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Mini- is a category-neutral prefix, a loan from Latin via English. It attaches productively to nouns, yielding forms like minidebat mini-debate small-scale debate, and quite often to diminutive forms of nouns to produce forms such as minibusje mini-bus-DIM mini-van. Its general function is to denote a small exemplar of the type denoted by the base noun.


Mini- derives ultimately from the Latin adjective minimus small. The oldest Dutch formations with mini- are either complete loans from English like minigolf small golf variant, or calques like minijurk minidress and minirok miniskirt (see Etymologiebank). Since the 1960's, mini- has developed into a productive prefix. The semantics of mini- formations is (more or less) compositional and monotonous: the meaning of the whole is a transparent function of the meanings of the constituting parts: a minidebat minidebate is a kind of debat debate.

Input restrictions: The prefix mini- attaches to native and foreign bases that can be morphologically simplex or complex, as is evident from examples such as mini-jurk minidress (native base), minidebat minidebate (nonnative base), mini-onderneming mini-[undertake-ing] small enterprise (complex native base), minicrisisje mini-crisis-DIM small crisis (source: Dutch Spoken Corpus CGN).

Phonological properties: prefixes like mini- are independent phonological words. In nouns with mini-, stress is on the affix. Syllabification respects the morphological boundary: mini-opera, occasionally with a homorganic glide [j] to avoid hiatus.

Morphological potential: the inflectional properties of mini- derivations are inherited from the base. Their meaning notwithstanding, mini- derivations may get a diminutive morpheme. Occasionally, one finds emphatic doubling of the prefix, e.g. in miniminibouwplan extremely small and sketch building plan.

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In the CGN we found quite a number of cases in which mini- attached to a diminutive form, e.g. mini-gitaartje mini-guitar-DIM, mini-busje min-bus-DIM mini-van, miniflatje mini-apartment-DIM very small apartmentmini-hoofdstuk-je mini-chapter-DIM very small chapterminitheatertje mini-theater-DIM small theater (spelling as in the source). These may either be cases of double marking, i.e., the smallness of the object denotes is expressed doubly, or a division of labour, in which mini- denotes smallness and the diminutive morphology has one of its other functions, e.g. to express a certain positive or negative opinion . Minimeisje mini-girl is a special case: meisje girl is originally a dinimutive form (from meid girl) but the aspect of smallness is lost, so other means are needed to express that.

The clipping mini can be used as a noun with various meanings, e.g. mini-jurk minidress or the British car..

References: (De Haas and Trommelen 1993), WNT, Etymologiebank, Affixes.

  • Haas, Wim de & Trommelen, Mieke1993Morfologisch handboek van het Nederlands. Een overzicht van de woordvormingSDU Uitgeverij