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ge...te
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ge...te/gə...tə/ is an unproductive Germanic circumfix found in nouns of neuter gender such as gebergtemountain chain (< bergmountain), geboeftescum, riff-raff (< boefcrook), gebladertefoliage (< bladleaf) and gevogeltepoultry, birds (< vogelbird). The meaning is collective group, collection of base.

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ge...te/gə...tə/ is an unproductive Germanic circumfix. It is found in collective nouns het, based on nouns, such as gebergtemountain chain (< bergmountain), geboeftescum, riff-raff (< boefcrook), and gevogeltepoultry, birds (< vogelbird). (De Haas and Trommelen 1993: 256) note that base nouns typically are simplex Germanic stems, that is, monosyllabic or bisyllabic with a second syllable containing schwa. They moreover note that almost all bases end in a sonorant consonant, the only exceptions being geboeftescum and gebergtemountain chain. They hypothesize that this is the reason for the allomorphic base in gebladertefoliage (< bladleaf).

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An idiosyncratic semantics is found in formations like geraamteskeleton < raamframe and gehemeltepalate < hemelheaven, sky. (De Haas and Trommelen 1993: 256) claim the (obsolete) gedoentenoise, fuss (< doento do) and getimmertewooden structure (timmerento hammer) are the only cases with a verbal base, but note that doen and timmerroom occur as nouns as well, possibly as the result of conversion. They also point at ge-...-te formations without a recognizable synchronous base such as gesterntestars, position of the stars (< obsolete sternstar; see Etymologiebank), gehaltecontent (which is a loan from German; see Etymologiebank) and gevaartecolossus (which is a ge- derivation of the derived noun vaartspeed, channel; see Etymologiebank).

(De Haas and Trommelen 1993: 256) analyze ge-...-te as a circumfix, without giving any argumentation (Booij 2002: 119) calls ge-...-te a synnafix, claiming that "[t]he prefix ge- is [...] used in combination with the suffix -te for the derivation of collective nouns." The semantic contribution of -te is left unspecified, whereas it is claimed that "[t]his 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." (Smessaert 2013: 144), on the other hand, argues that ge-...-te should be considered a circumfix or discontinuous morpheme on the basis of the fact that both the combination of the prefix with the free morpheme, and the combination of the suffix with the free morpheme, are ungrammatical: neither *geberg, *gebeen or *geboef nor *bergte, *beente or *boefte are well-formed derivations in Dutch. An analysis in terms of construction morphology(Booij 2010), in which two affixes and a construction-specific semantics would go hand in hand, is an obvious alternative.

A form like gemeentecommunity is not a case of ge...te derivation: the base is the adjective gemeencommon combined with the nominalizing affix -te.

Formations with ge..te are of neuter gender, taking the singular definite article het. The plural, if applicable, is formed with the suffix -en (gesteentenrocks), occasionally with an additional form in -s.(De Haas and Trommelen 1993: 256) (geraamten, geraamtesskeletons).

Formations with ge-...-te easily function as righthand parts of nominal compounds (vogelgeraamtebird skeleton), rarely as lefthand parts. Diminutive formation is also rare, (De Haas and Trommelen 1993: 272) give a morphophonological explanation (diminutive formation of nouns derived with suffixes ending in a syllable with schwa is rare, (Haeseryn et al. 1997) try to explain this in terms of semantics (one rarely finds diminutives with collective nouns, abstract nouns and names of substances; see ANS). Whatever the correct explanation is, the restriction is not absolute, as Google search finds various examples such as gebergtetjesmall mountain range.

References:
  • Booij, Geert2002The morphology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Booij, Geert2010Construction morphologyOxford/New YorkOxford 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
  • 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
  • Haas, Wim de & Trommelen, Mieke1993Morfologisch handboek van het Nederlands. Een overzicht van de woordvormingSDU Uitgeverij
  • Haeseryn, Walter, Romijn, Kirsten, Geerts, Guido, Rooij, Jaap de & Toorn, Maarten C. van den1997Algemene Nederlandse spraakkunstGroningenNijhoff
  • Smessaert, Hans2013Basisbegrippen morfologieBasisbegrippen taalkundeLeuven/Den HaagACCO
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