Derivational Morphology

Direvâ 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 -iâ (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
Tenés [tə.ˈnɛs] Tunisia tenésiâ [tə.ˈne.sjaː] tenésiane [tə.ˈne.sjʌ.nə] Tunisian
Ambricce [ˈaːm.bri.kə] America ambriçiâ [ˈaːm.bri.ʃaː] ambriçiane [ˈaːm.bri.ʃʌ.nə] American
Iorupe [ˈjɔ.ru.pə] Europe iorupiâ [ˈjɔ.ru.pjaː] iorupiane [ˈjɔ.ru.pjʌ.nə] European
Yspne [ˈis.pnə] Spain yspnâ [is.ˈpnaː] yspnane [ˈis.pnʌ.nə] Spaniard
Ustre [ˈus.trə] Austria ustrâ [us.ˈtraː] ustrane [ˈus.trʌ.nə] Austrian
Sħên [ˈsˤeən] China sħêniâ [ˈsˤeə.njaː] sħêniane [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: crestâ [krəs.ˈtaː] “Christian” (feminine crestane [krəs.ˈtaː.nə], hegeliâ [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
Aigltére [ˈte.rə] 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
Soétçe [ˈswe.tʃə] Sweden soétçis [ˈswe.tʃis] soétçise [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 [ˈpos.tʌl] postale [ˈpos.tʌ.lə] mail(wo)man, courier
vî [ˈviː] wine vinal [ˈvi.nʌl] vinale [ˈvi.nʌ.lə] winemaker
pulicie [pu.ˈliː.sjə] police pulicial [pu.ˈliː.sjʌl] puliciale [pu.ˈliː.sjʌ.lə] police officer
dend [ˈdɛn] tooth déndal [ˈdɛn.dʌl] déndale [ˈdɛn.dʌ.lə] dentist
ministre [ˈmi.nis.trə] ministry ministral [ˈmi.nis.trʌl] 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
çéry [ˈʃe.ri] meat çérinay [ˈʃe.ri.naj] çérinaire [ˈʃe.ri.naj.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 [ˈfon] fountain fonday [ˈfon.daj] fondaire [ˈfon.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
yspôrt [is.ˈport] sport, sports yspôrtist [is.ˈpor.tist] yspôrtiste [is.ˈpor.tis.tə] athlete
flaot [ˈflawt] flute flaotist [ˈflaw.tist] flaotiste [ˈflaw.tis.tə] flutist
comunism [ˈɪm] communism comunist [ˈkom.nist] comuniste [ˈkom.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 -arie (plural -aris) forms locations from personal nouns in -ay or from common objects, generally indicating stores and shops. It occasionally appears augmented as -sarie when the stem does not allow for easy addition of -arie, as in tçaisarie “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 qaoarie [qʌ.ˈwaː.rjə] cafe
tçay [ˈtʃaj] tea tçaisarie [tʃaj.ˈzaː.rjə] teahouse
libr [ˈli.bɪr] book librarie [li.ˈbraː.rjə] bookstore
çérinay [ˈʃe.ri.naj] butcher çérinarie [ʃe.ri.ˈnaː.rjə] butchershop
pescay [pəs.ˈkaj] fisherman pescarie [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 [ˈkraː.vʌl] key ring
prât [ˈpraːt] plate prâtal [ˈpraː.tʌl] cupboard
ifcre [ˈif.krə] bee ifcral [ˈif.krʌl] beehive
acce [ˈaː.kə] water acal [ˈaː.kʌl] water bottle, canteen
edizt [ˈe.dist] edict ediztal [ˈe.dis.tʌl] bulletin board

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

Word Meaning Noun Meaning
zaitûne [ˈzaj.tuː.nə] olive zaitûnay [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
pûlgane [ˈpuːl.gʌ.nə] orange pûlganay [ˈpuːl.gʌ.naj] orange tree
rose [ˈrɔ.sə] rose rosay [ˈrɔ.saj] rose bush

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

Word Meaning Noun Meaning
pûlgane [ˈpuːl.gʌ.nə] orange pûlganêr [ˈpuːl.gʌ.neːr] orange grove
vit [ˈvit] grapes vitêr [vi.ˈteər] vineyard
tefahe [tə.ˈfaː.xə] apple tefahêr [tfʌ.ˈxeər] orchard
gran [ˈgran] wheat granêr [grʌ.ˈneər] wheat field
pî [ˈpiː] pine pinêr [pi.ˈneər] 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.sjun] nation naciunalism [ˈnaː.sju.nʌ.li.zɪm] nationalism
inarchist [i.ˈnaːr.kist] anarchist inarchism [i.ˈnaːɪm] anarchy
capital [ˈkaː.pi.tʌl] capital capitalism [ˈkaː.pi.tʌ.li.zɪm] capitalism
magnet [ˈmaː.njət] magnet magnetism [ˈmaː.njə.ti.zɪm] magnetism
îćéîst [ˈiː.ˈθe.jist] atheist îćéîsm [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 -itâ. It is common for stems ending in -iC- to undergo metathesis to -Ci- before this suffix.

Word Meaning Noun Meaning
egal [ˈe.gʌl] equal egalitâ [ˈe.gʌ.li.taː] equality
fahil [ˈfaː.xil] easy fahlitâ [ˈfaː.xli.taː] ease
neutral [ˈnew.trʌl] neutral neutralitâ [ˈnew.trʌ.li.taː] neutrality
fedél [fə.ˈdɛl] loyal fedélitâ [fə.ˈː] loyalty
créativ [ˈkre.jʌ.tiv] creative créatvitâ [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 calitâ [ˈkaː.li.taː] “quality” (no corresponding adjective 2 ) and libritâ [ˈli.bri.taː] “freedom” (expected **librtitâ).

A smaller set of nouns form abstract adjectives simply through pluralization, usually with the suffix -s. Forms such as dolcs [ˈdolks] “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 [ˈdolk] sweet dolcs [ˈdolks] sweetness
grav [ˈgraːv] sad gravs [ˈgraːvz] sadness
forot [ˈfɔ.rot] strong forots [ˈfɔ.rots] strength
rnegast [ɪr.nə.ˈgaːst] angry rnegaçs [ɪr.nə.ˈgaːʃtʃ] anger
îfinit [iː.ˈfi.nit] infinite îfinits [iː.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 [ˈim.fur] outside imforule [im.ˈfɔ.ru.lə] diarrhea

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

Word Meaning Noun Meaning
inélt [i.ˈnɛlt] high inélture [i.ˈnɛl.ˈtu.rə] height
prefond [prə.ˈfon] deep prefondure [prə.ˈfon.du.rə] depth
loig [ˈlojg] long loigure [ˈə] length
vocal [ˈvɔ.kʌl] loud vocure [ˈvɔ.ku.rə] volume
témprat [ˈtɛm.prʌt] mild temperature témprature [tɛm.prʌ.ˈtu.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 tenésiais “Tunisian language” being “Tunisian words” rather than “Tunisian tongue”.

Word Meaning Language Meaning
tenésiâ [tə.ˈne.sjaː] Tunisian tenésiais [tə.ˈne.sjajz] Tunisian
aiglis [ˈaj.glis] English aigliss [ˈaj.gliz] English
freiccis [ˈfrej.kis] French freicciss [ˈfrej.kiz] French
arabî [ʌ.rʌ.'biː] Arab arabis [ʌ.ˈraː.biz] Arabic
sħêniâ [ˈsˤeə.njaː] Chinese sħêniais [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
cretâ [krə.ˈtaː] create cretator [krə.ˈtaː.tor] cretatre [krə.ˈta.trə] creator
imâ [i.ˈmaː] love imator [ˈi.mʌ.tor] imatre [ˈi.mʌ.trə] lover
yscribey [ˈis.kri.bej] write yscribor [ˈis.kri.bor] yscribre [ˈis.kri.brə] writer
iggesey [ˈi.gə.sej] inform iggesor [ˈi.gə.sor] iggesre [ˈi.gəs.rə] journalist
véndey [ˈvɛn.dej] sell véndor [ˈvɛn.dor] véndre [ˈvɛn.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
prelâ [prə.ˈlaː] to speak speaking, speech
imâ [i.ˈmaː] to love fondness, affection
trevelê [trə.və.ˈleə] to work working, labor
chytâ [ki.ˈtaː] to sing singing
pretî [prə.ˈtiː] to leave departure

Much as with people, the suffixes -ator (Conjugation I) and -o 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
fridsê [frit.ˈseə] chill fridsor [frit.ˈsor] refrigerator
telévisî [təˈziː] televise telévisor [təˈzor] television set
difondey [di.ˈfon.dej] spray difondre [di.ˈfon.drə] sprinkler
brecâ [brə.ˈkaː] indicate, point brecator [brə.ˈkaː.tor] street sign
frevî [frə.ˈviː] boil frevor [frə.ˈvor] 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
ystâ [is.ˈtaː] be ystazte ['is.tʌs.tə] season
viçenê [vi.ʃə.ˈneə] see viçenezte [ˈviʃ.nəs.tə] vision
cufondey [ku.ˈfon.dej] confuse cufozte [ku.ˈfos.tə] confusion
diçenâ [di.ʃə.ˈnaː] eat breakfast diçenazte [di.ʃə.ˈnaːs.tə] breakfast
entreduccey [ˈɛn.trə.ˈdu.kej] introduce entreduzte [ˈɛn.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.gek] act, behave acciun [ˈaːk.sjun] action
rvouvey [ɪr.ˈvow.vej] rotate, direct [towards] revoltciun [rə.ˈvol.sjun] revolution
civilisî [ˈziː] civilize civilisaciun [ˈsi.vil.zʌ.sjun] civilization
cumbenâ [kum.bə.ˈnaː] combine cumbinaciun [ˈkum.bnʌ.sjun] combination
îmgrâ [iːm.ˈgraː] immigrate îmgraciun [ˈiːm.grʌ.sjun] 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
cumeztâ [ku.məs.ˈtaː] begin cumiztmind [ˈku.mis.min] beginning
iudcâ [jut.ˈkaː] judge iudcmind [ˈjut.kmin] judgment
ystytâ [ˈis.ti.taː] stand ysteitmind [is.ˈtej.min] building
véstî [ˈvɛs.tiː] dress véstmind [ˈvɛs.min] clothing
séndey [ˈsɛn.dej] feel, touch séndmind [ˈsɛn.min] feeling

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

Word Meaning Noun Meaning
peztâ [pəs.ˈtaː] paint pezture [pəs.ˈtu.rə] paint, pigment
yscribey [ˈis.kri.bej] write yscrefture [ˈis.krəf.tu.rə] text
velâ [və.ˈlaː] fly velure [və.ˈlu.rə] [a] flight
s-îfremâ [ˈsiː.frə.maː] become sick îfremure [ˈiː.frə.mu.rə] illness
jerâ [ʒə.ˈraː] injure jerature [ˈʒrʌ.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
îflemâ [iː.flə.ˈmaː] light on fire îflamcl [iː.ˈflaːm.ku] lighter
iscendey [ˈi.sən.dej] go up iscendcl [ˈi.sən.ku] step, pedestal
levâ [lə.ˈvaː] wash lavcl [ˈlaːf.ku] washroom
dremî [drə.ˈmiː] sleep dromcl [ˈdrom.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 failâ /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 -éte /ˈe.tə/ are typically used if the stem ends in /t/, /d/, or /r/: Petr “Peter” → Petréte [pə.ˈtre.tə], Marie “Maria” → Marite [ˈmaː.ri.tə], cât “cat” → câtite [ˈkaː.ti.tə].

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

When the stem ends in /m/, it transforms to /f/ before -te: dom “house” → dofte [ˈdop.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), 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].

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” → péste [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 [ˈfil] “boy” → filê [fi.ˈleə], faile [ˈfaj.lə] “girl” → failâ [faj.ˈlaː], cât [ˈkaːt] “cat” → câtâ [kʌ.ˈtaː], cay [ˈkaj] “dog” → canâ [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)â 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
Tenés [tə.ˈnɛs] Tunisia tenésiâ [tə.ˈne.sjaː] Tunisian
Ambricce [ˈaːm.bri.kə] America ambriçiâ [ˈaːm.bri.ʃaː] American
Iorupe [ˈjɔ.ru.pə] Europe iorupiâ [ˈjɔ.ru.pjaː] European
Aigltére [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 ôm tenésiâ [ˈɔəm tə.ˈne.sjaː] “Tunisian person” (by culture or heritage) distinct from a citoên tenésî [si.ˈtweən tə.ni.ˈsiː] “Tunisian citizen” (by civil institution). Similarly, one may talk of art freiccis [ˈaːrt ˈfrej.kis] “French art” but drizt freiccisî [ˈdristˈziː] “French law”. Note that when the cultural demonym is formed with the suffix -is rather than -(i)â, the nisbe is added to this suffix rather than the bare stem.

Word Meaning Adjective Meaning
Tenés [tə.ˈnɛs] Tunisia tenésî [tə.ni.ˈsiː] Tunisian
Ambricce [ˈaːm.bri.kə] America ambriccî [ʌm.bri.ˈkiː] American, from the United States
Iorupe [ˈjɔ.ru.pə] Europe iorupî [ˈpiː] European, from the European Union
Aigltére [ˈte.rə] England aiglisî [aj.gli.ˈziː] English
Freicce [ˈfrej.kə] France freiccisî [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 oaqtî [ˈfus wʌq.ˈtiː] “time zone”.

Word Meaning Adjective Meaning
est [ˈɛst] east estî [ɛs.ˈtiː] eastern
oaqt [ˈwaː.qɪt] time oaqtî [wʌq.ˈtiː] temporal
cât [ˈkaːt] cat câtî [kʌ.ˈtiː] feline
care [ˈkaː.rə] face, front carî [kʌ.ˈriː] fore, anterior
ycdimie [ˈik.di.mjə] academy ycdimî [ˈik.di.miː] 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 [ˈvɛn] wind véndus [ˈvɛn.dus] windy
mytanie [ˈmi.tʌ.njə] mountain mytanius [ˈmi.tʌ.njus] mountainous
delor [də.ˈlor] pain delorus [də.ˈlɔ.rus] painful
pric [ˈprik] danger pricus [ˈpri.kus] dangerous
nériv [ˈne.riv] nerve nérivus [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
rumâ [ru.ˈmaː] Roman rumanisc [ˈru.mʌ.nisk] Romanesque
Platon [ˈplaː.tun] 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 kafkaîsc [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 [ˈlɔ.kʌl] urban
sûq [ˈsuːq] market sûqal [ˈsuː.qʌl] market (adj)
sħahre [ˈsˤaː.xrə] desert sħahral [sˤʌ.ˈxraːl] desert (adj)
eribor [ˈe.ri.bor] tree eribral [ˈe.ri.brʌl] arboreal
yscle [ˈis.klə] school ysclal [ˈis.klʌl] 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
eifît [ˈej.fiːt] prince eifîtil [ˈej.fiː.til] princely
iunie [ˈjun.jə] children iunil [ˈju.nil] childlike
fémne [ˈfɛm.nə] woman fémnil [ˈfɛm.nil] womanly
mêrcant [ˈmeər.kʌnt] merchant mêrcantil [ˈmeər.kʌn.til] mercantile
ost [ˈost] army, host ostil [ˈos.til] 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
viçenê [vi.ʃə.ˈneə] see viçenavl [ˈviʃ.nʌ.vu] visible
unrâ [un.ˈraː] honor unravl [ˈun.rʌ.vu] honorable, esteemed
chemprâ [kəm.ˈpraː] buy chempravl [kəm.ˈpraː.vu] buyable, for sale
ys-morey [ˈis.mɔ.rej] die meravl [mə.ˈraː.vu] mortal
s-ipréndey [si.ˈprɛn.deː] 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
crédey [ˈkre.dej] believe cridl [ˈkri.du] gullible
faccey [ˈfaː.kej] make, do fecl [ˈfɛ.ku] on, enabled
dremî [drə.ˈmiː] sleep doriml [ˈdɔ] narcoleptic
fraggey [ˈfraː.gej] shatter fregl [ˈfrɛ.gu] fragile
veglâ [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”. If the past participle is regular and formed with the suffix -st, the /s/ is dropped. 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
lésenê [lə.sə.ˈneə] damage lésenutiv [ˈlɛ] damaging, harmful
entreduccey [ˈɛn.trə.ˈdu.kej] introduce entreductiv [ˈɛn.trə.ˈduk.tiv] introductory
discribey [ˈdis.ˈkri.beː] describe discréptiv [ˈdis.ˈkrɛp.tiv] descriptive
prisupenê [pri.sup.ˈneə] presume prisupustiv [pri.ˈsu.pus.tiv] presumptive
ivénî [i.ˈve.niː] happen ivenitiv [ˈ] effective, current

8.2.3 Adjectives from Other Adjectives

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

Word Meaning Adjective Meaning
complet [ˈkom.plət] complete îcomplet [ˈiː.ˈkom.plət] incomplete
viçenavl [ˈviʃ.nʌ.vu] visible îviçenavl [ˈiː.ˈviʃ.nʌ.vu] invisible
cheneçist [kə.nə.ˈʃist] known îcceneçist [ik.nə.ˈʃist] unknown
tipic [ˈti.pik] typical îtipic [ˈiː.ˈti.pik] atypical
qânunî [qʌ.nu.ˈniː] legal îqânunî [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
vevén [və.ˈvɛn] living n-vevén [ɪn.və.ˈvɛn] non-living
credén [krə.ˈdɛn] believing n-credén [ɪn.krə.ˈdɛn] unbelieving
velén [və.ˈlɛn] flying n-velén [ɪn.və.ˈlɛn] flightless
pydsén [pit.ˈsɛn] thinking m-pydsén [ɪm.pit.ˈsɛn] unthinking
veglén [və.ˈglɛn] attentive n-veglén [ɪn.və.ˈglɛn] 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 -mît [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 [dil] 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 raptmît [raːp.ˈtmiːt] rapte [ˈraːp.tə] d-il rapte [dil ˈraːp.tə] quickly
cûrteis [ˈkuː.tejz] polite cûrteismît [ˈkuː.tejz.miːt] cûrteise [ˈkuː.tej.zə] d-il cûrteise [dil ˈkuː.tej.zə] politely
ysfurtunast [ˈis.fur.tə.ˈnaːst] unfortunate ysfurtunastmît [ˈis.fur.tə.ˈnaːs.miːt] ysfurtunaste [ˈis.fur.tə.ˈnaːs.tə] d-il ysfurtunaste [dil ˈis.fur.tə.ˈnaːs.tə] unfortunately
delorus [də.ˈlɔ.rus] painful delorusmît [də.ˈlɔ.rus.miːt] deloruse [də.ˈlɔ.ru.sə] d-il deloruse [dil ]də.ˈlɔ.ru.sə painfully
qânunî [qʌ.nu.ˈniː] legal qânunie [ˈqaː.nu.njə] d-il qânunie [dil qʌ.ˈnu.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 nature phenomena; in this case, the result can only appear in the mediopassive and means “become X” impersonally. Unlike cognate forms in other Spanish 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 secsê [sək.ˈseə] dry, make dry yst-secsê [ist.sək.ˈseə] dry out, become dry
sôd [ˈsɔəd] hard sôdsê [soːd.ˈzeə] harden, reinforce yst-sôdsê [ist.soːd.ˈzeə] harden, become hard
pû [ˈpuː] pure pûsê [puː.ˈseə] purify ys-pûsê [is.puː.seə] become purified
ganî [gʌ.ˈniː] rich ganesê [gʌ.nə.ˈseə] enrich ys-ganesê [iz.gʌ.nə.ˈseə] become rich
nozte [ˈnos.tə] night ys-neçsê [iz.nəʃ.ˈtʃeə] 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-dremsê [iz.drəm.ˈzeə] “grow drowsy” ← dremî [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 loccisî [ˈziː] urbanize
cronie [ˈkrɔ.njə] colony cronisî [ˈkrɔ.ni.ziː] colonize
iostie [ˈjos.tjə] law iostisî [jus.ti.ˈziː] legislate
sim [ˈsim] yes simisî [si.mi.ˈziː] agree too readily, be a yes-man
vos [ˈvos] you (pl) vosisî [vɔ.si.ˈziː] 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
iostie [ˈjos.tjə] law iostificcey [jus.ti.ˈfi.kej] legalize
esempiu [ˈe.səm.pju] example esempificcey [ˈe.sɛm.pi.ˈfi.kej] exemplify
pétre [ˈpe.trə] stone pétrficcey [pɛ.tɪr.ˈfi.kej] petrify
ilectrcitâ [ˈi.lək.tɪː] electricity ilectrficcey [ˈi.lək.tɪr.ˈfi.keej] electrify
fals [ˈfaːls] false, fake falsficcey [fʌls.ˈfi.kej] 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 [ʌ.ˈfraː.gej] smash
fondey [ˈfon.dej] pour afondey [ʌ.ˈfon.dej] pour to the top
bivey [ˈbi.vej] drink abivey [ˈaː.bi.vej] drink up
frevî [frə.ˈviː] boil afrevî [ʌ.frə.ˈviː] boil off
hemê [xə.ˈmeə] worry ahemê [ʌ.xə.ˈmeə] distress

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

Word Meaning Verb Meaning
presâ [prə.ˈsaː] press apresâ [ʌ.prə.ˈsaː] pound
viçenê [vi.ʃə.ˈneə] see aviçenê [ʌ.viʃ.ˈneə] glance, catch sight
séndey [ˈsɛn.dej] touch, feel aséndey [ʌ.ˈsɛn.dej] touch, make contact with
eridey [ˈe.ri.dej] burn s-adéridey [sʌ.ˈde.ri.dej] go up in flames
meliâ [məl.ˈjaː] wet ameliâ [ʌ.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
pretâ [prə.ˈtaː] carry napretâ [nʌ.prə.ˈtaː] bring, bring in
fondey [ˈfon.dej] pour nafondey [nʌ.ˈfon.dej] pour in
yst-restâ [ist.rəs.ˈtaː] reside ys-narestâ [is.nʌ.rəs.ˈtaː] take up residence
unî [u.ˈniː] go nanî [nʌ.ˈniː] go in 5
priclisî [pri.kli.ˈziː] match napriclisî [nʌ.pri.kli.ˈziː] 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
dremî [drə.ˈmiː] sleep ys-nadremî [is.nʌ.drə.ˈmiː] fall asleep
velâ [və.ˈlaː] fly ys-navelâ [is.nʌ.ˈvlaː] take flight
rînâ [riː.ˈnaː] own narînâ [nʌ.riː.ˈnaː] take possession
imâ [i.ˈmaː] love ys-nemâ [is.nə.ˈmaː] fall in love
florî [flu.ˈriː] be in bloom ys-naflorî [is.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 [nʌ.ˈvi.vej] revive
novî [nu.ˈviː] be new nanovî [nʌ.nu.ˈviː] renew, restore
çérecâ [ʃə.rə.ˈkaː] load naçérecâ [nʌ.ʃə.rə.ˈkaː] recharge
yschî [is.ˈkiː] know naschî [nʌs.ˈkiː] shame
diccey [ˈdi.kej] say nadiccey [nʌ.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.trejz.ˈbi.vej] “become drunk”
chenâ [kə.ˈnaː] “eat” ys-treischenâ [is.trejs.kə.ˈnaː] “overeat”
prelâ [prə.ˈlaː] “talk” ys-treisprelâ [is.trejs.prə.ˈlaː] “talk too much”
navlê [nʌ.ˈvleə] “value” treisnavlê [treiz.nʌ.ˈvleə] “overestimate”
veiccey [ˈvej.kej] “win” treisveiccey [trejz.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
pretâ [prə.ˈtaː] carry yspretâ [is.prə.ˈtaː] take, take out
fondey [ˈfon.dej] pour ysfondey [is.ˈfon.dej] pour out
yst-restâ [is.trəs.ˈtaː] reside s-ystrestâ [sis.trəs.ˈtaː] move out
unî [u.ˈniː] go ysnî [is.ˈniː] go out
priclisî [pri.kli.ˈziː] match yspriclisî [is.pri.kli.ˈziː] 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
icftâ [ik.ˈftaː] agree ysicftâ [i.sik.ˈftaː] refuse
preçê [prə.ˈʃeəː] like yspreçê [is.prə.ˈʃeə] dislike
serâ [sə.ˈraː] lock ysserâ [is.sə.ˈraː] unlock
interesâ [in.trə.ˈsaː] interest s-ysinteresâ [si.sin.trə.ˈsaː] lose interest
nevâ [nə.ˈvaː] snow ysnevâ [is.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”
administrâ [ʌd.mi.nəs.ˈtraː] “administer”
“carry forth”
ifrî [i.ˈfriː] “carry out, produce”
“climb up”
iscendey [ˈi.sən.dej] “go up, rise”
“blow upon”
isprâ [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
chemtâ [kəm.ˈtaː] “count”
cheduccey [kə.ˈdu.kej] “drive”
“mix together, confuse”
cufondey [ku.ˈfon.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
defrî [də.ˈfriː] “differ”
discuntinoâ [dis.kun.tin.ˈwaː] “discontinue”
diséndey [di.ˈsɛn.dej] “dissent”
disolbey [di.ˈsol.bej] “dissolve”
divérity [di.ˈve.ri.ti] “amuse” Entr- (entre-)

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

Latin Tunisian Meaning
“put between”
s-entremêtey [sɛn.trə.ˈmeə.tej] “intervene”
“cut between”
entresecâ [ˈɛn.trə.sə.ˈkaː] “intersect”
“leave ajar”
entreprey [ˈɛn.trə.prej] “leave ajar”
entrevedê [ˈɛn.trə.və.ˈdeə] “glimpse”
entreduccey [ˈɛn.trə.ˈdu.kej] “introduce” N- (î-, m-)

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

Latin Tunisian Meaning
“carry in”
mpretâ [ɪm.prə.ˈtaː] “matter”
îclenâ [iː.klə.ˈnaː] “bend”
îfremâ [iː.frə.ˈmaː] “make sick”
“pour in”
nfondey [ɪn.ˈfon.dej] “infuse”
“make hateful”
nodî [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”
priôccey [pri.ˈjɔə.kej] “attach”
“let go”
premêtey [prə.ˈmeə.tej] “permit”
“delimit beforehand”
prideterminâ [pri.də.tər.mə.ˈnaː] “predetermine”
prisupenê [pri.sup.ˈneə] “presume”
“see first”
privedê [pri.və.ˈdeə] “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”
raclemâ [rʌ.klə.ˈmaː] “protest”
racredâ [rʌ.krə.ˈdaː] “remember”
ratredâ [rʌ.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”
succevâ [su.kə.ˈvaː] “tunnel, mine”
“write under, sign”
suscribey [ˈsus.kri.bej] “subscribe”
sefrî [sə.ˈfriː] “suffer, endure”
supenê [su.pə.ˈneə] “suppose”
soruggey [ˈsɔ.ru.gej] “emerge, advance” Trâs- (trâ-, tre-, tra-, treis-)

The prefix trâ(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”
trâspretâ [trʌs.prə.ˈtaː] “transport”
trâscribey [ˈtraːs.kri.bej] “transcribe”
“turn across(?)”
treisvouvey [trə.ˈvow.vej] “overwhelm” Ys-

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

Latin Tunisian Meaning
yschembâ [is.kəm.ˈbaː] “exchange”
“hollow out”
yschevâ [is.kə.ˈvaː] “dig”
ysplecâ [is.plə.ˈkaː] “explain”
ystoruccey [is.ˈtɔ.ru.kej] “extort”
“single out”
ysselâ [is.sə.ˈlaː] “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”
ysprpesâ [is.pɪr.pə.ˈsaː] “surpass, overcome”
“surprise, seize”
ysprendê [is.prən.ˈdeə] “surprise”
ysprescribey [is.prəs.ˈkri.bej] “overwrite”
“watch over”
ysprveglâ [is.pɪr.və.ˈglaː] “survey”
ysprvivey [is.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
griçî [gri.ˈʃiː]
rumâ [ru.ˈmaː]
griçi-rumâ [ˈgri.ʃˈmaː]
dolc [ˈdolk]
amêrg [ʌ.ˈmeərg]
dolcamêrg [dol.kʌ.ˈmeəg]
colrat [ˈkol.dʌt]
ros [ˈros]
colratros [ˈkol.dʌ.ˈtros]
“dark red”
virid [ˈvi.rid]
âzulî [ʌ.zu.ˈliː]
virid-âzulî [ˈvi.ri.dʌ.zu.ˈliː]
têre [ˈteə.rə]
acal [ˈaː.kʌl]
têracal [ˈteə.rʌ.kʌl]

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 [ˈmolt]
naciunal [ˈnaː.sju.nʌl]
molti-naciunal [ˈmol.ti.ˈnaː.sju.nʌl] multinational
soft [ˈsoft]
ros [ˈros]
softi-ros [ˈsof.ti.ˈros] infrared
bes [ˈbɛs]
embalî [ɛm.bʌ.ˈliː]
bes-embalî [ˈbe.sɛm.bʌ.ˈliː] biennial
pseud(i)- [ˈsew.di]
“pseudo-, false”
sçiéntific [ˈstʃɛn.ti.fik]
pseudi-sçiéntific [ˈsew.dis.ˈtʃɛn.ti.fik] pseudoscientific
ecs(i)- [ˈɛ]
“ex-, former”
président [ˈənt]
ecsi-président [ɛˈənt] 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
hâr com tiće
“hot like a coal”
energist by vend
energized by wind
doêh dî mâ
“dizzy from the sea”
iôc yspor yd qaoe
“with the flavor of coffee”
derén by drazte
“long in duration”
dimî 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”
trâ [ˈtraː]
çéricce [ˈʃe.ri.kə]
tireçérics [ˈti.rə.ˈʃe.riks]
gretâ [grə.ˈtaː]
çil [ˈʃil]
grateçil [ˈgraː.tə.ˈʃil]
levâ [lə.ˈvaː]
maccine [ˈmaː.ki.nə]
lavemaccines [ˈlaː.və.ˈmaː.ki.nəz]
pretâ [prə.ˈtaː]
piéce [ˈpje.sə]
protepiéçs [ˈprɔ.tə.ˈpjɛs]

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

Tunisian English
naval yd çérecmind
“ship of cargo”
cargo ship
ponde d fraçe
“point of the arrow”
nucte d fusciun
“point of liquifaction”
melting point
cârte d crédit
“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) loctenén [ˈlok.tə.ˈnɛn]
weekend (English) fîmind yd gime [[ˈfiːʒi.mə]
“end of the week”
surveiller (French)
ysprveglâ [is.pɪr.və.ˈglaː]
chemin de fer (French)
vie d fê [ˈvi.jət.ˈfeə]
“path of iron”
honeymoon (English) lunure n mel [ˈən.ˈmɛl]
“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)
piéce [ˈpje.sə]
citoyen (French)
citoên [si.ˈtweən]
dīmā (Tunisian Arabic)
dima [ˈdi.mʌ]
xammal (Tunisian Berber)
“do housework”
hemlâ [xəm.ˈlaː]
xemm (Tunisian Berber)
“think, worry”
hemê [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 oédoéd [ˈfaː.kej ˈwɛd.wɛd]
“talk nonsense”
faccey hatâ [ˈfaː.kej ˈxaː.taː]
“bet, wager”
intqam (min)
“avenge oneself”
faccey inqâm [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)
gâre [ˈgaː.rə]
“train station”
flauto (Italian)
flaot [ˈflawt]
rico (Italian)
ric [ˈrik]
posto (Italian)
“position, post”
post [ˈpost]
mgrśt (Punic)
megréste [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) sêrvice [ˈseəə]
“service, ammenity”
philosophia (Latin) philosophie [fil.ˈsɔ.fjə]
exāmen (Latin) ecsam [ɛk.ˈsaːm]
sandwich (English) sandoîch [sʌn.ˈdwitʃ]
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 [ˈzum]
araq [ˈaː.rʌq]
“[distilled] spirit”
made [ˈmaː.də]
“component, ingredient”

1) Note that the distribution of Tunisian -iâ and -is does not match up completely with English -ian and -ese, although they are quite close. Note, for instance, sħêniâ “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 nanî “go in” contrasts with the unprefixed verb ytrâ “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, nanî is often used for abstract movement such as a change in state; for instance, one might join (nanî) a club or assume (nanî) a presidency.