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
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.
The period of the Old English
is from 450 to 1150 and it is sometimes described as the period of full
inflections, since during most of this period the endings of the noun, the
adjective, and the verb are preserved more or less unimpaired. An important
feature of the Germanic languages is the development of a twofold declension
of the adjective: one, the strong declension; and the other is the weak one.
The strong declension is used when the adjective alone must bear the primary
burden of indicating the construction of the noun, and the weak or
non-distinctive adjective, or a possessive has already performed the office of
case, number and gender indication.
The Old English adjective has three genders:
masculine, feminine and neutral. It also has the same cases as on: nominative,
genitive, dative, with the addition of an instrumental in the masculine and
neutral singular. It is necessary to mention only such distinctive endings as
the masculine accusative singular-ne, the feminine genitive and dative-re, and the genitive plural-ra as illustrations of this point. In the sense that this
inflectional pattern contains such inflections especially associated with certain
case and gender forms, it is a strong declension.
It can be seen clearly in the following table
that we find the ending-a for a masculine nominative singular adjective,-an for the accusative singular of the same gender,
and - e for a
feminine nominative singular. In fact the weak adjective declension corresponds
point for point with the weak noun declension, even to the distinctive-eform in the neuter accusative singular. For example:
An OE noun eag = eye becomes eage in the neuter nominative singular, and nam = name becomes naman in the masculine dative singular.
The strong declension is used predicatively and
attributively without any other defining word, or when the adjective is not
preceded by a demonstrative or possessive pronoun, such as follows:
^ Waes seo faemne geong the woman
Dol cyning a foolish king
The weak declension is used after the
demonstrative and possessive pronoun or after a definite article:
Se dola cyning the foolish king
Se ofermoda cyning the proud king
^ Min leofa sunu my dear son
The comparative adjective was formed of the
suffix - ra, and
the superlative - ost, a few adjectives have-est. Examples:
We also find some words with the comparative
formed from an adverb or preposition with the superlative-um,
or-uma, in Latin loan words: optimus
(best), summus (highest). For the word ending in-m ceased to be felt as having superlative force, some
words taken by analogy the additional ending-est. It makes the double superlative with the suffix-umist-, then becomes-ymist-and develops further into-imest -,-emest -, and mest, such as in formest, midmest, and further examples are:
There are also some irregular comparisons in Old
English adjectives, such as:
hé (masc.), héo (fem.), hit (neut.)
(masc., neut.), héo (fem.)
the last 1500 years mín became mine, gé turned into you (ye as a colloquial variant). But
changes are still significant: the 2nd person singular pronouns disappeared
from the language, remaining only in poetic speech and in some dialects in the
north of England. This is really a strange feature - I can hardly recall any
other Indo-European language which lacks the special pronoun for the 2nd person
singular (French tu, German du, Russian ty etc.). The polite form replaced the colloquial one,
maybe due to the English traditional "ladies and gentlemen" customs.
Another extreme exists in Irish Gaelic, which has no polite form of personal
pronoun, and you turn to your close friend the same way as you spoke with a
prime minister - the familiar word, translated into French as tu. It can sound normal for
English, but really funny for Slavic, Baltic, German people who make a thorough
distinction between speaking to a friend and to a stranger.
The word for
"she" was héo in Old English. The word she probably comes from the feminine demonstrative pronoun séo (see below), which derives from the Common Germanic *sjó. But the exact origin of this simple word is unknown,
and there is even a version that it came from Celtic languages (Irish sí [shee]) or from Scandinavian.
Both demonstrative pronouns come from the same
two Proto-Indo-European stems: *so- / *sa- and *to-. Originally, in Indo-European
languages there was a three-grade system of demonstrative pronouns, namely
"this, next to me", "this, next to you", and "that,
far from both of us". But, as well as many branches of the family,
Germanic languages left only two of them, simplifying the structure to just
"this" and " that".
All indirect case
forms of the pronouns above begin with þ- [th]. It traces back to the Indo-European *t- which became þ in Germanic.
N hwá hwæt
G hwæs hwæs
D hwæ'm hwæ'm
A hwone hwæt
- hwý, hwí
Translation is simple. For those
who have not guessed yet, hwá means 'who?', hwæt is 'what?'. These pronouns, which
actually mean the masculine and the neuter varieties of the same pronoun,
derive from Proto-Indo-European *kwis,
with *kw becoming hw in Germanic languages. In
Gothic the combination hw was considered as one sound which is
another proof that the Indo-European the labiovelar sound kwwas a single sound
with some specific articulation.
Later Germanic languages changed
the sound in a different way: in Norwegian it remained as hv, in German turned
into w (as in wer 'who', was 'what'), in English finally
changed into wh pronounced in most cases [w],
but somewhere also like [h] or [hw].
Interesting that the instrumental
of the word hwæt,
once being a pronoun form, later became the word why in English. So 'why?' is originally an
instrumental case of the interrogative pronoun.
Other interrogative pronouns, or
adverbs, as they are sometimes called, include the following, all beginning
hwilc 'which?' - is declined as the strong adjective
hwonne 'when?' -
this and following are not declined, naturally
treating syntax 2 levels are singled out – that of phrases and that of
Phrases in OE are of different
kinds. We can distinguish between noun phrases and verb phrases.
phrases had a noun as the head
word and pronouns, adjectives, numerals, nouns as modifiers. Most modifiers
agreed with the noun in gender, number, and case.
þuðeweardum þam lande(line 3. Ohthere)
that served as attributes to other nouns usually had the form of the Gen. case.
bān (whale’s bone)
phrases included a great variety
of dependant components: nouns, pronouns, adverbs, Infinitives, participles.
Infinitives and Participles were often used with verbs of incomplete
prediction. Some of these phrases were later transformed into analytical forms.
wolde fandian ( he wanted to find out)
A sentence is
a unit different from a phrase. It’s a unit of communication.
OE there were simple and composite sentences.
an OE simple sentences we find principal (subject, predicate) and secondary
parts of speech (attr., object, adv. mod).
The connection between
the parts of the sentence was shown by the forms of the words as they had
formal markers of gender, case, number, and person. The presence of formal
markers made it possible to miss out some parts of the sentence which would be
obligatory in an English sentence nowadays. For example, the formal subject hit could
be lacking in impersonal sentences:
þūhte (it seemed to him)
of the conspicuous features of OE syntax was multiple negations within
a sentence or clause. The most common negative particle was ne,
which was placed before the verb. It was often accompanied by other negative
words, mostly nāht or nōht which had
developed from ne+ā-whit (nothing). Eventually the negative
particle ne was dropped, and the negative meaning came to be
expressed by nōht only.
peculiarity of OE negation was that the particle ne could be
attached to some verbs, pronouns and adverbs to form single words:
man ne būde benorþan him
never, neither are traces of such forms.
Compositesentences are presented in OE
by compound and complex sentences. They are found
even in the oldest OE texts.
Compoundsentences had different kinds
of coordination, and complex sentences revealed different
kinds of subordination. There was a large inventory of subordinate clauses such
as attributive, object, and adverbial clauses. And yet many constructions look
clumsy, loosely connected, somewhat disorderly, which is natural in a language
whose written form had only begun to grow.
complex sentences a common feature was repetition of connectives at the
beginning of each clause, for ex. þā (then)
þær ʒefaren wæs, þā eodon hı¯e tō hiora scipum. (then/when he came
there, then they went to their ships)
particle þe was often employed in attributive clauses:
sı¯o scir hātte Halʒoland þe
hē on būde
to the word orderin OE it was relatively free. The position of
words in the sentence was often determined by logical and stylistic factors. In
other cases grammatical factors were taken into consideration. The word order
could depend on the communicative type of the sentence, (i.e. whether it is a
statement or a question), on the type of the clause, on the presence and place
of some secondary parts of the sentence. For example, if a sentence began with
an adverbial modifier, the word order was usually inverted.
þonne is ān port on sūðeweardum þæm lande (Ohthere, line 3)
in many respects OE syntax was characterized by a wide range of variations.
Nouns in Middle English do not reflect the complex
three-gender system of Old English. They change to reflect singular and plural
number, typically by adding -s (dayes and nightes days and
nights) or -n (namen, yënnames,
(genitive) case adds -s to nouns in the singular (nominative day versus possessive daiesday's). Some nouns in -r and -s take no possessive
ending (the father sone, Mars ire the father's
son, Mars' anger).
The dative case (used
with some prepositions) traditionally added endings to the Anglo Saxon noun. In
Middle English, these are mostly gone or reduced to a neutral shwa (like the
"e" in "angel"). For example, in the dativeon myn lif on my life, the noun looks the same as the plain
(nominative case) form of the noun in myn lif my life. Certain popular "dative
expressions" (fixed idiomatic expressions) retain the old dative case,
such as on
lyfe alive or with childe with child.
The article the occurs alongside the noun in the same
situations as in Modern English: the father. The articlean is shortened to a,
especially before a consonant: an father or a father.
Verbs are a bit more complicated in Middle English,
but only somewhat so. Let's look at the verb singenconjugated in the present
tense, indicative mood (used for making a statement or asking a question
(indicative mood) about an action taking place now (present tense)).
In other words, the phrase she singeth is used for she sings, I singe for I sing, etc. Notice that the plural
forms all end in -en. Infinitives also end in -en, like to singen rather than to sing.
When we talk about the past tense, we distinguish
between strong verbs (like singen) and weak verbs (likebathen).
This is because preterite indicative verbs (actions that happened in the past)
change their root vowel and add fewer endings if they're strong, or add -d- or
-t- and take more endings if they're weak:
Strong Verbs in the Past Tense
sang / song
Weak Verbs in the Past Tense
Strong verbs include seen, knowen see, know, and nearly any other verb
that still changes (through "ablaut") its root vowel in Modern
English. Weak verbs are the majority, but other examples are loven, wende love, went.
The imperative mood uses a verb as a command. In the
singular, the bare verb occurs (sing!), while the plural ends in -(e)th
When talking about the future, making conditional
statements, or for other moods, modal verbs are used as auxiliary or helping
verbs: I shal singe, thou mightest
come, we sholde goon I will sing, you might come, we should go.
The present participle ends in -ing or -inge (like bathinge). The past participle of weak
verbs ends in -d or -t, while strong verbs modify their stem's vowel and take
-e(n). Both weak and strong past participles often take the prefix y- (like bathed or y-sungen bathed, sung).
The subjunctive mood is found more frequently than in
Modern English. It occurs in contrary-to-fact statements. In the singular, we
find a form with -e (she singe she (may or may not) sing), while the plural has -en (ye
singen all of you (may or may not)
Negative sentences use the particle ne before the verb and, increasingly common in Chaucer's
day, nat after the verb: I ne wol, I wol nat I don't wish (to); he ne wot, he wot nat he didn't know; tarieth nat! don't wait! It is quite common to find ne contracted with the verb: nis (ne + is) isn't; not (ne + wot) didn't know (from the verbwiten to know (facts or information))
Adjectives in Middle English work much the same way as
they do in Modern English. These descriptive words come before the noun they
son. There is a Germanic twist, though. As in German and Icelandic, Middle
English differentiates between strong and weak adjectives.
stand on their own before a noun, like the yong in yong sone.
They often do not have a final -e (schwa sound).
Weak adjectives come
between the article the, the demonstratives (this,
that, these, those) or a possessive (his, Annes his, Anne's)
and the modified noun. Such adjectives have a final -e (schwa): the yonge man
and his sweete breeth the young man and his sweet breath.
With plural nouns,
it's far easier: adjectives generally take -e, weak or strong (yonge sones, the yonge children young sons,
the young children).
Pronouns in Middle English look much the same as their
Modern English counterparts, with a few exceptions:
§ The first person
singular ("I") is variously spelled i, ich, ih, and is found capitalized as I from 1250. The objective (accusative
and dative case) form is the same as Modern English: me. The
possessive form myn, min may
occur without the -n, but takes a final -e when used with plural nouns.
§ The second person
singular is thou (older thu). The
objective (accusative and dative case) form is thee. The
possessive thyn is sometimes written without the -n,
but takes a final -e when used with a plural noun.
§ He, him, his appear virtually unchanged. She may also be spelt sche, but
we find hire rather than her andhir instead of hers. The
third person singular neuter (it, also found in the
older form hit)
relates to the possessive his (not its!): ...Aprille
with his shoures soote ...April, with its showers sweet.
The first person plural we, us, and oure are
easy to understand. In older texts, expect to find ure instead ofoure.
§ The second person
plural ("all of you") is ye, but we find you as
an object and possessive case your.
§ The third person
plural ("they") has they as
a subject, but hem instead
of them and hir for their.
verb phrases: origin of compound verb phrases; perfect
tense became common, use of auxiliaries (be & have); progressive tense came
into being; passive constructions (with 'be' as auxiliary); future tense (with
shall and will auxiliaries); modal auxiliaries instead of subjunctive (may,
might, be going to, be about to); do as causative, do in periphrastic constructions
indicating tense (doth serve), impersonal verbs and dummy subjects (me
thristed, hit the likede), marked infinitive (to)
clauses: trend toward modern word order, SVO in
affirmative independent clauses; SOV when object was pronoun, in dependent
clauses, with compound tenses; VSO in questions and imperatives; OSV/OVS
emphasizing direct object or complement; required subject, use of dummy
subjects there and it
sentences: tendency to coordination (parataxis),
cumulative sentences; attempts to replicate Latin subordination in translations
poetry: use of syntactical inversions to fit rhyme
The only inflections retained in the noun were those marking the category
of number (the plural) and case (the
Number. The plural in –s has become the only regular form.
Certain nouns, probably due to their frequent use maintained their old plurals.
Some in –(e)n maintained their old weak (neuter) plural, e.g. ox
– oxen, child – children; also, those based on internal
vowel change, e.g. foot – feet, tooth – teeth, man – men, etc; the
invariable nouns (with unchanged plurals) from the OE neuter ones: sheep, deer,
which had been borrowed from other languages in Old English and Middle English
had generally taken the inflections characteristic of English words. But loan -
words belonging to the modern period often retain their original (foreign)
plural: axes, phenomena, stimuli, etc. Nevertheless,
in contemporary English there is a tendency to regularize some foreign plurals
(e.g. symposia or symposiums) or to
maintain the foreign plurals only as scientific terms (e.g. formulas used
in everyday language while formulae is restricted
to scientific usage).
Case. The system of declension which had gradually narrowed
to two case forms by the 15th century (Objective and
Possessive), maintained itself in Early Modern English and it has survived down
to our days. Nevertheless, an important change occurred little by little,
namely the narrowing of the sphere of the inflected Genitive (in –es) to
nouns denoting living beings. Towards the end of the 17th century
the Genitive singular ending in –es began to be replaced by ‘s and
about a century later, the apostrophe came to be used for the Genitive plural.
The present tense. The second person singular inflection -est naturally
declined in importance as the use of thou declined, giving
rise to the current arrangement whereby in the present tense only the third
singular is marked and all other persons take the base form.
At the start of the period, the normal third person singular ending in
standard southern English was -eth. The form -(e)s, originally
from Northern dialect, replaced -eth in most kinds of use during
the seventeenth century. A few common short forms, chiefly doth, hath,
continued often to be written, but it seems likely that these were merely
Forming the past tense and past participle. The class of ‘strong’ verbs (those
which indicate tense by a vowel change and do not have a dental segment added)
included a number of verbs which are now only ‘weak’
Examples include: creep: crope, cropen;
delve: dolve, dolven; help: holp, holpen; melt: molt, molten; seethe: sod,
A few ‘weak’ verbs moved into the strong class during the period, including dig, spit,
The formation of the past tense and past participle of strong verbs showed
more variation in early modern English than today. There were a number of
changes which began in Middle English and whose results have now been
fossilized in present English but which produced a variety of forms in this
i. patterning the past tense on the past participle (as in tore after torn);
ii. adapting the past tense or past participle to verbs with a different
pattern (as in slung after sung, etc.);
iii. patterning the past participle on the past tense (as in sat)
iv. dropping the –en suffix of the past participle (as in sung as opposed to
For example, write had the regular past tense wrote,
but also found were writ (with the vowel of the past
participle) and wrate (patterned on gave or brake);
the participle was written or writ (with loss
of -en) and wrote (based on the past tense) was also
found. Verbs like bear, break, speak, etc.,
regularly formed their past tenses with a (bare, brake, spake)
and this pattern was even extended to other verbs (wrate, drave).
Owing to the Great Vowel Shift these past forms lost
their distinctiveness from the present stem (since in a widespread variety of
pronunciation, the long a of the past became identical with the long open e of
the present) and after 1600 forms with o from the past
participle (bore, broke, spoke) became normal.
Regular ‘weak’ verbs in Middle English formed their past tense and past
participles in -ed, pronounced as a separate syllable, as it still is in
a few fossilized forms such as belovèd, blessèd. During
the sixteenth century the vowel was lost in this ending except where the
preceding consonant was t or d (e.g. in hated)
and the d of the ending was devoiced to [t] after a
voiceless consonant (e.g. in locked as opposed to logged).
Present English spelling does not regularly show these three variants [id],
[d], [t] but in early modern English ‘phonetic’ spellings (’d, d,
’t, t) are quite often found. (This can lead to the
obscuration of other distinctions; for example, it is sometimes unclear whetherrap’t represents rapped or raped.)
There was an inherited class of verbs which end in a dental and do not add
a dental ending to show the past (e.g. cast, set). This
class was temporarily enlarged by the borrowing of Latin participles ending in
–t used initially as participles and past tenses, e.g. ‘Moste
playnly those thynges sem to be euydent, whiche of offyce and good maner be
gyue and precept of them’ (Robert Whittinton, 1534), ‘That the
pain should be mitigate’ (1560). These were subsequently
used in other forms of the verb and developed regular past forms in -ed
end of the Middle English period, the adjective had already lost all its
endings, so that it no longer expressed distinctions of gender, number and
The chief interest of this part of
speech in the modern period is in the forms of the comparative and superlative
degrees. The two methods commonly used to form the comparative and superlative
(the synthetic and analytical comparison),
with the endings –er and –est and with the adverbs more andmost, had been customary since Old English
times. But there was much variation in their use: in the sixteenth century
these were not always precisely those now in use. Comparisons found in
Shakespeare’s works like certainer, honester, famousest, honourablest, are now replaced by the
analyticalforms. On the other
hand, monosyllabic adjectives often formed their comparative and superlative
analytically, e.g. Ingratitude more strong than traitor’s arms.
Double comparatives or double
superlatives were quite frequent in Early Modern English.
e.g. I’m more better than Prospero. (The Tempest)
Let not my worser spirit tempt you again. (K.
…in the calmest and most stillest night. (Henry IV)
The chief development affecting the
adjective in modern times has been the gradual settling down of usage so that
monosyllables take –er and –estwhile
most adjectives of two or more syllables take more and most.
Personal pronouns. In the second
person, by 1600 ye was a rare alternative to you; no case distinction remained (in earlier English, ye was
the subjective case and you the objective). The use ofyou as a ‘polite’ form of address to a
single person progressively encroached on thou (originally the singular pronoun)
until by 1600 thou (and its objective case thee) was restricted to ‘affective’ (both positive and
negative) uses (i.e. so as to be intimate or disparaging). By the late
had become normal in almost all contexts and thou and thee were limited to the Bible and
religious use, the Quakers, and regional dialects.
In the third person, the possessive of it was his until
around 1600. Various alternatives arose, including it (‘it had it head bit off beit (=
by it) young’, King Lear) and thereof (‘Sufficient
vnto the daye, is the trauayle therof’, Great Bible, 1539); its first appeared
in print in the 1590s and was rapidly accepted into the standard language.
pronouns. The earlier use of the simple objective pronouns me, thee, us, and so on, became restricted largely to poetic use
during the period, as in this example from Milton’s Paradise Lost: ‘Take to thee from
among the Cherubim Thy choice of flaming Warriours’. Forms in
-self (which early had been restricted to
emphatic use) now became the usual ones; plurals—with -selves(replacing -self) after plural pronouns—made their appearance in
the early sixteenth century.
relative pronoun that remained common (as it still is), but
a number of alternatives existed during the period. the which was
inherited from Middle English but became rare by the mid-seventeenth century. which could
be used for both persons and things but became rare for persons after 1611. who as a
relative pronoun was rare in the fifteenth century and gradually became
commoner in the period. The use of the so-called ‘zero relative’ (i.e. no
pronoun at all) arose in Middle English but was rare in the sixteenth century.
In the early modern period it could be used where the relative was the subject
of its clause as well as object (now largely non-standard or poetic), e.g.
‘Life it self..is a burden [zero relative]
cannot be born under the lasting..pressure of such an uneasiness’ (John Locke,
co-occurrence rules for determiners were somewhat different from those in later
modern English. Notably common was the sequence of demonstrative + possessive +
noun (‘this your son’).
sphere of syntax, we find certain important changes, some of which are
connected with the evolution of the morphological structure of the language.
Thus, the complete disappearance of agreement is due to the fact that the
adjective has become an invariable part of speech, as well as to the loss of
nearly all the personal inflexions of the verb.
In Early Modern
English we still find
instances of two or even more than two negations in one and the same sentence:
e.g. Yet, ‘t was not a crown neither. (Shakespeare – J. Caesar)
In the 16th century impersonal sentences were still frequent, but they began to
be superseded by personal sentences. Thus, we find sentences such as ‘It likes me well’. (Shakespeare – The
Taming…), alongside of ‘I do not like this tune.’ (Shakespeare – The Two Gentlemen of Verona)
A phenomenon which belongs both to
morphology and syntax, as well as to lexicology, and which became very frequent
in Early Modern English isconversion or functional shift.
Conversion (or zero-morpheme
derivation) is the process whereby one word is created from another without any
change of form (Bolton, 1993: 257). Conversion became quite frequent in Early
Modern English owing to the loss of most endings and inflections. Thus, the OE
verb andswarian and the OE noun andswaru became in MiE answeren (v.) and answere (n.); In EME they merged into one
and the same form answer (verb and noun). Also:
OE MiE EME
Verb lufian loven love
Noun lufu love love
On the analogy of such examples there
appeared in Early Modern English numerous shifts from verb to noun and from
noun to verb.
The fact that the adjective had lost
all its case, number and gender inflexions accounts for its being turned more
and more often into a noun. This happened not only with words of Old English
origin, but also with those borrowed from other languages (especially French
and Latin), e.g. effectivefrom
French; abstract, from
Shakespeare resorted to conversion
very frequently, for example, he often turned nouns into verbs: cudgelling one's brains; beggaring
all description, etc.
The further loss
of inflectional endings had as an important consequence a greater dependence on
fixed word order. The main sentence pattern consists of Subject – Verb –
Object. This has come to be regarded as the ‘natural’ word order in declarative
Stuart Robertson rightly points out
that “through the function of inflection, the word was generally autonomous in
Old English, while in Modern English grammatical autonomy has shifted to the
word-group. We are more dependent upon context than King Alfred was; for us the
order of words indicates more – indeed, sometimes everything – about their
grammatical function, whereas in Old English that was implicit in the form of
the word. Thus, as the language has changed from inflectional or synthetic
structure to analytic structure, individual words have gained simplicity of form or flexibility of
function; but within the sentence they have lost freedom of movement, and have
become more dependent upon one another (1958: 145)