In linguistics, an agent noun (in Latin, nomen agentis) is a word that is derived from another word denoting an action, and that identifies an entity that does that action. For example, "driver" is an agent noun formed from the verb "drive".
Usually, derived in the above definition has the strict sense attached to it in morphology, that is the derivation takes as an input a lexeme (an abstract unit of morphological analysis) and produces a new lexeme. However, the classification of morphemes into derivational morphemes (see word formation) and inflectional ones is not generally a straightforward theoretical question, and different authors can make different decisions as to the general theoretical principles of the classification as well as to the actual classification of morphemes presented in a grammar of some language (for example, of the agent noun-forming morpheme).
An agentive suffix is commonly used to form an agent noun from a verb. Examples:
- English: "-er", "-or", "-ist".
- German: -er, -ler, -ner,-or, -ist, -it, -ite, -ant, -ent (may be compounded with the feminine ending "-in")
- French: -eur(m.)/-euse(f.), -ör
- Greek: -ήρ, τήρ
- Latin: -arius/-tarius, -orius/-torius, -ar, -ent, -or, -tor
- Polish: Native forms (masculine): -acz (biegacz), -arz (pisarz), -iec (jeździec) -ik (chodzik), -nik (czytelnik), -ek (skoczek), -ak (wozak), -iczy (budowniczy), -ca (nadawca), -ciel (nosiciel). May also use a number of borrowed suffixes, such as -or in 'konstruktor' or -ent in 'student'
- Spanish: -dor(a)
- Finnish: -ja/-jä (puhua 'speak', puhuja 'speaker'; lyödä 'hit', lyöjä 'hitter'); -uri (borrowed from '-or'/'er', probably via German)
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- Maria Wojtyła-Świerzowska, Prasłowiańskie nomen agentis ("Protoslavic Nomen Agentis"), Wroclaw, 1975
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