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I was just reading a book where it is said that when perfect started to acquire modern meanings, "compound" verbs appeared. Here are some examples (I`m assuming with "compound" verbs on the right):

ceorfan (cut) - āceorfan (cut off)
swapan (sweep) - for-swapan (sweep away)

What was their role? Were they the alternative to pefect in some areas?

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  • Could you explain more of what you mean by "role," or how it would function as an alternative for the perfect aspect? What you're presenting so far shows that phrasal verbs gradually replaced Old English verbs formed through prefixes, and I don't know how that relates to perfect aspect. Dec 11 '19 at 21:06
  • Which book? Sounds like an interesting topic. Dec 11 '19 at 21:07
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    Do you know any German? Separable verbs are still common in German. Your two examples would be abscherren and fortschwemmen (deliberately choosing the modern German words that seem most likely to be related to your ME examples)
    – The Photon
    Dec 11 '19 at 21:24
  • @green_ideas, I found an online reference here
    – The Photon
    Dec 11 '19 at 23:56
  • I`ve looked into it more carefully and it is said that at the time when perfect started to acquire modern meanings, lexical units and prefixes of Old English, which marked completness and precedence (for past perfect) began to disappear quickly. That probably made perfect more popular. But then, they say, in the same dialects where perfect had the most influence (north), these "compound" verbs began to appear. And they "much more accurately than perfect replaced Old English prefixation in terms of word-formation, but not that much it terms of verbal aspect".
    – tiopjkl
    Dec 12 '19 at 0:29

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