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be-
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The very productive prefix be- derives transitive verbs from other verbs. Its semantic contribution can be described as to direct the action named in the base form to an affected object. An example is anderjeto answer > beänderjeto answer to. A be- derivation does not always have a meaning that is different from the base form, however; the addition of be- then only changes the valency of the base form and adds a perfective aspect to it. Frisian has many instances of be- derivations which are unknown (or only sporadically occur) in Dutch.

This prefix may als take nouns and adjectives as base.

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[+] General properties

The very productive prefix be- derives transitive verbs from other verbs (transitive or intransitive). The meaning of derivations with be- can be described as to direct the action named in the base form to the object. Examples are listed below:


Table 1
Base form Derivation
anderjeto answer beänderjeto answer to
wenjeto live bewenjeto live in
harkjeto listen beharkjeto listen to
prateto talk beprateto talk about
riddenearjeto reason beriddenearjeto reason out
graveto dig begraveto bury
driigjeto threaten bedriigjeto threaten

In some cases the base form and the be-derivation can have the same object. The addition of the affix be- then adds a perfective aspect to the base form, but does not change the meaning of the base form. Examples are listed below:

Example 1

De foarsitter (be)tanke de sprekker
the chairman (PREF-)thanked the speaker
The chairman thanked the speaker
Example 2

De sultan (be)strafte de slaaf
the sultan (PREF-)punished the slave
The sultan punished the slave

In other cases the be- derivation (b) has a different lexical meaning from the base form (a). The difference is shown in the example below.

Example 3

a. De baronesse leanne de túnman
the baroness paid the gardener
The baroness paid the gardener
b. De baronesse beleanne de túnman
the baroness rewarded the gardener
The baroness rewarded the gardener

In most cases the addition of the prefix be- changes the syntactic valency of the verb. While skriemeto cry and sjitteto shoot take a prepositional object (shown in a), the be-derivations beskriemeto regret and besjitteto fire upon take a direct object (shown in b):

Example 4

a. Hja skriemde om 'e kanarje
she cried about the canary
She cried about the canary
b. Hja beskriemde de kanarje
she regretted the canary
She regretted the canary
Example 5

a. Ik skeat op 'e liuw
I shot at the lion
I shot at the lion
b. Ik beskeat de liuw
I fired on the lion
I fired on the lion

The verbs struieto scatter, bargjeto spill and spuitsjeto squirt take a direct object (Theme) and a place indication (or Location) (shown in a). After derivation by bestruieto strew, bebargjeto soil and bespuitsjeto spray on the noun of the Location becomes the direct object, while the former direct object ends up in an Adposition Phrase (PP) with meiwith (as is shown in the b-examples). The prepositional phrase introduced by meiwith is not obligatory, whereas the direct object is. Note that there is a slight difference in meaning between the sentences in (a) and (b). The sentences in (b) contain an affected object; it is suggested that the object is "completely covered", while this is not necessarily the case for the sentences in (a):

Example 6

a. Hja struiden blommen op 'e kiste
they scattered flowers on.the coffin
They scattered flowers on the coffin
b. Hja bestruiden de kiste (mei blommen)
they strewed the coffin (with flowers)
They strewed the coffin (with flowers)
Example 7

a. Jeltsje barge molke op 'e tafel
Jeltsje spilled milk on.the table
Jeltsje spilled milk on the table
b. Jeltsje bebarge de tafel (mei molke)
Jeltsje soiled the table (with milk)
Jeltsje soiled the table (with milk)
Example 8

a. Hy spuite ferve op 'e muorre
he sprayed paint on.the wall
He sprayed paint on the wall
b. Hy bespuite de muorre (mei ferve)
he sprayed the wall (with paint)
He sprayed the wall (with paint)
[+] Typical Frisian be- derivations

There are many applications of be- derivations which are unknown (or only occur sporadically) in Dutch. These applications will be discussed below. Firstly, Frisian has be- verbs with the meaning to obtain the object involved by the action named in the base form. Closely related are be- derivations with the meaning to contract a physical discomfort or a natural need by the action named in the base form. Examples are listed below:


Table 2
Base form Derivation
buorkjeto farm (a) bebuorkjeto obtain by farming
fiskjeto fish (b) befiskjeto obtain by fishing
trouweto marry (c) betrouweto obtain by marrying
wrotteto grub (d) bewrotteto obtain by grubbing
rinneto walk (e) berinneto catch by walking
skreppeto grub (f) beskreppeto catch by grubbing
reizgjeto travel (g) bereizgjeto catch by travelling
Example 9

a. Hy hat net folle bebuorke
he had not much PREF-farmed
He did not obtain much by farming
b. Hy befiske syn deistich brea
he PREF-fished his daily bread
He obtained his daily bread by fishing
c. Hy hie in pleats betroud
he had a farm PREF-married
He had obtained a farm by marrying
d. Hja hat in protte foar Fryslân bewrotten
she has a lot for Fryslân PREF-grubbed
She obtained a lot for Fryslân by grubbing
e. Ik ha toarst berûn
I have thirst PREF-walked
I got very thirsty by walking
f. Hy hie honger beskrept
he had hunger PREF-grubbed
Hy became very hungry by grubbing
g. Hja hie pineholle bereizge
she had headache PREF-travelled
She had got a headache by travelling

In the same category we find be- derivations with the meaning to reach the object by the action named in the base form'. Derivations with this meaning are often obligatory accompanied by a form of the modal auxiliary kinneto can and a negation (for example netnot or amperscarcely). Examples are listed below.


Table 3
Base form Derivation
rinneto walk (a) berinneto walk
djipjeto fathom (b) bedjipjeto fathom
roppeto call (c) beroppeto shout out to
gapjeto yawn (d) begapjeto yawn
skriuweto write (e) beskriuweto reach by writing
Example 10

a. De hûn koe de hazze net berinne
the dog could the hare not PREF-walk
The dog could not keep up with the hare
b. Wy koenen de boaiem dêr net bedjipje
we could the bottom there not PREF-fathom
We could not reach the bottom there by fathoming
c. Heit en mem sa fier fan hûs, koe er net beroppe
[from a nursery rhyme]
father and mother so far from home, could he not PREF-shout
He could not shout to his father and mother, because they were far from home
d. Hy koe it stik koeke amper begapje
he could the piece cake hardly PREF-yawn
His yawn was hardly wide enough to bite the piece of cake
e. Wêr kin ik dy beskriuwe?
where can I you PREF-write?
Where can I reach you in writing?

Another group of verbs with some syntactic restrictions is constituted by derivations with the vague meaning to do something by the action of the base form. Examples are listed below.


Table 4
Base form Derivation
timmerjeto hammer (a) betimmerjeto hammer
mûskopjeto whisper (b) bemûskopjeto whisper
breidzjeto knit (c) bebreidzjeto knit
razeto shout (d) berazeto shout

These derivations only occur if they are found in interrogative or exclamation sentences starting with the interrogative word watwhat. All reveal a somewhat negative attitude to the situation described. In addition, the verb can be intensified by coordination of the dummy verb(be)dwaanto do. An example of the latter can be seen in (d):

Example 11

a. Wat buorman de hiele dei betimmeret?
what neighbour the whole day PREF-hammers?
I wonder what our neighbour has been hammering all day?
b. Wat soene dy te bemûskopjen ha?
what should they to PREF-whisper have?
I wonder what they are whispering about
c. Ik begryp net wat beppe allegearre bebreidet
I understand not what grandmother all PREF-knits
I do not understand what grandmother is knitting all the time
d. Ik freegje my ôf wat se dêr beraze en bedogge
I ask my of what they there PREF-shout and PREF-do
I wonder what they are shouting all the time

According to Dijkstra (1900-1911) it is typically Frisian to use a be- derivation to denote a silly habit of somebody. Two examples are shown below.


Table 5
Base form Derivation
flokketo swear (a) beflokketo swear
lipeto whine (b) belipeto whine

Such derivations are invariably combined with the pronoun allesall.

Example 12

a. Dy kearel beflokt alles
that guy PREF-swears everything
That guy swears at everything
b. Dat fanke belypt alles
that girl PREF-whines everything
That girl whines about everything

Another special group of be- derivations in Frisian are the ones denoting that the object concerned undergoes a change by the action named in the base form. Four examples are listed below.


Table 6
Base form Derivation
bakketo bake (a) bebakketo shrink by baking
siedeto boil (b) besiedeto boil down
brûketo use (c) bebrûketo improve by using
legerjeto quarter (d) belegerjeto mature

Such be-verbs are ergative, that is, the verb's theme appears as the syntactic subject. The complete tense is formed with a form of the auxiliary verb wêzeto be. Examples are listed below:

Example 13

a. It brea is bebakt
the bread is PREF-baked
The bread has shrunk by baking
b. Spinaazje besiedt o sa
spinach PREF-boils.down o so
Spinach boils down a lot
c. In nij stik ark moat earst wat bebrûke
a new piece tool must first what PREF-use
A new tool must first be used to improve
d. De tsiis moat noch wat belegerje
the cheese must still what PREF-mature
The cheese still has to mature a bit

If the base form already has a denotation indicating change, the addition of be- does not change the meaning of the base form. It only adds a perfective aspect. Examples are listed below:


Table 7
Base form Derivation
krimpeto shrink (a) bekrimpeto shrink
stjurjeto clot (b) bestjurjeto clot
sakjeto sink (c) besakjeto sink

These verbs are often accompanied by the mitigating adverb watsomewhat:

Example 14

a. Dy broek sil noch wat (be)krimpe by it waskjen
this pair.of.trousers shall still somewhat (PREF-)shrink by the washing
This pair of trousers will probably shrink a little in the wash
b. It bloed (be)stjurret
the blood PREF-clots
The blood clots
c. De modder op it grêf is al wat (be)sakke
the mud on the grave is already somewhat (PREF-)sank
The mud on the grave has already sunk somewhat

A subdivision of this kind of derivations can be seen in those be-derivations in which the base form refers to performing a conventional action, like traveling, partying and marrying. Such derivations denote a (positive or negative) change of the state of the object by the action named in the base form. Examples are listed below:


Table 8
Base form Derivation
reizgjeto travel (a) bereizgjeto travel
feesteto party (b) befeesteto party
brulloftsjeto celebrate a wedding (c) bebrulloftsjeto celebrate a wedding

Such verb derivations only occur as a past participle, and are always combined with an evaluating adverb (for example hoehow, goedgood, minbad). Examples are listed below:

Example 15

a. Binne jim goed bereizge?
are you good PREF-traveled?
Are you in good condition after your travels?
b. Hoe bist befeeste?
how are.you PREF-partied?
How is your condition after the partying?
c. Ik bin bêst bebrullofte
I am well PREF-celebrated.wedding
I am fine after celebrating (the) wedding

The last category of typical Frisian be- derivations contains verbs with the meaning to process the object concerned completely by means of the action named in the base form. Examples are listed below:


Table 9
Base form Derivation
bakketo bake (a) bebakketo bake
klopjeto beat (b) beklopjeto beat
wuoljeto wrap (c) bewuoljeto wrap

These verbs always go with a prepositional phrase starting with ynin

Example 16

a. Sûker yn in keek bebakke
sugar in a cake PREF-bake
To bake sugar in a cake
b. Aaien yn in besleek beklopje
eggs in a dough PREF-beat
To beat eggs in a dough
c. In skilderij yn in tekken bewuolje
a painting in a blanket PREF-wrap
To wrap a painting in a blanket

The special applications of the prefix be- in Frisian as discussed above have in common that the meaning of the base form changes the meaning of the new verb. In Dutch, on the other hand, the meaning of the base form and the derivation are mostly the same and there is only a change in valency and aspect. One can say rijden op een paard or een paard berijden, both meaning to ride a horse. In Frisian the meaning of the base form and the be- derivation differs. In Ljouwert yn in oere berideto drive to Leeuwarden in one hour or honger berideto get hungry by riding, we are not concerned with the activity rideto ride with Leeuwarden and honger as objects, but about reaching Leeuwarden in a specific time and about getting hungry by the action of riding.

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Etymology

The affix be- is probably a weakened and unstressed form of the preposition byat. Tamminga (1963:202) observed a contemporary residue in that some writers vary in the spelling of adverbials, like bynammenparticularly and benammen, or between bytiidearly and betiid. In the verbal area, the unstressed variant has monopolized the field since a long time, resulting in the prefix be-. However, the original meaning of byat can still be recognized in derivations like behearreto belong to, besteanto exist, bekommeto recover and beroppeto shout out to.

[+] Derivations without an opaque base

Some be-derivations do not have an independently occurring base form. Examples are listed below:


Table 10
Base form Derivation
*darje bedarjeto land up
*sauwe besauweto be amazed
*koarje bekoarjeto charm
*steegje besteegjeto spend
*djerre bedjerreto spoil
*telje beteljeto pay
*seare beseareto hurt
*pale bepaleto determine
*seffe beseffeto realize

This list is not exclusive; some more cases can be found in Veenstra (1988:140).

[+] Phonological properties

The prefix is pronounced as [bə]. As the prefix contains a schwa, it never bears the stress of the derivation, an effect of the so-called schwa restriction.

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Literature

Veenstra (1988) is an extensive general study on verbs derived by the prefix be-, in particular on aspects of argument structure. Good shorter teatments are Hoekstra (1998:144-147) and Tamminga (1963:201-205). The latter also has some etymological notes. Shimizu (2013) concentrates on the meaning nuances that are not found with this prefix in Dutch and German. He hypothesizes that the reason for their existence relates to the fact that Frisian lacks productive suffixes like Dutch ge- or German er-, and that Frisian be- therefore developed senses which in the related languages are accounted for by those other suffixes. More details in Versloot (2006).

References:
  • Dijkstra, Waling1900-1911Friesch Woordenboek (Lexicon Frisicum)Meijer & Schaafsma
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
  • Shimizu, M2013Die be-Verben im Westerlauwersschen FriesischTwenty-Nine Smiles for AlastairStifting FFYRUG
  • Tamminga, Douwe Annes1963Op 'e taelhelling. Losse trochsneden fan Frysk taellibben. IBoalsertA.J. Osinga
  • Tamminga, Douwe Annes1963Op 'e taelhelling. Losse trochsneden fan Frysk taellibben. IBoalsertA.J. Osinga
  • Veenstra, Durk H1988Oer de grammatika fan be-ferbaDyk, S. & Haan, G.J. de (eds.)Wurdfoarried en wurdgrammatika, LjouwertLjouwertFryske Akademy136-174
  • Veenstra, Durk H1988Oer de grammatika fan be-ferbaDyk, S. & Haan, G.J. de (eds.)Wurdfoarried en wurdgrammatika, LjouwertLjouwertFryske Akademy136-174
  • Versloot, Arjen P2006In klankrike taalFriesch Dagblad24-061
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