The entry itself takes up a fourth of that page. Here's an excerpt, dealing with verbs of motion and with the use of a hyphen:The Century Dictionary discusses the meaning under its entry for a as a preposition (it is etymologically a form of on) on page 2 of the dictionary: Do a search for a, choose the JPEG option, and then click on the "One Page>" button.
The Century represents usage from the late 19th century. Nowadays, it would be very unusual to see a verb form such as a coming, as mentioned in definition e 1., with no hyphen connecting the two parts. Even back then, some people were using the hyphen.
On page 64 of Mental Spaces in Grammar: Conditional Constructions authors Barbara Dancygier and Eve Sweetser discuss what may have happened in such a case:I don't think that's the insertion of something extra. Is it not the mark of the abridgement of something which shouldn't have been there to begin with? It's probably easier to explain if I change the negative to positive here - "If I had have been there". Sometimes "of" is used instead of the 'have' - particularly in Ireland —> "If I had of been there" Ouch!
."Perhaps most interesting formally, however, is the form hadn't a-been in (13). This is one of the forms which can have no etymological source in regular past-tense "layerings"; there was no form hadn't have been or had have been, as a source of such a contracted form. Only analogy with other negative-stance uses of compound past forms can have resulted in this usage
While a- doesn't convey any extra meaning that I'm aware of, it isn't (or wasn't - more on that in a bit) confined just to poetry. So, while I don't know exactly why the poet used it here, I don't think we can say definitively that the only reason he used it was for purposes of rhythm.This is a question about a line in a poem you probably all know:
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying.
My question is: is the purpose of the a-prefix to keep the rhythm of the line or does it serve something else?
And does it sound outdated to a modern ear?
It comes from "Originally cognate with or formed similarly to Old Frisian on- , Old Dutch ana- , an- (Middle Dutch ane- , aen- , Dutch aan- ), Old Saxon ana- , an- (Middle Low German an- , āne- ), Old High German ana- , an- (Middle High German ane- , German an- ),Stealing and a-killing taking everything in sight.
... where does this “a” come from?
Yes, but it is no longer used except (a) colloquially in certain dialects (b) poetically.Is it correct?
consider the parallel between "wait" and "await" in English, <<non-English removed by moderator >>.Sorry for the false trail: that was just a guess on my part.
(But yes, Veraz, I'm pretty certain that Old English ge- and Modern German ge- are exactly the same thing, a kind of 'advance warning' that a past participle is on the way.)
a-prefixing is found in Southern American White English (Stewart 1972; Hackenberg 1973; Wolfram & Christian 1976; Wolfram 1976; Feagin 1979; Wolfram 1988), most specifically in Alabama, West Virginia and east Tennessee. Feagin (1979, p.116) mentions attestations spread throughout the United States, starting as early as 1846 (taken from Atwood 1953, Allen 1975, Wentworth 1944) and points out that Wright (1898) noticed it in varieties spoken in Scotland, Ireland and parts of England. Montgomery (2009) argues that the origin of the a-prefix in Appalachian English arose from the speech of settlers from southern England.
A-prefixing | Yale Grammatical Diversity Project: English in North America
I think it just gives a folksy feel, though the 'a' suggests, in the first case, a pattern.The a- prefix appears in the following songs by Bob Dylan:
"The times they're a-changing", "A hard rain's a-gonna fall".
Is it archaic or something? Does it change the meaning of the verb somehow?
Sure:Nor do I.