• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Saterfrisian
  • Afrikaans
Show all

The prefix be- may derive verbs on the basis of adjectives. This process is not productive, however. The meaning is something like 'make something/someone A', or 'become A'. Examples is feilich safe > befeiligje to protect or toar wither > betoarje to shrivel.

The prefix be- primarily takes verbs as input (see be- with verb as base, but nouns form a productive category as well (see be- with noun as base.

[+]General properties

The prefix be- may be attached to adjectives in order to derive verbs. This process is not productive. Here are some examples:

Table 1
Base Derivation
better better bebetterje to become better
hurd hard behurdzje to harden
koel cool bekuolje to cool off
smoarch dirty besmoargje to soil
sterk strong besterkje to strengthen
stevich sturdy bestevigje to make more sturdy
stiif stiff bestiivje to stiffen
toar withered betoarje to whither
An alternative analysis

It is assumed here that the derivations above have an adjective as base. For Frisian, the alternative idea has been put forward by Veenstra (1988) and Hoekstra (1998:155) that they actually have a verbal base. This would be achieved by conversion of the base adjective to a verb, even in those cases in which the converted verb is not in use, and where it should therefore be interpreted as a possible word. An advantage of this view would be that be- only takes verbal bases. Moreover, Williams' Williams (1981)Right Hand Head Rule could be upheld.

[+]Semantic properties

In principle, two options are open for the semantic contribution of be-. Firstly, the derivation can have a causative meaning, to be described as 'make someone/something A'. The verbs with this interpretation are transitive; their object is an entity that will be assigned the property mentioned by the adjective. Here are two illustrations:

a. Hja behurdzje de dyk
they PREF-hard-INFL the road
They surface the road
b. Hja besmoargje it hiele gebou
they PREF-dirty-INFL the whole building
They make the whole building dirty

Secondly, also an inchoative reading is available, which can be described as 'becoming A'. The relevant verbs are intransitive. Again two illustrations:

a. De wûne bebetteret
The wound PREF-better-INFL
The wound is healing
b. It sop bekuollet
the soup PREF-cool-INFL
The soup is cooling down
[+]Phonological properties

The prefix is pronounced as [bə]. As this contains a schwa, the stress is not on the prefix, e.g. beBEtterje.


This topic is mainly based on Veenstra (1988).

  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
  • Veenstra, Durk H1988Oer de grammatika fan be-ferbaDyk, S. & Haan, G.J. de (eds.)Wurdfoarried en wurdgrammatika, LjouwertLjouwertFryske Akademy136-174
  • Veenstra, Durk H1988Oer de grammatika fan be-ferbaDyk, S. & Haan, G.J. de (eds.)Wurdfoarried en wurdgrammatika, LjouwertLjouwertFryske Akademy136-174
  • Williams, Edwin1981On the notions `lexically related' and `head of a word'Linguistic Inquiry12254-274
printreport errorcite