Phrasal verbs

Discuss word origins and meanings.

Phrasal verbs

Post by PhilHunt » Tue Apr 08, 2008 10:26 am

Returning to a discussion that I was having with PhilWhite about phrasal verbs.

I stated that phrasal verbs were not formed with Latin origin verbs. Phil rightly pointed out that this was not the case as 'face off' uses a Romance language verb 'face' face (n.)
c.1290, from O.Fr. face, from V.L. *facia, from L. facies "appearance, form, figure," and secondarily "visage, countenance;" probably related to facere "to make"

The fact that 'face' comes from the French c.1290 means that its origin is not the same as Saxon.
Its origin as a verb is even more recent. To face (v.) "confront" is first recorded 1465

As I do not know German, it would be interesting to know if 'face off' has an equivilent in German as they don't appear to share a common origin.

I did find some sources for the phrasal verb 'to Face up to'.
German: mutig begegnen. I don't know any German so I have no idea if this is similar or not. Tellingly though we have the French: faire face à.

Another verb to look at is 'pass up'
pass (v.) c.1275 (trans.) "to go by (something)," also "to cross over," from O.Fr. passer, from V.L. *passare "to step, walk, pass," from L. passus "step, pace"
Pass up "decline, refuse" is attested from 1896
auf Deutsch:zurücksenden, ablehnen, abschlagen, ausschlagen, versagen, weigern, verweigern, ausmerzen

Would I be presumptuous to assume (I've left the door wide open for you) that earlier Old-English phrasal verbs from Saxon origin verbs may share a connection with German phrasal verbs, where as, borrowed verbs from French Romance languages do not?
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Re: Phrasal verbs

Post by zmjezhd » Wed Apr 09, 2008 2:35 am

It's complicated. German has verbs with separable prefixes and ones with fixed ones. For example:

1a. aufpassen 'to pay attention', ich passe auf 'I pay attention'
1b. etwas verpassen 'to miss something', ich verpasse etwas 'I miss something'

English has verbs with particles (some call them prefixes or prepositions) that fall into two classes with where they can be placed in a sentence. For example:

2a. I looked up the word (in a dictionary).
2b. I looked the word up (in a dictionary).
2c. I looked at the book.
2d. *I looked the book at.

In Sanskrit and Greek, there was a process called tmesis which allowed some verbal prefixes to be separated from the verb and other words to be interposed.

I don't think it matters if a verb is inherited or borrowed, the process of phrasal verbs is a pretty active one in English morphology. For example:

3a. to carry on
3b. to bomb out
3c. to print out

are all verbs not inherited from Old English.
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Re: Phrasal verbs

Post by PhilHunt » Wed Apr 09, 2008 4:22 pm

Thanks for the information zmjezhd. All good stuff.
Just to modify your post a little, in English language teaching phrasal verbs fall into three groups.

1. Intransitive and inseperable.
I get up.

2. Transitive and seperable.
I put my hat on.
I put on my hat.
I put it on.
x I put on it. x

3. Transitive and inseperable.
I look after my mother.
I look after her.
x I look her after. x

I agree that phrasal verbs are an active evolution which continues today. My question was about the direct relationship that PhilWhite mentioned between German verbs which shared a common heritage in Old Saxon. I was just curious to know if the more modern phrasal verbs which started appearing from 1200 onwards are comparable to modern German or if the relationship is only with older Saxon origin verbs. I know it's perhaps a futile activity, but, I have an enquiring mind.
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Re: Phrasal verbs

Post by Phil White » Thu Apr 10, 2008 1:11 am

The only relatively consistent link I could identify was that German separables with relatively predictable meanings often had directly corresponding English phrasals (aufstehen / stand up), but that where the meaning was unpredictable, there is rarely any correlation in both parts (aufstehen / get up [from bed]).

There also seems to be a (slight) tendency for concepts rendered with non-predictable separables in German to also be rendered with non-predictable phrasals in English, but the components rarely correspond (ausstehen / put up with).

My entirely unsubstantiated gut reaction tells me that the predictable separables/phrasals are often older than the unpredictable ones and that there may be a direct line of descent, but I'm not just about to research it. My memory tells me that predictable separables are found in OE, MHG and OHG, but that in all of these, the prefix is more often still bound to the verb. It seems to me that the prefix became a freer element in ME as English became firmly established as an SVO (subject - verb - object) language. OE, OHG and to a lesser degree MHG and even NHG (modern German) have OV tendencies.

In answer to your earlier question, I don't know a German separable approximating to "face off", but it wouldn't surprise me if someone could dredge one up. It would, however, have nothing to do with a verbal form corresponding to "face", as German has no such thing - it only has the noun "Gesicht", meaning the thing on the front of your head and a couple of figurative meanings. "Mutig begegnen" is a paraphrase for "face up to" (and a poor one at that) and literally means "to meet (something) courageously". All verbal meanings of "face" are rendered with a number of different pretty literal concepts. Thus, "face the wall" would probably be "turn towards the wall" and "the building facing you" would be "the building in front of you" and so on.
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Re: Phrasal verbs

Post by PhilHunt » Thu Apr 10, 2008 8:50 am

That's fantastic Phil. Thanks.
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Re: Phrasal verbs

Post by gdwdwrkr » Thu Apr 10, 2008 9:30 am

A favorite, happily irrelevant one: shoot your mouth off, shoot off your mouth.
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Re: Phrasal verbs

Post by Erik_Kowal » Thu Apr 10, 2008 9:45 am

Spoken by one who knows what he's talking about.
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Re: Phrasal verbs

Post by gdwdwrkr » Thu Apr 10, 2008 10:31 am

He who has ears, let him hear...
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Re: Phrasal verbs

Post by PhilHunt » Thu Apr 10, 2008 5:06 pm

gdwdwrkr wrote:He who has ears, let him hear...
Does that logic extend to all parts of the body?

He who has tongue, let him lick.
He who has, teeth, let him chatter.
He who has, belly button, let him accumilate fluff. etc...
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Re: Phrasal verbs

Post by trolley » Thu Apr 10, 2008 6:31 pm

He who has nose....let him smell
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Re: Phrasal verbs

Post by gdwdwrkr » Sat Apr 12, 2008 2:42 pm

Does not the ear test words as the tongue tastes food?
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Re: Phrasal verbs

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Sat Apr 26, 2008 12:26 pm

Verbal diarrhoea is not unheard of.
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Re: Phrasal verbs

Post by PhilHunt » Thu Jul 10, 2008 11:14 am

Following up this tread about phrasal verbs, I discovered this week that there are some phrasal verbs in Italian. An example is 'contare su'

Contare = to count.
Conto soldi = I count money.

Contare su = to count on / depend on.
http://www.wordreference.com/enit/depend wrote:I can depend on him doing what he says.
Posso contare sul fatto che farà ciò che dice.
Unfortunately on-line Italian dictionaries do not offer much in the way of etymology for phrasal expressions so I can only find the origin of the core verb 'contare' which is Lat. computa¯re. This then entered English via French
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=count&searchmode=none wrote:1341, from O.Fr. conter "add up," but also "tell a story,"
I cannot find a date for 'count on' so I cannot tell you which came first, the Italian or the English. I can, however, find a reference to 'count on' from the 1600s on google.books:
Calendar of state papers and manuscripts, relating to English affairs ...
di Great Britain Public Record Office, Rawdon Brown, Rawdon Lubbock Brown - 1603
Pagina 472
I dwelt especially on this point that we could safely count on the King of France,
not merely because his Majesty had mentioned the subject, but because my ...
The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents: Travels and Explorations of the ...
di Jesuits, Reuben Gold Thwaites, Arthur Edward Jones - 1610
Pagina 223
I have always prayed as he taught me, and I repeat every morning ten times,
keeping count on my fingers: " You who have made all things, take pity on me. ...
but it is more difficult to research Italian texts as there are very few on-line and the modern Italian language was only thought to be used from the 14th Century with Dante. Despite this people continued to write formal documents in Latin and dialect, making it very diffucult to say with any certainty when a verb phrase would have been introduced.
In fact, I remember reading a statistic that in the 1950s only half the population used Italian as their language of communication; most spoke in dialect.
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Re: Phrasal verbs

Post by zmjezhd » Thu Jul 10, 2008 1:43 pm

Phil, I found a paper online that discusses phrasal verbs in Italian (PDF).
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Re: Phrasal verbs

Post by PhilHunt » Thu Jul 10, 2008 4:02 pm

Thank you very much for that. This is something that has never been discussed in any Italian language books I've been taught with and is a concept which many Italians find hard to grasp in English because it is assumed that it does not exist in Italian.
Hopefully this will help many of my students to understand English phrasal verbs better.
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