Old English: sceaft and gesceaft

Discussion in 'Other Languages' started by nemurenai, Oct 25, 2012.

  1. nemurenai Junior Member

    English
    In old english, what is the difference between these two words? In my textbook, it says that the "ge" prefix is used to make nouns from verbs, giving the example of "scippan" and "gesceaft" (create - creation), but the word "sceaft" seems to exist on its own, also meaning creation, so I'm confused. Is there a difference between these two words or not?

    Thank you.
     
  2. Roy776

    Roy776 Senior Member

    Germany
    German & AmE
    The ge- prefix was also used to form the past participle, so if 'scippan' means 'to create', 'gesceaft' or 'gesceafen' could mean 'created'. If it is the participle.

    Thinking about it, at least in OHG, the ge- prefix implied a perfective aspect. For example 'denken' (to think) and 'gedenken' (commemorate). If this were the case here, then 'sceaft' could mean 'the process of creation' and gesceaft 'a (finished) creation'.
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2012
  3. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    The general meaning is all-encompassing, complete. The perfective aspect is derived from that. In nouns it often means the totality of, collection of, system of. Example (again from German because the prefix is still active there): Berg = mountain; Gebirge = mountain range. Hence, gesceaft (German cognate Geschäft; original meaning what has been done/made; modern meaning: shop, business, trade, contract) can be interpreted as all that has been created or the thing(s) the creation of which has been completed (the latter is the perfective aspect Roy mentioned). With verbs it is often just an intensifier, e.g. etwas nießen (now obsolete) = to profit from someting; etwas genießen = to enjoy something.
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2012
  4. nemurenai Junior Member

    English
    Ok. Thank you both! This makes a lot of sense to me. (The textbook didn't really explain it well, it seems)
     
  5. nemurenai Junior Member

    English
    I actually have another question that's kind of related to this issue:

    this textbook also says that the prefix can be attached to the preterite for a sense of completion. It gave examples like niman - genam. I thought that ge- was only affixed to the past participle, so... is this correct? I know it can be attached to a verb, so you could have something like seon as well as geseon, which could yield a preterite like geseah, but I don't think this is what the textbook meant. It specifically gave the example of just attaching it to the preterite. So how could you draw a "perfective" difference between nam and genam?
     
  6. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Doesn't past (=preterite) also have a certain notion of completeness? He took it, so the taking is completed.
     
  7. nemurenai Junior Member

    English
    Well, I had thought that it was the past participle that would convey the notion of completeness, which is why the prefix's use with the preterite seems somewhat strange.
     
  8. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    You have to remember that the distinction between perfect and perfective aspect is alien to Germanic languages. Germanic languages just distinguished between past and non-past, indicative and subjunctive. Subtler distinctions like he took and he has taken or he takes and he will take are all medieval imports of Latin grammar.
     
  9. nemurenai Junior Member

    English
    In that case, what is the difference between the two types of past in old english? :eek:
     
  10. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    "He has taken" is not a native verb form. It is an invention to copy Vulgar Latin constructs. The native use of the ppl. is as an adjective, as in "the born child".
     
  11. nemurenai Junior Member

    English
    I mean - you have e.g. niman (take); nam and (ge)numen. What is the difference between those two?
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2012
  12. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    "Nam" is a finite verb form, "genumen" is an adjective.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2012
  13. nemurenai Junior Member

    English
    Aah. Ok. Thank you :) (That actually clears up the whole issue for me :p)
     

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