The 5th century -the
end of the 11th
(1066 to 1150)
The OE noun had two grammatical categories: number and case.Also, nouns distinguished three genders, but gender was not a
grammatical category; it was merely a classifying feature accounting for the
division of nouns into morphological classes.
Note that the so-called "genders" were purely grammatical genders
- they very often did not correspond to natural gender. For example the word
wīf - "woman" is actually of the neuter (grammatical) gender, not the
feminine (natural gender).
The category of number consisted of two members: singular and plural.
· 4 cases (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative).
can be defined as the case of the active agent, for it was the case of the
subject mainly used with verbs denoting activity; the Nom. could also indicate
the subject characterized by a certain quality or state; could serve as a
predicative and as the case of address.
case was primarily
the case of nouns and pronouns serving as attributes to other nouns.
The meanings of the Gen. case were very complex and can only be grouped
under the headings “Subjective” and “Objective”
ü Gen. Subjective Gen. is associated
with the possessive meaning and the meaning of origin. (связан с притяжательной
смыслом и значением происхождения.)
Objective Gen. is
associated with what is termed “partitive meaning” as insum hund scipa ‘a
hundred of ships’. (.связано с тем, что называется "партитив смысл", как INSUM HUND scipa "сотни кораблей..)
Morphological classification of nouns. Declensions
Historically, the OE system of declensions was based on a number of
что система OE из склонений была основана на ряде
the gender of noun
, the phonetic
structure of the word
in the final syllables.
In the first place, the morphological classification of OE nouns rested
upon the most ancient IE grouping of nouns according to the stem-suffixes.
Stem-suffixes could consist
of vowels (vocalic
stems, e.g. a-stems, i- stems),
(consonantal stems, e.g. n-stems),
sequences, e.g. -ja-stems, -nd-stems.
Some groups of nouns had no stem-forming suffix or had a “zero-suffix”;
they are usually termed “root-stems” and are grouped together with consonantal
stems, as their roots ended in consonants, e.g. OE man, bōc (NE
OE pronouns fell under the same main classes as modern pronouns: personal, demonstrative, interrogative and indefinite. As for the other groups – relative, possessive and reflexive – they were as yet not fully developed and were not always distinctly separated from the four main classes.
In OE, while nouns consistently distinguished between four cases, personal pronouns began to lose some of their case distinctions: the forms of the Dat. case of the pronouns of the 1st and 2nd p. were frequently used instead of the Acc. It is important to note that the Gen. case of personal pronouns had two main applications: like other oblique cases of noun-pronouns it could be an object, but far more frequently it was used as an attribute or a noun determiner, like a possessive pronoun, e.g. sunu mīn.
There were two demonstrative pronouns in OE: the prototype of NE that, which distinguished three genders in the sg. And had one form for all the genders in the pl. and the prototype of this. They were declined like adjectives according to a five-case system: Nom., Gen., Dat., Acc., and Instr. Demonstrative pronouns were frequently used as noun determiners and through agreement with the noun indicated its number, gender and case.
Interrogative pronouns – hwā, Masc. and Fem., and hwæt, Neut., - had a four-case paradigm (NE who, what). The Instr. case ofhwæt was used as a separate interrogative word hwў (NE why). Some interrogative pronouns were used as adjective pronouns, e.g. hwelc.
Indefinite pronouns were a numerous class embracing several simple pronouns and a large number of compounds: ān and its derivative ǽniз (NE one, any); nān, made up of ān and the negative particle ne (NE none); nānþinз, made up of the preceding and the noun þinз (NE nothing).
The adjective in OE could change for number, gender and case. Those were dependent grammatical categories or forms of agreement of the adjective with the noun it modified or with the subject of the sentence – if the adjective was a predicative. Like nouns, adjectives had three genders and two numbers. The category of case in adjectives differed from that of nouns: in addition to the four cases of nouns they had one more case, Instr. It was used when the adjective served as an attribute to a noun in the Dat. case expressing an instrumental meaning.
Most adjectives in OE could be declined in two ways: according to the weak and to the strong declension. The formal differences between declensions, as well as their origin, were similar to those of the noun declensions. The strong and weak declensions arose due to the use of several stem-forming suffixes in PG: vocalic a-, ō-, ū- and i- and consonantal n-. Accordingly, there developed sets of endings of the strong declension mainly coinciding with the endings of a-stems of nouns for adjectives in the Masc. and Neut. and of ō-stems – in the Fem., with some differences between long- and short-stemmed adjectives and some remnants of other stems. Some endings in the strong declension of adjectives have no parallels in the noun paradigms; they are similar to the endings of pronouns: -um for Dat. sg., -ne for Acc. sg Masc., [r] in some Fem. and pl endings. The difference between the strong and weak declension of adjectives was not only formal but also semantic. Unlike a noun, an adjective did not belong to a certain type of declension. Most adjectives could be declined in both ways. The choice of the declension was determined by a number of factors: the syntactical function of the adjective, the degree of comparison and the presence of noun determiners. The adjective had a strong form when used predicatively and when used attributively without any determiners. The weak form was employed when the adjective was preceded by a demonstrative pronoun or the Gen. case of personal pronouns. Some adjectives, however, did not conform with these rules: a few adjectives were always declined strong, e.g. eall, maniз, ōþer (NE all, many, other), while several others were always weak: adjectives in the superlative and comparative degrees, ordinal numerals, the adjective ilca‘same’.
Most OE adjectives distinguished between three degrees of comparison: positive, comparative and superlative. The regular means used to form the comparative and the superlative from the positive were the suffixes –ra and –est/-ost. Sometimes suffixation was accompanied by an interchange of the root-vowel.
The degrees of
comparison are the only set of forms which the adjective has preserved through
all the historical periods. In OE the comparative and the superlative degree,
like all the grammatical forms, were synthetic: they were built by adding the
suffixes – ra and est/ost to the form of the positive
The majority of OE verbs fell into two great divisions: the strong verbs and the weak verbs. Besides these two main groups there were a few verbs which could be put together as “minor” groups. The main difference between the strong and weak verbs lay in the means of forming the principal parts, or “stems” of the verb. The strong verbs formed their stems by means of ablaut and by adding certain suffixes; in some verbs ablaut was accompanied by consonant interchanges. The strong verbs had four stems, as they distinguished two stems in the Past Tense – one for the 1st and 3rd p. sg Ind. Mood, the other – for the other Past tense forms, Ind. and Subj. the weak verbs derived their Past tense stem and the stem of Participle II from the Present tense stem with the help of the dental suffix -d- or -t-; normally they did not interchange their root vowel, but in some verbs suffixation was accompanied by a vowel interchange. Minor groups of verbs differed from the weak and strong verbs. Some of them combined certain features of the strong and weak verbs in a peculiar way (“preterite-present” verbs); others were suppletive or altogether anomalous.
The strong verbs in OE are usually divided into seven classes. Classes from 1 to 6 use vowel gradation which goes back to the IE ablaut-series modified in different phonetic conditions in accordance with PG and Early OE sound changes. Class 7 includes reduplicating verbs, which originally built their past forms by means of repeating the root-morpheme; this doubled root gave rise to a specific kind of root-vowel interchange.
The principal forms of all the strong verbs have the same endings irrespective of class: -an for the Infinitive, no ending in the Past sg stem, -on in the form of Past pl, -en for Participle II.
The number of weak verbs in OE by far exceeded that of strong verbs.
The verbs of Class I usually were i-stems, originally contained the element [-i/-j] between the root and the endings. The verbs of Class II were built with the help of the stem-suffix -ō, or -ōj and are known as ō-stems. Class III was made up of a few survivals of the PG third and fourth classes of weak verbs, mostly -ǽj-stems.
The most important group of these verbs were the so-called “preterite-presents” or “past-present” verbs. Originally the Present tense forms of these verbs were Past tense forms. Later these forms acquired a present meaning but preserved many formal features of the Past tense. Most of these verbs had new Past Tense forms built with the help of the dental suffix. Some of them also acquired the forms of the verbals: Participles and Infinitives. In OE there were twelve preterite-present verbs. Six of them have survived in Mod E: OE āз; cunnan; cann; dear(r), sculan, sceal; maзan, mæз; mōt (NE owe, ought; can; dare; shall; may; must). Most preterite-presents did not indicate actions, but expressed a kind of attitude to an action denoted by another verb, an Infinitive which followed the preterite-present. In other words they were used like modal verbs, and eventually developed into modern modal verbs.
Old English syntax was similar in many ways to
that of modern English. However, there were some important differences. Some
were simply consequences of the greater level of nominal and verbal inflection
– e.g., word order was generally freer. But there are also differences in the
default word order, and in the construction of negation, questions, relative clauses
and subordinate clauses.
The default word order was
verb-second and more like modern German than modern English.
There was no do-support in questions
Multiple negatives could stack up in
a sentence, and intensified each other (negative concord).
Sentences with subordinate clauses
of the type "When X, Y" did not use a wh-type word for the
conjunction, but instead a th-type correlative conjunction (e.g., þā X, þā Y in
place of "When X, Y").
In OE the word order was free as far as there were a lot of inflections
that showed the relations between the words in a sentence.
Most common word-order patterns were:
1. S + P + O (in non-dependent clauses);
2. S + O + P (when the Object was a pronoun, e.g.
OE Ic þe secζe – literally “to you
clauses, e.g. OE þis wæs ζefohten siþþan hē of Ēāst Enþlum cōm – literally
“This battle was held when he from eastern England came” – such word order was
called “frame” – after a connective went the Subject, it was followed by all
the other parts of the sentence and the last place was occupied by the
Predicate which thus created a frame together with the Subject);
3. P + S + O (in questions, e.g. OE Hwat sceal ic sinζan – “What shall I
(in sentences starting with adverbial
modifier, e.g. OE Nū synt ζeþrēāde
þeζnas mīne – literally “Now were
threatened my servants”). In ME and NE, due to the loss of the Cases
and, as a result, loss of the inflections the distinction between the
Subject and the Object of a sentence was lost. Thus the word order became fixed
and direct (S + P + O – The Subject almost always took the first place
and was followed by the Object).
Such word order led to the appearance of the formal Subject
(formal it, there, e.g. It was winter; There is a book.) that
took the place of the Subject if a sentence did not have one and thus preserved
the direct word order.
Inversion was used only in questions
and for emphasis.
The 12th -15th century
Middle English (ME) refers to the varieties of the English language spoken after the Norman Conquest (1066) until the late 15th century; scholarly opinion varies but the Oxford English Dictionary specifies the period of 1150 to 1500. This stage of the development of the English language roughly followed the High to the Late Middle Ages.
Middle English developed out of Late Old English, seeing many dramatic changes in its grammar, pronunciation and orthography. Writing customs during Middle English times varied widely, but by the end of the period, about 1470, aided by the invention of the printing press, a standard based on the London dialect (Chancery Standard) had become established. This largely forms the basis for Modern English spelling, although pronunciation has changed considerably since that time. Middle English was succeeded in England by the era of Early Modern English, which lasted until about 1650. By that time, a variant of the Northumbrian dialect (prevalent in northern England and spoken in southeast Scotland) was developing into the Scots language.
During the Middle English period many Old English grammatical features were simplified or disappeared. This includes the reduction (and eventual elimination) of most grammatical cases, and the simplification of noun, adjective and verb inflection. Middle English also saw a mass adoption of Norman French vocabulary, especially in areas such as politics, law, the arts, religion and other courtly language. Everyday English vocabulary remained mostly Germanic, with Old Norse influence becoming apparent. Significant changes in pronunciation took place, especially in the case of long vowels and diphthongs, which in the later Middle English period began to undergo the Great Vowel Shift.
Simplification of noun morphology affected the grammatical categories of the noun in different ways and to a varying degree.
The OE Gender, being a classifying feature, disappeared together with other distinctive features of the noun declensions. Division into genders played a certain role in the decay of the OE declension system: in Late OE and Early ME nouns were grouped into classes or types of declension according to gender instead of stems. In the 11th and 12th c. the gender of nouns was deprived of its main formal support – the weakened and leveled endings of adjectives and adjective pronouns ceased to indicate gender. Semantically gender was associated with the differentiation of sex and therefore the formal grouping into genders was smoothly and naturally superseded by a semantic division into inanimate nouns, with a further subdivision of the latter into males and females.
The grammatical category of Case was preserved but underwent profound changes.
The number of cases in the noun paradigm was reduced from four to two in Late ME. Even in OE the forms of the Nom. and Acc. were not distinguished in the pl, and in some classes they coincided in the sg. In Early ME they fell together in both numbers. In the strong declension the Dat. was sometimes marked by -e in the Southern dialects; the form without the ending soon prevailed in all areas, and three OE cases, Nom., Acc. and Dat. fell together. Henceforth they are called the Common case in present-day English. The Gen. case was kept separate from the other forms, with more explicit formal distinctions in the singular than in the plural. In the 14th c. the ending -es of the Gen. sg had become almost universal, there being only several exceptions – nouns which were preferably used in the uninflected form (some proper names, names of relationship). In the pl the Gen. case had no special marker – it was not distinguished from the Comm. case pl or from the Gen. sg. Several nouns with a weak plural form in -en or with a vowel interchange, such as oxen or men, added the marker of the Gen. case -es to these forms: oxenes, mennes. In the 17th and 18th c. a new graphic marker of the Gen. case came into use: the apostrophe.
The other grammatical category of the noun, Number proved to be the most stable of the nominal categories. The noun preserved the formal distinction of two numbers through all the historical periods. In Late ME the ending –es was the prevalent marker of nouns in the pl. It underwent several phonetic changes: the voicing of fricatives and the loss of unstressed vowels in final syllables:
1) after a voiced consonant or a vowel, e.g. ME stones [΄sto:nəs] > [΄stounəz] > [΄stounz], NE stones;
2) after a voiceless consonant, e.g. ME bookes [΄bo:kəs] > [bu:ks] > [buks], NE books;
3) after sibilants and affricates [s, z, ∫, t∫, dз] ME dishes [΄di∫əs] > [΄di∫iz], NE dishes.
The ME pl ending –en, used as a variant marker with some nouns lost its former productivity, so that in Standard Mod E it is found only in oxen, brethren, and children. The small group of ME nouns with homonymous forms of number has been further reduced to three exceptions in Mod E: deer, sheep, and swine. The group of former root-stems has survived also only as exceptions: man,tooth and the like.
In Middle English the
system of declension became more regular and uniform. Homonymous forms in Old
English noun paradigms caused neutralization of the grammatical oppositions;
similar endings, employed in different declensions, disrupted the group of
nouns into morphological classes. Even in Old English the endings used in
ā-stems, ō-stems, and n-stems were added to the same gender. This is how the
noun declension tended to be re-arranged on basic of gender.
development of indeclinable definite article (the); only one singular and one plural form for each of the two OE demonstratives (that and this); singular based on OE neuter forms; plural of pæt, pa>po(s)> those, plural of pis, pise
accusative merged with dative into object case whom; instrumental hwy became interrogative adverb why; masc./fem.: who, whom, whos, neuter: what, what/whom, whos; phonological loss of w in who; which and whether also used as interrogative pronouns in ME
indeclinable pat as all-purpose relative pronoun; then by 14th c. interrogative pronouns began to be used as relatives (influence of French and Latin); 'which' was the most frequent interrogative used as relative; non-expression of a relative which would be subject of subordinate clause (he sente after a cherle was in the town); personal pronouns used as reflexives, beginning of reflexives with -self (regarded as noun hence pronouns in the possessive); declining use of 'man' as indefinite pronoun, appearance of 'you' as indefinite, also 'one' and 'they' toward the end of ME
The development of the adjective in ME
decay of grammatical categories of the adj proceeded in the following order.
The first category to disappear was Gender, which ceased to be distinguished by
the adj in the 11th c.
number of cases was reduced: the Instr. Case had fused with the Dat. By the end
of OE; distinction of other cases in Early ME was unsteady.
14th c. the difference between the strong and weak form is sometimes
shown in the sg with the help of ending –e.
14th c. pl forms were sometimes contrasted to the sg forms with the
help of ending –e.
age of Chaucer the paradigm of the adj consisted of 4 forms distinguished by a
single vocalic ending –e.
ending vowels and polysyllabic adjs took no endings and could not show the
difference between sg and pl forms or strong and weak forms.
distinctions between weak and strong forms, and also between pl and sg are
found in the works of 14th . writers like Chaucer and Gower.
the following changes happened:
· In most cases inflections -er, -est were used to form the comparative and the superlative degrees;
· Root-sound interchange fell into disuse (long – longer – longest),
though in some cases it was preserved as an exception from the rule (e.g. old – elder – eldest; far – further –
In structural terms the Middle English verbal system is almost identical with the Modern English system.
Middle English verbs had the following simple forms:
vary strongly by dialect, with southern dialects preserving the Old English
-eþ, Midland dialects showing -en from about 1200 onward and northern forms
using -es in the third person singular as well as the plural.
The non-finite forms, ie. the forms unmarked
for tense, number and person, were: infinitive, past participle, present
participle and gerund. From around Chaucer's time the last two obtained more or
less regularly the same ending -ing and so started to be formally
indistinguishable though functionally still different
Syntactically, the infinitive and gerund
functioned as nouns and the participles as adjectives.
basis of their inflections ME verbs are commonly classified into three groups:
two major ones, traditionally referred to as strong and weak, and a third one
comprising a number of highly irregular verbs (here referred to as MAD verbs,
basic difference between the first two groups lies in the way they form their
past tense and past participle. Strong verbs build them by means of a root
vowel alternation (the so-called ablaut) and the past marker of weak verbs is a
dental suffix (usually -t, -d or -ed) attached to the root, after which the
inflectional endings marking the number/person are added.
The shift of a
verb from one category to another was accompanied by the growth of the number
of irregularities within the strong verb system, which in turn accelerated the
process itself. The disintegration of the ablaut system and attempts at fitting
most strong verbs into the weak paradigm must have changed the perception of
ablaut from systemic feature to an irregularity.
Consequently, in the 14th century any productivity of the strong category is
lost and therefore the distinction should rather be made between regular
(productive) and irregular (unproductive) verbs with some additional group from
which other categorial sets, eg. modals, will later emerge). Owing to the fact
that this paper concerns the language of the text from the end of the 14th
century, the following classification will be adopted:
irregular verbs -
forming the past by means of ablaut or by the addition of a dental suffix or by
the change of a stem vowel and, in some cases, of a stem consonant, eg. kepen -
kept, cachen - kaught. The latter originate from a distinctive subgroup of OE
weak verbs. This category was a source for modern irregular verbs.
regular verbs -
forming the past tense and past participle by the productive rule of the
addition of a dental suffix. They are ancestral to regular verbs in Modern
c) MAD verbs - the remains of OE anomalous and
preterite-present verbs, described in more detail in the previous section of
ME retained categories of tense, mood, number, person, strong, weak and other verbs, added new type of verb (two-part or separable: e.g. pick up, take over); beginning of periphrastic verb phrases; biggest losses in strong verbs (sound changes had blurred distinctions within and between storng verb classes, new verbs from French generally adapted as weak)
The nominal and the verbal systems developed in widely different
ways. The morphology of the noun, the adjective and the pronoun has on the
whole become simpler: many grammatical categories were lost (e.g. gender in
adjectives and nouns, case in adjectives); the number of forms within the
surviving grammatical categories diminished (e.g. the number of cases); the
morphological division into stems or types of declension disappeared.
n the English of the last six
centuries: Early New English from the 15th century to the 17th, up to
the age of Shakespeare and Modern English.
In late modern English the ending –es was the prevalent marker of nouns
in the plural. In early
New English it extended to more nouns- to the new words appearing in English
vocabulary, to many words of other way of plural formation or which employed
–es as just of the variant endings.
pronouns – those referring to one or more unspecified
objects, beings, or places
pronouns – those associated with
a certain person, thing, or group; all except you have distinct forms that
indicate singular or plural number
pronouns – those preceded by the adverb, adjective,
pronoun, or noun to which they refer, and ending in –self or –selves
pronouns – those used to point to something specific
within a sentence
pronouns – those designating possession or ownership
pronouns – those which refer to nouns mentioned
previously, acting to introduce an adjective (relative) clause
pronouns – those which introduce a question
pronouns – those expressing mutual actions or
relationship; i.e. one another
pronouns – those ending in –self or –selves and
that serve to emphasize their antecedents
Towards the end of Middle English, a sudden and distinct change in pronunciation (the Great Vowel Shift) started, with vowels being pronounced shorter and shorter. From the 16th century the British had contact with many peoples from around the world.
This, and the Renaissance of Classical learning, meant that many new words and phrases entered the language. The invention of printing also meant that there was now a common language in print. Books became cheaper and more people learned to read. Printing also brought standardization to English. Spelling and grammar became fixed, and the dialect of London, where most publishing houses were, became the standard. In 1604 the first English dictionary was published.
The main difference between Early Modern English and Late Modern English is vocabulary. Late Modern English has many more words, arising from two principal factors: firstly, the Industrial Revolution and technology created a need for new words; secondly, the British Empire at its height covered one quarter of the earth's surface, and the English language adopted foreign words from many countries.