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Nominalising ge-
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ge-[ɣə, χə] is a Germanic non-cohering prefix that is found in action nouns of neuter gender from verb stems and verbal groups that can be used to productively to form new ones. The meaning is continuous V-ing, often in a negative sense: ik word gek van dat gecomputerI become crazy from that ge-computerthat eternal computerizing drives me crazy (< computerento be busy with computers). Next to that, there is a considerable amount of lexicalized ge- formations whose semantics is harder to generalize over, cf. gebouwbuilding (< bouwento build), gebakpastry (< bakkento bake) and gedoefuss (doento do); this type of derivation is not productive.

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[+] Input restrictions

ge-[ɣə, χə] is a Germanic prefix forming action nouns from native and non-native verb stems. The base forms for ge- are mostly simplex verb stems (gepraattalking < pratento talk, gewandelwalking < wandelento walk), but it is also possible to use complex base verbs (Mackenzie 1985). Thus, unlike the participial prefix ge-, nominalizing ge- is not excluded from occurring before a verbal stem that begins with an unstressed prefix, e.g. gebewapenarming, gegeloofbelieving, geontvoerkidnapping, geversierdecorating (where the corresponding past participles are bewapend, geloofd, ontvoerd end versierd, respectively. In the case of separable complex verbs (SCVs), the prefix shows up between the verbal and the non-verbal part: opgebelcalling up (< opbellento call (up), cf. hij belt me voortdurend ophe calls me continuously uphe calls me all the time) (Booij 2002: 207), (Los 2012: 3)). Occasionally one even finds verbal phrases as input, e.g. ge-heen-en-weer-loopge-to-and-fro-walkwalking back and forth(De Haas and Trommelen 1993).

In addition to this productive use, the prefix ge- also occurs in quite a number of lexicalized deverbal nouns; a systematic general meaning is missing in this case (Booij 2002: 118): gebakpastry < bakkenbake, gebouwbuilding < bouwenbuild, gehooraudience, hearing capacity < horenhear, etc. Furthermore, there are also ge- nouns without a corresponding base word: gedragbehaviour, gelaatface, genoegenpleasure, gevalcase, gezinfamily, gevaardanger, geheimsecret. These nouns are to be considered formally complex words since they fall under the generalization that ge- nouns are neuter (with a few exceptions such as genootcompanion and gezantenvoy). It is moreover easy to recognize such words as complex, and thus to recognize the prefix status of the first syllablege-, because simplex native stems always have a full vowel in their first syllable, and never the schwa.

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De Haas and Trommelen (1993: 83ff) argue that we are dealing with two different prefixes here, which they call "productive ge-"and "unproductive ge-" respectively. Although both result in neuter nouns, selecting the article het (exceptions include gemaalspouse, gebuurneighbour, gezantenvoy), there are big differences, according to them:

  • semantically, formations with productive ge- denote actions: they can be paraphrased with continuous V-ing, that is, deverbal nouns prefixed with ge- exhibit the verbal property of expressing durative aspect (Broekhuis et al. to appear: 74). Formations with unproductive ge- do not refer to actions, there is no common semantics, and some of them denote concretes and have a plural form: gevallencases, gesprekkenconversations, geluidensounds.
  • in terms of input restrictions, productive ge- attaches to simplex and complex stems and even to verbal groups, whereas unproductive ge- only combines with simplex stems, and with roots that do not longer occur independently (geduldpatience, gelooffaith, geheimsecret).
  • in terms of phonological form: in the case of productive ge-, the base is identical to the verbal stem (ge-bidcontinuous praying < biddenpray, ge-spreektalking < sprekentalk), whereas allomorphs can be found with improductive ge- (ge-bedprayer < biddenpray, gesprekconversation < sprekentalk, ge-bitteeth < bijtenbite, gezichtvision, face < ziensee).
  • in terms of productivity: whereas productive ge- freely combines with any verb (gecomputercomputering, geroerbakstir-frying, gevindikleukge-find-I-niceliking), no new forms are found with the meaning associated with unproductive ge-.
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    The verb vindikleuken for like in the Facebook sense was signalled in March 2013 in Woord van de week. A Google search produced ge derivations of this new verb Tikje zat van dat gevindikleuk en de commercieFed up with all that liking and commerce (this example dated April 12 2013).

[+] Semantic properties

Ge-[ɣə, χə] can be used to form (neuter) nouns from verbs. It is the only Dutch prefix that can do this productively. The meaning of ge- formations can be described as continuous V-ing, e.g. het gebidcontinuous prayinghet gebabbelthe cht-chat, gestofzuigge-dust-suckcontinuous vacuuming. If the meaning of the verb is inherently telic, the interpretation is iterative, e.g. geblafbarking(Booij 2002: 117-119). This type of formations is used quite often in a depreciatory way: its use suggests that the action referred to goes on too long, or is too often repeated, or is irritating in some other way. ge- is a prefix that belongs to a rather informal register, and in this respect it contrasts with the suffix -ing that also nominalizes verbs (e.g. verklaringexplanation < verklarento explain), but belongs to a higher register. Nominal use of the infinitive form (het roken van sigarenthe smoking of cigars) is another neutral way to derive action nouns from verbs productively.

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Although all uses of the prefix have the same origin(Philippa 2003-2009), ge-[ɣə, χə] has various other functions as well. The most important are:

  • productive inflectional prefix to form past participles (together with suffix -d, -t or -en), e.g. gewandeldge-wandel-dwalked < wandelenwalk, gefietstge-fiets-tridden the bicycle < fietsenride the bicycle, and geslapenge-slaap-enslept < slapensleep.
  • productive adjectival prefix (together with suffix -d or -t) that forms participia praeverbalia from nouns, e.g. gebrildge-glasses-dwith spectacles and getiteldge-title-dentitled(Van Lessen 1950).
  • productive (albeit rare) adjectival prefix (together with suffix -en) that forms collective adjectives on the basis of cardinal numbers: getweeënge-two-enin a group of two, gevierenge-four-enin a group of four.
  • unproductive prefix making verbs from verbs, as in geleidento guide, accompany, conduct < leidento lead.
  • the prefix ge- is also used in combination with the suffix -te (/tə/) for the derivation of collective nouns. Examples of the use of this unproductive circumfix are ge-berg-temountain chain < bergmountain, ge-boef-tescum, riff-raff < boefcrook, ge-steen-terock < steenstone, ge-vogel-tepoultry < vogelbird and ge-blad-er-tefoliage < bladleaf. This latter use of ge- is a reflex of the collective meaning of the prefix ga- in proto-Germanic that is also present in gebroedersbrothers; it is from this ga- that the different prefixes ge- derive historically (Booij 2002: 119).

ge-nominalizations inherit the argument structure of the input verb: the argument structure of the input verb remains unaffected by the derivational process: "both the number of arguments and their thematic functions remain essentially the same. The only difference is that while the arguments of the input verb normally are obligatorily present, those of the derived noun are not." (Broekhuis et al. to appear: 78)(Booij 2002: 201) also discuss inheritance of subcategorization properties: the verb zoekento search subcategorizes for prepositional complements headed by naar, therefore we get dat gezoek naar je sokken iedere ochtendthat looking for your socks every moring, protesterento protest selects tegen, therefore geprotesteer tegen de huurverhogingprotest against the rent increase. Non-prepositional verbal arguments of the base verb are often expressed by means of prepositional phrases: Het gewandel van de patiënten in het Vondelpark trok veel aandachtthe strolling of the patients in the Vondelpark attracted a great deal of attention, Het getreiter van peuters door grote jongens is ontoelaatbaarthe bullying of toddlers by big boys is inadmissibleThe pestering of toddlers by big boys is inadmissible. Other means, however, are possible as well, e.g. as the lefthand part of a compound (hanengekraaicock-PL-ge-crycockcrow(ing), sigarengerookcigar-PL-ge-smokesmoking cigars) or as a pre-modifier (hun gewandeltheir ge-walktheir walking, Peters gezeurPeter-GEN ge-nagPeter's nagging, Amerikaans gespioneerAmerican ge-spyAmerican espionage).

[+] Inflectional properties

By default, productive ge- nominalizations show no inflection, possible due to their are abstract meaning. Lexicalized formations of non-productive ge- with a count reading have a plural form in -en: gezichtenfaces, gezinnenfamilies,gebouwenbuildings.

[+] Morphological potential

Apart from the compounds mentioned above, ge- nominalizations are rarely input to other morphological processes. For semantic reasons they do not have a diminutive form (Bakema 1995).

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Some ge- formations, especially lexicalized ones, easily enter into compounds, e.g. gesprekconversation (< sprekento speak) > gespreksanalyseconversation analysis and rondetafelgesprekkenround table talks, gelaatface > gelaatskleurcomplexion and vrouwengelaatwoman's face. Lexicalized concrete ge- formations may have diminutive forms: gebouwtjesmall building, gezinnetjesmall family, gebakjepastry, gesprekjecosy conversation. Further derivation is usually impossible (gelovigreligious < gelooffaith is not a case in point as this is another ge-.

[+] Phonological properties

Ge-[ɣə, χə] is a non-cohering prefix: it does not belong to the same prosodic word as the stem and never bears stress, because the vowel is a schwa; stress is on the same syllable as in the base word (ge'donderjaagmessing about < 'donderjagento muck about, to be a nuisance, gebakke'leisquabbling < bakke'leiento squabble, to wrangle). Syllabification respects the morphological boundary, schwa-deletion before the next vowel does not apply (ge-aarzelge-hesitate(continuous) hesitating, procrastination, ge-offerge-offeroffering).

References:
  • Los, Bettelou, Blom, Corrien, Booij, Geert, Elenbaas, Marion & Kemenade, Ans van (eds.)2012Morphosyntactic change: a comparative study of particles and prefixesCambridge University Press
  • Bakema, Peter1995Van aangevertje tot zoethoudertje. Over diminuering van derivatiesLeuvense Bijdragen84425-446
  • Booij, Geert2002The morphology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Booij, Geert2002The morphology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Booij, Geert2002The morphology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Booij, Geert2002The morphology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Booij, Geert2002The morphology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Broekhuis, Hans, Evelien Keizer & Dikken, Marcel den2012Grammar of Dutch: Nouns and noun phrasesAmsterdam University Press
  • Broekhuis, Hans, Evelien Keizer & Dikken, Marcel den2012Grammar of Dutch: Nouns and noun phrasesAmsterdam University Press
  • Haas, Wim de & Trommelen, Mieke1993Morfologisch handboek van het Nederlands. Een overzicht van de woordvormingSDU Uitgeverij
  • Haas, Wim de & Trommelen, Mieke1993Morfologisch handboek van het Nederlands. Een overzicht van de woordvormingSDU Uitgeverij
  • Lessen, J.H. van1950Bestaan er `participia praeverbalia'?De Nieuwe Taalgids43153-159
  • Mackenzie, Lachlan1985GenominaliseerValentie in Functionele Grammatica. Interdisciplinair Tijdschrift voor Taal- en Tekstwetenschap5177-198
  • Philippa, Marlies, Debrabandere, Frans, Quak, Arend, Schoonheim, Tanneke & Sijs, Nicoline van der2003-2009Etymologisch Woordenboek van het NederlandsAmsterdam University Press
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