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Pseudo-participles are adjectives that have the form of a past participle but that are not based on a verb, e.g. be·haar(d)hairy from the noun haar hair, since the verb haar does not exist. An example like ge·blom(d)floral (design) is also based on a noun (blomflower), despite the fact that the verb blomto flower also exists. In this case, ge·blom(d) is paraphrased as with flowers, rather than which flowered. Such formations are therefore considered derivations (Bauer, Lieber and Plag 2013:304).

For some participial adjectives a corresponding verb is coined later through the process of back-formation. For instance, the verb be·klemtoon to accentuate has probably been coined from the earlier pseudo-participle be·klemtoon·d accented. In such cases, the participles are referred to as participia praeverbalia. Some of these forms have been borrowed from French, such as French raffinérefined > Afrikaans (via Dutch) ge·raffineer·drefined > Afrikaans raffineerto refine.

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The notion participium praeverbale (plural: participia praeverbalia) is discussed in Van Haeringen (1949) and Kempen (1969:141-143).


There are two types of adjectives that have a participial form but that are never used in verbal contexts. Firstly, participles used as adjectives can lose their verbal properties through a process of lexicalisation. For instance, the participle ge·lat·euncomplaining is used only to refer to a particular mental state, while it lost its reference to the verb laatto leave. Other examples are:

Example 1

a. ge·heg
(emotionally) attached
b. ge·jaag(d)
c. geslote
d. geslepe
e. ge·spann·e
f. ø·verlor·e

Secondly, there are adjectives with a participial form that have no corresponding verb, and are therefore pseudo-participles. For instance, we find many denominal adjectives derived by the circumfix ge-…-t/d (with the allomorphs ge-...-ø and ø-...-t/d; the latter occurring in cases when the verbal stem begins with an unstressed prefix). Such adjectives have the meaning with N.

Table 1
Noun Pseudo-participle
gleufgroove ge·gleufgrooved
gomgum ge·gomgummed (paper etc.)
maskermask ge·masker(d)masked
marmermarble ge·marmer(d)marbled
spiermuscle ge·spier(d)muscular
jaaryear be·jaar·daged
faamfame be·faam·dfamous
wortelroot ont·wortel·ddisplaced (person)
duiweldevil be·duiwel·dbad-tempered

This pattern has 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 Afrikaans has both the noun stroom·lynstreamline and the converted verb stroom·lynto streamline, the participle ge·stroom·lyn(d)streamlined can be reinterpreted as being derived directly from the noun. This pattern [ge[x](N)t/d](ADJ) could be extended to other nouns, resulting in pseudo-participles without a verbal base.

This type of adjectives is also formed through parasynthetic compounding, as in breed·ge·skouer(d)broad·PTCP.PST·shoulder(PTCP.PST)broad-shouldered, where the participial head (geskouerd) does not occur on its own, and the parasynthetic compound therefore lacks a corresponding verb.

Another source of pseudo-participles in Afrikaans (via Dutch) is borrowing and formal adaptation of French participles, without their verbal bases being borrowed as well. Such participles usually end in -eer·d, for example, French sophistiqué > Afrikaans (via Dutch) ge·sofistik·eer·dsophisticated (lacking the verb sofistikeer).

  • Bauer, Laurie, Lieber, Rochelle & Plag, Ingo2013The Oxford Reference Guide to English MorphologyOxford University Press
  • Haeringen, Coenraad B. van1949Participia praeverbaliaDe Nieuwe Taalgids4238-44
  • Kempen, W1969Samestelling, afleiding en woordsoortelike meerfunksionaliteit in Afrikaans.Nasou
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