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Aspectual Prefixes in Early English


Vlatko Broz

This book primarily examines verbal prefixes expressing aspectuality in the Old and Middle English periods, but it also takes a look at the post-verbal particles in the subsequent periods of English. Verbal prefixes are also known as preverbs such as ge- in the Old English verb gegladian «cheer up» or ā- in the Old English verb āstreccan «stretch out». Prefixed verbs in Old English are said to be the functional equivalents and predecessors of phrasal verbs in Modern English. One of the aims of the research presented in this book was to consider how no longer productive Old English verbal prefixes such as ge-, ā- and for- were used in the past to express verbal aspect. In this study two avenues of research converge, one covering aspect, the other covering verbal prefixes and particles.
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This monograph examines preverbs and post-verbal particles expressing aspectuality in early English. Preverbs are also known as verbal prefixes such as ge- in the Old English verb gegladian ‘cheer up’ or ā- in the verb āstreccan ‘stretch out’, whereas post-verbal particles are preposition-like adverbs that come after a verb and thus comprise a phrasal verb, such as the particle up in Modern English cheer up or the particle out in Modern English stretch out.

The discussion starts from the hypothesis that English has several well-developed systems of aspect, one of which is expressed by preverbs and postverbal particles. Besides investigating how English expressed aspect by means of preverbs that have died out, the aims also include revisiting aspect and expanding the current analysis of aspectual systems in English and with contrastive insights in relation to Croatian.

The approach taken in this book is eclectic. In order to account for the phenomenon of aspect, a wide range of theories have been combined such as a number of aspectual theories, as well as some more recent theories such as Grammaticalization Theory and Lexicalization Theory. For the purpose of this research I have used two basic corpora. For Old English, it was The York- Toronto-Helsinki Parsed Corpus of Old English Prose. For Middle English, The Penn-Helsinki Parsed Corpus of Middle English.

According to previous research, Old English had seven prefixes that could perform an aspectual function. They were looked up in the corpus and the...

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