This article both expands and confirms research on a relic grammatical feature, the prefix a- on present participles. Because previous work has concentrated on its occurrence in the English of Appalachia and only synchronically, first its superregional distribution is shown. The article then surveys its evolution from a preposition (on or at) + gerund in Early Middle English to the prefix a- + participle. The article assesses possible transatlantic sources, arguing that southern England to be most plausible. Previous work, especially Wolfram (1980, 1988) in West Virginia and Feagin (1979) in Alabama, have identified both grammatical and phonological constraints on its occurrence and possible semantic or discourse meaning, for the prefix. These are tested against a large corpus from an area intermediate between the two, the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina. Four major quantitative constraints prohibiting the prefix, originally proposed by Wolfram, are strongly substantiated, but a small number of exceptions to each argues that they are not categorical. With respect to other, more minor patterns, the prefix in the Smoky Mountains has a different distributed from West Virginia, but overall Wolfram's pioneering work is corroborated. Documenting and tracking these linguistic constraints through the history of English remain tasks for future corpus linguists.
Figures & Tablescontents
Figures & Tables
2006. “Appalachian English in the Urban North.” In
Encyclopedia of Appalachia, ed. Rudy Abramson and Jean Haskell,
1011-12. Knoxville: Univ. of Tennessee Press.
Atwood, E. Bagby.
A Survey of Verb Forms in the Eastern United States. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press.
Boling, Bruce D.
“Excerpts of Irish Emigrant Letters.”Unpublished MS.
1971. “The Nominal in the Progressive.”
Bybee, Joan T., and Östen Dahl.
1989. “The Creation of Tense and Aspect Systems in the Languages of the World.”
Studies in Language
Christian, Donna, Walt Wolfram, and Nanjo Dube.
Variation and Change in Geographically Isolated Communities: Appalachian English and Ozark English. Publication of the American Dialect Society
74. Tuscaloosa: Univ. of Alabama Press.
DARE. Dictionary of American Regional English.
A-C. Ed. Frederic G. Cassidy. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press.
Dietrich, Julia C.
1981. “The Gaelic Roots of a-Prefixing in Appalachian English.”
1988. “A-Prefixing and Tense Variation in Ozark Narratives.”
Tennessee Working Papers in Discourse Analysis
Variation and Change in Alabama English: A Sociolinguistic Study of the White Community. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown Univ. Press.
The Hamely Tongue: A Personal Record of Ulster-Scots in County Antrim. Newtowards: Ulster-Scots Academic Press.
2003. “More on the English Progressive and the Celtic Connection.” In
The Celtic Englishes III, ed. Hildegard L. C. Tristram,
150-68. Heidelberg: Winter.
Hackenberg, Robert G.
“Appalachian English: A Socio-linguistic Study.”Ph.D. diss., Georgetown Univ.
Harris, George Washington.
High Times and Hard Times: Sketches and Tales. Ed. M. Thomas Inge. Nashville, Tenn.: Vanderbilt Univ. Press.
Hartley, Alan H.
Lewis and Clark Lexicon of Discovery. Pullman: Washington State Univ. Press.
A Word Geography of the Eastern United States. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press.
Kurath, Hans, and Raven I. McDavid, Jr.
The Pronunciation of English in the Atlantic States: Based upon the Collections of the Linguistic Atlas of the Eastern United States. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press.
Milne, Hugh M., ed.
Boswell's Edinburgh Journals, 1767-1786. Rev. ed. Edinburgh: Mercat.
Mittendorf, Ingo, and Erich Poppe.
2000. “Celtic Contacts of the English Progressive?” In
The Celtic Englishes II, ed. Hildegard L. C. Tristram,
117-45. Heidelberg: Winter.
Montgomery, Michael B.
“A Discourse Analysis of Expository Appalachian English.”Ph.D. diss., Univ. of Florida.
1997. “Scotch-Irish Element in Appalachian English: How Broad? How Deep?” In
Ulster and North America: Trans-Atlantic Perspectives on the Scotch-Irish, ed. H. Tyle Blethen and Curtis W. Wood, Jr.,
189-212. Tuscaloosa: Univ. of Alabama Press.
2000. “The Celtic Element in American English.” In
The Celtic Englishes II, ed. Hildegard L. C. Tristram,
231-64. Heidelberg: Winter.
2003. “Joseph Sargent Hall: The Man and His Work.”
Now and Then: The Appalachian Magazine
Montgomery, Michael B., and Joseph S. Hall.
Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English. Knoxville: Univ. of Tennessee Press.
OED2. The Oxford English Dictionary.
1989. 2nd ed. 20 vols. Oxford: Clarendon.
Pederson, Lee, Susan Lee McDaniel, Carol M. Adams, and Michael Montgomery, eds.
Linguistic Atlas of the Gulf States. Vol. 4, Regional Matrix. Athens: Univ. of Georgia Press.
Stewart, William A.
1967. “Language and Communication in Southern Appalachia.” Washington, D.C.: Center for Applied Linguistics. ERIC Document 012 026. Repr. in
Contemporary English: Change and Variation, ed. David L. Shores,
107-22. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1972.
Sundby, Bertil, Anne Kari Bjørge, and Kari E. Haugland.
A Dictionary of English Normative Grammar, 1700-1800. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
The Language of Irish Literature. New York: St. Martin's.
Words Apart: A Dictionary of Northern Ireland English. Savage, Md.: Barnes and Noble.
Traugott, Elizabeth Closs.
A History of English Syntax: A Transformational Approach to the History of English Sentence Structure. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Tristram, Hildegard L. C.
How Celtic Is Standard English?St. Petersburg: Institute of Linguistic Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences.
Upton, Clive, David Parry, and J. D. A. Widdowson.
Survey of English Dialects: The Dictionary and Grammar. London: Routledge.
1976. “Toward a Description of a-Prefixing in Appalachian English.”
1980. “`A'-Prefixing in Appalachian English.” In
Locating Language in Time and Space, ed. William Labov,
107-42. New York Academic Press.
1982. “Language Knowledge and Other Dialects.”
1988. “Reconsidering the Semantics of a- Prefixing.”
Wolfram, Walt, and Donna Christian.
Appalachian Speech. Arlington, Va.: Center for Applied Linguistics.
“A Window to Times Gone By”: Tales and Songs. Transcribed by Stanley South. Columbia, S.C.: Stanley South.
English Dialect Dictionary. Vol.
1. London: Frowde.