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OLD-IRISH-L  February 1998

OLD-IRISH-L February 1998

Subject:

Re: Re[2]: Influence of Celtic languages on English

From:

"Jeffrey F. Huntsman" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Scholars and students of Old Irish <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 9 Feb 1998 08:31:39 -0500

Content-Type:

TEXT/PLAIN

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

TEXT/PLAIN (40 lines)

The "a-comin'" is definitely a verbal noun in its modern garb, although it
represents a complicated case of phonological, morphological, and
syntactic convergence over many centuries to get to its present form.
Although the main elements are established in the SW in the early 13c and
spread out from there, they never get to northern England except as school
learning.  From this comes the so-called "g-dropping" of southern American
colloquial English, which actually is nothing of the sort--the -Vnne
present participle ending simply was never modified to the inovating -ing
form in the English dialects that generally became SAmE during the
colonial period.  The "a-VERB-ROOT+in(g)" form was the last one of the
full expansion of the verbal paradigm to appear--during the second quarter
of the 19c in America, for example, and I have a printed example from the
late 60s (originally printer in the early 50s) about a major highway
bridge in Ohio that was "abuilding" for several years.

So the "a-VERB-ROOT+ing" form was never a PAST participle but it was a
present participle until the 13c in SW Br English and remains so (from an
historical morphological point of view--what native speakers THINK they
are saying is quite another issue, of course!) today.

On Sun, 8 Feb 1998, Geoffrey Russom wrote:

> >This may be right for the particular phrase (I don't know whether ME
> >"is icumen" is modern "has come" or "is coming" but the former seems
> >pretty likely)
>
> I believe it's early modern English "is come," compare "I am come that they
> might have light, and that they might have it more abundantly," King James
> Bible somewhere.  Before the Modern English period, verbs of motion often
> used "be" rather than "have" as the auxiliary of the past participle.
>
> I'm not sure that "a-comin" can be reduced to "is icumen" or has any
> significant relation to it.  This "a-" is used with many other verbs in
> English dialects and I think it would be pretty easy for a proper
> dialectologist to find examples in which "-in" couldn't be analyzed as a
> past participle, e.g. "I'm a-goin."
>
> Rick Russom
>

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