Icelandic: -ingi

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by Gavril, Apr 23, 2013.

  1. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA

    Is there a way to predict where the suffix -ingi (as in leysingi "free(d)man", ræningi "robber", etc.) will be used?

    My sense is that words containing -ingi tend to be based on verbal stems (e.g., leysingi could come from the verb leysa, and ræningi could come from ræna), as opposed to the similar-looking suffix -ingur, which tends to be added to nouns (e.g., útlendingur "foreigner" < útland "a foreign country"). However, there are examples of -ingi that don't seem to fit this pattern: e.g., tannleysingi "a toothless person" seems based on the adjective tannlaus.

    Also, the semantics of -ingi aren't entirely clear to me: ræningi is the typical subject of the verb ræna, whereas leysingi seems closer to the "object" of the verb leysa.

    What is the standard explanation for the distribution and semantics of -ingi?

    Thanks for any help,
  2. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    I don't think there is anything more than a collective general rule of thumb with the writers themselves happily willing to mention examples that contradict it.
    I wouldn't say there is a way to 'predict' it because that presupposes regularity and rule-based procedures in the coining/creation of these derivations. There is no 'limit' to -ingi being used specifically for verbs but it is very common. Generally, -ingur (among many other things) generally describes a person linked to a place or a country when used on masculine nouns (that fits with your 'útlendingur' example).

    The semantics of -ingi are that it specifies someone who is generally the 'doer' of the root (if a verb form) or someone who personifies the core characteristic of a related adjective or as in 'foringi flokks' -> 'flokksforingi'. I think there can be a bit of idiosyncrasy with how meanings can be attached but like in your examples, with the verb the core meaning is that of the doer while in the active it can only be referring to the person who has such a characteristic so that's a fairly natural jump to make in both cases when you take the characteristic of impersonating the root meaning. That might make it seem less of an opposition of behaviour and more of a uniting definition.

    So, taking other examples like höfðingi / svertingi / kunningi / heiðingi / smælingi / frelsingi / aumingi / eymingi / gamlingi / heimskingi / græningi / slæpingi and many many more that could be named, you can see a clear pattern of root + ingi. It might not even be the correct way to look at ræningi as being specifically derived from a verbal root. You also have rán (robbery) and adding the -ingi ending with I-shift gives you ræningi as well.

    When you have a location or a physical place and you want to derive a noun, you'd use -ingur.
    When you want to create a noun referencing a person who has the characteristics of the root itself, use -ingi.
    At those two extremes, you can't go wrong. However, their boundaries cross significantly when you come back from clear definitions (and not forget probable exceptions and maybe words that have been in the language longer and go against the pattern etc.)
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2013
  3. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    That's what I initially wrote (rán > ræningi, laus > leysingi) when I was composing the original message, but then I thought I'd discovered a pattern involving verbs + -ingi, so I shifted the derivation "forward" one step to involve ræna and leysa instead.

    In light of your examples, though, maybe it makes more sense to go back and say that -ingi is added mostly to noun- and adjective roots, rather than to verbs: other than possibly smælingi (whose root I haven't been able to narrow down so far) and slæpingi, it seems to me that all the forms you listed above can be derived from nouns or adjectives (mainly the latter).

    As far as you know, is -ingi only used for nouns referring to human beings? That might explain why, e.g., hnýðingur has -ingur rather than -ingi, but other possible semantic nuances occur to me in this case as well.

    I hope you don't feel burdened with all of these grammar questions; none of the Icelandic dictionaries or other references I've found (so far) seem to index morphemes, so I can only look up information on entire words, not suffixes like -ingi.

    Last edited: Apr 24, 2013
  4. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    I wouldn't want to give a straight 'yes' to the question because it could be that one exists that I haven't seen before, but from what I know, there is a human element implied in the noun. I tried to find something to back this up but the only two things I found were:

    And that was all I could find. Not very exhaustive but it's better than nothing. It seems we can say based on this information, yes it seems to be that way (and other non-human derivations would preferably be with other suffixes like the dolphin example you mentioned). As I've just put in bold, they both seem fairly 'vague' in their descriptions without giving counter-examples, so maybe treat it as a big tendency for this to be the case.
    Did you mean couldn't find the roots for both slæplingi and smælingi or just smælingi?
    I can only guess at these but I think I'd be pretty confident in assuming smá -> smælingi and slappur ->slæpingi (though 'a' isn't usually a vowel that takes I-shift).

    Absolutely not! It's all interesting stuff. ;)
  5. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    Just smælingi. It seemed that the verb slæpa/slæpast could have provided the stem for slæpingi, though there are other possibilities as well.

    smælingi definitely seems related to smár, but where does the consonant -l- in smælingi come from? As far as I know, smár never had an "l" in its stem in Icelandic/Norse. I found some related forms that do contain an "l" -- smálki "e-ð sem er í smáum einingum", and smælki "smámolar, litlir bitar" -- but I don't think either of these would work as the direct source of smælingi.
  6. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    It's a diminutive that can (pre-)attach onto the -ingur suffix to make a derived word. So from rit (thesis/monograph) you get ritlingur (pamphlet) and from strákur (boy) you get stráklingur (kid) and diskur (disk) -> disklingur (floppy disk), sandur (sand) -> sandlingur (sand paper), sjúkur (sick) -> sjúklingur (patient) etc. etc. Here, to add to the semantic theme of being diminutive (already with the root smár) it's put in front of -ingi in the same way. I don't ever remember seeing this -l- with -ingi before so this might be a unique case, but given the semantics desired in the derivation and its root, it seems logical.
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2013

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