Written by Svetlana Dotsenko
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Scott Reu, a linguistics major at Cornell University, focused his research on tracing the history of the prefix ga- in Germanic languages, specifically Gothic. According to Reu, Gothic presents a perfect specimen for examination due to its relatively constrained corpus of work as well as it’s position as the oldest Germanic language in writing. Through looking at specific examples of the prefix, Rue was able to make the case that ga- was used as an aspectual prefix, a feature common in Slavic languages but not thought to be used in the Germanic languages.
While this may seem quite small in scope, the implications of such an argument are far reaching. For example, Slavic languages were traditionally thought to have been influenced by the Ugric languages of Siberia, which also contain aspect. Reu’s findings give support to the Slavic languages being much closer to other Indo-European languages, downplaying the role of Ugric influence. Studies in historical linguistics such as Reu’s can bring to light information about the migrations of ancient peoples, far before the advent of historical records.