Hi CodeCat. How should we treat the Proto-Germanic prefixes coalescing into English for- (Dutch/German ver-, etc.). As I see it, there were at least 2 distinct ones in PGmc: fra- and far-/fer-/fur- (?). As your usage note states, only Gothic preserved the distinction (fra- and frai- ?). So please help me understand. Which is the intensive prefix (= "through, completely, fully") and which denotes "away from, off, from"? Also, which standardised form should we use for the variants far-/fer-fur- (are there any differences between them)?
Gothic actually preserves three: fra-, faur- and fair- (from *fra-, *fur- and *fir-/fer-). *fra- definitely meant "away" and it seems that it was the most common one. I'm not sure what the other two meant.
ok. What has me stumped is the Gothic frabairan "to endure" which has the form of the one meaning "away", but the meaning of the intensive (i.e. frabairan = to bear through= endure). Ok, maybe I will look through Gothic at individual words to try and gain some insight into what the others meant...
Philippa's dictionary says this:
- In ver- zijn drie verschillende voorvoegsels samengevallen, namelijk Proto-Germaans *fra-, *fur- en *fer-, die alleen in de oudste Germaanse taal, het Gotisch, nog te onderscheiden zijn, als resp. fra- ‘weg van’, faur(a)- ‘voor’ en fair- (met onduidelijke betekenis, slechts in een klein aantal woorden).
- In [Dutch] ver- three different prefixes have merged, namely Proto-Germanic *fra-, *fur- and *fer-, that are only distinguishable in the oldest Germanic language, Gothic, as respectively fra- "away from", faur(a)- "before [for?]" and fair- (with unclear meaning, only in a small amount of words).
I wondered at first whether it would be fir- instead because unstressed e becomes i, but it doesn't change before -r so maybe that also applied here.
ok, so I will begin using fer- for what Koebler has far- for (he does note that they are variants of one another). The faur- = "fore-" makes sense to me (I count this as a separate prefix altogether) but I wonder whether Gothic may have also experienced some merging into fra-, and that fair- was a relic.
Will this then work: fra- = (far) away (from), off; fur- = fore-, before; fer- = completely, fully, up?
I don't think that is right. *fra- also meant "completely". I think it is best described as a "perfective" prefix.
Also, if you consider the regular operations of sound laws, Germanic unstressed -er- remains and doesn't become -ir- (while unstressed -e- otherwise does become -i-). But in most words -er- later appears as -ar-, especially in West Germanic. So it's possible for West Germanic *far- to derive from earlier *fer-. Gothic *fair- can come from either *fer- or *fir-. The appearance of *fir- in West Germanic doesn't have to be significant, because *ta also appears as *ti and *ga- as *gi-, so it seems that prefixes involving *a generally became merged with *i fairly early already. The same could have happened with *fur- too.