a-dancing and a-singing
hopper at cmu.edu
Sat Jun 6 13:10:43 UTC 2009
The OED has been available free through your own Hunt Library at CMU for
years. I use it frequently.
On Sat, June 6, 2009 7:49 am, Brian MacWhinney wrote:
> Dear Funknetters,
> Thanks to all of you (Andrew Pawley, Aya Katz, Chris Cléirigh, Larry
> Gorbet, Martin Haspelmath, Dan Slobin, Östen Dahl, Tom Givon, Muriel
> Norde, Eve Sweetser, and Suzanne Kemmer) for clarifying this
> construction. De Groot shows clearly that the source of this particular
> form is on/an rather than at. Reading this and related comments in
> FunkNet letters reminded me of my sons favorite
> phrases when I nag him about something. It is Dad, Im on it. I dont
> know if this is a Pittsburgh (Appalachian) remnant of the king being out
> on hunting or not, and I am not sure I would use the term
> absentive for this, but I can definitely can see the conceptual link
> between this use of the locative on and the progressive. It appears that
> this link has worked for others across the last millennium or so and
> continues to work even more productively in Dutch and German.
> In terms of how to treat this in tagger/parser technology, I think it
> better to treat this as a preposition, rather than a prefix. Treating it
> like a prefix would require transcribers to actually join it to the verb.
> If, on the other hand, the tagger finds a rather unique subtype
> of preposition before a present participle, it will surely know not to
> treat it as an article. At least, the tagger will know this if we can put
> a few such examples into its training set.
> Tom politely pointed out to me that I could have just checked the
> OED. However, the library here in Kolding is very small, so I didnt
> even try that. But, then it occurred to me that maybe the OED has gone
> online. So, I checked and indeed it is now online at dictionary.oed.com.
> My goodness, what a remarkably rich resource!
> There are, in fact six listings for a- as prefix and two for a as
> preposition. The one we have been discussing is a- prefix 2. There are
> others coming from of and at, as well as lots of other related forms,
> all sharing the common reduction to a. The online OED is particularly
> nice because you can follow all the hot links directly. So, I was
> a-thinking to myself, how could Oxford University Press make this freely
> available in this way? Then, I read the little message down at the bottom
> of the screen that said Subscriber: University of Southern Denmark and I
> have to now take back what I said about the SDU Library. They, Oxford,
> and my FunkNet colleagues have certainly been a great help to me in seeing
> the scope of this remarkable form and its relatives.
> -- Brian MacWhinney
Prof. Dr. Paul J. Hopper
Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies
Paul Mellon Distinguished Professor of Humanities
Department of English
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
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