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Deverbal nouns prefixed with ge- (from now on: ge-nominalizations) are characterized by the fact that they inherit the denotation (namely, state of affairs) and the argument structure of the verb they are derived from. In this sense, they are not fully nominal, although, unlike inf-nominalizations, they cannot assign case to a theme and/or a recipient argument. They do, however, exhibit the verbal property of expressing durative aspect. This following subsections will discuss the form of the derived noun, its relation to the base verb and the restrictions on the derivational process. In Section, a comprehensive discussion of complementation of ge-nouns can be found.

[+]  I.  Form of the derived noun

Prefixation of a verb stem with the affix ge-, resulting in the form ge-Vstem, is a reasonably productive nominalization process. Ge-nominalizations share their denotation with the verb from which they are derived, that is, they denote states of affairs. Their verbal nature is also reflected in the fact that, like inf- and ing-nominalizations, they can be said to inherit the arguments of the base verb. Some examples are given in (160).

Example 160
Ge-nouns (denoting state of affairs)
a. Het gewandel van de patiënten in het Vondelpark trok veel aandacht.
  the  strolling  of the patients  in the Vondelpark  attracted  much attention
b. Het getreiter van peuters door grote jongens is ontoelaatbaar.
  the  bullying  of toddlers  by big boys  is inadmissible
  'The pestering of toddlers by big boys is inadmissible.'

      As in the case of ing-nominalizations, it is important to realize that not all nouns with the prefix ge- are ge-nominalizations. Some nouns starting with ge-, although morphologically similar to true ge-nominalizations and semantically still related to the base verb, have acquired a concrete meaning, and can be interpreted as result nouns. Examples are given in (161), which refer to the result of the action of building, baking and verse-writing.

Example 161
Result nouns preceded by ge-
a. gebouw 'building'
b. gebak 'cake'
c. gedicht 'poem'

Although in their prototypical use, the nouns in (161) denote concrete entities, it is still possible to use them as ge-nominalizations. Examples of both uses of the nouns gebouw and gebak are given in (162): in (162a) the concrete noun gebouw is modified by the PP-modifier op de hoek'on the corner'; in (162a'), the abstract noun is complemented by an (inherited) van-PP and can be replaced by an inf-nominalization. Similar examples are given in (162b&b').

Example 162
a. Het grote gebouw/*bouwen op de hoek is een bank.
  the big building  on the corner  is a bank
  'The big building at the corner is a bank.'
a'. Er moet een einde komen aan het gebouw/bouwen van woningen hier.
  there  must  an end  come  to the building/build  of houses  here
  'The building of houses here ought to be put to a stop.'
b. Het gebak stond op tafel.
  the cake  stood  on the.table
b'. Het ?gebak/bakken van deze taartjes duurde lang.
  the  baking/bake  of these cakesdim  took  long
  'The baking of these little cakes took a long time.'

      The ge-nouns in the primeless examples in (163) are fully lexicalized; their relation with the corresponding verb is no longer obvious.

Example 163
Lexicalized nouns preceded by ge-
a. het geval 'the case'
b. het geschil 'the dispute'
c. het gewaad 'the gown'

The examples in (164) show that the state-of-affairs reading can be blocked by the lexicalized form in some cases, whereas in other cases it remains available.

Example 164
a. * het geval van de bladeren
  the falling  of the leaves
b. zijn geschil van de aardappels
  his peeling  of the potatoes
c. het gewaad door koud water
  the wading  through cold water

      Ge-nominalization is fully productive with verbs denoting sound emission, both by +human or +animate and by -animate entities, as is illustrated in (165). It is not hard to find more examples for each set.

Example 165
Verbs of sound emission preceded by ge-
a. Humans: het gelach van de kinderen'the laughing of the children'; gebabbel'chattering', gefluister'whispering', gefluit'whistling', gegiechel'giggling', gehijg'panting', gehuil'crying', gejuich'cheering', gekuch'couching', gemopper'grumbling', geschater'roaring with laughter', geschreeuw'shouting', gezeur'nagging', gezwam'drivel', etc.
b. Animals: het geloei van de koeien'the mooing of the cows'; geblaf'barking', gebrul'roaring', geloei'mooing', and gespin'purring', etc.
c. Inanimate entities: het gebonk van de machines'the pounding of the engines'; geronk'throbbing', gesnor'whirring', gesuis'rustling', and gezoem'buzzing', etc.

For the verbs in (165), too, a distinction can be made between a state-of-affairs reading, in which case we are dealing with a ge-nominalization denoting the action in question, or a result reading, in which case we are dealing with a result noun denoting the sounds resulting from the action in question. Although in many cases the difference may be hard to discern, certain contexts can have a disambiguating effect. An example is given in (166): the (a)-example involves a ge-nominalization and expresses that it is the fact that he cries that annoys me; the (b)-example involves a result noun and expresses that it is the sound of his crying that kept me awake.

Example 166
a. Zijn gehuil om niets irriteert mij mateloos.
  his crying  for nothing  annoys  me  immensely
b. Zijn gehuil hield mij uit mijn slaap.
  his crying  kept  me  out my sleep
[+]  II.  Nominal properties

Like inf- and ing-nominalizations, ge-nominalizations can be used in all regular NP positions. Moreover, they exhibit most of the other nominal characteristics.

[+]  A.  Determiners

Ge-nominalizations can be both indefinite and definite, allowing all kinds of definite +neuter determiners: the definite article het, the demonstratives dit/dat'this/that' and the possessive pronouns. They can also be quantified by means of elke/iedere'each/every', alle'all', veel/weinig'many/few' etc. Examples are given in (167).

Example 167
a. De vergadering ontaardde in een oeverloos gepraat over politiek.
  the meeting  ended  in an endless  talking  about politics
b. Dat/Hun oeverloze gepraat over politiek is nogal irritant.
  that/their endless talking  about politics  is rather irritating
c. Elk gepraat over politiek is volslagen zinloos.
  every talking about politics  is utterly pointless
  'All talk about politics is utterly pointless.'
[+]  B.  Wh-movement and Topicalization

ge-nominalizations can also be preceded by interrogative determiners like welke, and (168a) shows that they can be wh-moved as a result. Example (168b) shows that they can also be topicalized.

Example 168
a. Welk gepraat over politiek is nu ooit zinvol gebleken?
  which talking about politics  has  prt  ever  useful  proved
  'What talk about politics has ever proved useful?'
b. Het gepraat dat op de vergadering volgde vond Jan zinloos.
  the talking  that on the meeting followed  found  Jan pointless
  'Jan consider the talking following the meeting pointless.'
[+]  C.  Pluralization

Pluralization of ge-nominalizations is not possible. This is, of course, not surprising, given that ge-nominalizations are substance nouns; cf. Section The fact that some of the concrete ge-nouns and lexicalized nouns in (161) and (163) do allow pluralization merely confirms the view that these are not ge-nominalizations. Examples are, respectively, gebouw(en)'building(s)', gedicht(en)'poem(s)', and geschil(len)'dispute(s)' and gewaad/gewaden'gowns'.

[+]  D.  Modification

Ge-nominalizations also behave like nouns with respect to adjectival modification: the fact that the adjectives prefer the suffix -e in definite constructions like (169a&b) shows that we are dealing with attributive modifiers, not with adverbial phrases. Nevertheless, the fact illustrated in the primed examples, that modification by means of adjectives expressing frequency or duration is possible, underlines the verbal quality of these nominals.

Example 169
a. het luide/?luid gepraat over politiek
  the  loud  talking  about politics
a'. het oeverloze/?oeverloos gepraat over politiek
  the  endless  talking  about politics
b. het kinderachtige/??kinderachtig getreiter van kleine kinderen
  the  childish  bullying  of little children
b'. het voortdurend/??voortdurend getreiter van kleine kinderen
  the  constant  bullying  of little children
[+]  III.  Relation to the base verb

Ge-nominalization can be said to inherit the argument structure of the input verb. Apart from the change in syntactic category (from v to ge-n), 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. We will illustrate this in the following subsections for a number of verb types.

[+]  A.  Intransitive verbs

Example (170) provides a ge-nominalization with an intransitive input verb: both the verb wandelen'to stroll' and the ge-nominalization gewandel'strolling' have an argument structure with a position for an agent argument. As can be seen from (170b&b'), the agent can appear either postnominally as a van-PP or prenominally as a possessive pronoun or genitive noun phrase. Observe that the derived form is given the label ge-n, rather than N, in order to express the special nature of the derived noun, with its combination of nominal and verbal features.

Example 170
Ge-nominalization derived from an intransitive verb
a. gewandelGE-N (Agent)
b. het gewandel van de patiëntenAgent
  the  strolling  of the patients
b'. hun/PetersAgent gewandel
  their/Peterʼs  strolling
[+]  B.  Transitive verbs

Ge-nominalizations can also take a transitive verb like treiteren'to bully' as input. Despite the change in syntactic category, the argument structure of the verb is inherited in an essentially unchanged form by the derived form getreiter: both the number of arguments and their thematic functions remain the same. The verb and the derived noun do differ, however, in that the arguments are obligatorily expressed with the former, but can be left implicit with the latter. The (c)-examples in (171) further show that the theme argument of a ge-nominalization can only be realized in the form of a postnominal van-PP; it can appear neither in the form of a prenominal noun phrase (in contrast to inf-nominalizations), nor in the form of a possessive pronoun or genitive noun phrase (in contrast to er- and ing-nominalizations).

Example 171
Ge-nominalization derived from a monotransitive verb
a. getreiterGE-N (Agent, Theme)
b. JansAgent getreiter van peutersTheme is onaanvaardbaar.
  Janʼs  bullying  of toddlers  is unacceptable
c. * het peutersTheme getreiter van/door JanAgent
  the  toddlers  bullying  of Jan
c'. * hunTheme getreiter door JanAgent
  their  bullying  by Jan
[+]  C.  Ditransitive verbs.

The examples in (172a&b) show that ge-nominalizations of ditransitive verbs also leave the argument structure essentially unchanged, although instances of such nominalizations where all three arguments are expressed are fairly rare. The (c)-examples show that, just like the theme argument, the recipient must be expressed as a postnominal PP; it can neither be realized as a prenominal noun phrase nor as a possessive pronoun.

Example 172
Ge-nominalization derived from a ditransitive verb
a. gegeefGE-N (Agent, Theme, Recipient)
b. het gegeef van cadeausTheme aan kinderenRec door SinterklaasAgent
  the  giving  of presents  to children  by Santa Claus
c'. * het kinderenRec cadeausTheme gegeef door SinterklaasAgent
  the  children  presents  giving  by Santa Claus
c'. * hunRec gegeef van cadeausTheme door SinterklaasAgent
  their  giving  of presents  by Santa Claus
[+]  D.  Unaccusative verbs

Unaccusative verbs cannot be the input for ge-nominalization; cf. Section, sub IV.

[+]  E.  Verbs with a PP-complement

ge-nominalizations can be formed on the basis of verbs selecting a PP-argument. Example (173b) shows that the preposition selected by the verb is inherited by the ge-nominalization.

Example 173
Ge-nominalization derived from a verb selecting a PP-theme
a. gejaag opGE-N (Agent, Theme)
  hunting for
b. JansAgent gejaag op groot wild is onaanvaardbaar.
  Janʼs  hunting  on big game  is unacceptable
  'Janʼs hunting of big game is unacceptable.'
[+]  F.  The pejorative effect of ge-nominalization

Unlike other forms of nominalization, the process of ge-nominalization may add specific aspects of meaning to the meaning of the input verb; see Tálasi (2009), who also discusses the diachronic development of this type of nominalization. Thus the result of ge-nominalization are durative substance nouns like gestaar'staring', gedraaf'running' or gepraat'talking' that expresses that the eventuality expressed by the base verb occurs frequently. In addition, such nouns often have a negative connotation—they typically express a certain amount of irritation, condescension or “unfavorable connotation” (Kruisinga 1949) on the part of the speaker. That this pejorative effect is indeed a result of the nominalization process and not due to the semantics of the base verb is illustrated in (174), where ge-nominalization has a negative effect on such neutral base verbs as praten'to talk', regelen'to regulate/arrange' and wandelen'to walk'. Note that use of the expressive demonstrative dat'that' has the effect of enhancing the negative connotation of the deverbal noun.

Example 174
a. dat gepraat over politiek
  that  talking  about politics
  'this talk about politics'
b. dat geregel van bovenaf
  that  regulating  from the top
  'this control from up-high'
c. dat gewandel van patiënten
  that  strolling  of patients
  'this strolling of patients'

Naturally, the pejorative effect cannot be detected with ge-nominalizations derived from verbs already carrying a negative meaning aspect, like jengelen'to whine', klagen'to complain', leuteren'to drivel', mekkeren'to yammer', zeuren'to nag', zwammen'to twaddle', etc.; it appears, however, that such verbs are particularly popular as input to ge-nominalizations (Mackenzie 1985a). Ge-nominalizations derived from verbs of sound emission are exceptional in that they lack this negative connotation (except for those cases in which the input verb already contains such a meaning aspect); the meaning of nouns like gefluister'whispering', gefluit'whistling', geronk'throbbing', gezoem'buzzing, humming', etc., can but need not be negatively affected by the nominalization process. For a detailed discussion of this type of nominalization.

[+]  IV.  Restrictions on the derivational process

Although a large number of verbs do allow the formation of a ge-nominalization, certain verb classes do not allow this type of nominalization. Among these are the object-experiencer verbs, the auxiliary/modal verbs, and the raising verbs, which do not allow any form of nominalization; cf. Section In addition, there are a number of restrictions that apply specifically to ge-nominalizations.

[+]  A.  Unaccusative verbs

Unaccusative verbs cannot be nominalized by means of ge-prefixation; cf., e.g., Hoekstra (1984a) and Knopper (1984). This is not only true of dyadic unaccusative (object-experiencer) verbs like ontgaan'to escape', bevallen'to please' and lukken'to succeed', but also for monadic unaccusatives. This means that the nouns in (175) are all ungrammatical.

Example 175
a. gaan 'to go'
a'. *gega
b. komen 'to come'
b'. *gekom
c. sterven 'to die'
c'. *gesterf
d. vallen 'to fall'
d'. *geval
e. zinken 'to sink'
e'. *gezink
f. stijgen 'to rise'
f'. *gestijg

This conclusion is supported by the fact that with those motion verbs that have both an unaccusative and an intransitive use, only the latter use allows ge-nominalization. This becomes clear from the examples in (176). The verb in example (176a) can be construed as the intransitive form of the verb springen'to jump', with the PP functioning as a locational adjunct, and (176a') shows that ge-nominalization is possible. Since the postpositional phrase in (176b) must be construed as an complementive, the verb can only be interpreted as an unaccusative verb, and (176b') shows that ge-nominalization is excluded.

Example 176
a. Jan springt op het bed.
  Jan jumps  on the bed
  'Jan is jumping on the bed.'
a'. Jans gespring op het bed
  Janʼs  jumping  on the bed
b. Jan springt het bed in.
  Jan jumps  the bed into
  'Jan jumps into the bed.'
b'. * Jans gespring het bed in
  Jan  jumping  the bed into

An exception is formed by generic contexts like (177a&b), in which it is at least marginally possible for unaccusative verbs like sterven'to die' and trouwen'to marry' to undergo ge-nominalization. In these cases, the nouns obtain an iterative meaning aspect: the primed examples are unacceptable, since they do not allow an iterative reading.

Example 177
a. ? het gesterf van varkens
  the  dying  of pigs
a'. * Haar gesterf duurde erg lang.
  her  dying  took  very long
b. We zouden dat getrouw op jonge leeftijd moeten ontmoedigen.
  we  should  that marrying  on young age  must  discourage
  'We ought to discourage this marrying at a young age.'
b'. * Zijn getrouw met mijn zus bevalt me niet.
  his  marrying  with my sister  pleases  me not
[+]  B.  Controllability

The impossibility for unaccusative verbs to function as the input for ge-nominalization might be related to the fact that ge-nominalization is also disallowed with verbs denoting events that cannot be controlled by the participants in the event. As a result, verbs of expressing opinion such as menen'to think' (# gemeen), achten'to consider' (# geacht), and vinden'to consider' (* gevind) are excluded from ge-nominalization.
      The same thing is true for such typically -controlled verbs as slapen'to sleep' (* geslaap), liggen'to lie' (* gelig), zitten'to sit' (* gezit), kennen'to know' (* geken), blijven'to stay' (* geblijf), weten'to know' (* geweet). It is important to realize, however, that ge-nominalization is only excluded on the regular use of these verbs. If, in a certain context, the verbs can be given a +controlled interpretation, ge-nominalization is allowed. Due to a clash between the specific meaning aspect of ge-nominalizations and the base verbs, the resulting nouns are necessarily marked and, moreover, a negative connotation is almost inevitably present. The illustrations in (178) only acceptable if the states of affairs denoted by the nouns are interpreted as controlled by a participant in the event, which is therefore typically +human.

Example 178
a. dat geslaap/gelig van hem de hele dag
  that  sleeping/lying  of him  the whole day
  'this sleeping/lying of his all day long'
a'. * het gelig van dat boek op tafel
  the  lying  of that book  on the.table
b. dat gehang voor de televisie
  that  hanging  in.front.of the television
  'this slouching in front of the television'
b'. * het gehang van die schilderijen aan de muur
  the hanging  of those paintings  on the wall
[+]  C.  Inseparable complex verbs

Another group of verbs that is systematically excluded from ge-nominalization is that of verbs with Germanic prefixes like be-, ver-, ont-, her-, which have a participial form without the prefix ge-; cf. Schultink (1978). Historically speaking, we are dealing with the same prefix.

Example 179
Verbs prefixed with be-, ver-, ont-, her-, etc.
prefix infinitive ge-nominalization past/passive participle
be- bespreken‘to discuss’ *gebespreek (*ge)besproken‘discussed’
ver- verbieden‘to prohibit’ *geverbied (*ge)verboden‘prohibited’
ont- ontkennen‘to deny’ *geontken (*ge)ontkend‘denied’
her- herlezen‘to re-read’ *geherlees (*ge)herlezen‘re-read’

There seems to be a motivated relation between the possibility of ge-nominalization and the form of the past/passive participle: particle verbs, which do form their past participles by mean of affixation with ge-, also allow ge-nominalization, although it should be noted that the result is sometimes marked and a negative connotation is always present. Some examples are given in Table (180).

Example 180
Particle verbs
infinitive ge-nominalization past/passive participle
doordrammen‘to nag/push’ ?doorgedram‘nagging, pushing’ doorgedramd
uitzoeken‘to figure out’ ??uitgezoek‘figuring out’ uitgezocht
aanmoedigen‘to encourage’ ??aangemoedig‘encouraging’ aangemoedigd
tegensputteren‘to protest’ tegengesputter‘protesting’ tegengesputterd

The same thing can be illustrated by means of verbs with non-Germanic prefixes: they also have a past/passive participle preceded by ge-, and in most cases ge-nominalization does not seem to give rise to an outright ungrammatical result in the way the ge-nouns derived from verbs with a Germanic prefix are ungrammatical. At worst, they are unusual, which is clear from the fact that the cases marked as fully acceptable in Table (181) can be readily found on the internet and that the cases marked with a single question mark do occur on the internet, but are rare. Note that the case with two question marks has not been attested, but this might be due to the fact that it belongs to a more elevated register.

Example 181
Verbs with non-Germanic prefixes
infinitive ge-nominalization past/passive participle
introduceren‘to introduce’ ?geïntroduceer geïntroduceerd
diskwalificeren‘to disqualify’ ?gediskwalificeer gediskwalificeerd
protesteren‘to protest’ geprotesteer geprotesteerd
repatriëren‘to repatriate’ ??gerepatrieer gerepatrieerd
analyseren‘to analyze’ geanalyseer geanalyseerd
sympathiseren‘to sympathize’ ?gesympathiseer gesympathiseerd

      A potential problem for the suggested relation between the possibility of ge-nominalization and the form of the past/passive participle is that example (182) shows that the ge- prefix can be found with verbs like herhalen'to repeat'; we found more than 50 occurrences of the form geherhaal on the internet. The relative acceptability of this example may be due to the fact that herhalen (unlike herlezen in (179)) is not interpreted as consisting of a base verb ( halen'to fetch') and a prefix her-, but as a monomorphemic verb.

Example 182
dat eindeloze geherhaal van oude tv-series in de zomermaanden
  that  endless  repeating  of  old TV-series  in the summer months

An obvious problem with this suggestion is, however, that we would expect that the past participle form geherhaald is also quite common, but this does not seem to be borne out; we found only 28 occurrences of this form on the internet, whereas the past participle form herhaald occurred over one million times.

[+]  D.  Inherently reflexive verbs

It does not really come as a surprise that ge-nominalization of inherently reflexive verbs is rare. First, many inherently reflexive verbs are prefixed and for this reason excluded from ge-nominalization: zich vergissen'to be mistaken', zich begeven naar'to make oneʼs way to', zich bevinden'to be (located)', zich vergewissen van'to make sure of', zich bedrinken'to get drunk', zich uitleven'to live it up'). Second, we have seen that the reflexive pronoun cannot occur postnominally in inf-nominalizations but must be realized in prenominal position; cf. Section, sub IV. Given that ing-nominalizations only take post-nominal complements, the impossibility of the ing-nominalizations of inherently reflexive verbs in (183) is exactly what one would expect.

Example 183
a. Hij schaamde zich over/voor zijn gedrag.
  he  was ashamed  refl  about/for his behavior
  'He was ashamed of his behavior.'
a'. * Zijn geschaam van zich(zelf) over/voor zijn gedrag was terecht.
  his  being ashamed  of refl  about/for his behavior  was right
b. Hij haastte zich om de trein te halen.
  he  hurried  refl  comp  the train  to catch
  'He hurried to catch the train.'
b'. * Zijn gehaast van zich(zelf) om de trein te halen was tevergeefs.
  his  hurried  of refl  comp  the train to catch  was in vain

However, it seems at least marginally possible to use the corresponding ing-nominalizations if the postnominal PP containing the reflexive is dropped, as is shown in the examples in (184), which are both adapted versions of examples found on the internet.

Example 184
a. ? Ik ben moe van dat geschaam.
  am  fed up  with that being ashamed
b. Rustig aan, dat gehaast is nergens goed voor.
  easy  that hurrying  is  nowhere  good  for
  'Easy, as that rushing is good for nothing.'

Example (185b) shows that with non-inherently reflexive verbs, ge-nominalization is possible; zichzelf can be treated as a regular argument comparable to Marie.

Example 185
a. Hij prijst zichzelf/Marie voortdurend.
  he  praises  himself/Marie  continuously
  'He praises himself/Marie all the time.'
b. Zijn voortdurende geprijs van zichzelf/Marie is irritant.
  his continuous praising  of himself/Marie  is irritating
[+]  V.  The degree of verbalness/nominalness

We conclude with a discussion of the syntactic category of ge-nominalizations. Table 13 shows that ge-nominalizations exhibit partially verbal and partially nominal properties. On the basis of this overview, we conclude that ge-nominalizations take their place in between inf- and ing-nominalizations on a scale of verbal/nominalness.

Table 13: The degree of verbalness/nominalness of ge-nominalizations
verbal properties presence of arguments yes
  prenominal theme/recipient with objective case no
  prenominal recipient-PP no
  adverbial modification yes?
nominal properties adjectival modification yes
  theme with genitive case no
  theme/recipient realized as postnominal PP yes
  definiteness yes
  indefiniteness yes
  quantification yes
  pluralization no

Like inf- and ing-nominalizations, ge-nominalizations are verbal in the sense that they denote abstract entities, namely states of affairs. Moreover, like inf-nominalizations, they are verbal in that they can be modified by means of an adverb (although this may be marked), and that their theme argument cannot occur prenominally as a pronoun or genitive noun phrase.
      Like ing-nominalizations, however, they behave in many respects like true nominals: their arguments appear typically as PPs in postnominal position, and the agent can occur prenominally as a pronoun or a genitive noun phrase. Furthermore, they allow modification by means of adjectives and can take all sorts of definite and indefinite determiners and quantifiers; only pluralization is impossible.

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