The origin of "phrasal verb".

What’s the origin of the term “phrasal verb” and which form/s did it originally apply to?


I came across this post and having checked the infallible wikipedia website :wink: found this answer:

"According to Tom McArthur:

…the term ‘phrasal verb’ was first used by Logan Pearsall Smith, in “Words and Idioms” (1925), in which he states that the OED Editor Henry Bradley suggested the term to him."

Sorry I can’t help much more in that respect…

…But, what I was after was the actual origin of the phrasal verb. Where did it come from and is there any idea as to how, why or when it came about? I teach English as a foreign language and these questions have been bothering me for some time. So if anyone has any suggestions they would be much appreciated!

I am not sure about the Germanic languages, but I know that, in Ancient Greek, compound verbs (which are historically related to phrasal verbs) are supposed to have come from verbs with adverbial adjuncts. It is also supposed that all prepositions originally were adverbs. It is quite possible that this holds for all Indo-European languages, including English.

It is even proposed that noun cases were originally simple radical nouns (just the root/stem) with an adverb attached. The locative in Latin (the case denoting place, which existed in Proto-Indo-European), for example, might have originated in noun + in. (Some preposition sounding like “in” probably existed in PIE.) The locative Romae (“in Rome”; the “e” is pronounced like an i) would then have come from Roma in. Adverbial constructions are perhaps the most basic of all, because they do not depend very much on word order or any other syntactical rules.

Consider this:
I arrived at the shop before the rain.
I knew I had seen her before.

Even though development may have been the other way around in this case, perhaps some of the similarity between adverb and preposition may be sensed. In Ancient Greek, “pro” may be used as a preposition in “before the war”, or as an adverb in “before, they called him a tyrant”.

Some Greek verbs either may be used with the preposition prefixed to the verb, or the same verb may be used in the same sense with the same preposition, but unattached, after the verb. The latter is called tmesis (“cutting”) and is usually considered an archaism. It has been proposed that all compound verbs originate in tmesis forms.

Consider this:
Regarding the information and the database: I will put it in.
I will put the information into the database.
I will input the information to the database.

phrasal verb – a combination of verb and one or more adverbial or prepositional particles, as catch on, take off, bring up, or put up with, functioning as a single semantic unit and often having an idiomatic meaning that could not be predicted from the meanings of the individual parts.

Origin: 1530, “manner or style of expression,” also "group of words with some unity," from L.L. phrasis “diction,” from Gk. phrasis “speech, way of speaking, phraseology,” from phrazein “to express, tell,” from phrazesthai “to consider,” of unknown origin. The musical sense of “short passage” is from 1789. The verb sense “to put into a phrase” is from 1570. Phraseology “choice or arrangement of words” first recorded 1664.