The initial stage of the loss of affixal past participle marking and its relation to ablaut
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The Old English past participle form exhibited a redundant marking because apart from the attachment of the dental or nasal suffix, the past participles quite regularly attached the prefix ge-. Thus, Old English past participles of weak verbs were marked with two affixes, while those of strong verbs displayed an additional marker in the form of the vowel altemation (ablaut). The subsequent changes in the language resulted in the elimination of prefixal marking, leaving a suffix and occasional ablaut as markers of the form in the Present-Day English. The loss of the prefix ge- is usually assigned to various periods of Middle English ( e.g., Skeat 1912: 21; Mossé 1952: 80; Mincoff 1972: 284, Pyles—Algeo 1993: 161; and others) although some hypotheses suggest that the process was initiated earlier. While some scholars merely point out that already in Old English the attachment of the prefix was not regular (cf. Limar 1963: 170 and Reszkiewicz 1998: 42), Lass (1992: 147) claims that ge- “began to drop in Old English as early as the tenth century, especially in Northumbrian”. As the examination of the Old English sources shows, the prefixless forms are indeed present in the Northumbrian texts with a slightly increasing frequency towards the end of Old English. Still, the most numerous occurrence of the past participles lacking the prefix ge- is detected in the Mercian text, the gospel by Matthew from The Rushworth Gospels ( Wojtys 2008: 42-43). Thus, it seems that the elimination of redundant past participle marking was initiated in the central Anglian area rather than Northumbrian.
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