈseːŋ.ku] step, pedestal
levá [lə.ˈvaː] wash lavcl [ˈlaːf.ku] washroom
dremí [drə.ˈmiː] sleep dromcl [ˈdroːm.ku] dormitory, quarters

8.1.7 Diminutives and Augmentatives

Diminutives and augmentatives are emotive derivations, typically expressing affection or endearment in addition to their more basic functions of smallness or largeness. Tunisian diminutives tend to be quite common in casual discourse, and may be freely applied to both common nouns and personal names.

Note that unlike in other Romance languages, the diminutive and augmentative suffixes do not vary by gender, but rather assign it (with diminutives always being feminine and augmentatives always being masculine). Thus, while fil /ˈfil/ “boy” is masculine, its diminutive form fiote /ˈfiw.tə/ “little boy” is feminine; conversely, faile /ˈfaj.lə/ “girl” is feminine, but its augmentative failá /faj.ˈlaː/ “big girl” is masculine. Diminutives

The primary means of forming diminutives is with the suffix -te /tə/ added to the noun stem, replacing any vowel /ə/ if present. It has a number of variations depending on the shape of the noun stem.

The most basic form, -te, is used when the noun stem ends in a single consonant: ymic “friend” → ymicte [ˈi.mik.tə], cay “dog” → caite [ˈkaj.tə].

The augmented forms -ite /ˈitə/ or -ète /ˈe.tə/ are typically used if the stem ends in /t/, /d/, or /r/: Petr “Peter” → Petrète [pə.ˈtre.tə], Marie “Maria” → Marite [ˈmaː.ri.tə], cát “cat” → cátite [ˈkaː.ti.tə].

When the stem ends in a long vowel or /n/, it shortens and diphthongizes before -te: “sister” → soite [ˈsoj.tə], púlgane “orange” → púlgaite [ˈpuːl.gaj.tə].

When the stem ends in /m/, it transforms to /f/ before -te: dom “house” → dofte [ˈdof.tə], cineme “movie theater” → cinefte [ˈsi.nəf.tə].

When the stem ends in /l/, it will often lenite to /w/, forming a diphthong: Nicole “Nicole” → Nicoute [ni.ˈkow.tə], fil “boy” → fiote [ˈfiw.tə].

When the stem ends in the sequence -ViC- (i.e., a diphthong in /j/ followed by a consonant) or -VíC-, the /i/ will often metathesize and reappear between the stem and diminutive suffix: faile “girl” → falite [ˈfaː.li.tə], caif “mood” → cafite [ˈkaː.fi.tə], Luíse “Louise” → Lusite [ˈə].

When the stem ends in some other consonant cluster, it is common for one or more consonants to be lost before -te is added: pesc “fish” → pèste [ˈpɛs.tə], rost “mouth” → rosite [ˈrɔ.si.tə]. Augmentatives

Tunisian augmentatives are formed by suffixing an echo vowel to the noun stem. This vowel is always long, and its quality depends on the last non-reduced vowel in stem: for /a/, for /i e/, and for /u o/, with diphthongs acting according to their nucleus. This suffix is always stressed: fil [ˈfiːl] “boy” → filé [fi.ˈleə], faile [ˈfaj.lə] “girl” → failá [faj.ˈlaː], cát [ˈkaːt] “cat” → cátá [kʌ.ˈtaː], cay [ˈkaj] “dog” → caná [kʌ.ˈnaː].

Augmentatives do not have the pejorative connotation they tend to in other Romance languages. In fact, when applied to people, the augmentative sense has been almost entirely bleached (in much the same way diminutives applied to people do not indicate physical smallness).

8.2 Formation of Adjectives

8.2.1 Adjectives from Nouns

The previously-mentioned demonymic suffixes -(i)á and -is, used to form animate nouns describing people from a given location, also are used to form demonymic adjectives. More accurately, the nominal usage is a substantivized adjective with an implied head noun ‘person’ or ‘people’. These demonymic adjectives have the basic meaning “of or pertaining to the people or culture” of the base noun.

Word Meaning Adjective Meaning
Tenès [tə.ˈnɛs] Tunisia tenèsiá [tə.ˈne.sjaː] Tunisian
Ambricce [ˈaːm.bri.kə] America ambriçiá [ˈaːm.bri.ʃaː] American
Yorupe [ˈjɔ.ru.pə] Europe yorupiá [ˈjɔ.ru.pjaː] European
Aigltère [ˈte.rə] England aiglis [ˈaj.glis] English
Freicce [ˈfrej.kə] France freiccis [ˈfrej.kis] French

A different type of demonym can also be formed with the nisbe suffix (feminine -ie, plural -is). Such adjectives describe polities or geography rather than cultures, so that one may be a óm tenèsiá [ˈɔːm tə.ˈne.sjaː] “Tunisian person” (by culture or heritage) distinct from a citoén tenèsí [si.ˈtweːn tə.ni.ˈsiː] “Tunisian citizen” (by civil institution). Similarly, one may talk of art freiccis [ˈaːrt ˈfrej.kis] “French art” but drizt freiccisí [ˈdristˈziː] “French law”. Note that when the cultural demonym is formed with the suffix -is rather than -(i)á, the nisbe is added to this suffix rather than the bare stem.

Word Meaning Adjective Meaning
Tenès [tə.ˈnɛs] Tunisia tenèsí [tə.ni.ˈsiː] Tunisian
Ambricce [ˈaːm.bri.kə] America ambriccí [aːm.bri.ˈkiː] American, from the United States
Yorupe [ˈjɔ.ru.pə] Europe yorupí [ˈpiː] European, from the European Union
Aigltère [ˈte.rə] England aiglisí [aj.gli.ˈziː] English
Freicce [ˈfrej.kə] France freiccisí [ˈziː] French

Outside of demonyms, the nisbe is by far the most productive means of noun–to–adjective derivation, forming adjectives meaning “relating to or characteristic of” the base noun. This suffix can freely be added to virtually any noun in an ad-hoc manner beyond more standardized usage. The nisbe also frequently is used where appositive nouns may be used in English or genitive expressions in other Romance languages, as in fus oaqtí [ˈfus wʌq.ˈtiː] “time zone”.

Word Meaning Adjective Meaning
est [ˈɛst] east estí [ɛs.ˈtiː] eastern
oaqt [ˈwaː.qɪt] time oaqtí [wʌq.ˈtiː] temporal
cát [ˈkaːt] cat cátí [kʌ.ˈtiː] feline
care [ˈkaː.rə] face, front carí [kʌ.ˈriː] fore, anterior
ycdimie [ˈik.di.mjə] academy ycdimí [ik.di.ˈmiː] academic

The suffix -us [us] (feminine -use [uzə], plural -uss [uz]) means “full of X” or “prone to [having] X”.

Word Meaning Adjective Meaning
vend [ˈveːn] wind vèndus [ˈveːn.dus] windy
myntanie [mɪn.ˈtaː.njə] mountain myntanius [mɪn.ˈtaː.njus] mountainous
delor [də.ˈloːr] pain delorus [də.ˈlɔ.rus] painful
pric [ˈprik] danger pricus [ˈpri.kus] dangerous
nèriv [ˈne.riv] nerve nèrivus [ˈne.ri.vus] nervous

The suffix -isc (feminine -ische, plural -iscs) also forms adjectives denoting relationship, but typically from proper nouns. It calques the French suffix -esque. Note that it is more typically used with European or Western bases; names of African or Eastern origin are more likely to use the nisbe for this role.

Word Meaning Adjective Meaning
rumá [ru.ˈmaː] Roman rumanisc [ˈru.mʌ.nisk] Romanesque
Platon [ˈplaː.toːn] Plato platonisc [ˈplaː.tu.nisk] Platonic
Don Chiçot [ˈdoŋ ˈki.ʃut] Don Quijote chiçotisc [ˈki.ʃu.tisk] quixotic
Franz Kafka [ˈfraːnz ˈkaːf.kʌ] Franz Kafka kafkaísc [ˈkaːf.kʌ.jisk] Kafkaesque

The suffix -al forms a wide variety of relational adjectives, always from inanimate nouns. It is particularly common with larger, fixed objects, such as buildings/institutions and the natural world.

Word Meaning Adjective Meaning
loc [ˈlok] city local [lu.ˈkaːl] urban
súq [ˈsuːq] market súqal [ˈsuː.qaːl] market (adj)
sħahre [ˈsˤaː.xrə] desert sħahral [sˤʌ.ˈxraːl] desert (adj)
eribur [ˈe.ri.buːr] tree eribral [ˈe.ri.braːl] arboreal
yscle [ˈis.klə] school ysclal [ˈis.klaːl] school (adj), scholastic

The suffix -il is used to form a handful of adjectives typically from non-proper animate stems. It is no longer productive, predominantly present on inherited or borrowed Latin vocabulary.

Word Meaning Adjective Meaning
eifít [ˈej.fiːt] prince eifítil [ˈej.fiː.tiːl] princely
yunie [ˈjun.jə] children yunil [ju.ˈniːl] childlike
fèmne [ˈfeːm.nə] woman fèmnil [ˈfeːm.niːl] womanly
mércant [ˈmeːr.kaːnt] merchant mércantil [ˈmeːr.kaːn.tiːl] mercantile
ost [ˈost] army, host ostil [us.ˈtiːl] hostile

8.2.2 Adjectives from Verbs

The most basic adjectival derivation from verbs are the present and past participles, also known as verbal adjectives. They stand in place of the clauses “that is Xing” and “that was Xed” respectively, and consequently retain a verbal quality in that they can refer to real actions that are taking place or have taken place, and have limited ability to take verbal arguments such as direct objects.

The suffix -avl [ʌ.vu] (feminine -avle [ʌ.vlə], plural -avls [ʌ.vuz]) is added to the reduced grade of transitive verbs to indicate ability to undergo an action, much like English -able. Unusually, however, it may also be used with intransitive unaccusative verbs such as ys-morey “die”.

Word Meaning Adjective Meaning
viçené [ˈvi.ʃə.neː] see viçenavl [ˈviʃ.nʌ.vu] visible
unrá [ˈuːn.raː] honor unravl [ˈuːn.rʌ.vu] honorable, esteemed
chemprá [kɪm.ˈpraː] buy chempravl [kɪm.ˈpraː.vu] buyable, for sale
ys-morey [ˈ] die meravl [mə.ˈraː.vu] mortal
s-iprèndey [si.ˈpreːn.dej] repent iprendavl [ˈi.prən.dʌ.vu] repentant, remorseful

The suffix -l [u] (feminine -le [lə], plural -ls [uz]) added directly to the ablaut grade of the verb stem means “prone to Xing”. If the stem ends in /l/ already, the forms are slightly different: masculine singular -u, feminine singular -ule (replacing final /l/), and plural -us, as in viglu [ˈvi.glu] / vigule [ˈə] / viglus [ˈvi.gluz] “attentive”.

Word Meaning Adjective Meaning
crèdey [ˈkre.dej] believe cridl [ˈkri.du] gullible
faccey [ˈfaː.kej] make, do fecl [ˈfɛ.ku] on, enabled
dremí [drə.ˈmiː] sleep doriml [du.ˈriː.mu] narcoleptic
fraggey [ˈfraː.gej] shatter fregl [ˈfrɛ.gu] fragile
veglá [və.ˈglaː] pay attention viglu [ˈvi.glu] attentive

The suffix -iv (feminine -ive, plural -ivs) may be added to the past participle of a verb, typically with the meaning “having a tendency to X”. This suffix is a learned form reborrowed from Latin -īvus, and thus is more typical of higher registers and technical vocabulary compared to -l, an inherited native form.

Word Meaning Adjective Meaning
lèsené [ˈle.sə.neː] damage lèsenutiv [ˈlɛ] damaging, harmful
entreduccey [ˈeːn.trə.ˈdu.kej] introduce entreductiv [ˈeːn.trə.ˈduk.tiv] introductory
discribey [ˈdis.ˈkri.bej] describe discrèptiv [ˈdis.krip.tiv] descriptive
prisuponey [ˈpri.sup.nej] presume prisupustiv [ˈ] presumptive
ivení [iv.ˈniː] happen ivenitiv [ˈ] effective, current

8.2.3 Adjectives from Other Adjectives

The prefix í- (or in- before a vowel) serves to negate an adjective.

Word Meaning Adjective Meaning
complet [ˈkoːm.plət] complete ícomplet [ˈiː.ˈkoːm.plət] incomplete
viçenavl [ˈviʃ.nʌ.vu] visible íviçenavl [ˈiː.ˈviʃ.nʌ.vu] invisible
chenoçit [kə.ˈnɔ.ʃit] known íccenoçit [ˈiː.ˈknɔ.ʃit] unknown
tipic [ˈti.pik] typical ítipic [ˈiː.ˈti.pik] atypical
qánuní [qʌ.nu.ˈniː] legal íqánuní [ˈiː.qaː.nu.ˈniː] illegal

However, present participles are typically negated with a prefixed n-, or m- before /p/ or /b/. This is identical in form to the negative clitic used with finite verbs.

Word Meaning Adjective Meaning
vevèn [və.ˈveːn] living n-vevèn [ɪn.və.ˈveːn] non-living
credèn [krə.ˈdeːn] believing n-credèn [ɪn.krə.ˈdeːn] unbelieving
velèn [və.ˈleːn] flying n-velèn [ɪn.və.ˈleːn] flightless
pydsèn [pit.ˈseːn] thinking m-pydsèn [ɪm.pit.ˈseːn] unthinking
veglèn [və.ˈgleːn] attentive n-veglèn [ɪn.və.ˈgleːn] unattentive

8.3 Formation of Adverbs

8.3.1 Adverbs from Adjectives

Adjective-derived adverbs in Tunisian do not have a single clear citation form; rather, they have three distinct forms with slightly varying usages and partially overlapping semantics:

  1. The full form is typically used as the citation form in dictionaries, although it is the least common in most cases. It is formed by adding the suffix -mít [miːt] to the adjective stem. However, it cannot be formed from adjectives with the nisbe.
  2. The bare form is identical in form with the feminine singular, but always has stress on one of the first two syllables (i.e., regular stress), even if the adjective normally has an irregular pattern.
  3. The phrasal form consists of the particle d-il [diːl] followed by the feminine singular.

The full usage of these three forms will be discussed later, but very broadly, the bare form is used preverbally, the phrasal form postverbally, and the full form sentencially or emphatically.

Adjective Meaning Full Form Bare Form Phrasal Form Meaning
rapt [ˈraː.pɪt] fast raptmít [rʌp.ˈtmiːt] rapte [ˈraːp.tə] d-il rapte [diːl ˈraːp.tə] quickly
cúrteis [ˈkuː.tejz] polite cúrteismít [ˈkuː.tejz.miːt] cúrteise [ˈkuː.tej.zə] d-il cúrteise [diːl ˈkuː.tej.zə] politely
ysfortunat [is.ˈfoːr.tə.nʌt] unfortunate ysfortunatmít [is.ˈfoːr.tə.nʌt.miːt] ysfortunate [is.ˈfoːr.tə.nʌ.tə] d-il ysfortunate [diːl is.ˈfoːr.tə.nʌ.tə] unfortunately
delorus [də.ˈlɔ.rus] painful delorusmít [də.ˈlɔ.rus.miːt] deloruse [də.ˈlɔ.ru.sə] d-il deloruse [diːl də.ˈlɔ.ru.sə] painfully
qánuní [qʌ.nu.ˈniː] legal qánunie [ˈqaː.nu.njə] d-il qánunie [diːl ˈqaː.nu.njə] legally

8.4 Formation of Verbs

8.4.1 Verbs from Nouns and Adjectives

The suffix -s- (II Conjugation) is frequently added to adjective stems to form causatives (“make X”). These same forms in the mediopassive has transformative meaning (“become X”). It can also be added to a small set of nouns, mostly designating natural phenomena; in this case, the result can only appear in the mediopassive and means “become X” impersonally. Unlike cognate forms in other Romance languages, supporting verbal prefixes are rarely added (cf. Spanish a-noche-cer “become night”, en-rique-cer “enrich”).

Word Meaning Active Meaning Mediopassive Meaning
sic [ˈsik] dry secsé [sək.ˈseə] dry, make dry yst-secsé [ˈist.sək.seː] dry out, become dry
sód [ˈsɔəd] hard sódsé [ˈsoːd.zeː] harden, reinforce yst-sódsé [ist.ˈsoːd.zeː] harden, become hard
pú [ˈpuː] pure púsé [ˈpuː.seː] purify ys-púsé [is.ˈpuː.seː] become purified
ganí [gʌ.ˈniː] rich ganesé [ˈgaː.nə.seː] enrich ys-ganesé [ˈiz.gʌ.nə.seː] become rich
nozte [ˈnos.tə] night ys-neçsé [ˈiz.nəʃ.tʃeː] become night

There are a handful of cases of this -s- suffix being used with inchoative meaning on verbal stems rather than nominal or adjectival ones, but this is rare and non-productive: ys-dremsé [ˈiz.drəm.zeː] “grow drowsy” ← dremí [drə.ˈmiː] “sleep”.

The suffix -is- (IV Conjugation) is added primarily to noun stems to form factitives (“make into X” or “create X”). It is also used to form verbs from atypical bases such as pronouns, interjections, and onomatopoeia. It is cognate in part to the English suffix -ize.

Word Meaning Verb Meaning
loc [ˈlok] city loccisí [ˈlɔ.ki.ziː] urbanize
cronie [ˈkrɔ.njə] colony cronisí [ˈkrɔ.ni.ziː] colonize
yostie [ˈjos.tjə] law yostisí [ˈjos.ti.ziː] legislate
sim [ˈsiːm] yes simisí [ˈsi.mi.ziː] agree too readily, be a yes-man
vos [ˈvos] you (pl) vosisí [ˈvɔ.si.ziː] address with vos

The suffix -fic (III Conjugation) is another means of forming factitives from nominal or adjectival stems, although it tends to be restricted to borrowed Latinate vocabulary in scientific and legal registers. It is cognate to the English suffix -ify.

Word Meaning Verb Meaning
yostie [ˈjos.tjə] law yostificcey [ˈ] legalize
esempiu [ˈe.səm.pju] example esempificcey [ˈe.səm.pi.ˈfi.kej] exemplify
pètre [ˈpe.trə] stone pètrficcey [ˈpɛ.tɪ] petrify
ilectrcitá [ˈi.lək.tɪː] electricity ilectrficcey [ˈi.lək.tɪr.ˈfi.kej] electrify
fals [ˈfaːls] false, fake falsficcey [ˈfaː] falsify

8.4.2 Verbs from Other Verbs

Tunisian, like other Romance languages, has an extensive set of prefixes used to derive verbs from other verbs. These are traditionally divided into two groups: primary and secondary. Primary Prefixes

The primary prefixes are those that are fully productive in the modern language. They have clear semantics and can be found in neologisms and attached to stems of non-Romance origin. A-

The prefix a- (or ad- before a vowel) most commonly indicates completion or totality of action, and by extension can serve as an emphatic.

Word Meaning Verb Meaning
fraggey [ˈfraː.gej] break afragey [ˈaː.ˈfraː.gej] smash
fondey [ˈfoːn.dej] pour afondey [ˈaː.ˈfoːn.dej] pour to the top
bivey [ˈbi.vej] drink abivey [ˈaː.ˈbi.vej] drink up
freví [frə.ˈviː] boil afreví [ˈaː.frə.ˈviː] boil off
hemé [xə.ˈmeə] worry ahemé [aː.xə.ˈmeə] distress

It can also turn stative verbs into semelfactive or punctual verbs.

Word Meaning Verb Meaning
presá [prə.ˈsaː] press apresá [ʌ.prə.ˈsaː] pound
viçené [ˈvi.ʃə.neː] see aviçené [ˈaː.viʃ.ˈneə] glance, catch sight
sèndey [ˈseːn.dej] touch, feel asèndey [ˈaː.ˈseːn.dej] touch, make contact with
eridey [ˈe.ri.dej] burn s-adèridey [ˈsaː.ˈde.ri.dej] go up in flames
meliá [məl.ˈjaː] wet ameliá [ˈaː.məl.ˈjaː] drench Na-

The prefix na- (n- before a vowel) serves as an ingressive, indicating action in or into something else.

Word Meaning Verb Meaning
pretá [prə.ˈtaː] carry napretá [ˈnaː.prə.ˈtaː] bring, bring in
fondey [ˈfoːn.dej] pour nafondey [ˈnaː.ˈfoːn.dej] pour in
yst-restá [ˈist.rəs.taː] reside ys-narestá [ˈis.nʌ.rəs.ˈtaː] take up residence
uní [u.ˈniː] go naní [ˈnaː.ˈniː] go in 5
priclisí [ˈpri.kli.ziː] match napriclisí [ˈnaː.ˈpri.kli.ziː] pair, make match

A common extension of the ingressive meaning is an inchoative, indicating start of an action. Note that with inchoatives, it is common for intransitive derivatives to appear in the mediopassive voice, even if the base is intransitive in the active voice.

Word Meaning Verb Meaning
dremí [drə.ˈmiː] sleep ys-nadremí [ˈis.nʌ.drə.ˈmiː] fall asleep
velá [və.ˈlaː] fly ys-navelá [ˈis.nʌ.ˈvlaː] take flight
ríná [ˈriː.naː] own naríná [ˈnaː.ˈriː.naː] take possession
imá [i.ˈmaː] love ys-nemá [ˈis.nə.ˈmaː] fall in love
florí [flu.ˈriː] be in bloom ys-naflorí [ˈis.nʌ.flu.ˈriː] bloom

It can also indicate repetition of an earlier action, particularly when there is an ingressive sense.

Word Meaning Verb Meaning
vivey [ˈvi.vej] live navivey [ˈnaː.ˈvi.vej] revive
noví [nu.ˈviː] be new nanoví [ˈnaː.nu.ˈviː] renew, restore
çèrecá [ˈʃe.rə.kaː] load naçèrecá [ˈnaː.ˈʃe.rə.kaː] recharge
yschí [is.ˈkiː] know naschí [ˈnaːs.ˈkiː] shame
diccey [ˈdi.kej] say nadiccey [ˈnaː.ˈdi.kej] repeat Treis-

The prefix treis- (trei- before /s/) marks excess. Intransitive excessive verbs almost always appear in the middle voice.

Word Meaning Verb Meaning
bivey [ˈbi.vej] “drink” ys-treisbivey [is.ˈtrejz.ˈbi.vej] “become drunk”
chená [kə.ˈnaː] “eat” ys-treischená [is.ˈtrejs.kə.ˈnaː] “overeat”
prelá [prə.ˈlaː] “talk” ys-treisprelá [is.ˈtrejs.prə.ˈlaː] “talk too much”
navlé [ˈnaː.ˈvleə] “value” treisnavlé [ˈtrejz.nʌ.ˈvleə] “overestimate”
veiccey [ˈvej.kej] “win” treisveiccey [ˈtrejz.ˈvej.kej] “win easily” Ys-

The prefix ys- (yst- before /r/) serves as an egressive, indicating action out of something else. It often carries the opposite meaning of the ingressive na-.

Word Meaning Verb Meaning
pretá [prə.ˈtaː] carry yspretá [ˈis.prə.ˈtaː] take, take out
fondey [ˈfoːn.dej] pour ysfondey [ˈis.ˈfoːn.dej] pour out
yst-restá [ˈis.trəs.taː] reside s-ystrestá [ˈsis.trəs.ˈtaː] move out
uní [u.ˈniː] go ysní [ˈis.ˈniː] go out
priclisí [ˈpri.kli.ziː] match yspriclisí [ˈis.ˈpri.kli.ziː] unpair

This prefix is not always paired with na-. When no counterpart in na- exists, the egressive ys- can take on a reversative (i.e., undoing an action), privative (i.e., removing something), or negative (i.e., opposite of an action) sense.

Word Meaning Verb Meaning
icftá [ik.ˈftaː] agree ysicftá [ˈi.sik.ˈftaː] refuse
preçé [prə.ˈʃeəː] like yspreçé [ˈis.prə.ˈʃeə] dislike
será [sə.ˈraː] lock ysserá [ˈis.sə.ˈraː] unlock
interesá [ˈiːn.trə.saː] interest s-usinteresá [su.ˈsiːn.trə.saː] lose interest
nevá [nə.ˈvaː] snow ysnevá [ˈis.nə.ˈvaː] de-ice Secondary Prefixes

The secondary prefixes are forms inherited from Latin, but whose usage is restricted to inherited vocabulary or neo-Latin calques. The situation may be compared to Latinate prefixes in English: forms such as include and exclude contain prefixes with clear meaning, but the actual derivational process (as well as the stem *-clude) are calques from Latin bases, not native to English.

In the case of a Romance language like Tunisian, there are many instances of each of these prefixes with an unbroken chronology dating back to Vulgar Latin. These forms were later extrapolated and generalized to neo-Latin borrowings, so that native Tunisian cu-, for instance, would substitute for any instance of neo-Latin con-. Ad- (a-, i-)

The prefix a(d)- descends from Latin ad-, and is cognate to the primary prefix a-. It has a variant i- that is more common in inherited vocabulary; a(d)- is more common in learned borrowings.

Latin Tunisian Meaning
“beat down”
iptey [ˈip.tej] “fell, demolish”
“attend to”
administrá [ˈaːd.mi.nəs.traː] “administer”
“carry forth”
ifrí [i.ˈfriː] “carry out, produce”
“climb up”
iscendey [ˈi.sən.dej] “go up, rise”
“blow upon”
isprá [is.ˈpraː] “breathe” Cu- (che-, con-)

The prefix cu- descends from Latin con-, sometimes appearing in a reduced form che-. It frequently takes the form con- in learned borrowings.

Latin Tunisian Meaning
chemtá [kəm.ˈtaː] “count”
cheduccey [kə.ˈdu.kej] “drive”
“mix together, confuse”
cufondey [ku.ˈfoːn.dej] “confuse”
cheveiccey [kə.ˈvej.kej] “convince”
“live with”
ys-cuvivey [is.ku.ˈvi.vej] “live together” Dis- (di-, de-)

The prefix de(s)- descends from Latin dis-. It occasionally surfaces as simply d- in some native forms.

Latin Tunisian Meaning
defrí [də.ˈfriː] “differ”
discontinoá [dis.ˈkoːn.tɪn.waː] “discontinue”
disèndey [di.ˈseːn.dej] “dissent”
disolbey [di.ˈsoːl.bej] “dissolve”
divèrity [ˈdi.ˈve.ri.ti] “amuse” Entr- (entre-)

The prefix entr(e)- descends from Latin inter-, intra-, and intrō-.

Latin Tunisian Meaning
“put between”
s-entremétey [ˈseːn.trə.ˈmeə.tej] “intervene”
“cut between”
entresecá [ˈeːn.trə.sə.ˈkaː] “intersect”
“leave ajar”
entreprey [ˈeːn.trə.prej] “leave ajar”
entrevedèe [ˈeːn.trə.və.ˈdeə] “glimpse”
entreduccey [ˈeːn.trə.ˈdu.kej] “introduce” N- (í-, m-)

The prefix n- descends from Latin in-, and is cognate to the primary prefix na-. It sometimes surfaces as í- or as m- before labial consonants, though only in inherited vocabulary.

Latin Tunisian Meaning
“carry in”
mpretá [ɪm.prə.ˈtaː] “matter”
íclená [ˈiː.klə.ˈnaː] “bend”
ífremá [ˈiː.frə.maː] “make sick”
“pour in”
nfondey [ɪn.ˈfoːn.dej] “infuse”
“make hateful”
nodí [nu.ˈdiː] “bore” Pri-

The prefix pri- represents a merger of the Latin prefixes per-, prae-, and pro-. In more recent reborrowings from Latin, these suffixes may be distinguished as pre-, pri-, and pru- respectively.

Latin Tunisian Meaning
“join across”
prióccey [pri.ˈjɔə.kej] “attach”
“let go”
premétey [prə.ˈmeə.tej] “permit”
“delimi t beforehand”
pridetèrminá [ˈpri.də.ˈteːr.mə.naː] “predetermine”
prisuponey [ˈpri.sup.nej] “presume”
“see first”
privedé [ˈpri.və.deː] “expect” Ra- (r-)

The prefix ra- descends from Latin re-. It often surfaces without a vowel, as r- [ɪr].

Latin Tunisian Meaning
rçipey [ɪr.ˈʃi.pej] “receive”
raclemá [ˈraː.klə.ˈmaː] “protest”
racredá [ˈraː.krə.ˈdaː] “remember”
ratredá [ˈraː.trə.ˈdaː] “delay”
“turn over”
rvouvey [ɪr.ˈvow.vej] “turn, direct” Sob- (so-, su-, se-)

The prefix so(b)- descends from Latin sub-. It may also appear as su- or se- in inherited vocabulary.

Latin Tunisian Meaning
“dig under”
succevá [ˈsu.kə.vaː] “tunnel, mine”
“write under, sign”
suscribey [ˈsus.kri.bej] “subscribe”
sufrí [sruə.ˈfriː] “suffer, endure”
suponey [ˈsu.pu.nej] “suppose”
soruggey [ˈsɔ.ru.gej] “emerge, advance” Trás- (trá-, tre-, tra-, treis-)

The prefix trá(s)- descends from Latin trāns-. It may appear as tre- as well in inherited forms, or less commonly as tra- or treis-.

Latin Tunisian Meaning
“hand over”
trady [ˈtraː.di] “betray”
“lead across”
treduccey [trə.ˈdu.kej] “transfer”
tráspretá [ˈtraːs.prə.taː] “transport”
tráscribey [ˈtraːs.kri.bej] “transcribe”
“turn across(?)”
treisvouvey [ˈtrejz.ˈvow.vej] “overwhelm” Ys-

The prefix ys- descends from Latin ex-, and is cognate to the primary prefix ys-.

Latin Tunisian Meaning
yschembá [ˈis.kɪm.baː] “exchange”
“hollow out”
yschevá [ˈis.kə.vaː] “dig”
ysplecá [ˈis.plə.kaː] “explain”
ystoruccey [ˈ] “extort”
“single out”
ysselá [ˈis.sə.laː] “isolate” Yspr- (yspre-)

The prefix yspr(e)- descends from Latin super-. It may reduce to ys- before a consonant + /r/ (becoming indistinguishable from the prefix ys-), although etymologically it is clearly derived from super-, not ex-.

Latin Tunisian Meaning
“pass over”
ysprpesá [ˈis.pɪr.pə.ˈsaː] “surpass, overcome”
“surprise, seize”
ysprendé [ˈis.prɪn.deː] “surprise”
ysprescribey [ˈis.prəs.kri.bej] “overwrite”
“watch over”
ysprveglá [ˈis.pɪr.və.ˈglaː] “survey”
ysprvivey [ˈis.pɪr.ˈvi.vej] “survive”

8.5 Compounds

Compounding plays a comparatively smaller role in Tunisian than in other Romance languages. Only two kinds are considered productive in the modern language: coordinate adjectives and verb–noun compounds.

Coordinate adjectives represent a broad class of endocentric compounds consisting of two coequal adjective stems. In the most common type, the first adjective appears as its bare stem (or with -i in place of the nisbe), while the second adjective declines normally. If the first adjective is stressed on its final syllable and the second on its first, the stress in the first adjective may move forward.

Base 1 Base 2 Compound
griçí [gri.ˈʃiː]
rumá [ru.ˈmaː]
griçi-rumá [ˈgri.ʃˈmaː]
dolc [ˈdoːlk]
amérg [ʌ.ˈmeːrg]
dolcamérg [ˈdoːl.kʌ.ˈmeːrg]
colrat [ˈkoːl.dʌt]
ros [ˈros]
colratros [ˈkoːl.dʌ.ˈtros]
“dark red”
virid [ˈvi.rid]
ázulí [ʌ.zu.ˈliː]
virid-ázulí [ˈvi.ri.dʌ.zu.ˈliː]
tére [ˈteə.rə]
acal [ʌ.ˈkaːl]
téracal [ˈteə.rʌ.kaːl]

Coordinate adjectives can also make use of a number of fixed modifiers as the first element, often with quantifier or prepositional bases. These pseudo-prefixes are generally part of more formal registers and are often calques from European languages rather than spontaneous formations.

Base 1 Base 2 Compound Meaning
molt [ˈmoːlt]
naciunal [ˈnaː.sju.naːl]
molti-naciunal [ˈmoːl.ti.ˈnaː.sju.naːl] multinational
soft [ˈsoft]
ros [ˈros]
softi-ros [ˈsof.ti.ˈros] infrared
bes [ˈbɛs]
embalí [eːm.bʌ.ˈliː]
bes-embalí [ˈbe.seːm.bʌ.ˈliː] biennial
pseud(i)- [ˈsew.di]
“pseudo-, false”
sçièntific [ˈstʃeːn.ti.fik]
pseudi-sçièntific [ˈsew.dis.ˈtʃeːn.ti.fik] pseudoscientific
ecs(i)- [ˈɛ]
“ex-, former”
prèsident [ˈənt]
ecsi-prèsident [ˈɛˈənt] ex-president

Other adjective compounds, particular the ADJ+NOUN type, are very rare in Tunisian, although in English they are quite common. Tunisian prefers to handle such forms phrasally, with an adjective modified by a prepositional phrase.

Tunisian English
hár com tiće
“hot like a coal”
enérgit by vend
energized by wind
doéh dí má
“dizzy from the sea”
yóc yspor yd qaoe
“with the flavor of coffee”
derèn by drazte
“long in duration”
dimí by virids
permanent in greenness

The verb–noun compound is the only productive compound noun in Tunisian. This construction, consisting of a verb in its third person singular present indicative plus the vowel /ə/, followed by a singular or plural noun, most commonly has instrumental meaning, although it can also indicate place or metonymically people. Similar constructions also appear throughout the Western Romance languages, although the Tunisian construction is not nearly as common as in, for instance, Spanish.

Base 1 Base 2 Compound
iprey [ˈi.prej]
late [ˈlaː.tə]
iprelats [ˈi.prə.ˈlaːts]
“can opener”
trá [ˈtraː]
çèricce [ˈʃe.ri.kə]
tireçèrics [ˈti.rə.ˈʃe.riks]
gretá [grə.ˈtaː]
çil [ˈʃiːl]
grateçil [ˈgraː.tə.ˈʃiːl]
levá [lə.ˈvaː]
maccine [ˈmaː.ki.nə]
lavemaccines [ˈlaː.və.ˈmaː.ki.nəz]
pretá [prə.ˈtaː]
pièce [ˈpje.sə]
protepièçs [ˈprɔ.tə.ˈpjɛs]

By and large, Tunisian prefers genitive phrases for coordinating nouns.

Tunisian English
naval yd çèrecmind
“ship of cargo”
cargo ship
ponde d fraçe
“point of the arrow”
nucte d fusciun
“point of liquifaction”
melting point
cárte d crèdit
“card of credit”
credit card
sħanduq yd chibrits
“box of matches”

8.6 Loanwords

Loanwords can be incorporated into Tunisian through a number of different strategies.

Calquing, the translation of a word morpheme-by-morpheme, is readily used when borrowing all types of speech. Many examples were previously shown, where individual prefixes, roots, and suffixes are translated into their corresponding Tunisian forms; this is particularly common when the source language is Romance, as Tunisian is likely to have cognate corresponding morphemes. Calques from Arabic are also common, but these tend to be phrasal rather than individual words. Parts of speech may be adapted as necessary; notice how “honeymoon” below is loaned as lunure n mel with the nonce word lunure “lunation(?)” with the resulative suffix -ure used rather than the concrete noun lune “moon”, as the former was perceived as more semantically appropriate to revent to an event than the literal moon.

Source Tunisian Literal
lieutenant (French) loctenèn [ˈlok.tə.ˈneːn]
weekend (English) fímind yd gime [ˈfiː.mi.nid.ʒi.mə]
“end of the week”
surveiller (French)
ysprveglá [ˈis.pɪr.və.ˈglaː]
chemin de fer (French)
vie d fé [ˈvi.jət.ˈfeə]
“path of iron”
honeymoon (English) lunure n mel [ˈən.ˈmeːl]
“lunation of honey”

Null derivation refers to the conversion of a foreign base into a Tunisian word without any derivational suffixes, simply by adding inflectional endings (if needed) to the borrowed stem. This is common with all parts of speech except verbs, perhaps due to non-verbal morphology being very minimal or nonexistent in Tunisian. Null derivation of verbs was once common (and there are many old borrowings of Berber or Phoenician origin to demonstrate this), but is very rare now.

Source Tunisian
pièce (French)
pièce [ˈpje.sə]
citoyen (French)
citoén [si.ˈtweːn]
dīmā (Tunisian Arabic)
dima [ˈdi.mʌ]
xammal (Tunisian Berber)
“do housework”
hemlá [xəm.ˈlaː]
xemm (Tunisian Berber)
“think, worry”
hemé [xə.ˈmeə]

Gerundive verbs are a comparatively newer construction, having come into use starting in the late first millennium to replace null derivation for borrowing verbs of Semitic origin. This is a polyphrastic construction consisting of conjugated verb faccey “make, do” and an invariant verbal noun. Similar formations are seen in a number of languages that have had intensive contact with Arabic, as its nonconcatenative morphology means there is no clear fixed stem to adapt to Tunisian concatenative morphology, but a verbal noun can be borrowed with little trouble.

Tunisian Arabic Tunisian
“talk nonsense”
faccey oèdoèd [ˈfaː.kej ˈwɛd.wɛd]
“talk nonsense”
faccey hatá [ˈfaː.kej ˈxaː.taː]
“bet, wager”
intqam (min)
“avenge oneself”
faccey nqám [ˈfaː.kej in.ˈqaːm]
“take revenge”
faccey csid [ˈfaː.kej ˈksid]
ys-faccey haof [ˈis.fʌ.kej ˈxawf]

Nominal gender is typically preserved when borrowed, aided by the fact that the feminine gender is coincidentally marked by -a in both the Romance and Semitic languages, which maps easily to Tunisian -e. Historically, Berber and Punic feminines in -t were adapted as -te, acquiring a more typical Tunisian form. Explicit masculine endings in Romance languages (such as Italian -o are almost always dropped.

Source Tunisian
gare (French)
gáre [ˈgaː.rə]
“train station”
flauto (Italian)
flaot [ˈflawt]
rico (Italian)
ric [ˈrik]
posto (Italian)
“position, post”
post [ˈpost]
mgrśt (Punic)
megrèste [mə.ˈgrɛs.tə]

Borrowings from European languages typically remain close to their original spelling in the donor language, even if the pronunciation is altered to match Tunisian phonotactics and prosody. However, letters and accents not normally used in Tunisian are substituted (so that, for instance, the letters k or w will be replaced by c or o, though they may be kept in proper nouns).

Source Tunisian
service (French) sérvice [ˈseːə]
“service, ammenity”
philosophia (Latin) philosophie [ˈfiːə]
exāmen (Latin) ecsam [ik.ˈsaːm]
sandwich (English) sandoích [ˈsaːn.dwitʃ]
hockey (English) hoccey [ˈxɔ.kej]

Borrowings from Arabic tend to be representative of the North African vernacular, not Modern Standard Arabic.

Tunisian Arabic Tunisian
qaoe [ˈqaː.wə]
sħabat [ˈsˤaː.bʌt]
“baked brick”
tħube [ˈtˤu.bə]
“juice, sap”
zum [ˈzuːm]
araq [ˈaː.rʌq]
“[distilled] spirit”
made [ˈmaː.də]
“component, ingredient”

1) Note that the distribution of Tunisian -iá and -is does not match up completely with English -ian and -ese, although they are quite close. Note, for instance, sħéniá “Chinese” or aiglis “English”.

2) However, this cal element can be seen in a number of interrogatives, such as calom “who?” and caltemp “when?”.

3) In Romanian, the original Latin infinitive was reinterpreted as a true noun, while an innovative ‘short’ infinitive took over the role of the non-finite verb form: vedere “sight” from Latin vidēre “to see”, with the new infinitive [a] vedea “to see”. In the Tunisian case, the reinterpretation of the infinitive as a noun was likely under the influence of Semitic and Berber languages, which lack an infinitive in the typical Romance sense, but do have simple nominalizations.

4) However, Tunisian infinitives do retain a few distinctly verbal characteristics as well, such as the ability to take direct objects, adverbial modifiers, and limited passivization. These behaviors will be discussed later in this grammar.

5) The prefixed verb naní “go in” contrasts with the unprefixed verb ntrá “enter” in that the latter refers primarily to entry into an enclosed space, such as a building, while the former is used for open spaces, such as a park or city. In addition, naní is often used for abstract movement such as a change in state; for instance, one might join (naní) a club or assume (naní) a presidency.