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Oud- is a category-neutral Germanic prefix. It attaches to nouns denoting persons, producing nouns like oud-burgemeester former mayor and oud-lid former member. The general meaning is 'former'.


The prefix oud- relates to the adjective oud old, but there are reasons to distinguish oud- prefixation from compounds with oud as their leftmost member such as oudtante great-aunt. The general meaning of the prefix is former; the semantics is not monotonous, as derivations with oud- do not denote a subset of the reference of the base: an oud-burgemeester former mayor is not a special type of mayor, but rather someone who used to be a mayor. However, the process is compositional: the meaning of derivations with oud- is a transparent function of the meanings of oud- and the base noun.

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(De Haas 1993) (51) give three arguments to distinguish oud- prefixation from compounds with oud as leftmost member. Firstly, the semantic contribution of the prefix oud- is not transparently derivable from the meaning of the adjective: 'former' is not a possible reading of oud in isolation or as a left part of a compound such as oudtante greataunt or oudroze old rose. Secondly, the prefix has a more restricted distribution than the adjective: the prefix attaches only to nouns denoting functions of persons, whereas the examples make clear that the adjective can form compounds with non-animate nouns like bouw building or colour terms such as roze pink. Finally, in certain oud compounds a linking morpheme is possible: both oudejaar New Year's eve and oudjaar New Year's eve are possible and widely used. Such a linking morpheme is systematically impossible in case of the prefix.

According to (Booij 2002, 211), "[t]he prefix oud- is a nice example of grammaticalization. This morpheme also exists as an adjective with the meaning 'old, former', whereas it means 'former' only when used as a prefix, and hence it is an affixoid."

Competing processes: the non-indigenous prefix ex- has a comparable meaning. Many formations with ex- and oud- are lexicalized; once one of these reaches a certain level of entrenchment, the other process is more or less blocked.

Phonological properties: in oud- formations, the main stress is on the base word: oud-burge'meester former mayor, oud-'lid former member. oud- is a non-cohering prefix: it is an independent phonological word, and oud- prefixation respects the morphological boundary: oud-analysten former analysts.

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In compounds with oud as leftmost member such as 'oudtante greataunt the stress is on the leftmost part. In this kind of compounding, syllabification need not comply with the morphological boundary: oudtante can be realized as au.tɑn.tə.

Morphological potential: oud- prefixations seldom enter into new derivational processes, but CGN has oud-adellijk [oud-[adel-lijk]] of old gentry; compounds such as oudstudentenvereniging old students union alumni union are attested as well. A form like oudtestamentisch Old Testamentary is an adjective formed by means of the suffix -isch from the univerbation of the fixed expression Oude Testament Old Testament.

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Next to words prefixed with oud- such as oud-burgemeester former mayor and compound nouns with adjectival oud old as leftmost member such as oud(e)jaar New Year's eve there are also formations such as oudkomer old-come-er inhabitant that can best be analyzed as synthetic compounds (or, in this case, analogous word formation parallel to nieuwkomer new-come-er newcomer, immigrant), since neither the verb *oudkomen nor the deverbal noun *komer exists.

The morphological status of names of languages such as Oud-Germaans Old Germanic and Oud-Egyptisch is unclear: they can either be analyzed as oud- prefixations of names of languages, or as nominalisations of oud- prefixations of the pertinent adjectives.

Oud- is also quite common in placenames: Oud-Beijerland, Oud-Bennekom, Oud-Blerick, Oud-Heverlee.

  • Booij, Geert2002The morphology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Haas, Wim de & Trommelen, Mieke1993Morfologisch handboek van het Nederlands. Een overzicht van de woordvormingSDU Uitgeverij