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The prefix ûn- derives nouns on the basis of other nouns. These nominal derivations mainly refer to the opposite of the base form - gelokfortune > ûngelokmisfortune - and often have a negative connotation. The gender of the derivation is the same as the base. However, there are also a few exocentric derivations, denoting persons and obligatorily having common gender. An example is de ûngelokthe pain in the neck.

The prefix can also, and much more productively, take adjectival bases. This is dealt with in ûn- with adjective as base.

[+] General properties

The prefix ûn- derives nouns from other nouns. Most bases consist of an abstract noun, and the derivations then primarily refer to the opposite of the base. Examples are listed below:

Table 1
base derivation
(ge)lokfortune ûn(ge)lokmisfortune
tankgratitude ûntankingratitude
heilsalvation ûnheildoom
sinsense ûnsinnonsense
rêstrelaxation, peace ûnrêstturmoil, commotion
gemakease ûngemakaccident
machtpower ûnmachtimpotence
rjochtjustice ûnrjochtinjustice
skuldguilt ûnskuldinnocence
sinsense ûnsinnonsense

Some derivations only occur jointly with the base, for example rym en ûnrymrhyme and un-rhymepoetry and prose or the idiom nocht oan ûnnocht hawwe'satisfaction on dissatisfaction havetake delight in other people's sorrow.

Since the derivation expresses the contrary of the base, it often happens that the derivation has a negative connotation. This is especially the case with concrete nouns functioning as base. Examples are:

Table 2
Base Derivation
minskperson ûnminskbrute, monster
dieranimal ûndiermonster, beast
dingthing ûndingtrash
krûdherbs ûnkrûdweeds
lânland ûnlânbad land
waarweather ûnwaarrough weather

A few derivations have an opaque base, like ûnrantrubbish, ûngânsafterbirth and ûnduchtliquid in connection with afterbirth, the latter possibly related to the noun deugdvirtue. For the word ûngetiid, see the section on contractions below.

Some derivations can also refer to persons, for example ûnferstânfool, ûnfatsoenlout, boor. More examples and information can be found in morphological properties below.

There are a few derivations in which it seems as if the prefix does not have a clear function since the base already shows a negative property. The result is that the derived noun might even be a synonym of the base. Thus the best one could say is that the prefix strengthens the negative content here. The relevant cases are ûntúchweeds next to túchweeds and ûnkweaweeds next to kwea. Furthermore, there is the plurale tantum ûnkostenexpenses, which stands next to kostencosts. Finally, note the expressions immen yn it ûnleech fiere next to immen yn it leech fiere, both meaning lead someone into difficulties.

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Variants with ôf-

In two cases, derivations with ûn- show a variant with ôf-. The base form godgod can become ûngod or ôfgod, both meaning idol, tin god. Furthermore, from the base grûnground one may derive ûngrûn and ôfgrûn, both meaning chasm.

[+] Phonological properties

The prefix is pronounced as [un], as reflected in the standard spelling ûn-. In the east, however, the pronunciation is [on]. The phoneme /n/ is subject to several processes, like assimilation and nasalization. For all derivations applies that the stress is on the prefix, e.g. gelokfortune > ÛNgelokmisfortune.

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A few derivations underwent some kind of contraction. In case of gebrûkuse > ûnbrûkdisuse the prefix ge- has been truncated. The word ûnlokmisfortune is further shortened to ûnk/uŋk/. And it is claimed that ûngetiidhaying time, busy time is derived from ûnliddige tiidun-empty time. In that case, however, it would have been a derivation with an adjectival base, and hence this word rather belongs to the topic ûn- forming adjectives out of adjectives.

[+] Morphological properties

The derivations of the prefix ûn- follow the gender of the base form: it gelokthe.N fortunethe fortune, so it ûngelokthe.N misfortunethe misfortune and de tankthe.C gratitudethe gratitude, so de ûntankthe.C ingratitudeingratitude.

The only exception concerns exocentric derivations referring to persons. Thus from it gelokthe.N fortunethe fortune we have deûngelokthe.C misfortunethe pain in the neck. The same applies to deûnferstânstupid person (from it ferstânunderstanding and de ûnfatsoenindecent person (from it fatsoenthe decency). This change of gender is in accordance with the animacy hierachy; more information can be found in gender.

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This topic is based on Hoekstra (1998:68-69). The proposed origin of ûngetiid can be found in Dijkstra (1900-1911 s.v. on-, ûngetiid).

  • Dijkstra, Waling1900-1911Friesch Woordenboek (Lexicon Frisicum)Meijer & Schaafsma
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
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