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Pseudo-participles are adjectives that have the form of a past participle but are not derived from a verb. Examples are behaard hairy from the noun haar hair and gebloemd floral (dessin) from the noun bloem flower. The verbs *beharen and *bloemen do not exist. However, for some participial adjectives a corresponding verb is coined later, a case of backformation. For instance, the verb beklemtonen to accentuate has probably been coined from the earlier adjective beklemtoond accented. In such cases, the participles are referred to as participia praeverbalia (singular participium praeverbale, term proposed by Van Haeringen 1949). A second type of pseudo-participles are adjectives such as getalenteerd talented for which, again, there is no corresponding verb (*talenteren). The origin of this type of pseudo-participles is borrowing and subsequent adaptation of non-native past participles such as French raffinérefined > Dutch geraffineerd refined, which serve as models for word formation in Dutch.


There are two types of adjectives that have a participial form but are never used in verbal contexts. First, participles used as adjectives can lose their verbal properties through the process of lexicalisation. For instance, the participle gesloten closed can also be used to refer to a particular mental disposition, and then has the meaning shy, reticent. Other examples are:

Example 1

a. gehecht
(emotionally) attached
b. gejaagd
c. gelaten
d. geslepen
e. gespannen
f. verloren

The difference between the adjectival and the verbal use of such participles manifests itself in word order differences: in embedded clauses a verbal participle (perfect or passive participle) can either precede or follow the finite verb, whereas participles used as adjectives can only appear where all predicates appear, i.e. before the finite verb:

Example 2

a. Ik dacht dat de deur {was gesloten / gesloten was}
I thought that the door {was closed / closed was}
I thought that that door had been closed
b. Ik vind dat deze jongen {*is gesloten / gesloten is}
I find that this boy {is closed / closed is}
I find that this boy is reticent

Second, there are adjectives with a participial form that have no corresponding verb at all, and are therefore pseudo-participles. For instance, we find many adjectives derived by affixing ge-… -t/d to a nominal base. Such adjectives have the meaning 'with N':

Table 1
Noun Pseudo-participle
gleuf groove gegleufd grooved
gom gum gegomd gummed (paper etc.)
masker mask gemaskerd masked
handicap handicapped gehandicapt handicapped
marmer marble gemarmerd marbled
spier muscle gespierd muscular

This pattern has very probably arisen through reanalysis of the relation between a noun and a corresponding past participle of a verb derived from this noun. For instance, since Dutch has both the noun stroomlijn streamline and the converted verb stroomlijnen to streamline, the participle gestroomlijnd streamlined can be reinterpreted as being derived directly from the noun. This pattern [ge-N-t/d] could be extended to other nouns, resulting in pseudo-participles, in which no intermediate verbal step is involved.

This type of adjectives occurs in AA compounds, such as breedgeschouderd broad-shouldered, where the participial head does not occur on its own and lacks a corresponding verb (*geschouderd, *schouderen).

Since there are participles without ge- as well (when the verbal stem begins with an unstressed prefix), we also find pseudo-participles without ge-:

Example 3

a. bejaard
b. befaamd
c. onthand
handless, inconvenienced
d. ontvezeld
e. verduiveld
f. verkikkerd
crazy about

A second source of pseudo-participles is borrowing and formal adaptation of French participles, without their verbal bases being borrowed as well. Such participles end in -eerd:

Example 4

a. geraffineerd
b. geporteerd
c. gepikeerd
d. geflatteerd
e. gedecideerd

This type of word formation is based on relations between French verb forms and their Dutch counterparts. For instance, we have patterns like French stationnerto station, to park, stationnéstationed, parked and Dutch stationeren to station, gestationeerd stationed. On the basis of such relations, the language user can conclude that the equivalent of a French participle may be created directly by adding the prefix ge- and replacing the French ending with –eerd, without borrowing the verb itself. Moreover, by relating the adjectival participle of an -eerverb derived from a noun directly to that noun, a new word formation pattern for non-native nouns emerged of the form [ge-N-eer-d](A), with the effect that there are many Dutch pseudo-participles in –eerd. An example is the adjective getalenteerd gifted, derived from talent talent and not from a verb *talenteren.

The notion "participium praeverbale" is discussed in Van Haeringen (1949) and Sassen (1968) .

  • Haeringen, Coenraad B. van1949Participia praeverbaliaDe Nieuwe Taalgids4238-44
  • Haeringen, Coenraad B. van1949Participia praeverbaliaDe Nieuwe Taalgids4238-44