The old English prefix ge-: A panchronic reappraisal

  1. Arista, J.M. 1
  1. 1 Universidad de La Rioja

    Universidad de La Rioja

    Logroño, España


Australian Journal of Linguistics

ISSN: 0726-8602

Year of publication: 2012

Volume: 32

Issue: 4

Pages: 411-433

Type: Article

DOI: 10.1080/07268602.2012.744264 SCOPUS: 2-s2.0-84871284293 WoS: WOS:000312327200002 GOOGLE SCHOLAR lock_openOpen access editor
Institutional repository: lock_openOpen access postprint


This article carries out an analysis of the Old English verbal prefix ge-that is based on a paradigmatic organization of the lexicon, which allows for the inclusion of synchronic and diachronic data into a panchronic approach. On the synchronic side, the focus is on the spread of ge-in the derivational morphology of the language and the assessment of productivity, while on the diachronic side the emphasis is on the lexicalization and grammaticalization of the affix at stake. A path of grammaticalization is described as starting from the Proto-Germanic derivational prefix ga-and leading to inflectional ge-in Old English. Quantitative evidence is gathered in favour of a progressive loss of the derivational productivity of the prefix that is paralleled by a gradual increase in inflectional distribution. The conclusion is reached that the neuter noun which is zero derived from the strong verb contributes through its derivatives to the decategorialization of the prefix ge-, which undergoes grammaticalization for reasons of over-markedness, becomes exclusively inflectional and, ultimately, disappears. © 2012 The Australian Linguistic Society.