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https://www.duolingo.com/LupoMikti

How did "op" come to mean "on"?

LupoMikti
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This may be an odd question, but I was doing a bit of research into the Germanic prepositions and where they come from and found something interesting and perplexing. English "up", German "auf" and Dutch "op" (to name only only a few from the Germanic languages of today) all come from Proto-Germanic ūp / upp which seems to have been used primarily as an adverb instead of a preposition. As such, each of these languages has distinctions in usage for their cognates depending on whether it is used as an adverb or a preposition.

In Dutch, I was surprised to find that the adverbial usages are mostly related to "up" while the prepositional ones are "on". For English these two senses remain separate to the point that in oder to get this sense only the word "upon" (which really does just come from adverbial "up" and prepositional "on") seems appropriate.

So I thought I'd ask here to see if there are any out there with greater resources than I who could shed some light on how this sense evolved, especially since the cognate for "on" is "aan" (which can mean "on" as well as other prepositions).

1 year ago

6 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Fire-ergens
Fire-ergens
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This could be a very interesting topic to discuss. According to 'het Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal' the word has always meant something like: 'above, higher, located upstream, thereupon, on top of, in, at, on the upside of, etc.' So, for as far as I know, the word has always had this meaning.

Sources:

  • http://gtb.inl.nl/?owner=WNT Just push the 'start de applicatie' button and enter 'op' in the 'Mod. Ned. trefwoord' field and press 'Start zoeken' to get a list of words with the modern day meaning of 'op'.

Hope this helps and isn't too confusing.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/LupoMikti
LupoMikti
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Thanks for the feedback! It's funny really, I only just recently uninstalled Flash because it's so insecure... I'll have to check that out when I have the time to reinstall it. Anyway, I have since also found out that it's not just Dutch, but also German that has this trait. 'Auf' is the cognate for English 'up' and Dutch 'op' and can also mean on (usually a horizontal surface). I'm just failing to see how a word that had no sense of 'on something' in Proto-Germanic developed such a sense in its daughter languages (though it looks like it might be specific to Dutch and German and their dialects; I don't think all the West Germanic languages or even the North Germanic ones also treat their descendant of the PGmc word in this manner). In any case, more research is required.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Fire-ergens
Fire-ergens
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From what I could find, I believe that the word på (DA, NO, SV) behaves the same way as 'op' (and possibly has even more 'functions' than 'op') According to wictionary 'på' is descended from the Old Norse 'upp á' (upstream, I believe) and in Icelandic you can still find 'á'. From what I could find in ISLEX, á seems to behave pretty much the same as på. (Faroese also seems to share 'á' with Icelandic.)

So, it does seem to be quite common for words descended from 'upp (á)' to behave like this. Frisian, Dutch, Low Saxon, German, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Icelandic, Faroese. Those I can be fairly sure of. There's of course also a pretty big chance that other Germanic languages have a word that also behaves the same and shares a common root.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/LupoMikti
LupoMikti
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Oh yeah, I don't doubt or have an issue with the descendants meaning 'on'. My main issue is that the Proto-Germanic word that they all come from DIDN'T mean 'on' at all as far we can tell.

Also, the Old Norse upp á seems like it's probably the reason English has upon (the á part comes from the same PGmc word as 'on' and 'aan' I believe). This makes sense because Old English was greatly influenced by Old Norse.

The Dutch 'op' and German 'auf' and the other West Germanic cognates only come from PGmc *upp. So they somehow acquired this extra meaning of 'on' at somepoint, while English didn't and retained only the meaning 'up'.

That's what I'm interested in finding out: how and why did almost all of the WGmc languages acquire this extra meaning?

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JohnWycliffe
JohnWycliffe
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I don't have the time to look for a source now, but I've read that was shortened from upp å which, as you point out, means "upon" and over time the shortened and its Germanic counterparts (such as op) came to be used to mean "upon" even though they lacked the "up" portion. From there, upon = on in most contexts and isn't much different in others.

As to why, I would guess the Viking invasions brought this linguistic innovation to England and continental Europe where it was adapted.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JJT60K

I don't know if you got your answer but if not you can ask Dutchesse722, who is a native Dutch speaker! :-)

1 year ago