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The prefix wan- is hardly even found in derivations forming adjectives from adjectives. An example is oppassend virtuous > wanoppassend lawless. The prefix has a negative function: the derivation refers to the opposite of the base form.

The prefix wan- happens to be more productive if the base is a noun).

[+]General properties

The Germanic prefix wan- is not productive in deriving adjectives on the base of adjectives. This may be due to the high productivity of the competing prefix ûn-. Wan- also has a negative function, and most of the wan- derivations do indeed have a (more productive) alternative form with ûn- and share the same translation. Examples are given in the table below:

Table 1
Base form Derivation Alternative form with ûn-
kant robust wankant crooked ûnkant crooked
oppassend virtuous wanoppassend lawless
redsum adept at wanredsum awkward ûnredsum awkward
hearrich obedient wanhearrich disobedient ûnhearrich disobedient
brekkend breaking wanbrekkend hard to break ûnbrekkend hard to break
sillich gorgeous wansillich unlucky ûnsillich unlucky

Comparatively speaking, the variants with wan- often have an old-fashioned flavour.

There is one derivation that only occurs in a negative polarity expression. This is lyk equal > wanlyk unequal, in for example hy is syn heit netwanlyk he is his dad not unequal he looks a lot like his dad.

[+]Phonological properties

The prefix wan- is pronounced as [vɔn]. Stress falls on the base form: wanKANT, wanHEARrich, wanGEUNstich. The final segment /n/ is subject to phonological phenomena like assimilation and nasalization.


This topic is based on Hoekstra (1998:78). Some remarks can also be found in Postma (1901). The negative polarity item wanlyk is mentioned in Hoekstra (1987). More details in Tsjepkema (1997).

  • Hoekstra, Jarich1987Negatio contrariiFriesch Dagblad23-05Taalsnipels 34
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
  • Postma, Gertjan1901WirdfoarmingFerjit my net3149-50
  • Tsjepkema, Hotze1997Efkes taalbuorkje IIKoperative Utjowerij, Boalsert
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