[Ads-l] NYC English a prefixing.

Michael Newman Michael.Newman at QC.CUNY.EDU
Sat Aug 19 17:43:19 UTC 2023

Another interesting case from our history explorations, this time from a Brooklyn diary written by John Baxter (b. 1765). Baxter may or may not be a descendant of New Amsterdam's official English translator (later turned pirate) George Baxter. John Baxter pretty regularly uses a-prefixing but only with verbs related to food gathering:

  *   Went a fishing  (1792)
  *   Went a gunning (1800)

But here's a weird one, I want to ask about:

I went an eeling (1796)

Are there other cases of N insertion before a-prefixes? Has the semantic limitation to food gathering activities been noticed before. BTW, there are other cases of a-prefixing from other diaries and in Horatio Alger's depiction of street kids' speech. The diary is in the archives of the Brooklyn Historical Society.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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