[Ads-l] NYC English a prefixing.

Stanton McCandlish smccandlish at GMAIL.COM
Sat Aug 19 23:04:53 UTC 2023

A classic example is "Froggy Went a-Courtin'".  As I understand it, this
*a[-]* prefix is a hold-over from a particle that English used to have in
Middle English and earlier (and which survived later in some rural
dialects) that is cognate with *ge-* in German, though I'm basing that on
something I read 30 years ago. If I recall correctly, at the beginning of
OED's "I" section there are a bunch of recorded (mostly old and dialectal)
words that use *i-* instead of *a-* in the same manner and from the same
etymological source.

On Sat, Aug 19, 2023 at 10:43 AM Michael Newman <Michael.Newman at qc.cuny.edu>

> 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

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

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