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Adjective as base

Prefixation of an adjectival base mainly shows two different functions. A few prefixes express negation, of which is the most frequent one ûn-, cf. English un-. Negation often boils down to representing the other end of a scale. Hence, someone who is ûnaardich un-nice is not nice, but rather the opposite, i.e. it is a nasty person. The negative prefixes a- and yn- are restricted to bases of non-germanic origin. The prefix wan-, on the other hand, only takes native adjectives as its base. But it is not productive, and its derivations tend to be judged as old-fahioned.

The other important function is to intensify the interpretation of the base adjective. The semantics of these derivations can therefore be described as 'very [A]'. Thus if wiet wet is prefixed by troch-, trochwiet means very wet. Etymologically, the intensifying prefixes have been grammaticalized from other lexical categories, like prepositions (yn- and oer-), an adjective in the case of poer-, a petrified case form of the universal quantifier al all (alder-), and even a short exclamative sentence (witte-).

The most extensive underlying category is formed by nouns which grammaticalized in such a way that they mainly or even only have an intensifying function. These derivations are known as elative compounds. An example is spikergek nail-crazy completely crazy. Such nouns could be considered prefixes - actually prefixoids -, because of their intensifying function. Moreover, they fit in with the other formations, which can often be intensified even further by some remarkable processes. Quite common is reduplication with the conjunction en and, or preferably the older form ende, for instance in troch-ende-trochwiet soaked to the skin or spiker-en-spikergek completely crazy. Although rare, infixation can also be found as a means of further intensification. An example is strontwiet > stronttrochwiet completely wet. However, elative compounds are truly compounds in a formal sense. Moreover, analyzing such formations as consisting of a prefix would extend the number of prefixes considerably. Their treatment has therefore been shifted to the part on compounding. Note that it is not only in the combination with nouns that adjectives can be intensified in a compound; we see the effect also with some first member verbs and adjectives.

Finally, the prefixes eigen- and nij- have a function of their own, independent of negation or intensification. Their meaning can best be described on the basis of the adjectives eigen own and nij new from which these prefixoids have been grammaticalized. They are restricted in that they only combine with adjectives derived from past participles.


More details about the prefixes can be found by following the corresponding links: