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Lesson Transcript

Michael: What are some noun prefixes in Dutch?
Atie: And why are they useful to know?
Michael: At DutchPod101.com, we hear these questions often. Imagine the following situation: Sasha Lee is reading a book. She sees an unfamiliar word, and asks her classmate, Rinke Rover, "What does "wansmaak" mean?"
Sasha Lee: Wat betekent 'wansmaak'?
Sasha Lee: Wat betekent 'wansmaak'?
Rinke Rover: "Wan" betekent "slecht" en "smaak" betekent gewoon "smaak."
Michael: Once more with the English translation.
Sasha Lee: Wat betekent 'wansmaak'?
Michael: "What does "wansmaak" mean?"
Rinke Rover: "Wan" betekent "slecht" en 'smaak" betekent gewoon "smaak."
Michael: ""Wan" means "bad" and "smaak" means "taste.""

Lesson focus

Michael: In this lesson, we will be looking at some noun prefixes in Dutch and why they are useful to know. Prefixes are small elements of language that are attached to root words in order to modify them. In fact, the word "prefix" itself consists of a prefix and a root word. The prefix is "pre," and it means "before" or "in front of'' and the root word is "fix." From this, one can understand that a prefix is an element of language that comes before, or "pre," the root word to which it is attached, or "fixed."
Many prefixes have consistent meanings so that, when they are attached to a root word, they will modify that word in the same way as they would any other word. For instance, the prefix "pre" almost always means "before." I can take it and put it in front of another word like "view" and create a new word called "preview," which means "before view." This attribute of prefixes means that you can often understand a new word you are introduced to by breaking it down into its prefix and it's root word, just as we did with the word "preview." We will be studying how this applies to Dutch nouns.
[Recall 1]
Michael: Let's take a closer look at the dialogue. Do you remember how Sasha Lee says "What does "wansmaak" mean?"
(pause 4 seconds)
Atie as Sasha Lee: Wat betekent 'wansmaak'?
Michael: As you will have heard in the dialogue, a simple way of explaining this is that
Atie: wan
Michael: means "bad" and
Atie: smaak
Michael: means "taste." The prefix
Atie: wan
Michael: denotes a negative evaluation of the word to which it is attached and has a similar effect on the root word as the adjective "bad" does. It is not the only prefix which carries this semantic value. The prefix
Atie: mis
Michael: has a similar meaning and can be found in a word like
Atie: misdaad
Michael: which means "crime." If we break this word down into its prefix and root, we can understand its meaning more easily. The root word
Atie: daad
Michael: means "deed" and the prefix
Atie: mis
Michael: means something similar to the word "bad." In this case, it has moral connotations. Naturally, there are many other prefixes that possess different semantic values. Some prefixes, for instance, amplify the meaning of the root word. Consider the word
Atie: hypermodern
Michael: which means "exceptionally" or "very modern." We can break this word up into the prefix
Atie: hyper
Michael: and the root word
Atie: modern
Michael: The root word means "modern" and will be familiar to English speakers, just as the prefix is. This is because the prefix is borrowed from the original Greek in both languages. Another prefix that English-speakers will recognize is
Atie: super
Michael: or "super." Both languages borrowed this word from the original Latin and, in both languages, it has the effect of amplifying the meaning of the word to which it is attached. If, for instance, we attach this prefix to the Dutch noun for "expensive," we arrive at a new word meaning "super expensive" or
Atie: superduur.
Michael: There are also prefixes which indicate a negative attitude or action towards the subject that is referred to by the root word. Take, for instance, the prefix
Atie: anti
Michael: which, if we attach to a word like
Atie: bacterieel,
Michael: produces a new word that describes a negative action towards bacteria:
Atie: antibacterieel.
Michael: This is related to the prefix
Atie: contra
Michael: which, when combined with a word like
Atie: revolutie
Michael: meaning "revolution," creates a new word that describes a negative attitude towards the thing referred to by the root noun. In this case, the new word is
Atie: contrarevolutie
Michael: or "counter-revolution." You will, no doubt, have recognized that both of these prefixes can be found in English as well because they are also borrowed from the same roots in both languages. Other prefixes can attribute a certain rank to the person referred to by a personal noun. Consider the word
Atie: aartsbisschop
Michael: which means "archbishop" and is comprised of the prefix
Atie: aarts
Michael: and the root noun
Atie: bisschop
Michael: meaning "bishop." In this word, the prefix attributes a higher rank to the Dutch word for "bishop." Similarly, the prefix
Atie: opper
Michael: means "upper" and can attribute rank to a word like
Atie: bevelhebber
Michael: or "commander." The combined form means "commander-in-chief" and sounds like this:
Atie: opperbevelhebber
Michael: While these prefixes denote rank, there are other prefixes, which, when attached to personal nouns, indicate that someone used to hold a position. Consider what happens when we attach this kind of prefix to the Dutch noun for "mayor," which is
Atie: burgemeester
Michael: The prefix we will use is
Atie: ex
Michael: and the resulting word is
Atie: ex-burgemeester
Michael: meaning, of course, "former mayor." Like others we have discussed, this prefix is also used in English, but the prefix
Atie: oud
Michael: is not found in English. It translates to "old" and, in a word like
Atie: oud-verpleegkundige,
Michael: which means "former nurse," it also denotes that the person no longer holds that position. Speaking of "old," there is a prefix you should know that denotes that something is "primitive" or "original." It sounds like this:
Atie: oer,
Michael: and it can be used to form words like
Atie: oertaal
Michael: meaning "original language," and
Atie: oerbos
Michael: meaning "primeval forest." It is a useful prefix to know.
As you can see, all of the prefixes discussed so far have specific semantic values or meanings which they transfer to the root noun they are attached to.
Expansion/Contrast (Optional)
Michael: So far, we have talked about prefixes that attach to nouns to form new nouns, but there is one prefix which forms a noun when combined with a verb. It is not found in English and might be a little tricky for some English speakers to pronounce. This is how it sounds
Atie: ge
Michael: This prefix can be quite versatile in that it can be used at the discretion of the speaker to combine arbitrarily with verbs. Dutch people attach it to verbs when they want to convey the sense that the action is continuous, or ongoing, and possibly negative. If, for instance, someone is fed up with all the work they have had to do on a computer, they might say
Atie: Ik word gek van dat gecomputer.
Michael: This translates to "I am going crazy from all this computer use!," but a more direct translation might be "I am going crazy from all this computering." Of course, there is no such word as "computering" in the English language, but by adding "ing" one makes the noun into an unofficial verb and implies that the action is continuous. Most people will understand what you mean if you use the word "computering," even though it isn't really a word. It is the same in Dutch when you add the
Atie: ge
Michael: prefix to some verbs. That said, not all nouns formed in this way are neologisms created arbitrarily by the person producing them. Some nouns that are formed with this prefix are already, officially, part of the Dutch lexicon. Consider, for instance, the word
Atie: geblaf
Michael: This word consists of the verb
Atie: blaf
Michael: meaning "to bark" and the prefix
Atie: ge
Michael: The resulting word denotes a continuous, and probably annoying, barking. It could be used in a sentence like:
Atie: Ik word gek van al het geblaf.
Michael: which means "I am going crazy from all the barking." Then, there are those nouns which, even though they are prefixed with
Atie: ge
Michael: do not denote a sense of something occurring continuously or being annoying. They are simply nouns that have been created out of verbs by adding this prefix. An example of this kind of noun is
Atie: gebouw
Michael: which refers to a "building." It is comprised of the prefix and of the verb
Atie: bouw
Michael: which means "to build." Similarly, the word
Atie: gebak
Michael: meaning "pastry" contains the verb
Atie: bak
Michael: which means "to bake." Neither of these words carry emotive weight. They are simply nominal.
As you can see, the prefix
Atie: ge
Michael: is quite versatile and can be useful in various contexts, making it a good one to know.


Michael: Do you have any more questions? We're here to answer them!
Atie: Doei!
Michael: See you soon!