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pro-
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pro-/pro/ is a non-native non-cohering prefix, going back to the Latin or Greek preposition, adverb and prefix proin front of, onwards. It is category-neutral except in the case of certain adjectives based on nouns and names. Pro- is found in nouns (protestprotest), adjectives (pro-actiefpro-activel), and verbs (propagerenpropagate). The meaning contribution of the prefix is before, predominantly. Most formations with pro- appear to be loans; new forms are rare. A younger, productive set of pro- derivations consists of adjectives on the basis of nouns and names: pro-apartheid, pro-Amsterdam, pro-Obama, denoting in favour of the base.

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The prefix pro- has two types of usage:

  • The oldest use is not productive: pro- here essentially means forward. It is found in nouns, verbs and adjectives on bases of foreign origin, often bound forms (profielprofile, progressiefprogressief (possible a derivation of the noun progressieprogression), prolongerento prolong). Verbs with pro- are usually derived by means of the (non-native) suffix -eer. According to De Haas and Trommelen 1993: (60ff), -eer carries main stress in that type of verbs, whereas the prefix has secondary stress, e.g. profiteren/ˌpro.fi.ˈtɛ.rən/to profit. Prefixation with pro- (and other prefixes of that class) does not influence the inflectional pattern of the verb (always regular) nor its syntactic properties such as transitivity. In the past/passive participle, the inflectional prefix ge- precedes the foreign derivational prefix pro: geprofiteerdge.pro.fiteer.dprofited etc. Most of these words are loans, either directly from Latin of Greek, or via English, French or German.
  • In a more recent usage, the prefix combines productively with nouns and names. According to De Haas and Trommelen (1993: 59) the resulting formations are adjectives that denote supporters or fans of the individual or the concept denoted by the base, e.g. pro-apartheid, pro-Amsterdam, pro-Obama(Van der Sijs 2010). They also note that in attributive use, these adjective do not get inflectional -e: zijn pro-Obama houdinghis pro-Obama position. Pro formations of this class typically have antonyms that are formed with anti (anti-apartheid, anti-Amsterdam, anti-Obama).
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    This more recent use is a counterexample to the generalization that non-Germanic prefixes are category-neutral (cf. non-native derivation). An alternative approach would be to analyse this second pro as a preposition, that is, ik ben erg pro-GriekenI am very much in favor of Greeks is parsed analogously to ik ben erg pro de GriekenI am very much in favor of Greeks.

    The prefix in its second sense has developed an independent usage as a predicative adjective, as in ik ben proI am in favour (of something) and as a noun argument in favour, benefit, as in de pro's en de contra's van dit voorstelthe pros and cons of this proposal. Proprofessional is a loan from English; the noun profprofessional is, however, much more common.

References:
  • 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
  • Sijs, Nicoline van der2010Etymologiebank, http://etymologiebank.nl/
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