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Aspectual Prefixes in Early English

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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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Chapter 1: Introduction

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Chapter 1

Introduction

1.1 Scope of the study

This study primarily examines prefixed verbs or preverbs 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. Preverbs are also known as verbal prefixes such as ge- in the Old English verb gegladian ‘cheer up’ or ā- in the Old English 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 out in Modern English stretch out or the particle up in Modern English cheer up. Prefixed verbs in Old English are said to be the functional equivalents (and predecessors) of phrasal verbs in Modern English. The most frequent Old English prefixes such as a-, ge- and for- are no longer used in English today, so different Modern English particles such as up, out and away have taken over their function.

Preverbs and post-verbal particles are characterized by a frustrating degree of polysemy. The focus of this study is on those preverbs and post-verbal particles whose meaning is aspectual, which is in itself too broad to discuss exhaustively. The discussions and analysis will inevitably touch upon meanings other than aspectual since they tend to form intricate networks. Verbal properties such as unaccusativity and ergativity have not been treated, as have not been Old English modal verbs as preterit perfects, since...

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