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of Mandeville's Travels I find eleven occurrences of the native compound, thirty-one of the Romanic, and only four of the verbadverb combination. In lines 1-230 of the B-version of Piers Plowman there are twelve native compounds, eighteen Romanic, and ten combinations. In Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (A 1-500) to fourteen of the native compounds and fifteen of the Romanic only two combinations are to be found contrasted, viz., ryden out (45) and pinche at (326). The simplicity of the language of Chaucer's General Prolog tends, of course, to exclude the more cumbersome compounds, both native and Romanic, and I think we may safely assume that the combination has not yet become so imbedded in the language that Chaucer would use it at all freely. In the prose Testament of Love, however, Book I, chapters 1-2, the native compound occurs twenty-three times, the Romanic forty-six, and the combination twelve.
When the fifteenth century is reached, the combination begins to show! real strength, altho it is evidently a part of the language of the common man, even as it has been ever since. In the Ballad of Robin Hood and the Monk, for example, I find eighteen occurrences of the native compound, not one of the Romanic, and twenty of the verb-adverb combination. On the other hand, in the very formal, indeed, rather forced, language of the first five hundred lines of the Digby play of the Conversion of St. Paul the native compound occurs twenty-two times, the Romanic sixty-two, and the combination only fifteen times. Most of the combinations occur in the stage directions or else in the scurrilous conversation of servants.
It seems evident, and I wish to emphasize this point in view of certain conclusions that I shall reach regarding later usage, that the development of the verb-adverb combination would have been much more rapid had it not been weakened for some generations or even centuries, by the adoption into the English of numerous Romanic verbs with inseparable prefixes which drove out the native compounds, and for a time made the newer combination unnecessary. In the formal literature, wherein dialog and the language of the street had little place, the Romanic compound verb came into general acceptance as the proper form, and it is only a comparatively recent reaction against the borrowed element in English which has tended to carry the more plebeian verb-adverb combination to higher planes of liter
So, in the literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, one finds a great diversity in the use of the combination. In Bale's Kynge Johan, Act I, only seven or eight occurrences are to be noted. In The Witch of Edmonton about as many of these combinations occur as would be met with in modern good usage. In the Elizabethan comedies, especially, one is likely to find numerous examples. In the dignified Biblical version of
1611 the combination is less frequently encountered, and is usually to be taken literally, as, for example, enter in, fill up, go on, pluck out, root up, or else with an intensive or perfective value contributed by the particle, such as is seen in burn up, cry out, devour up. The conservatism of the translators of the Holy Scriptures has at all periods tended to avoid any but the most literal of these combinations. And so in the revision of 1882, in Matthew I-XVI, I find only some twenty-two of these, a net increase of four over the King James version.
In more recent times the verb with inseparable prefix has maintained a limited place in English because it has developed thru figurative usage certain fixed values quite decidedly different from the earlier literal meanings, values which could not very well be dispensed with. Sometimes the two elements, prepositional-adverb and verb, are used in both compound and combination; but when this occurs, the one is always figurative, the other usually literal. In other words, the compound is to be regarded as a linguistic fossil, the combination as living, organic, in speech.
It is also interesting to note, in this connection, that the noun or adjective compounded of these two elements is more common at the present time than the verb-compound, and frequently possessed of meanings quite different from those contributed to the verb-compound. Of the sixteen prepositional-adverbs under consideration at least eleven are used more or less frequently in compound nouns or adjectives derived from or modeled after the verb-compound. Examples are bygone, bystander, downcast, downfall, downpour, downtrodden, forlorn, inborn, inbound, inbred, inroads, intake, offcast, offset, offshoot, offspring, onlooker, onrush, onset, outbreak, outcast, outcome, outcry, outfall, outfit, outlet, output, overbearing, overcast, overflow, overgrown, oversight, overthrow, overwrought, thorofare, upheaval, upkeep, uplift, uproar, upshot, upstart, withdrawal. ?
Of all the nouns just listed only eight have accompanying compound verbs and in each case there is some slight irregularity in the correspondence of noun and verb. Oversight and withdrazval show derivative suffixes, the substantive values of off set and overcast are quite different from the verbal connotations, outfit (the verb) is a late use of outfit (the noun ), and overflow and overthrow are comparatively late uses of the verbs as nouns. All the other nouns and adjectives of the list correspond in signification to verb-combinations such as go by', stand by, cast down, tread down, fall down rather than to verbs with the inseparable prefixes.
Of the eleven particles used in the above-named noun-compounds, only six, viz., for, off, out, over, up and with are used in modern verb-compounds. In the more common for-compounds forbear, forbid, forget, forgive, forgo, forsake and forswear the early literal meaning has entirely disappeared and it is not easy to determine the exact contribution of the
prefix to the verb-compound at the present time. In offset and set off the two values are clearly contrasted and, as noted above, the noun corresponds to the combination rather than to the compound. In most of the verbs still in common use with the prefix out-, such as outbid, outbrave, outdo, outface, outflank, outgrow, out-Herod, outlive, etc., the prefix contributes to the verb the idea of surpassing or going beyond a fixed time or an opponent, a meaning not normally possessed by the prepositional-adverb when it is used alone or when it appears in a noun-compound such as are noted above.
The verb-prefix over- is by far the most active of the group in modern English. It has the usual prepositional value in overarch, overhang, overlap, overleap, overlook, overrun, oversee, overshadow, overtake, overthrow, overturn, and perhaps a few other less-commonly used verbs. The preponderatingly active use of it, however, meaning "in excess of an opponent or of that which is fitting,” is illustrated in such compounds as overawe, overbid, overcharge, overdo, overdraw, overeat, overload, overpower, overrule, oversell, overwork. In overflow and overreach it might be questioned whether the literal prepositional meaning or the transferred meaning of “in excess" is more strongly felt. Perhaps these two words may be taken as illustrating the process of development of the transferred value from the earlier literal one. At any rate the two uses of over- in composition are still strongly enough entrenched in the language so that the nouns and adjectives do not show any marked divergence from the verbs, either in accent or in meaning. It is only when one makes of the compound verb a verb-combination such as do over, draw over, load over, work over, that the adverb takes on a new meaning, viz., that of repetition, or in look over, run over, take over, throw over, turn over, emphasizes a literal adverbial use which has become slightly obscured in the more figurative usage of the corresponding verb-compounds.
Of the few verbs in general use today compounded with up-, upend and uproot are used literally; but a transferred meaning must be recognized in upbraid, uphold and upset. Not one of these can be used as a noun, unless we except upset, which is used colloquially with stress on the prefix.
And, finally, with-, in the old compounds withdraw, withhold and withstand, must be regarded as an entirely different word from the modern preposition because, while the preposition has the form of the Old English wið, it has the value of O. E. mid, whereas the prefix with- preserves the O. E. meaning of "against." Consequently the contrast of the above-named old compounds with the new combinations draw with, hold with and stand with is most marked.
Inasmuch as the stress was generally placed upon the prefix of an 0. E. noun compounded with any one of these particles, but upon the verb itself in the verb-compound, it is but natural that the noun-compound should survive with its earlier values when the verb had largely vanished. For the tendency to stress the adverb, which we have already called attention to, found the noun satisfactorily accented where the verb was not. And so it came about that the 0. E. verb-compound, in its struggle for existence, either fossilized with certain figurative values, as in forgive, upset, withhold, leaving the prefix almost colorless, or else gave to the prefix new and quite different values, as in outdo, overfeed, while the nouncompound was left in numerous instances with meanings which could be matched only in the newer verb-adverb combinations, as, for example, onlooker and look on, outcry and cry out.
3. A careful examination of the examples which I have selected as verb-adverb combinations from the literature produced before the sixteenth century brings into prominence quite clearly the fact that for a long time the combination was used in its literal sense, or with a slightly transferred meaning only. Of some ninety-two examples noted in the Middle English literature mentioned above, hardly a dozen could be regarded as strongly figurative. Such combinations as wende ut, uorþ iladde, smite off, strek out, kairen aboute, come up, ryden out are really little more than verbs with adverbial modifiers. Moreover, in practically all of the instances where a verb-adverb combination is formed of the elements which enter into a still-existent verb-compound, the combination has the literal value and the compound the figurative. Cf. off set and set off, outgrow and grow out, outlive and live out, uphold and hold up, upset and set up.
4. But when, in the Digby play of the Conversion of St. Paul, Seruus says to his fellow of the stables, "Come of a-pase" (line 86), the original literal use of the phrase is scarcely to be conjectured. And when, a little over a century later, in the Knight of The Burning Pestle, one finds let out 'dismiss,' laid up 'saved,' come by 'acquire,' the figurative or transferred use of the combination has manifestly assumed a place in the English language quite independent of the literal usage. And intermingled with these figurative combinations are others, also common in modern usage, wherein the verb is used literally but the adverbial particle has a perfective or intensive value somewhat removed from its usual prepositional values, such combinations, for example, as worn out 'exhausted,' or dry up (those tears).
As I shall attempt to prove later, other influences have become strong in more recent times in increasing the number and importance of the verbadverb combinations. But for the earlier stages of development two influences must be considered paramount, namely, the tendency to shift the sentence-stress so as to encourage the use of a verb and a following ad
verbial particle instead of a verb with an inseparable prefix, and the naturally resultant tendency to transfer the combination from a literal to a figurative use which has gradually left certain combinations with meanings quite different from those of the literal originals. This figurative usage is illustrated in such colloquialisms as blow in 'spend money,' buckle down ‘apply oneself with vigor,' chime in join in a conversation,' chip in 'contribute,' set about 'begin,' spruce up'dress neatly,' take off 'burlesque,' etc.
The figures which I have givent for the earlier stages of the development of the verb-adverb combination must not, of course, be taken as exact and final evidence of the strength of the tendency. In the first place, I have included all combinations with forth, which I have not included in my study of later combinations. In the earlier period it must be considered because it was a living, active word whereas in modern English it has gradually dropped out of general use. Moreover it has not always been easy to decide whether a prepositional particle should be considered a part of a verb-adverb combination or merely a postpositive preposition. In Havelok, for instance, I find :
Iustises dede he maken newe
Al Engelond to faren porw (lines 263–4). And, finally, as I have found it inadvisable to attempt in the one study a careful history of the growth of the verb-adverb combination in its earlier, literal period and at the same time a thoro-going estimate of its recent use, it has seemed best to deal with the aspects of the study which concern us most today and leave the more careful tracing of its earlier development to some one who will search out more completely the earliest occurrences of the combination and mark as exactly as possible the transitions from the literal to the figurative.
5. I have been influenced in this choice by the fact that the verbadverb combination seems to be an important element in that "shop-talk" or “English of the common man” which is so much affected by certain of our writers and public speakers. A careful examination of the language of most speakers and writers who are attempting to effect contact with the more poorly trained speaker of English will show numerous verb-adverb combinations of a colloquial or slangy character. And it is interesting to note that the two main objections to many of these bear upon the entire history of the development of the verb-adverb combination. The one objection is that the oft-repeated figurative use of a combination shows the same poor taste, the same giving prominence to that which is striking or fantastic, which, in the matter of dress, the wearing of very gaudy colors might. This is, of course, the objection of the more