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ûn-
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The productive prefix ûn- derives adjectives on the basis of adjectives. Its semantics is negative, the derived form referring to the opposite of the base form. Examples are beretdecisive > ûnberetnon-decisive and brekberfragile > ûnbrekbernonbreakable. The prefix ûn- can also derive an adjective from a past participle (when used as an adjective), with the insertion of a linking element -ge-, for instance in molkenmilked > ûngemolkennot milked.

The prefix ûn- can also take nominal bases.

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[+] General properties

The productive Germanic prefix ûn-, related to Dutch on- and English and German un-, derives adjectives on the basis of adjectives. It refers to the opposite of the base form. Examples of formations with ûn- are given in the table below:


Table 1
Base Derivation
dúdlikclear ûndúdlikunclear
echtreal ûnechtfalse
einichfinite ûneinichinfinite
ferstannichwise ûnferstanninchunwise
geefcomplete ûngeefincomplete
gelyksame ûngelyknot the same
hillichholy ûnhillichunholy
ytberedible ûnytberinedible
jildichvalid ûnjildichnon-valid
krektprecise ûnkrektnot precise
lêsberreadable ûnlêsberunreadable
mooglikpossible ûnmooglikimpossible
noflikpleasant ûnnoflikunpleasant
ôfhinklikdependent ûnôfhinklikindependent
partidichbiased ûnpartidichunbiased
stjerlikmortal ûnstjerlikimmortal
suverpure ûnsuverimpure
tankberthankful ûntankberungrateful
wiertrue ûnwieruntrue
wiscertain ûnwisuncertain
gefallichgraceful ûngefallichungraceful
foechdelicate ûnfoechindelicate
gesellichsociable ûngesellichunsociable
bedreaunadept (in/at) ûnbedreaununskilled (in/at)
brûkberusable ûnbrûkbernot usable
freonlikfriendly ûnfreonlikunfriendly
beskamsumshameful ûnbeskamsumimpudent
ynteressantinteresting ûnynteressantuninteresting

As can be seen, prefixation with ûn- primarily involves scalar adjectives. Material adjectives cannot be prefixed, e.g. houtenwooden > *ûnhouten. In the normal case, relational adjectives are also excluded, for example

Example 1

Hy hat in *ûnfryske frou
he has an un-Frisian wife
His wife is not Frisian

Here, an alternative formation of a compound with the negative adverb netnot is required, a solution that is available anyway in those cases in which the prefix ûn- is excluded. We then get in net-Fryske froua not-Frisian wifea non-Frisian wife. If relational adjectives are prefixed with ûn-, then they are immediately forced to a scalar interpretation. For example, in ûnfrysk boekan un-Frisian book that has a low degree of "Frisianness" in that it greatly lacks the features that are so typical of Frisian books.

[+] Opaque bases

There are some historical ûn- derivations which have a base form that is not present (anymore) in modern Frisian. Examples are:


Table 2
Opaque base Derivation
*hjirmlik ûnhjirmlikunbearable
*huer(ich) ûnhuerichdirty
*noazel ûnnoazelfoolish
*sjoch ûnsjochunsightly
*bidich ûnbidichtouchy
*dogens ûndogensnaughty
*behouwen ûnbehouwencoarse
*lijich ûnlijichunquiet

There is also a group of ûn- derivations which ends in one of the suffixes -ber or -lik. In theory, these might be possible base forms in Frisian, but in practice they don't exist as baseforms. Some examples are given in the table below:


Table 3
Opaque base Derivation
*úteachber ûnúteachberimmense
*útbrûkber ûnútbrûkberinexhaustible
*dwêstber ûndwêstberinextinguishable
*kearber ûnkearberirresistible
*oerwinlik ûnoerwinlikinvincible
*ferbetterlik ûnferbetterlikincorrigible
*ferjitlik ûnferjitlikunforgettable
[+] Blocking

A derivation with ûn- from adjectival bases is sometimes blocked by the fact that such adjectives already have an antonym that represents the opposite meaning itself. For example, droechdry does not become *ûndroech because it already has wietwet as its antonym, and waarmhot does not become *ûnwaarm because it has the antonym kâldcold.

[+] Litotes

Some of the potential forms that are blocked by an antonym can nevertheless come into existence when they are used in litotes constructions. Take as an example sêftsoft, which has hurdhard as its antonym. Therefore, the formation ??ûnsêftun-soft is weird. Nevertheless one can encounter somewat amusing formulations like hy kaam ûnsêft delhe landed roughly.

Another situation in which such formations can become possible is in a negative-polarity construction with netnotûn-. Examples are netûnaardichnot un-nicenot bad, netûnkreasnot un-prettynot ugly or netûnwiidnot un-widenot narrow. The intention of the speaker using such constructions is to express something positive, but the use of the double negation results in an understatement. This way of speaking is quite frequent in Frisian.

[+] Past participles and the insertion of -ge-

The prefix ûn- can also derive an adjective from a past participle (when used as an adjective). In that case, a linking element -ge- is inserted between the prefix and the adjectively used participle. In this way, an example like in makke bêda made bed results in a negated in ûngemakke bêdan unmade bed, instead of *ûnmakke. More examples are given in the table below:


Table 4
Base Derivation
noadeinvited ûngenoadeuninvited
skyldpeeled ûngeskyldunpeeled
seanboiled ûngeseanunboiled
skeinddamaged ûngeskeindundamaged
strutsenironed ûngestrutsenunironed
troudmarried ûngetroudunmarried
woskenwashed ûngewoskenunwashed
stimpelestamped ûngestimpeleunstamped
winskewanted ûngewinskeunwanted
fregeasked ûngefregeunasked (for)
diendone ûngedienundone
murkennoticed ûngemurkenunnoticed
treastcomforted ûngetreastuncomforted

Some of these forms are strongly lexicalized. Examples are ûngemurkenunnoticed, as in ûngemurken wer fuortgeanleave without being noticed, or ûngewoskenunwashed in immen ûngewosken de wierheid sizzegive someone a piece of one's mind.

If the past participle is complex, the augment -ge- may not be added:

Table 5
Complex base Derivation Ungrammatical derivation
beslipesharpened ûnbeslipeunsharpened *ûngebeslipe
trochtochtwell thought-out ûntrochtochtthoughtless *ûngetrochtocht
taretprepared ûntaretunprepared *ûngetaret
ynfollefilled in ûnynfolleblank *ûngeynfolle
útitenfinished ûnútitenunfinished *ûngeútiten
feroarechanged ûnferoareunchanged *ûngeferoare
beëdigesworn ûnbeëdigeunsworn *ûngebeëdige
ûntwikkeledeveloped ûnûntwikkeleundeveloped *ûngeûntwikkele
ûnderskreaunsubscribed ûnûnderskreaununsubscribed *ûngeûntskreaun
ferljochtelighted ûnferljochteunlighted *ûngeferljochte
In the case of past participles displaying the non-germanic suffix -ear, the augment -ge- is not obligatory. For example: datearre(out)dated > ûndatearreundated or ûngedatearreundated, skansearredamaged > ûnskansearreundamaged or ûngeskansearreundamaged and frankearrestamped > ûnfrankearreunstamped or ûngefrankearreunstamped.
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x
Dutch influence?

Derivations with this linking -ge- have sometimes been considered as 'bad Frisian', because it is thought that such forms are used under influence from Dutch. The reason is that in general Dutch past participles are prefixed with ge-, where Frisian past participles are not. There is indeed a good chance that -ge- was imported from Dutch historically, but the forms with ûnge- are so strongly rooted in the Frisian language that they can barely be seen as a synchronic influence from Dutch. Nowadays, the sequence -ge- is nothing more than a linking element between the prefix ûn- and the past participle.

The linking element -ge- is also added to three adjectives which are not derived from past participles. These are sûnhealthy > ûngesûnunhealthy (*ûnsûn), maklikcomfortable > ûngemaklikuncomfortable (*ûnmaklik) and lokkichhappy > ûngelokkichunhappy (*ûnlokkich).The forms without -ge- are ungrammatical.

[+] Phonological properties

The prefix ûn- is pronounced as [un] in the west, in accordance with the standard spelling ûn-. In the east, however, the pronunciation is [on]. In the dialect of the island of Schiermonnikoog, the vowel is fronted to the diphthong [ɛʷ]. The phoneme /n/ of the suffix is subject to processes like assimilation and nasalization. Stress is on the base form: ûnWIER, ûnNOAzel, ûnferJITlik. This also applies to forms with ûnge-[unɡə], for example in ûngeFREge or ûngeDIEN. However, for prosodic reasons the stress may fall on the prefix if the derived form is used attributively, for example in in ÛNwier ferhaalan untrue story.

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x
Literature

This topic is mainly based on Hoekstra (1998:76-78). On the issue of understatement, see Hoekstra (1987).

The intrusion of -ge- before adjectively used past participles is noticed in Tamminga (1963:231) and criticized by De Jong (1967). It is defended as being an integrated element by Hoekstra (1987) and De Haan and Hoekstra (1993:24-26). A comparable intrusion of ge- in the Dutch dialect West-Fries (north of Amsterdam) is mentioned in Pannekeet (1977:91).

For the dialectical distribution of the variants /un/ and /on/, see Hof (1948:103-104). A map, drawn on the basis of his data, is presented in Van der Veen et al. (2001:194). For the form in the dialect of the island of Schiermonnikoog, see Visser and Dyk (2002).

[hide extra information]
x Literature

This topic is mainly based on Hoekstra (1998:76-78). On the issue of understatement, see Hoekstra (1987).

The intrusion of -ge- before adjectively used past participles is noticed in Tamminga (1963:231) and criticized by De Jong (1967). It is defended as being an integrated element by Hoekstra (1987) and De Haan and Hoekstra (1993:24-26). A comparable intrusion of ge- in the Dutch dialect West-Fries (north of Amsterdam) is mentioned in Pannekeet (1977:91).

For the dialectical distribution of the variants /un/ and /on/, see Hof (1948:103-104). A map, drawn on the basis of his data, is presented in Van der Veen et al. (2001:194). For the form in the dialect of the island of Schiermonnikoog, see Visser and Dyk (2002).

References:
  • Haan, Rienk de & Hoekstra, Jarich1993Morfologyske tûkelteammen by de leksikale útwreiding fan it FryskIt Beaken5514-31
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1987Negatio contrariiFriesch Dagblad23-05Taalsnipels 34
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1987Ungestimpele postsegelsFriesch Dagblad12-12Taalsnipels 56
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
  • Hof, Jan Jelles1948Fan on- en ûnminskenDe Pompeblêdden: tydskrift foar Fryske stúdzje1988-92; 103-112
  • Jong, Jan de1967Wol gefelisiteardDe Pompeblêdden: tydskrift foar Fryske stúdzje38186-189
  • Pannekeet, Jan1977Woordvorming in het hedendaags WestfriesRodopi, Amsterdam
  • Tamminga, Douwe Annes1963Op 'e taelhelling. Losse trochsneden fan Frysk taellibben. IBoalsertA.J. Osinga
  • Veen, Klaas F. van der, Rypma, Wytske & Versloot, Arjen2001Dialektgeografyske oantekens fan J.J. HofLjouwertFryske Akademy
  • Visser, Willem & Dyk, Siebren2002Eilander Wezzenbúek: woordenboek van het SchiermonnikoogsFryske Akademy Ljouwert
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