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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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Chapter 6: An Analysis of the Preverb ge-


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Chapter 6

An Analysis of the Preverb ge-

6.1 Introduction

This chapter will investigate what kind of meanings are expressed by the verbal prefix ge-. Unlike Chapters 5 and 7, this chapter includes a section on previous studies (in particular re-visiting Lindemann 1970) which discusses a number of previous attempts to explain the meaning and function of this preverb. Chapters 5 and 7 do not include such a section because there are no previous corpus-based studies of the preverbs a- and for-. The present analysis of the prefix ge- takes the categories of meaning proposed by previous researchers and examines them in the present corpus.

This analysis will show that the meanings of ge- can be aspectual (i.e. grammatical), but also entirely bleached (showing no difference between the prefixed and the simplex pair), as well as lexicalized. For this reason, this chapter also includes a section on lexicalized cases, which does not exist for the prefix a-, as hardly any such cases were identified in the Old English period.

The meaning and function of the preverb ge- is one of the most puzzling questions in the study of Old English grammar. This preverb is the most frequent morpheme in Old English. It is four times more frequent than the preverb a-. Therefore, it is little wonder that it has generated significant interest amongst scholars and students, borne out by the fact that even by 1965, according to...

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