a-running ... prefix a- before verb.

natkretep

Moderato con anima (English Only)
English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
Thanks, Rover. Yes agreed.

Also wanted to add that some Bob Dylan stuff is from folk songs, eg ‘Froggie went a-courtin’, and he did ride, Uh-huh’
 
  • mplsray

    Senior Member
    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.
     

    Whizbang

    Senior Member
    English - American
    It doesn't change the meaning, and it's part of my active dialect, though I would only use it in speech if I were being folksy and would never write it.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I have merged today's thread with the previous copious information on the same topic - found by looking up a prefix in the WR dictionary :)

    Greg1975: Please remember forum rule #1 - look for the answer first.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    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.
    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:


    "(e)...(2) With verbs of motion: as, to go a fishing; to go a wooing; to go a begging; to fall a crying; to set a going. The preposition is often joined to the noun by a hyphen, as, to go a-fishing, or sometimes omitted, as, to go fishing, to set going, etc."
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    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!
    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:

    "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
    .

    The cite 13 contains the sentence "If I hadn't a-been ill, I'd a-got him away all right, and that's what I thought you'd a-done."
     

    ribran

    Senior Member
    English - American
    I am from Texas, and I hear this form all the time. In fact, just today a friend said to me, "As soon as the family got inside the store, the kids went a-runnin'!" I responded, ''I declare! Such chillins some folks do raise!" :D
     

    andad

    Senior Member
    American English
    I just came across (no pun intended) this interesting thread. The prefix a- seems to have several different etymologies. One of the more interesting ones, though, concerns "a + present participle". As others have noted, the Anglo-Saxon "a" or "an" prefix signifies "in" or "on" in modern English. What I find fascinating is that this might be semantically linked to the present progressive (V+ing). This apparently indicates that the enunciator situates usinside the action as it is happening. For example, "They were (a-)dancing when the music stopped." The additional prefix would serve to intensify the action, making it more vivid or present. Cool thread!
     

    distant_light

    Member
    Russian
    << Moderators note: New question with new example added to previous thread. :) >>

    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?
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    JustKate

    Senior Member
    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?
    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.

    As for outdated, yes it can sound pretty outdated, but I know people who still use it. In fact, I might use it myself from time to time, though when I do so, I'm usually trying to sound purposely homespun and folksy. But I do know people who use it routinely as a regular part of their speech.
     

    mirla

    Senior Member
    Russia, Russian
    Hello everyone,

    In the poem 'Look up' I came across a word a-glistening. What role does this a- play?

    We put our words in order and tint our lives a-glistening
    We don't even know if anyone is listening
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hello mirla

    Here's an earlier thread on this prefix: a-running ... prefix a- before verb. [EDIT: link removed because threads now merged.]
     
    Last edited:

    JustKate

    Senior Member
    Mirla, because there's some really great information in the previous thread that Loob found (and thank you, Loob :)), I've added your question to the earlier thread. If you still have questions, you are welcome to ask them here.

    JustKate
    English Only moderator
     

    kamilaop

    Member
    russian
    Hello everybody !

    My question again concerns the very tricky subject- song lyrics :)

    Some time ago I came across the famous Kenny Rodgers’ song The Gambler.
    According to the lyrics I found on the internet one of the lines goes :
    So we took turns a starin' out the window at the darkness.
    That “a” seemed strange to me, but since many lyrics uploaded to the internet are incorrent, I let it go.

    However, lately I heard the song Comancheros by Claude King. These are the lyrics :
    And then the Comancheros came a-riding through the night
    Stealing and a-killing taking everything in sight


    So it got me thinking, where does this “a” come from ? Is it correct ? Maybe it is some grammatical rule I am not aware of ?

    <Moderator note: thread now merged with an earlier one. Nat>
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Stealing and a-killing taking everything in sight.
    ... where does this “a” come from?
    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- ),
    [It was used when] Forming verbs, adverbs, and prepositions, originally with the senses ‘on’, ‘on to’."
    From the online OED.
    Is it correct?
    Yes, but it is no longer used except (a) colloquially in certain dialects (b) poetically.
     

    chong lee

    Senior Member
    türkçe
    Hi,
    The quote is from the book "Treasure Island".

    John is getting angry with crew. And one of them says that. "Cross" means "to interfere with". And I think it fits that context. I did not understand the 'a' character before it with a dash.
    What is it for?

    "Easy all, Long John," cried Israel. "Who's a-crossin' of you?"
     

    Wordnip

    Senior Member
    British English
    I'm not sure what it means: either it means who's making you cross? or who's crossed you?. To cross someone means to oppose or thwart someone; to get on the wrong side of them. a-crossin' is a sort of 'rustic' form of speech, a sort of archaic expression which we rarely use today. It means nothing other, here, than who's crossing you?
     
    Last edited:

    JustKate

    Senior Member
    Sdgraham is indeed correct, so I've merged your thread with one of the previous ones, chong lee. If you still have questions after looking at the answers in this thread, you're welcome to ask them here. :)

    JustKate
    English Only moderator
     

    tagoot

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    < Question added to existing thread. Cagey, moderator. >

    Finally Aunt Sally stopped for a breath, but she went on. "Well, here I am a-running on this way, and you haven't told me a word about Sis or any of them. Now I'll rest a little, and you start up on your news."

    This is a quote from " The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"(abridged edition). I have not seen a expression like "a-running". Could someone help me understand this second sentence?
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    mraisbeck

    New Member
    english USA
    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.)
    consider the parallel between "wait" and "await" in English, <<non-English removed by moderator >>.
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    FelipeAntunesBio

    New Member
    Brazilian Portuguese
    I only know two songs that makes use of this technique: Hating (korn) and The times they are -a- changing (Bob Dylan)
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    In the Yale Diversity Project, they report previous studies where a-prefixing was still found in use (only white speech communities were studied) in the 1970s:

    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
     

    maverick66

    New Member
    English - USA
    a-prefixing in gerunds comes from Old English grammar, where all gerunds followed a predictable pattern: ge+verb+en suffix. When printing came into being, the suffix started to be spelled -ing though it was never pronounced that way before. The gerund suffix was always -en. The ge- prefix was also generally dropped after the Norman Conquest though not entirely. With the advent of printing and literacy, a divergence emerged in the language. The educated folks dropped the prefix (ge) and started pronouncing the suffix with a new vowel sound, /ing/, while the uneducated commoners held to the old language (e.g., Guid Scots tongue prevalent in Appalacia). Thus, the lyric "Frog went a'courtin'" or "the man went a'huntin' and a'fishin'" simply reflects older grammatical forms of largely spoken English. Because of the social class distinctions, the old, spoken forms are assumed to be low-class and uneducated, when, in fact, they are simply archaic and, in fact, more true to original English grammar than the modern language. The Guid Scots tongue retains more Old English than the modern language because it is the language of the Anglo-Saxons who fled north to Scotland after the Norman Conquest. These are the principal ancestors of Appalacia, so the old forms have been preserved.
    <-----Video clip removed by moderator (Florentia52)----->
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Will Watch, the Bold Smuggler: A Tale of the Coast (1845)

    ...did your companions thieve all this here wot I bin a eatin' and a drinkin' on?

    Will Watch, the Bold Smuggler



    1883
    ...hisself the hull v'y'ge, a-eatin', a-drinkin', a- singin', an' a-dancin'. Sich a sight ye never seed as when they broke out the cargo.*

    Google Books › books
    Lippincott's Monthly Magazine: A Popular Journal of General Literature

    * my partial translation to more modern spelling

    himself the whole voyage, a-eatin', a-drinkin', a- singin', an' a-dancin'. Such a sight you never saw as when they broke out the cargo.*
     
    Last edited:
    < Previous | Next >
    Top