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The prefix alden- takes an interjection to derive universally quantified numerals or adverbs. An example is bliksem hell > aldenbliksem. The process is not productive, and the formations also show syntactic and stylistic restrictions.

[+]General properties

The prefix alden- may derive universally quantifying numerals or adverbs. It takes an interjection as base, more specifically a swear word (which, as such, can be a conversion of nouns). Historically, the prefix is a univerbation of the universal quantifier al all plus an old case form of the definite article. One can therefore also find spellings as two separate words, as al den. The pattern is not productive. Examples are listed below:

Table 1
Base form Derivation
bliksem lightning hell aldenbliksem
duvel devil hell aldenduvel
miter carcass hell aldenmiter
deale devil hell aldendeale
donder thunder hell aldendonder
bliksekater hell aldenbliksekater
divekater hell aldendivekater
The base forms are all swear words that could be translated as hell.

[+]Semantic properties

Not surprisingly with its inherent component al, the prefix adds an element of universal quantification. If the output is an adverb, its meaning can be described as all the time. This is exemplified below:

a. It is dêr aldenbliksem te rêden
it is there PREF-hell to going.on
There is always trouble there, for Christ's sake
b. It is aldenduvel yn ús oare lânstaal
it is PREF-hell in our other country-language
Time and again our other national language is used

The derivations may also quantify a noun, with a meaning like nothing but, as in the following example:

It is hjir aldenbliksem wetter
it is here PREF.hell water
It is all water here, goddammit

Both output categories have as a common feature that the quantification is strongly emphatic, without doubt due to the input's original status of interjection.

It should be noted that derivations with alden- are in conflict with the righthand head rule: their word class is clearly not defined by the word class of the righthand part of the word.


The prefix is subject to some restrictions. There is a phonological input restriction that the first syllable should be stressed. Hence, bliksem hell is allowed, but curses like ferGEmy damn or godferDOMme god-damned are not. Hence, derivations like *aldenfergemy or *aldengodferdomme do not occur.

Syntactically, formations with alden- only occur in impersonal existential constructions like the ones exemplified above, and even then the construction is frozen. Topicalization, for instance, sounds weird:

a. ?Aldenbliksem is it dêr te rêden
PREF-hell is it there to going.on
b. ?Aldenbliksem wetter is it hjir
PREF-hell water is it here

This feature is an indication that the formations may have an origin in exclamative appositions.

There is also a stylistic restriction, as these emphatic formations typically belong to a raw and direct style, which can likewise be traced back to the original swear word.

[+]Phonological properties

The prefix is pronounced as [ɔldən]. The stress in the derivations is on the first syllable of the base form, for example in aldenBLIKsem bloody hell.


This topic is mainly based on Hoekstra (1998:164).

  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
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