Noun derivation

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Noun derivation is a process with which you can easily expand your vocabulary. By taking adjectives, nouns or verbs and combining them with certain suffixes you can create new nouns with a meaning affiliated to that of the original word. Take te adjective viõlggâd 'white' as an example: By adding a suffix we can form the abstract noun viõlggâdvuõtt 'whiteness'.

The derived nouns are declined in cases, just as other nouns are. The case endings are added after the derivational suffix.

Denominal nouns

We will start by explaining how to form new nouns out of already existing ones. By doing this, you can achieve a slight change in meaning. To make it clearer, let us have a look at the example noun põrtt 'house'. With the help of derivational suffixes we can create new nouns which are in some way connected to the original word:

  • põõrtâž 'small house'
  • põrttneʹǩǩ 'farm (house) owner'

Note that some derivationalal suffixes are attached to the strong, other to the weak stem of a noun.

The Diminutive

The diminutive is generally used to express that something is small. However, in Skolt Saami, as in many other languages, it also used for expressing endearment or intimacy. In order to form the diminutive of a noun, we need to add the suffix -âž or -až to the weak stem of the noun:

  • piânnai 'dog' ➞ piânnǥaž 'small dog'
  • põrtt 'house' ➞ põõrtâž 'cottage, i.e. small house'

Diminutives are also frequently used with names:

  • Mäʹrjj 'Mary' ➞ Määʹrjjaž 'little Mary'

You also have to bear in mind that words with palatalisation can lose this in the diminutive:

  • kueʹll 'fish' ➞ kuâlaž 'little fish'

All diminutive nouns belong to the same inflectional class and are declined according to class IX nominals.

Click here to see a fully inflected noun of this paradigm.


The next suffix, -neʹǩǩ, is very useful if you want to express how a person is affiliated with something. So, if you know the word 'art', this suffix will help you to form the word 'artist'. The suffix is not only used to express a person who practices a certain activity but can also be used to express that someone lives in a certain place or owns something. But let us look at the examples so that it becomes clearer:

  • põrtt 'house' ➞ põrttneʹǩǩ 'farm owner'
  • Âʹvvel 'Ivalo' ➞ âʹvvelneʹǩǩ 'resident of Ivalo'
  • njuhččâm 'tongue' ➞ njuhččâmneʹkk 'gossipmonger, telltale'

This suffix is very useful because, unlike in other languages where you need to learn various endings to denote nationality depending on the word, (just look at Norwegian: italiener for 'Italian', nordmann for 'Norwegian' and svenske for 'Swede') you can take practically any place name or country and easily express that you are talking about its inhabitants by simply adding this suffix. The same is true for owners and performers of something.

However, you have to bear in mind that some irregularities might occur when using this suffix:

Here we can see that the collective ending -õs was lost before inserting the personalising suffix.

  • čeäppõs 'art' ➞ čeäppneʹkk 'artist'

This example is very unusual as the second syllable is omitted. This is generally not the case for disyllabic words:

  • Jaapan 'Japan' ➞ jaapneʹkk 'Japanese person'


The suffix -vuõtt is used to give an abstract meaning to the original word. This means you can use it when you want to talk about a general concept behind something. To make it easier to understand, just remember our first example:

  • viõlggâd 'white' ➞ viõlggâdvuõtt 'whiteness'

Generally, this suffix is only added to adjectives and nouns:

  • naʹzvaan 'friend' ➞ naʹzvaanvuõtt 'friendship'
  • puärraz 'parents' ➞ puärrazvuõtt 'parenthood'

The new nouns belong to the first inflectional class, but be careful because only the suffix undergoes stem gradation as it forms a new stress group:

  • na´zvaanvuõttna´zvaanvuõđ (PL. NOM) ➞ na´zvaanvuõ´tʹte (SG.ILL)

☞ Note the change from strong, to weak to overlong grade within the derivational suffix. Click here to see a fully inflected noun of this paradigm.

Deverbal nouns

Now we will talk about how to form nouns out of verbs. First of all, when you have selected your verb, you need to get rid of the infinitival ending. The infinitival ending is the last vowel plus "d" at the end of the uninflected form. This means the verb is not inflected for person (e.g. I, you, he/she/it).

To make it clearer, we will look at the example of laauǥõõttâd 'to bathe'.

Now we delete the infinitival ending (in this case -âd) and get laauǥõõtt. With this form as the base, we can express a slightly different meaning of the word by simply adding suffixes:

  • laauǥõõtt-i 'bather; i.e. a person that bathes'
  • laauǥõõtt-mõš 'the bathing, i.e. the process of bathing'
  • laauǥõõtt-õs 'the bath'

☞ Note that when deleting the infinitival ending of verbs that contain an overshort vowel, the vowel will be fully realised in this form:

  • juurdčed 'to think' ➞ juurdčummuš 'thinking, reasoning'

But let us have a look at the various suffixes one by one below.

Action Nominalisation

The suffixes -mõš and -ummuš are used to turn a verb denoting some kind of change in state into a noun. This means you can form a noun from a verb and therefore name a process, like:

  • põõllâd 'to fear' ➞ põõllmõš '[the process of] fearing'
  • seillad 'to be preserved' ➞ seillmõš '[the process of] conservation'

☞ Notice that the palatal marker is lost in two-syllable verbs in -ed, i.e. väʹldded 'to take' ➞ välddmõš '[the process of] taking':

  • ââʹnned 'to use' ➞ âânnmõš '[the process of] using'

☞ Notice that in longer verb types in -ed and -eed the ending is replaced with -ummuš:

  • čõõđted 'to publish' ➞ čõõđtummuš '[the process of] publishing'
  • siltteed 'to know how' ➞ silttummuš '[the state of] knowing how'

Agent Nominalisation

The suffix -i is also used to denote a noun, however, it denotes the agent. This means that with the help of this suffix you can express who is performing the action of the original verb. To make it clearer we shall have a look at some examples:

  • uʹvdded 'to give' ➞ uʹvddi 'giver, i.e. person who gives'
  • njiimted 'to breastfeed' ➞ njiimteei 'wet nurse, i.e. person who breastfeeds'

These nouns are declined according to the inflectional paradigm of class IV nouns. Click here to see a fully inflected noun of this paradigm.

General Nominalisation

The next derivational suffix we will talk about is -õs. This suffix is used a lot in Skolt Saami as it brings about a general nominalisation.

  • vuäʹpsted 'to instruct' ➞ vuäʹpstõs 'instructions'
  • šõddâd 'to grow' ➞ šâddõs 'growth'

☞ Notice that this suffix can also be used with compounds, i.e. words where two or more words were previously joined together to form a new single entity:

  • teäʹǧǧ 'money' ruõkkâd 'to save' ➞ teäʹǧǧruõkkâd 'to save money' (lit. 'to moneysave') ➞ teäʹǧǧruõkkõs 'fund'

Contrary to -mõš, the suffix -õs does not describe the process of doing something (See laauǥõõtt-mõš 'the bathing' and laauǥõõtt-õs 'the bath').

Omission of Verbal Ending (Conversion)

To make it even easier, we can also form nouns by simply omitting the infinitival ending of a verb. In this case, no additional ending is needed. This phenomenon is called zero-derivation or conversion.

  • tuejjeed 'to do' ➞ tuejj 'deed, act'

However, there are a few things you have to bear in mind when using this suffix.

. First, verbs from group A which, as you might recall, usually have stem vowels from the high group, will now change towards the low variant:

  • kuullâd 'to hear' ➞ kooll 'hearing'
  • põõllâd 'to fear' ➞ pââll 'fear'

☞ Note the vowel change from –u––o– and –õ––â– here. For a list of the corresponding high and low vowel pairs, click here.

Furthermore, the palatalisation of group A and C verbs is lost:

  • tieʹtted 'to know' ➞ teâtt 'knowledge'

Multiple deriviations

☞ Note that you can add more than one derivational suffix to a word. Just look at this example:

  • njiimted 'to breastfeed' ➞ njiimteei 'wet nurse'

In this example you can see that the stem of the word has already undergone derivation, in this case the causative marker –t was added before the infinitival ending:

  • njiimâd 'to suck' ➞ njiimted 'to breastfeed'.

The same is true for our example from above, laauǥõõttâd 'to bathe'. In this case the original word was already awarded a reflexive meaning by inserting the derivational suffix –õõtt before the stem:

  • laauǥed 'to wash' ➞ laauǥõõttâd 'to bathe'

These were the most important and mostly used derivational endings and rules for noun derivation in Skolt Sámi. They can help you form new nouns out of already existing words.

Here you can read more about nouns in general .

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