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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 7: An Analysis of the Preverb for-

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| 151 →

Chapter 7

An Analysis of the Preverb for-

7.1 Introduction

This chapter presents an analysis of the verbal prefix for-. Hardly any previous research has been carried out on this preverb, except for a rather obsolete monograph on Germanic for/ver by Leopold (1907) and a very short article by Fraser (1975). For- is usually mentioned as one of the seven inseparable prefixes by De la Cruz (1975), Hiltunen (1983) and Brinton (1988), having received considerably less elaboration than the other prefixes such as ge-.

Its meanings and etymology are examined first, followed by a discussion of corpus examples which mostly show the prefix for- grammaticalized as a perfectivizer. There are also many cases of lexicalization in which the lexical meaning of the root is modified once the prefix for- is attached.

Table 31 shows the most frequent types of a-prefixed verbs.

Table 31 The most frequent for- types in Old English

The only verbs that survived into Modern English with this prefix are the verbs forgyfan and forbeodan. The verb forleosan survived in the past participle form forlorn, now used as an adjective. Verbs like forweorðan, forgyldan and forniman have died out together with the prefix, whereas the simplex version of forlætan, forseon, forberan and forbærnan have been preserved as Modern English let, see, bear and burn. ← 151 | 152 →

7.2 The meanings and etymology of for-

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