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306                The Loom of Language

e g nach Beihn — to Berlin Thus nach Hause gehen means go home in
contradistinction to zu Hause sem (be at home).

The problem of choosing the right word also arises m German—as
in most European languages other than Anglo-American—whenever
we use a verb which may have a transitive or intransitive meaning
Since most Anglo-American verbs can have both, the choice is one
from which an English-speaking beginner cannot escape If the ordinary
meaning of the verb is transitive, we can use its German equivalent
reflexively This tnck is useful when there is no explicit object, e g

er kuhlt die Luft ab         he is cooling the air
die Luft kuhlt sick ab       the air is cooling (itself),

This construction is common to German and other Teutonic dialects,
as also to French or Spanish More usually we have a choice between
two forms of the verb itself They may be distinguished by internal
vowel-changes as on p 208, or by means of the affix be-. This prefix,
which has lost any specific meaning in English, converts an intransitive
German verb into its transitive equivalent, i e the obligatory form
when there is a direct object, e g

INTRANSITIVE                                      TRANSITIVE






The German vocabulary is burdened by an enormous number of
couplets distinguished by one or another inseparable prefix. Besides the
be- which gives the intransitive German verb an object in life, one
prefix, miss-5 like its English equivalent (cf understand—misunderstand)
has a clearly defined meaning illustrated by achten—rmssachten (respect
—despise), glucken—missglucken (succeed—fail), trauen—rmsstrauen
(trust—mistrust) Other common prefixes have no single meaning Both
ent- and er- may signify incipient action like the Latin affix -050 in
evanescent* Thus we have flammen—entflammen (blaze—burst into flames)
or erroten (turn red), erkalten (grow cold) In some verb couplets of this
sort er- signifies getting a result Thus we have
arbetten    (work)               erarbeiten    (obtain through work)
betteln      (beg)                 erbetteln      (obtain by begging)
kampfen   (fight)               erkampfen   (obtain by fighting)
haschen    (snatch)             erhaschen    (obtain by snatching)