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Re: Middle English Verbal Prefix i-

From:Julia "Schnecki" Simon <helicula@...>
Date:Friday, March 24, 2006, 14:59

I'm in one of those phases where I can't seem to get around to do
anything on time. I'm several weeks behind not just with the mails on
this list, but with several other parts of my life as well. :-P


On 3/13/06, Tristan Alexander McLeay <conlang@...> wrote:
> (BTW, I have a new email address in case anyone needs it. It makes it > clear what my name and country of origin are, and has a weird infix > that means I'm a person.) > > On 13/03/06, Julia Schnecki Simon <helicula@...> wrote: > > > It's probably related to the German prefix _ge-_ that is used to form > > past participles (e.g. _gegeben_ "given", from _geben_ "to give"; > > _gebaut_ "built", from _bauen_ "to build")... German /g/ often > > corresponds to English /j/ (e.g. Garten:yard, legen:lay). I'm not sure > > about the details, though -- there must be some additional rules, > > since German /g/ doesn't always correspond to English /j/ (cf. word > > pairs like geben:give). > > In Old English, /g/ > /j/ basically before and after front unrounded > vowels, but not before back vowels. The "Old English phonology" page > on Wikipedia describes it in more detail if you're interested.
Thank you for the information! In the meantime, I've also dug up a book on the history of the (major) Germanic languages that contains the same information. :-)
> But in some dialects of Old English, especially the ones more strongly > influenced by the Norse dialects spoken by the Vikings after they > invaded, the palatisation was undone. As anyone who's tried to work > out why "bury" is spelt like that has no doubt worked out, Modern > English is the result of the combination of many dialects, and so > whereas "yard" comes from one dialect, "give" comes from another. > (There's also the problem that some words which look like authentic > English ones could be borrowings from the Norse dialects... "Give" > isn't one; it contains the Norse consonant, but the English vowel, but > there's others that are I think.)
<slaps forehead> Of course! That should explain many of those "random" sound correspondences that confuse me. Note to self: remember that languages are *allowed* to take their vocabulary from more than one source (specifically: dialect area). :-} [snip snip]
> But also note that some other cases of an OE "ge-" prefix, which > represent a different morpheme, have remained, like "enough" which I > think turns up in German as "genug", which've retained it, so > obviously weakness didn't necessarily cause it to drop off.
In German, too, there's another (nowadays unproductive) prefix _ge-_. With this one, collective and abstract nouns are formed (or were, at least). For example: _Gelände_ "terrain, site", collective noun derived from _Land_ "land"; _Geschmack_ "taste (n)", abstract noun derived from _schmecken_ "taste (v)". There are similar nouns that are far more opaque nowadays; for example, _Gehirn_ "brain" and _Geschirr_ "dishes; harness (for animals)".
> > Oh, and as for the meaning of the prefix: it seems to mean simply > > "watch out, this is a past participle, not some other verb form as you > > might think". ;-) I remember my confusion when I started learning > > English and found that I had to deduce from context whether (for > > example) "built" was a simple past form or a past participle, because > > English doesn't have the conventient "hello-I'm-a-participle" prefix I > > knew from German... > > The uses of past participles seem too varied to me for a single prefix > to be useful :) At least, it can be used in conjunction with "to have" > to make a perfect, with "to be" or "to get" to make a passive and in > other cases to make an adjective. And others I can't recall just now.
Yes, but many of the possible uses of past participles in English happen to correspond to possible uses of past participles in German. So for us habitual users of German participles, it *would* have been rather useful. ;-) (I was a bit lazy about English grammar back then. At that time, I got all my linguistic kicks out of Latin and Russian; I didn't really come to notice and appreciate the more fascinating bits of English grammar until much later.)
> (And in colloquial German, at least, don't you not bother with the > simple past form, preferring the present perfect? Does that make > non-ge-prefixed past-forms really rare in informal German?)
Hmm... yes and no. In colloquial German, there really is a tendency towards "Perfekt" (present tense forms of _haben_ or _sein_ plus past participle), and in many (possibly all, but I'm not sure) dialects, the "Präteritum" (simple past) doesn't even exist. On the other hand, not all past participles have the prefix. Certain types of verbs (those ending in _-ieren_, for example) don't take this prefix: the past participle of _analysieren_ "to analyze" is _analysiert_, not *geanalysiert. And certain prefixes "cancel out" the _ge-_: the past participle of _besuchen_ "to visit" is _besucht_, not *gebesucht or *begesucht; that of _untermauern_ "to corroborate" is _untermauert_, not *geuntermauert or *untergemauert. To make things interesting, these prefixes only "cancel out" the _ge-_ if they're unstressed but precede it if they're stressed. Some of the prefixes, such as _be-_, never take stress, but many others do. There are verb pairs like _umfáhren_ : _úmfahren_ (to drive around (an obstacle) : to knock over (an obstacle, while driving)) with past participles _umfáhren_ (ich habe das Schlagloch umfahren "I've driven around the hole in the road") resp. _úmgefahren_ (ich habe den Zaun umgefahren "I've crashed into (and knocked over) the fence"). Or as my old driving instructor told us: people crossing the street should be "umfahren" rather than "umgefahren". ;-) Regards, Julia -- Julia Simon (Schnecki) -- Sprachen-Freak vom Dienst _@" schnecki AT iki DOT fi / helicula AT gmail DOT com "@_ si hortum in bybliotheca habes, deerit nihil (M. Tullius Cicero)