Saturday, 21 July 2012

Combinatoric irregularity in the words for local citizens of countries and regions

Combinatoric irregularity is most prevalent in morphology. An area where this issue particularly stands out is in the lexeme for local citizens of countries/regions.

First, let’s look at how G.W. Bush’s uses them (from Combinatoric Irregularity):

“If the East Timorians decide to revolt, I’m sure I’ll have a statement.”
(The New York Times, June 16, 1999)
“Keep good relations with the Grecians.”
(The Economist, June 12, 1999)
“Kosovians can move back in.”
(CNN Inside Politics, April 9, 1999)

There’s a reason why G.W. Bush’s idiolect is called “Bushism”.

The following are names of countries and the words for their local citizens.

Local citizens of countries/regions with –n/–an suffix:

Local Citizens
Albania Albanian
Algeria Algerian
America American
Andorra Andorran
Angola Angolan
Antigua Antiguan
Armenia Armenian
Australia Australian/Aussie
Austria Austrian
Belgium Belgian
Belize Belizean
Bolivia Bolivian
Bosnia Bosnian
Brunei Bruneian
Bulgaria Bulgarian
Burundi Burundian
Cambodia Cambodian
Cape Verde Islands Cape Verdean
Chile Chilean
Colombia Colombian
Comoros Comoron
Cuba Cuban
Djibouti Djiboutian
Dominica Dominican
Equatorial Guinea Equatorial Guinean
Eritrea Eritrean
Ethiopia Ethiopian
Fiji Fijian
Georgia Georgian
Guinea Guinean
Guatemala Guatemalan
Haiti Haitian
Honduras Honduran
Hungary Hungarian
Italy Italian
India Indian
Indonesia Indonesian
Jamaica Jamaican
Kenya Kenyan
Latvia Latvian
Liberia Liberian
Libya Libyan
Lithuania Lithuanian
Macedonia Macedonian
Malawi Malawian
Malaysia Malaysian
Mali Malian
Mauritania Mauritanian
Mauritius Mauritian
Mexico Mexican
Micronesia Micronesian
Moldova Moldovan
Mongolia Mongolian
Montenegro Montenegrin
Morocco Moroccan
Mozambique Mozambican
Namibia Namibian
Nauru Nauruan
Nicaragua Nicaraguan
Niger Nigerien
Nigeria Nigerian
North Korea North Korean
Papua New Guinea Papua New Guinean
Paraguay Paraguayan
Romania Romanian
Russia Russian
Rwanda Rwandan
St. Lucia St. Lucian
Singapore Singaporean
South Africa South African
South Korea South Korean
Sri Lanka Sri Lankan
Syria Syrian
Tanzania Tanzanian
Tonga Tongan
Tobago Tobagan/Tobagonian
Tunisia Tunisian
Tuvalu Tuvaluan
Uganda Ugandan
Ukraine Ukrainian
Uruguay Uruguayan
Venezuela Venezuelan
Western Samoa Western Samoan
Zambia Zambian
Zimbabwe Zimbabwean

Local citizens of countries/regions with –ian/–ean suffix:

Local Citizens
Argentina Argentinean
Bahamas Bahamian
Barbados Barbadian
Belarus Belarusian/Byelorussian
Brazil Brazilian
Cameroon Cameroonian
Canada Canadian
Chad Chadian
Ecuador Ecuadorian
Egypt Egyptian
El Salvador El Salvadorian
Ghana Ghanaian
Grenada Grenadian
Iran Iranian
Jordan Jordanian
Laos Laotian
Maldives Maldivian
Norway Norwegian
Panama Panamanian
St. Vincent St. Vincentian
Sierra Leone Sierra Leonian
Trinidad Trinidadian
Zaire Zairean

Local citizens of countries/regions with –ese suffix:

Local Citizens
Benin Beninese
Bhutan Bhutanese
Burkina Burkinese
Burma Burmese
China Chinese
Congo Congolese
Gabon Gabonese
Guyana Guyanese
Japan Japanese
Lebanon Lebanese
Macao Macanese
Malta Maltese
Nepal Nepalese
Portugal Portuguese
Senegal Senegalese
Siam Siamese
Sudan Sudanese
Taiwan Taiwanese
Togo Togolese
Vietnam Vietnamese

Local citizens of countries/regions with –i suffix:

Local Citizens
Azerbaijan Azerbaijani
Bahrain Bahraini
Bangladesh Bangladeshi
Iraq Iraqi
Israel Israeli
Kuwait Kuwaiti
Oman Omani
Pakistan Pakistani
Qatar Qatari
Saudi Arabia Saudi/Saudi Arabian
Somalia Somali
Yemen Yemeni

Local citizens of countries/regions with –er suffix:

Local Citizens
Falkland Islands Falkland Islander
Greenland Greenlander
Iceland Icelander
Luxembourg Luxembourger/ Luxembourgian
New Zealand New Zealander
Solomon Islands Solomon Islander
Suriname Surinamer/ Surinamese
Virgin Islands Virgin Islander

Local citizens of countries/regions with –man/–woman suffix:
*Also sometimes used without this suffix

Local Citizens
France Frenchman/Frenchwoman
Ireland Irishman/Irishwoman
Netherlands Dutchman/Dutchwoman

Local citizens of countries/regions with irregular forms or without any suffix:

Local Citizens
Afghanistan Afghan
Botswana Tswana
Croatia Croat/Croatian
Cyprus Cypriot
Czech Republic Czech
Denmark Dane
Finland Finn
Germany German
Greece Greek
Kazakhstan Kazakh
Kyrgyzstan Kyrgyz
Madagascar Malagasay/ Madagascan
Monaco Monégasque/Monacan
Peru Peruvian
Philippines Filipino (male)/Filipina (female)
Poland Pole
Scotland Scott
Serbia Serb/Serbian
Slovakia Slovak
Spain Spaniard
Seychelles Seychellois
Slovenia Slovene/Slovenian
Swaziland Swazi
Sweden Swede
Switzerland Swiss
Tajikistan Tajik/Tadjik
Thailand Thai
Turkey Turk
Turkmenistan Turkmen/Turkoman
United Kingdom Briton/Brit
Uzbekistan Uzbek
Yugoslavia Yugoslav

As we can from the lists above, most names of local citizens of countries/regions are derived from the country or region itself plus –n/an/ean/ian suffix. Because this ‘regular’ ending is prevalent, many speakers of English tend to generalize the use of the suffix with other countries/regions as well, as G.W. Bush has shown us.

Unfortunately, the only way of learning the combinatoric irregularity is by memorization. This has been proven a tough task for both native and non-native speakers of English.

It would make an interesting research to investigate why such irregularity takes place. Does the native language of the country/region contribute to it? Does the history (the founding of these countries/regions) influence the designation of suffix (or lack of)?


Oxford Concise English Dictionary (9th Edition).

Linguistics 001: Lecture 7: Morphology: The peculiar nature of morphology.


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