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[gothic-l] compounds again

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  • Grsartor@aol.com
    Hailai! I am not erudite enough to shed much light on the original meaning of the roots of Germanic verbs, but I feel justified in commenting on the view that
    Message 1 of 6 , Jun 3, 1999
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      Hailai!

      I am not erudite enough to shed much light on the original meaning of the
      roots of Germanic verbs, but I feel justified in commenting on the view that
      a prefix is unlikely to have no meaning. Consider the use of "up" and "down"
      in English, which when combined with verbs seem to play much the same role as
      prefixes in other tongues. Let us begin with the expression to break (a
      thing) up. The meaning is not greatly changed by omission of up. It is true
      that you would more likely speak of a stone as breaking a window than
      breaking it up, since the stone does not go about its destructive action with
      such persistence or thoroughness as would justify the adverb's addition. In
      to botch a job up, the up, I would say, is at most an intensifier, and can
      happily be left out; and in to mess a thing up, the last word, though again
      presumably no more than an intensifier, has become such a regular companion
      of mess as to resist omission. Similar remarks could be made about down.
      Consider, for example, to fall down (as if you are likely to descend in any
      other direction). And to slow down is the same as to slow up, and we have
      little reason to attribute a meaning to the word appended to slow.

      We can get further insight into how redundancy can be introduced into
      languages by considering the word dangerous. When were you last told a thing
      was dangerous? At least in my corner of the English-speaking world, that
      which may cause injury or damage is 9 times out of 10 either extremely
      dangerous or else very dangerous indeed: a thing that is merely dangerous
      does not seem to present a hazard great enough to be worth commenting on. To
      return to verbs, could not the routine use of a verb with a prefix that
      either intensifies or otherwise seems appropriate to the action expressed by
      the root word not in some circumstances lead to the disappearance of the root
      as a verb in its own right?

      Gerry.

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