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Take a look at the following words:

Gelaufe, Gelerne, Geschufte, Geballer, Geschredder, Geschwätz, Gelaber

There seems to be an construction one could call "pejorative gerund", which nominalizes a verb into something regarded pointless, boring, annoying and/or repititive. Although nouns like

*Geverbarikadiere, *Geharpuniere, *Geprogrammiere

sound at least grammatical in my ears, they also appear to be very awkward. I suppose the construction is generally possible, but practically restricted to a certain subclass of verbs.

Do you how this construct is called in proper linguistical terms, and where I can find more about it? Of course, if you can tell me more about the rules of applicability, it would be interesting, too.

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3 Answers

The pejorative meaning in your interesting examples may have a different reason as the prefix "Ge-" is by not means pejorative by itself.

It originates ethymologically from the Old High German prefix "ga-", or "gi" in the meaning of togetherness or being in a collective.

This can best be see by the examples given in the Etymologisches Wörterbuch nach Pfeifer:

  • Gefährte, Genosse, Geselle, Gespiele, Gevatter
  • Gebilde, Gebirge, Geflügel, Gerippe, Gestirn, Getier, Gezweig
  • Gebäck, Gedeck, Gedicht, Geflecht, Gestell, Getöse

Hence the prefix "Ge-" is also used to intensify a meaning by putting it into a collective context:

  • Gebrüll, Geflüster, Geschrei, Geschwätz, Gewühl

Similarly it can also be used with verbs and adjectives.

Sometimes a negative connotation may then result from this intensification which can further be increased by adding another prefix "Herum-" (used similarly):

Herumgeirre, Herumgealbere, Herumgeschwätz, ...

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This recalls for me an earlier discussion in which he offered the suffix "icht" as an instance of turning a verb into a noun with unsavory connotations. At that time he was only able to come up with kehricht (sweepings?) as an example. I wonder if anyone can think of others on this pattern? At the time, I had a number of Yiddish examples that seemed to use this form: spittings, shellings, smearings (speiechts, schallechts, schmierechts). –  Marty Green Dec 1 '12 at 16:18
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Ending those verbs with -rei is another way to make nouns out of, and I think it feels correct for them:

verbarrikadiererei, harpuniererei, programmiererei

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Takkat has answered the why. I'd answer the second half of the question about the how by noting that your examples all have two or three syllables.

Ge-lauf-e, Ge-lern-e, Ge-schuft-e, Ge-ball-er, Ge-schredd-er, Ge-schwätz, Ge-lab-er

So it comes down to phonetics again. It just does not sound good and is to hard to say if you have more than three syllables. Example Ge-lauf-e you have e- something - e or 1 2 1

Ge-rum-ge-hüpfe

Duplication could be used to make it sound funny

Geprogrammiere

Here what you do instead is to say

Rumgeprogrammiere or Herumgeprogrammiere

So the rum or the herum balances the word.

Rum - Ge - Programmier-e 2 1 2 1

where the 1 stands for an e and the 2 for something else.

Schwadronieren --> geschwadroniere

does not work

Schwadronieren --> herum-ge-schwadro-nie-re

works 2 1 2 1 1

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