History of Language

  1. The subject of history of English

History of the English language is one of the fundamental courses forming the linguistic background of a specialist in philology. It studies the rise and development of English, its structure and peculiarities in the old days, its similarity to other languages of the same family and its unique, specific features. It is a diachronistic view of the language that is aimed at understanding the very essence of the language that seems to be so unique in many respects today.

In contrast to synchronistic approach with its study of a language as a system of interrelated phenomena, separate aspects of the language are going to be investigated, and with due respect to synchronic studies, paying due attention to some periods. The aim of the course is the investigation of the development of the system of the English language, with a close look at the major stages of development of the language, the influence of various linguistic and non-linguistic factors on the language and, in the long run, try and formulate what makes this language.

The subject matter of the course is the changing nature of the language1 through more than 15 hundred years of its existence. It starts with a close view at the beginnings of the language, originally the dialects of a comparatively small number of related tribes that migrated from the continent onto the British isles, the dialects of the Indo-European family — synthetic, inflected language with a well-developed system of noun forms, a rather poorly represented system of verbal categories, with free word order and a vocabulary that consisted almost entirely of words of native origin. The phonological system of the language was also much simpler, with a strict subdivision of vowels into long and short, comparatively few diphthongs and an underdeveloped system of consonants. Synthetic and analytical features of the language are taken for study in this course; the process of gradual change of an Indo-European synthetic language with cases and declensions into a language with numerous analytical formations, some of which may still be treated as word combinations is obvious when the language is viewed in its development.



  1. Periods in the history of English

The beginnings of the English language are traced back to the year 449, when coming to help their Celtic ally, two Germanic chieftains, Hengist and Horsa, brought their belligerent tribesmen to the Isles.

Starting as a language separated from the rest of the Germanic linguistic area, it has been functioning for more than a millennium and a half; and there can be traced several periods within its history. Various approaches to delimiting the periods have been put forward. The basis of subdivision of the may be purely historical, based on some outstanding linguistically relevant events.There is a tradition of recognizing the Old English period (449-1066), the Middle English (1066-1475), and New English 15th century onwards , the framing events being Anglo-Saxon Conquest — the Norman Conquest; The Norman Conquest — the invention of the printingpress, and the end of the War of the Roses. Usually in this subdivision of periods they distinguish a subperiod — Early New English, the period between the 15th and mid-17th century — the period of Renaissance in the English culture, the one which is represented by numerous works of the classics of English literature and philosophy.

Each of the periods is marked by a set of specific features of phonology, grammar and vocabulary, and may be also defined in these terms. Henry Sweet classified them as The Period of Full Endings, the Period of Levelled Endings and the Period of Lost Endings.

We can only guess what the language was like until the 8th century, the century beginning from which writing becomes widespread. The formation of kingdoms on the British territory transformed the tribal dialects into regional (local) dialects that took place during the later, Written Old English (or Anglo-Saxon period).

The Early Middle English: unable to compete with the language of the mighty conquerors, is was reduced to serve the lower layers of the population, its functioning being prevalently in oral communication, the rules for the use of the forms were not only observed — they were not even set at the time. Late (classical) Middle English: London dialect becomes more and more prestigious, and what is written in “The Canterbury Tales” is already almost understood by a reader without a special linguistic training. Early New English is known as Shakespeare’s English. Classical classifications give the New English period as beginning with mid-17 century. Really, almost all the grammatical forms that are found in the language had been formed by that period; the major phonetic changes had already taken place; the ability to pick whatever lexeme wherever possible was already developed. “Post-Modern” period of English (we may call it Late New English) may have originated in 1876 or 1877 with Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone and Thomas Alva Edison’s invention of the phonograph. Late New English is studied extensively in terms of its structure, styles communicative peculiarities and geographical (territorial) variants.




  1. The Roman Conquest of Britain. The Anglo-Saxon Conquest

Romans first attacked Britain in 55–54 BC under Julius Caesar. But they really conquered Britain in the 1st century AD, in 43 AD when the Roman Emperor Claudius decided to make Britain part of the Roman Empire. And Britain became one of its numerous provinces.

The Romans kept their armies in Britain. They had the country under control. They drove their barbaric enemies, the Scots to the mountains of Ireland and the Picts to the mountains of the far north. To protect themselves from the attacks of the Picts, the Romans built the wall known as Hadrian’s Wall. But from the 3rd century the Scots, «the tattooed ones», from the mountains of Ireland and the Picts from present-day Scotland began to press Hadrian’s wall. As for the Britons, the Romans remained in control of Pretony (that is how they called Britain using its Greeco-Roman name) for nearly 400 years.

The Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain is the term traditionally used to describe the process by which the coastal lowlands of Britain developed from a Romano-British to a Germanic culture following the withdrawal of Roman troops from the island in the early 5th century. The traditional view of the process has assumed the migration of several Germanic peoples, later collectively referred to as Anglo-Saxons, from the western coasts of continental Europe, followed by the establishment of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms across most of what is now England and parts of lowland Scotland.

449, coming to help their Celtic ally, two Germanic chieftains, Hengist and Horsa, brought their belligerent tribesmen to the Isles. History prior to that event is marked by the turbulence of the Roman Empire. The Romans had finally withdrawn to the Apennines to check the onslaught of the Barbarian tribes. Having been kept in submission for several hundred years, the Celtic inhabitants of the isles, could not make good use of their independence; and spent years fighting for supremacy, for none of the chieftains wanted to recognise someone else’s power. Having relatively equal forces neither could win easily, and one of them (Vortigem) invited Hengist, chief of the Jutes and his brother Horsa from the continent. This event is traditionally recognised as the beginning of the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain. But the British resistance stiffened as the invaders got away from coast, and their advance was brought to a standstill for nearly fifty years by a great battle won at Mount Badon.



  1. Formation of Germanic States in Britain

The Germanic tribes which conquered Britain formed seven separate kingdoms, which during 4 centuries struggled with one another for supremacy: Jutes, the earliest to come, formed the kingdom of Kent, Saxons — Essex, Wessex and Sussex, and Angles had the kingdoms of East Anglia, Northhumbria and Mercia. These seven principal concurrent Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in the 7th and 8th centuries are known under the general name — Heptarchy. Though they were supposed to be allies, still the struggle for supremacy was not uncommon, and some of them managed to gain supremacy at various times — first Kent, then Mercia and Northumbria. These latter reached the height of their importance in the pre-written period; some later documents of literature as well as the remains of material culture were ruthlessly destroyed during the raids of the Scandinavians. So, for instance, Northumbria’s rich cultural life (exemplified by the writings of Saint Bede and the illuminated Lindisfarne Gospels) was destroyed by these raids in the 9th century. The Midlands offered better conditions for economic prosperity, but the frontier position as to the Scandinavians did its bit, and what we have more or less well represented in writings is the Wessex dialect.

An event of paramount importance in the life of the Old English was the introduction of Christianity. Pope Gregory the Great sent a mission to the Isles, and since 597 Christianity comes into the life of the islanders.

Christianity came to England from Kent; and so Canterbury remain the religious centre of the country.

As a result of new ties with Rome the Latin language was introduced in England as the language of the church.

This development had an important consequence for the English language: it adopted a considerable number of Latin words which were directly or indirectly connected with religious and church notions. Historians will expostulate lots of advantages England gained by this act — but as regards language development; its influence can’t be overestimated: England received the Latin alphabet and educated people. It brought monasteries with their schools and chronicles Now the English history was written by the Englishmen themselves, in their own language; now translation as a kind of intellectual activity came into the life of Englishmen.



  1. General Characteristics of Old English

The Old English Period is the period from the 5th up to mid-11 century. It is characterised by the existence of the language in the form of several dialects, according to the 7 kingdoms that existed or the island; the vocabulary of each of them is comparatively homogeneous and contains mostly words of native origin (Indo-European, Germanic and specifically English). The connection of words in the utterance is performed through a ramified system of endings; hence, word order is relatively free: Common Indo-European traits, such as double negation or formation of impersonal sentences without any subject in the nominative case are quite common; phonetic structure is marked by a noticeable drift of the sound system away from other Germanic languages. New short diphthongs appeal as a result of assimilative changes, the system of consonants develops more marked pairs of voiced and voiceless fricative sounds.

The language was represented in writing in four dialects: Northumbrian, Mercian, Kentish, and West-Saxon. The majority of the manuscripts, containing anything worth reading as literature, are in West-Saxon.

The dominance of the West-Saxon literature during the period demonstrates the political and artistic vitality of the kingdom of West Saxons (Wessex). But it was the Mercian dialect, not the West Saxon, that eventually dominated and evolved into Chaucer’s Middle English and our Modern English. West-Saxon literature is the ancestor of nearly all English literature, but the West-Saxon language is not.

An event of paramount importance in the life of the Old English was the introduction of Christianity. Pope Gregory the Great sent a mission to the Isles, and since 597 Christianity comes into the life of the islanders.

Christianity came to England from Kent; and so Canterbury remain the religious centre of the country. Historians will expostulate lots of advantages England gained by this act — but as regards language development; its influence can’t be overestimated: England received the Latin alphabet and educated people. It brought monasteries with their schools and chronicles Now the English history was written by the Englishmen themselves, in their own language; now translation as a kind of intellectual activity came into the life of Englishmen.



  1. The First Consonant Shift, or Grimm’s Law

The first fundamental change in the consonant system of Germanic languages dates back to times far removed from today. Jakob Ludwig Grimm, a German philologist and a folklorist (generally known together with his brother Wilhelm for their Grimm’s Fairy Tales studied and systematized these correlations and in his Deutsche Grammatik. His conclusions are called Grimm’s law or the First Consonant shift.

The essence of Grimm’s law is that the quality of some sounds (namely plosives) changed in all Germanic languages while the place of their formation remained unchanged. Thus, voiced aspirated plosives (stops) lost their aspiration and changed into pure voiced plosives, voiced plosives became voiceless plosives and voiceless plosives turned into voiceless fricatives.

bh/dh/gh àb/d/g Sanksrit bhrata à Goth broдar, Old English brōдor (brother)

Sanksrit madhu —> Old English mēdu (mead)

b/d/g àp/t/k        Lith bala, Ukr. болото —> Old English pōl

p/t/k àf/θ/h         Lat pater Goth fadar, Old English fæder

There are some exceptions to Grimm’s law: p t к did not change into f/θ/h, if they were preceded by s (tres — дreo, but sto — standan). Another exception: if an Indo-European voiceless stop was preceded by an unstressed vowel, the voiceless fricative which developed from it in accordance with Grimm’s law became voiced, and later this voiced fricative became a voiced plosive (stop). That is p t к —> b d g. Greek pater has a Germanic correspondence fadar, fæder because the stress in the word was on the second syllable, and so voiceless plosive was preceded by an unstressed vowel.

So, in Present-day English we may find the words and morphemes of common Indo-European origin that differ in sound form their counterparts in other languages, but Grimm’s law will show their similarity to the words of other Indo-European languages: fish, but piscine (related to fish); eat but edible; three but triangle, tripod, trident.

We may find words having the same morphemes with the sounds modified in English but preserved in the borrowings in English: night — nocturnal mother — maternal tooth – dental.

Some words, however, seem not to comply with this law. Such words as day, beard, door have counterparts in other Indo-European languages with similar sounds. But it is due to the fact that the sounds in the common Indo-European were voiced aspirated plosives, that gave voiced plosives in Germanic languages. Later this aspiration was lost in other languages (in Latin they changed into voiceless fricatives) and so the sounds are the same in Germanic and non-Germanic languages now.



7.Old English Vowels. Gradation. Phonetic changes(breaking, i-mutation, back mutation)

The system of vowels in Old English included six long and seven short vowels (monophthongs)

a, æ, e, i, o, u, y (!) —  ā, ǣ, ē, ī, ō, ū, ȳ

and four short and four long diphthongs:

ea, eo, ei, io    —  ēa, ēo, īe, īo

The length of the vowel was a phonemic quality. The words having long and short vowels differed in meaning: ʒod (god) -ʒōd (good), west (west) — wēst (waste).

Assimilative changes are the changes that occurred in the language in specific surroundings.

There are two types of assimilation — regressive and progressive assimilation. If a sound influences the preceding sound, the assimilation is regressive, if it influences the following it sound — it is called progressive assimilation.

gradation, or ablaut — grammatical interchange of vowels in different forms of the verb and in word-formation (чергування голосних у корені слова)

1.Breaking (fracture). This is the process of formation of a short diphthong from a simple short vowel when it is followed by a specific consonant cluster.

a        +       r+cons, 1+cons.   =>     ea

æ       +       h+ cons.     =>     ea

e        +       h final         =>     eo

a > ea  arm > earm (arm); talde > tealde (told)

e > eo  melcan > meolcan (to milk); fehtan > feohtan (fight)

  1. Palatal mutation (i-umlaut) The essence of this change is that a back sound, a or o, changes its quality if there is a front sound in the next syllable. Especially frequent are the changes in the roots of the verbs influenced by the i-sound of the suffix of the infinitive -ian (the suffix lost its front sound in the same process, and in the Old English we have already the result of this change, not seeing the cause of it)

a > æ; a > e  wakjan — waæccan (to observe, to be awake)  sandian — sendan (to send) talian — taslan — tellan (to tell)

ā > ǣ         hālian — hǣlan (to heal)

o > oe > e   ofstian — efstan (to hurry)

ō > oe > ē   wōpian — wēpan (to weep)

 u > y         kuninʒ — cyninʒ (king)

ū > ȳ       mūs — mȳs (mice)

Palatal mutation was found not only in monophthongs but in diphthongs, too. The modified system of diphthongs looks like the following

ea > ie    eald — ieldra (elder)

eo > ie     feor — fierra (further)

ēa > īe    ʒelēafa — ʒelīefan (believe)

ēo> īe   ʒetrēowi — ʒetrīewe (true)

In the Northumbian and Merican dialects long and short ea mutate into long and short e (eldra)

We find the reflexes of Old English palatal mutation in such pairs in present-day English as sale — sell; tell – tale; doom – deem.

3.Back, or Velar Mutation

The formula of mutation here reminds very much that of palatal mutation, but the difference is that the syllable that influenced the preceding vowel contained a back vowel — o or u (sometimes even a might serve as background for back mutation).

i > io  hira — hiora (their) ; limu — liomu (limbs)

e > eo heorot — heorot (hart); hefon — heofon (heaven)

a > ea saru — searu (armour)


  1. Old English Vowels. Phonetic changes( palatalization, contraction, lengthening of Vowels in Certain Conditions)

1)Diphthongization after palatal consonants(palatalization)

Diphthongs may have resulted from another process in Old English — diphthongization after palatal consonants sk’, k’ and j (in spelling c, sc, ʒ ):

a > ea   skal — sceal (shall), scamu — sceamu (shame)

ā > ēa            skaggwon — scēawian (to show)

e > ie   ʒefan — ʒiefan (give) ʒetan — ʒietan (get)

æ > ea (the æ sound was actually derived from a) ʒæst — ʒeat (gate)

ǣ > ēa (the ǣ  sound was actually derived from ā ) jar — ʒēar (year)

o > eo scort — sceort (short) yong — ʒeonʒ (young)

However, there are linguists who still doubt whether the i sound (that is the resulting sound, it was actually a diphthong) was pronounced. Some stick to the opinion that the letter i simply signified the palatal nature of the preceding sound.

The words beginning with ʒ, sc and c with  non-palatalized vowel represent dialects other that West-Saxon (ʒunʒ, ʒefan) etc.


Somehow or other the consonant h proved to have interfered with the development of many sounds. When h was placed between two vowels the following changes occurred:

a + h +vowel > ēa  slahan — slēan (slay)

e + h + vowel > ēo sehen — sēon (see)

i + h + vowel > ēo  tihan — tēon (accuse)

o + h + vowel > ō  fohan — fōn (catch)

3)The significant quantitative change that is still felt in present-day English is the lengthening of vowels before the clusters nd,ld, mbbindan, cild, climban (bind, child, climb). Further development of the sound system led to diphthongization of long vowels, and that explains the exception in the rules of reading the sounds in the closed syllables in the present-day English (the words like climb, find, bold, told, comb, bomb).Still, if there was a consonant after this cluster the vowel was not lengthened: cildru (now children).



9.Old English Consonants. Phonetic Changes

Voiceless fricatives appeared in Germanic languages as a result of the First Consonant Shift (Grimm’s Law). Proceeding from a changeable part of the consonant system (it is to be remembered that the stablest are the sonorants and the sibilant s) their development continues in Old English.

1) Voicing of fricatives in intervocal position

f > v  ofer (over)hlāf — hlāfas (loaf — loaves)

θ > ð ōðer (other) ; raðe (quickly)

s > z > r

Voiced sibilant z was very unstable in Old English, and very soon changed into r. This process is called rhotacism.

wesun — weren ( now were, but was) maiza — māra ( now more, but most)

It is due to rhotacism that common Indo-European suffix -iza (Ukr.- iш) used to form the degrees of comparison is so different now in Ukrainian and English, but comparing such words as Goth, softiza Ukr. тихіший Old English softra ME softer we may easily find that the suffix is essentially the same.2) Palatalization of the sounds k”, sk’ and kg ’ (marked as c, sc and cʒ) developed in assibilation, that is formation of a sibilant in places before front vowels.

k’>tʃ cild (child) ceosan (choose) hwilc (which)

sk’ > ʃ sceal (shall) sceotan (shoot) sceort (short)

kg’ > dʒ brycʒ (bridge) hrycʒ (ridge) wecʒ (wedge)

Back ɣ sound before palatal consonants turned into j — ʒear (year).

So, the words that started with sc or j acquired a sibilant or j; if we find that a word still has g or sc/sk at the beginning there is a strong probability that it was borrowed from Scandinavian and replaced the Old English form (e.g. give, skin) or together with the old word formed a pair of etymological doublets (shatter/scatter, shirt/skirt). Some words of Greek origin (school, scheme etc) will also have sk.

3) Assimilation before t. The sound t when it was preceded by a number of consonants changed the quality of a preceding sound.

velar +t > ht  secan — (sōcte) —> sōhte (seek — sought) wyrcan —> worhte (work — wrought) (the sounds k and g changed in the past tense and in the participle   II before the dental suffix)

labial + t > ft  ʒesceapan —> ʒeaseaft (creature)

dental + t > ss witan —> wisse (instead of witteknew)

fn>mn   stefn —> stemn (voice);  fm>mm wifman —> wimman (woman)

dð>t   bindð —> bint (binds)

 4) Loss of consonants in certain positions. Besides h that was lost in intervocal position, the sounds n and m were lost before h, entailing the lengthening of the preceding vowel: fimf — fif (five) onðer — ōðer (other)

Other examples of similar loss was the loss of ʒ  before d and n; the vowel was lengthened, too: mæʒden — mǣden (maiden) sæʒde — sǣde (said)

5) Metathesis of r. In several Old English words the following change of the position of consonants takes place:

cons+ r + vowel > cons + vowel + r

brunnan — burnan (burn); brenna — beorn (a warrior); hros — hors (horse)

Metathesis of sounds is observed also with other sounds: wascan — waxan (wash)

6.West Germanic gemination of consonants. In the process of palatal mutation, when j was lost and the preceding vowel was short, the consonant after it was doubled (geminated): fullian — fyllan (fill); talian — tellan (tell) 

As we can see, the changes in Old English sounds were for the most part reflected in spelling, and we must only rely on the corresponding words from other languages to see what the origin of this or that sound was. The exceptions are only in such instances as various developments of ʒ, voicing of fricatives and palatalization of c, sc, cʒ.

10.Old English Morphology.

Old English morphology was that of a typical inflected if somewhat simplified Indo-European language. Parts of speech included noun, pronoun, adjective, numeral and verb; all of which formed their paradigmatic forms by inflections, suffixes, and sound interchange. There were no analytical formations. Nouns in Old English retained only four of the Indo-European 8 cases, adjectives, partly pronouns and numerals agreed with the nouns they modified in number, gender and case. The Old English had two adjective declensions, a strong and a weak. The weak forms were used generally after demonstrative pronouns, and possessive adjectives; the strong were used independently. The comparison of adjectives and adverbs in Germanic differs from that in the Romance languages. Generally, -r and -st endings are added: long, longer, longest.

Free stress became recessive, and precise accent rules became dominant, with the first root syllable carrying the stress. Umlauting, a process of modifying vowel sounds, took place extensively in formation of paradigmatic forms (man — men; f) and word building. A system of strong verbs developed as the result of vowel alternation (ablaut), and a unique way of forming the past tense using dental suffix for weak verbs (ealdian – ealdode- to grow old) was created.



  1. Old English Noun. Categories of OE Noun

Nouns in Old English had the categories of number, gender and case. Gender is actually not a grammatical category in a strict sense of the word, for every noun with all its forms belongs to only one gender; but case and number had a set of endings. Nouns used to denote males are normally masculine — mann, fæder, abbod (man, father, abbot). Those denoting females should be all feminine, — modor, sweostor, abbudissa (mother,sister, abbess). Yet there are curious exceptions, such words as mæʒden (maid), wīf (wife) are neuter (compare in Ukrainian хлоп’я, дівча). And wīfman (woman) is masculine, because the second element of the compound is masculine. The gender of the other nouns is unmotivated. The same form may have two different meanings distinguished by gender, for example lēod masc. “man”, but lēod (fem.), «people».

There are two numberssingular and plural, and four cases — nominative, genitive, dative and accusative. Comparing with what we have now we can see that number proved to be a stable category, relevant for rendering the meanings and expressing the true state of things in reality. Case is supplanted by other means to express the relations between the words in an utterance, whereas gender disappeared altogether.

In traditional historical studies the nouns are divided into classes according to the former stem-forming suffixes, which were hardly visible even in Gothic, the language separated in time from the Old English by centuries. The remnants of these suffixes are even more vague in Old English. Still, these stem-forming suffixes determined what inflections were taken by the nouns. Though lost in Old English they still worked in the way the case and number forms were made.

Without knowing the original structure of the nouns in the language we can hardly explain the exceptions in the formations of plural of the present-day English nouns. Why goose -pl. geese, but moose -pl. moose, foot — feet but boot — boots, sheep — pl. sheep, but sheet – sheet.



12) The nouns in Old English are commonly classified as belonging to strong and weak declension, within each of these groups there are several subgroups.

The Strong Declension

includes nouns that had had a vocalic stem-forming suffix. Former suffixes (a,o,i,u) are no longer found in Old English, moreover, even very paradigms of these groups of nouns were already splitting .


They may be either masculine or neuter. The difference between the two genders may be seen only in the nominative.

Old English nouns a-stems neuter with long vowel might give an unchanged plural, and the noun sheep being an exception from the general rule of formation the plural form goes back to the Old English period.

Examples of Old English а-stems are: masculine: earrn (arm), eorl (earl), ,  biscop (bishop), heofon (heaven) etc.

neuter: word (word), bearn (child), feoh (cattle),hūs (house).

There are some peculiarities of declension of the nouns that had originally -j-  or

-w- in the stem (they are called -ja-stems and -wa-stems); they may preserve this sound in declension; but otherwise the differences are minor.

Examples of -ja- stems are: hyse (young warrior), fiscere (fisherman), net (net), bedd (bed).

The nouns belonging to ōstems are all feminine. In the form of the nominative case monosyllabic nouns with a short root vowel of this class have ending –u; if there are two and more syllables or the root vowel is long, there is no ending at all:

The nouns of this group: caru (care), scamu (shame).

In this group of nouns the suffix — ō — may also be accompanied by additional і and w, that is -jō — and —wō — stems will give variants of declension.

In Ukrainian similar additional sound і gives such formations as стаття, копія.

The nouns formerly having -i-sufix, now called -i-stems might belong to all the three genders, and the case endings are different for different genders — masculine and neuter have the same endings as masculine and neuter nouns of the -a- stems, and feminine noun endings repeated the endings of the -o-stems.

The nouns of this group are: masculine: mere (sea), mete (food); neuter: sife (sieve), hilt (hilt); feminine: wiht (thing), hyde (hide), woruld (world, age).

Nouns belonging to -u-stems may be of masculine or feminine gender:

The nouns of this group are:masculine: wudu (wood), medu (honey); feminine: nosu (nose), hand (hand).

-o- and -u- stems in Old English had only three distinctive endings both for the singular and the plural and that was sufficient for proper communication. -i- stems, on the other hand, illustrate the tendency to dissolution of the former classes of nouns and a certain tendency for regrouping the declensions according to the gender of the noun.

Weak Declension

This class of nouns consists of a rather numerous group of nouns originally having — n-stems; the suffix is well-preserved in declension of nouns in Old English, but disappeared in the nominative case. -n- stem nouns may be of all three genders.

Examples:masculine: wita (wise man), steorra (star), flota (ship, fleet), neuter: cofa (chamber, repositary). feminine: heorte (heart), sunne (sun), hearpe (harp).

Root Stems. This group comprises the nouns that never had a stem suffix.The group was not numerous, but the words belonging to it were characterised by high frequency of use.

The nouns of this class are:all compound nouns containing the morpheme man: wimman (woman), ealdorman (nobleman, leader),and also f ōt (foot), mūs (mouse). The nouns belonging to -r-stems were of masculine and feminine gender, the group is a closed system. Ex. are dohtor (daughter), sweostor (sister)

Less numerous and less significant for the development of the present- day nominal system are the nouns that had other consonants as a stem- forming suffix, -s- stems had had this suffix in older times, in Old English due to rhotacism they changed it into occasional appearance of -r- sound in indirect cases. They are all neuter.

Comparatively new for Old English are several substantivated participles forming a separate group of -nd- stems. They are all masculine and their declension combines the peculiarities of the declension of -a-stems and, to some extent, -r- stems as they all denote persons (they may form their plural form without any ending). Here belong  such words as wealdend (ruler), scyppend (creator) etc.



13 Old English paradigm of the Noun and its reflection in Present-day English forms of the noun.

In Old English they have 3 genders (masculine, neuter, feminine), 2 numbers (singular, plural), and 4 cases (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative).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) and nouns that refer to inanimate objects are very often masculine or feminine (for example, masculine stān ‘stone’, feminine benċ ‘bench’). In Modern English we do not think of nouns as having gender; rather, the things they refer to have gender (or they do not, in which case they are “neuter”).In Old English, nouns were inflected (they changed how they were written and spoken) to add little bits of extra information to communicate their function within the sentence and the number of the noun (whether singular or plural).  Nouns were the essential element to a noun phrase (either a noun or a pronoun had to be in a noun phrase), which is an important part of most sentences. Also in the noun phrase you could put noun modifiers, like numbers, adjectives (words that describe, like «cool» or «special»), articles («the» or «a/an), and demonstratives («this» and «that»). In Old English different endings were added to nouns of different gender (for example, the nominative plural of masculine wer ‘man’ is weras, of neuter scip ‘ship’ scipu, and of feminine cwēn ‘queen’cwēna).In Modern English almost all nouns are declined in pretty much the same way: we add -s to make plurals and -’s to make possessives. There are notable exceptions, however. The plural of ox is not oxes, but oxen. And of course several very common nouns make plurals by changing their vowels: for example,tooth/teeth and mouse/mice.The nouns with -s plurals, nouns with -en plurals, the noun with -r-, and the nouns that change their vowels belong to different declensions—classes of nouns that are declined in similar ways. Though we have just one major declension in Modern English and a few minor ones, in Old English there were several major declensions and several more minor ones.



14 Old English pronoun. Classes.

Pronoun as a part of speech is a very specific class of words; it does not have meaning, it simply points to something mentioned earlier or situated within the range of visibility of the speakers.

There are several types of pronouns in Old English: personal, demonstrative, definite, indefinite, negative and relative.

Personal pronouns, that constitute a system of words replacing nouns; they are also called noun-pronouns.In Old English they had 3 persons: the first, the second and the third 3 numbers: singular, plural and the remains of the dual number in the second person 3 genders: masculine, feminine, neuter. The personal pronouns are  Ic ,ðū ,hē ,hit  ,hēo  ,hῑo ,wit ,ʒit ,wē , ʒē ,hῑe, hῑ, hy, hēo

Demonstrative pronouns are sē (that) and  ðēs   (this), the first indicating something far and the second something near; occasionally in colloquial speech the third pronoun   ʒeon — yonder, something still more distant and farther. They had three genders, two numbers and five cases in the singular and four in the plural and agree in number, gender and case with the nouns they modify.

Interrogative pronouns are nouns-pronouns  hwā and  hwæt and adjective-pronoun  hwilc had the category of case, but did not change in number. Pronoun hwilc is decline like a strong adjective.

Definite pronouns include the following:  ælc (each), ʒehwā(everyone)  ʒehwæt(everything) ʒehwilc(each) swilc(such), sē ilca ( the same). All but the last decline likev a strong adjective., and

sē ilca  is always declined weak.

Indefinite pronouns include such as  sum, æniʒ .They are used in preposition to nouns and are declined like strong adjectives. Another indefinite pronoun is  man, used as in this function in the meaning  any individual,anyone, or people in general (compare the use of pronoun they in present-

day English, in combinations like they say or man sagt in German).

Negative pronouns are formed by fusion of a negative particle  ne-with indefinite pronoun   æniʒ and numeral ān in its pronominal function. They are nān and  næniʒ, and are declined like the corresponding words without the particle ne.

Relative pronoun   ðe is found fairly often in Old English texts, it introduced relative clauses and was later replaced by a group of pronouns and adverbs( that, which, where, when, how).




15 OE adjective and its categories

There are primary adjectives, dating back from the very old times and derivative adjectives made by adjective-forming suffixes from nouns. this part of speech agrees with the noun it modifies in number, gender and case. Consequently, the adjectives have the same categories as the nouns do. Besides, they have categories which are purely adjectival.The adjective in Old English had the following categories:number — the singular and the plural;gender — masculine, neuter and feminine;case — 4/5 (nominative, genitive, dative accusative and partly instrumental)Besides, the adjectives had two declensions, strong and weak . The weak form of the adjective is used after a demonstrative pronoun, a personal pronoun or a noun in the genitive case, no matter whether the adjective is before the noun or after it and may be a stable epithet to the noun. When the adjective is not so accompanied, or is preceded by an adjective of quantity or number, it is declined strong. Specifically adjectival categories are the degrees of comparison — the positive, the comparative and the superlative. These are characteristic only for the qualitative adjectives.gs that are almost the same for the adjectives and for the participles).Qualitative adjectives had degrees of comparison (positive, comparative and superlative). The forms of the comparative and the superlative degree are made synthetically, by adding suffixes  -ra and  -ost/-est.soft — softra — softost (soft) Sometimes suffixation was accompanied by /-mutation of a root vowel: eald —  ieldra — ieldest (old)



16 OE Verb. Its categories. The form-building devices were gradation (vowel interchange), the use of suffixes, inflections, and suppletion.The non-finite forms of the verb in Old English were the infinitive and two Participles. Participle I is formed by means of the suffix  -ende added to the stem of the infinitive: writan — writende (to write — writing),sprecan — sprecende (to speak – speaking).Participle II expressed actions and states resulting from past action and was passive in meaning with transitive verbs, and rendered only temporal meaning of the past with the intransitive.  Participle II was commonly marked by the prefix  ʒe-,  writan — writen,  ʒewriten.The verb in Old English has the following categories: person, number, tense and mood.Number is a way of agreement of the predicate with the subject represented by the opposition of the singular and the plural. As dual number by that time was very seldom used.The category of person is represented by all the three persons, though this opposition is neutralised in many positions. Present Tense Singular has all the forms, whereas in plural the category is not shown.The category of mood was represented by the opposition of three moods — Indicative — Subjunctive — Imperative.The Indicative mood represents the action as a real fact. The Imperative expresses order, or request to a second person. The action expressed by Subjunctive mood is shifted from reality . It is usually implied condition, desire, obligation, doubt, uncertainty.The category of Tense was represented by the opposition past -nonpast or preterit — non-preterit. The current form for the non-preterite is the Present. The cases of use:the actual present, the “now”;in reference to a regular or habitual action;with future time reference; emphatic present to make the narration more vivid; historical present.



17 Strong Verbs  are divided into seven classes. 1  ї— ā — i — i

wrïtan — wrāt — writon — writen (to write) ;rïsan — rās — rison — risen (rise). 2 ēo-ēa-u-o bēodan — bēad — budon — boden (to offer); clēofan — clēa f — clufon — clofen (to cleave). The verbs that had s after the root vowel had the change of the consonant : cēosan —  cēas — curon — coren (to choose) .Some class II verbs have the vowel  ū instead of the usual ēo : lūcan — lēac — lucon — locen (to lock). 3there are several variations of root vowels in this class of verbs.a) if nasal sound + another consonant followed the root vowel the gradation formula was:i — a(o) — u – udrincan — dranc —  druncon — druncen (to drink); b) if / + another consonant followed the root vowel, then this formula was i/e — ea — u – o : helpan — healp — hulpon — holpen (to help);c) if r + consonant or h + consonant followed the root vowels then breaking in the first two forms changed the formula intoeo — ea — u – o : steorfan —  stearf —  sturfon —  storfen (to die). 4The verbs of this class have only one consonant after the short root vowel, and it is a sonorant — r or  I, in rare cases — m or n .The scheme of gradation is e — æ- ǣ  — o: stelan —  stæl – stǣlon — stolen (to steal). 5These verbs also have a short root vowel followed by only one consonant other than  I, r or n and here the basic vowels are:e — æ — ǣ – e: sprecan —  spræc —  sprǣcon —  sprecen (to speak).When the first sound was ӡ then diphthongization of e is observed and the forms of such verbs are: ӡiefan —  ӡea f — ӡeafon -ӡiefen (to give). 6  a-ō-ō-a :faran — fōr — fōron — faren (to go)Here belong such verbs as wadan (walk), bacan ( b ak e),  sceacan (shake). 7 ā-ē-ē-ā: hātan-hēt-hēton-hāten; ā-ēo- ēo-ā: cnāwan-cnēow- cnēowon- cnāwen.




18 Weak verbs  , their past tense and Participle II were made by adding the-dental suffix  -t- or  -d- to the root morpheme. They are divided into three classes- depending on the ending of the infinitive, the sonority of the suffix and the sounds preceding the suffix. New verbs derived from nouns, adjectives and partly adverbs  were conjugated weak: hors n (horse) —horsian w v 2 (supply with horses) .Borrowed verbs (though not very numerous in Old English) were also weak: Lat. signare — seʒnian (to mark with a sign). Classes : 1 The verbs of this class ended in  -an (or -ian after r). Originally they had had a stem-forming suffix -i- that caused the mutation of the root vowel.Regular class I verbs have mutation of their root vowel , and the three basic forms of the verb end in:-a n / -ia n — de/ede/te – ed/-t-d: (nasjan —> ) nerian — nerede — nered (to save). When the suffix was preceded by a voiceless consonant, the suffix -d- changed into in the second participle both  -t- and  -ed are found: cēpan — cēpte — cēpt, cēped (to keep).If the stem ended in two consonants, the second being d or t, participle II of such verbs, can have variant endings — in  -d, -t, or  -ded, -ted: sendan — sende — send, sended (to send) .Irregular verbs of the 1st class of the weak verbs had mutated vowel only in the infinitive (salian —> )  sellan — sealde — seald (to give). 2 These verbs originally had the suffix  -oia- in the infinitive; the root vowel is the same in all three forms. The absence of mutation in the infinitiveis due to the fact that the  -i- (from  -oja-) appeared at the time when the process of mutation was over. The suffix gave the vowel  -o- in the past tense and in the infinitive. -ian — ode — od : macian —  mac ode — macod (to make) . 3 The suffix -ai-, that determined the peculiarities of conjugation of the weak verbs of the third class in Old English is no lohger found. Some verbs of this class have doubled consonants in the Infinitive and the mutated vowels, which are accounted for by the presence of the element in some forms in Old English. -an-de-d: libban-lifde-lifd(to live).




  1. Old English Verbs. Preterite-Present Verbs.
    A few Old English verbs (unfortunately they are important and rather common) combine features of Strong Verbs and Weak Verbs.
    These verbs take what would normally be a Strong Verb past tense and transfer it to the present. They then build a Weak Verb paradigm upon that Strong Verb present tense.
    This sounds confusing, but makes sense when you see it applied to an actual verb. The basic idea is that preterite-present verbs are Strong Verbs that have their past tenses and present tenses swapped.

    The important verbs in this category are:
    witan = to know
    agan = to possess
    dugan = to achieve
    cunnan = to know
    durran = to dare
    To construct a conjugation for a Preterite Present Verb, do the following:
    Subtract the «an» ending from the infinitive. This gives you the stem of the verb:
    witan -«an» = wit
    Use the Strong Verb Paradigm to determine what the Past Singular would be:
    «wit» would be a Class I Strong Verb, so we know that the Preterite would be «wat»

    wit ==> wat

    This now becomes the stem for the paradigm, and what you would have expected to be the present tense (wit, which, remember, is the stem minus the «an» ending of the infinitive) moves to the past tense.



  1. Classes of Old English Verbs as Reflected in present-day English Verb Forms.
    Old English verbs can be daunting, for a typical verb appears in more forms than a typical pronoun, noun or adjective. The Old English weak verbs correspond roughly to the Modern English “regular” verbs. Helpan ‘help’ is a “strong” verb, one that does not add a dental suffix to make its past tense, but rather changes the vowel of its root syllable. The Old English strong verbs correspond to Modern English “irregular” verbs such as sing (past sang, past participle sung).

    There are just two tenses, past and present. Old English has various strategies for referring to future time: it uses auxiliary verbs (including willan), explicit references to time (e.g. tōmorgen ‘tomorrow’), and the simple present, relying on context to express futurity.
    Similarly, Old English has no settled way of expressing what Modern English expresses with the perfect and pluperfect—that is, that an action is now complete or was complete at some time in the past. It can use forms of the verb habban ‘to have’ with the past participle, as Modern English does (hæfð onfunden ‘has discovered’, hæfde onfunden ‘had discovered’), it can use the adverb ǣr ‘before’ with the simple past (ǣr onfand ‘had discovered’), or it can use the past tense alone, in which case you must infer the correct translation from the context.

    Some of the Modern English auxiliary verbs (also called “helping verbs”) are descended from a class of Old English verbs called “preterite-presents.” They are so called because the present tense of these verbs looks like the past tense (what many grammar books call the “preterite”) of the strong verbs. Most of these Modern English preterite-presents come in pairs, one member of which was originally a present tense and the other originally past: can/could, may/might, and shall/should.
    Modern English makes a distinction between regular and irregular verbs. This distinction goes back to the Old English system of strong and weak verbs: the ones which used the ancient Germanic type of conjugation (the Ablaut), and the ones which just added endings to their past and participle forms. Strong verbs make the clear majority. According to the traditional division, which is taken form Gothic and is accepted by modern linguistics, all strong verbs are distinguished between seven classes, each having its peculiarities in conjugation and in the stem structure. It is easy to define which verb is which class, so you will not swear trying to identify the type of conjugation of this or that verb (unlike the situation with the substantives).

    Examining verbs of Old English comparing to those of Modern English it is easy to catch the point of transformation. Not only the ending -an in the infinitive has dropped, but the stems were subject to many changes some of which are not hard to find. For example, the long í in the stem gives i with an open syllable in the modern language (wrítan > write, scínan > shine). The same can be said about a, which nowadays is a in open syllables pronounced [æ] (hladan > lade). The initial combination sc turns to sh; the open e was transformed into ea practically everywhere (sprecan > speak, tredan > tread, etc.). Such laws of transformation which you can gather into a small table help to recreate the Old word from a Modern English one in case you do not have a dictionary in hand, and therefore are important for reconstruction of the languages.



  1. Old English vocabulary

The vocabulary of Old English (OE) is relatively small. It contains almost 34,000 different word forms, whereas a modern desk dictionary might contain 80,000. Some of these words have more than one meaning, i.e. they are polysemous:  it contains just over 50,000 meanings altogether. An example of multiple meaning or polysemy is OE ecg, pronounced in the same way as its Modern English (Mod. E.) descendant ‘edge’. In addition to meaning ‘edge’, it also means ‘blade’, the part of an object that has a sharp edge, and ‘sword’, an object distinguished by having a sharp edge or blade. This is an example of metonymy, the identification of an object by one of its attributes, as when the Prime Minister is referred to as ‘No. 10’. ‘Edge’ in Mod. E. also has a metaphorical sense, where an abstract idea is conveyed by referring to something concrete, as in ‘her voice had an edge to it’.Much of the vocabulary of Mod. E. derives from Old English. This applies particularly to our core vocabulary: common words in everyday use for fundamental concepts. Examples include the natural world (earth, sea, wind, fire, water; sun, moon, star); people (man, woman, child, father, mother, brother, daughter); the body (hand, arm, elbow, finger, foot, nose, mouth); and other basic concepts such as food, drink; heaven, hell; friend, neighbour; love, good, evil; hot, cold; after, over, under. However, not all words which look alike necessarily refer to the same thing – such misleading words are often called false friends. An example pair is OE bēor / Mod. E. beer. Although both refer to alcoholic drinks, the nature of the drink is quite different.The examples above are all typical of OE words in being one or two syllables in length. Where there are two syllables, the stress is on the first. Initial stress is a characteristic feature of the Germanic languages as a group and remains the most common type of word structure in Mod. E. We have also retained from OE many of the ways of making new words, but at the same time English has borrowed numerous words from other languages, notably French and Latin. Thousands of French words were brought into English after the Norman Conquest of 1066, which ended the rule of the Anglo-Saxon kings and introduced considerable social change. New words occur especially in fields where Norman influence was strongest, such as Law, Literature and Fashion. These loan words from other languages often exhibit different stress patterns from the basic Germanic vocabulary, as with anatomy and cagoule from French, armada and potato from Spanish, kamikaze from Japanese, anathema from Greek and flamingo from Portuguese.



  1. Middle English. General characteristics of the period.

Historical period

The chronological boundaries of the Middle English period are not easy to define, and scholarly opinions vary. The dates that OED3 has settled on are 1150-1500. (Before 1150 being the Old English period, and after 1500 being the early modern English period.) In terms of ‘external’ history, Middle English is framed at its beginning by the after-effects of the Norman Conquest of 1066, and at its end by the arrival in Britain of printing (in 1476) and by the important social and cultural impacts of the English Reformation (from the 1530s onwards) and of the ideas of the continental Renaissance.

Two very important linguistic developments characterize Middle English:

in grammar, English came to rely less on inflectional endings and more on word order to convey grammatical information. (If we put this in more technical terms, it became less ‘synthetic’ and more ‘analytic’.)Change was gradual, and has different outcomes in different regional varieties of Middle English, but the ultimate effects were huge: the grammar of English c.1500 was radically different from that of Old English. Grammatical gender was lost early in Middle English. The range of inflections, particularly in the noun, was reduced drastically (partly as a result of reduction of vowels in unstressed final syllables), as was the number of distinct paradigms: in most early Middle English texts most nouns have distinctive forms only for singular vs. plural, genitive, and occasional traces of the old dative in forms with final –e occurring after a preposition.In some other parts of the system some distinctions were more persistent, but by late Middle English the range of endings and their use among London writers shows relatively few differences from the sixteenth-century language of, for example, Shakespeare: probably the most prominent morphological difference from Shakespeare’s language is that verb plurals and infinitives still generally ended in –en (at least in writing).

in vocabulary, English became much more heterogeneous, showing many borrowings from French, Latin, and Scandinavian. Large-scale borrowing of new words often had serious consequences for the meanings and the stylistic register of those words which survived from Old English. Eventually, various new stylistic layers emerged in the lexicon, which could be employed for a variety of different purposes.



  1. The Scandinavian Conquest. The Scandinavian influence on the English language

Under the year 787 three shiploads of Northmen landed upon the coast of Britain and invaded the country. These invaders were Scandinavian tribes: The Danes, the Swedes. They inhabited the north of Europe (modern Denmark, Norway and Sweden). They started their invasion taking possession over the East of Britain and the Danish invasion resulted in the occupation of a great part of the territory by Scandinavian settlers. In the year 878 the English King Alfred the Great, by the Treaty of Wedmore was obliged to recognize Danish rule over a territory covering two-thirds of modern England; all Northumbria, all East Anglia and one half of Central England made up District called the Danelaw.

The effect of the Danish Conquest was a contribution of many Scan¬dinavian words to the English vocabulary.

The criterion of sound in many cases may be applied in distinguish¬ing Scandinavian words. Since in native English words the sk sound had regularly changed to sh and since the k sound before the vowels e and i had regularly changed to ch, the greater part of the Germanic words in English with the sk sound such as scare, skill, skin, skirt, sky and many words with the k sound before e and i, such as kettle, keg, kirk are to be assigned to Scandinavian origin.

In cases where the Scandinavian form of a word differed from the Eng¬lish form, sometimes both forms survived with a different meaning.

The Scandinavian influence was especially marked in place-names in Northern England, Among the more common ones are those ending in-by (0. N. byr, a dwelling, village); in -beck (has been used as an independent word since 1300 especially in the North; 0. N. bekker, a brook, Ger. Bach); in-dale (O. , a valley, Ger. Thai); in thorp or-torp (0. N thorp, a hamlet, village); in -toft (O. N, toft a homestead, enclosure) and in -twaite (veiti, a clearing).

In some cases when the English word and the Scandinavian agreed in form, the Scandinavian form has imported a new meaning to the English. Thus dream in О. Е. meant toy, but in Middle English the modern meaning of dream was taken over from O.N. draumr. The same is true of bread (formerly meaning a fragment or bloom (bloma, mass of metal), plough (a measure of land); holm (О. Е. holm, ocean).

A number of common words which existed in Old English have been assimilated to the kindred Scandinavian synonyms only in form (e. g. sister descends not from the Old English sweoster, but from the O. N. syster. The same is true of such everyday words as birth, get, give, etc.



  1. The Norman Conquest. French element in the ME.

The Norman conquest of England was the 11th-century invasion and occupation of England by an army of Norman, Breton, and French soldiers led by Duke William II of Normandy, later William the Conqueror. William’s claim to the English throne derived from his familial relationship with the (childless) Anglo-Saxon King Edward the Confessor, who may have encouraged William’s hopes for the throne. Edward died in January 1066 and was succeeded by his brother-in-law Harold Godwinson. The Norwegian kingHarald Hardrada invaded northern England in September 1066, was victorious at the Battle of Fulford, but Harold defeated and killed him at the Battle of Stamford Bridge on 25 September 1066. Within days, William landed in southern England. Harold marched south to confront him, leaving a significant portion of his army in the north. Harold’s army confronted William’s invaders on 14 October at the Battle of Hastings; William’s force defeated Harold, who was killed in the engagement. Following the Conquest a lot of Normans crossed the channel, and enlarged the population of England. For almost three centuries the French language was the official language of the English kingdom; it was the language of the royal court, the church, courts of law, army and the castle. Education, as it was mainly controlled by the church was also in French, though the Latin language was traditionally also taught. The three hundred years of French domination affected the English language enormously. But English language didn’t die as the English speakers demographically prevailed. The effects of the French language on the Middle English are hard to overestimate. The changes in spelling that took place in that period laid the basis for present-day English spelling, a great number of words came into the language and the majority of them are still used, fully assimilated and no longer perceived as borrowings, The English grammar was much simplified. The language under Norman rule lost its natural immunity to foreign influence, the nationalistic spirit guarding the purity of the language was muffled, which made the language more liberal, more tolerant to variation and more flexible.



  1. Changes in the System of Spelling

French graphic habits were introduced, and marking the sounds became more European,  all the letters were exclusively Latin. English sounds, earlier marked by letters specific only for the English language were replaced by digraphs. ʒ and wynn were replaced by Latin letters: ʒod — god , ʒēar – year

The sound dʒ marked by cʒ was also rendered by g or dg — singe, bridge. In French borrowings the same sound was marked according to the French tradition by j — judge, June.

The letter q always accompanied by u is introduced to denote either the consonant k or the cluster kw — quay; quarter, queen.

z is introduced to denote the corresponding sound in some cases Zephyrus, zel (zeal); but in traditional chesen it was not.

Long  ū was replaced by digraph ou, in the French tradition: hūs – hous; it was found in French words: trouble, couch; in final position, and occasionally in medial it was ow: hū- how; cū-cow, dūn — down.

In some cases the sound u came to be represented by 0, especially when it stood neighbouring the letters with many vertical lines lufu — loue; cumen — comen etc.

Long sound ō is now rendered by oo: fōt —>foot

Long Old English ē was marked either by a digraph ee: mētan — mete, meete (to meet) or turned into ie; feld -field;

The sibilant [tʃ] formerly rendered by c before or after front vowels was replaced by a digraph ch: cild, cēosan, hwilc — child, chesen, which (the same sound was found in the words chambre, chair, taken from French);

The sound [dʒ] of various origin is marked by the letters j, g, dg — courage, joy, bridge.

The sound [ʃ] , formerly rendered by sc is rendered by the combinations sh and sch: scip, fisc, sceal — ship, fish, schal.

The sound [k] rendered by c before consonants is rendered by k — cniht — knight.



  1. Middle English Phonology

The first change in the phonological system to be mentioned is the levelling of sounds — vowels in the unstressed syllables. Middle sounds in polysyllabic words tend to change various sounds to one neutral sound shwa, marked as e. The paradigm was simplified; at the same time in verbs various endings also merged into a single sound form — wrītan, writen, writon — writen; wrītað, wrīteð- to writeth. Final sounds m and n are on the way to being lost altogether: carum, stanum — care, stone.

In the unstressed syllables of the verb forms most frequent is the case that it was preserved in the forms of the participle, and tended to be lost in the infinitive; but even in the participles it was lost if the root of the word already had a nasal sound (binden — bound — bounden — later simply bound).

The same phenomenon is seen in the numeral an (one) that became an indefinite article (a) in present-day-English, and in possessive pronouns mine and thine that have forms my and thy if they are not followed by a noun that begins with a vowel.

In some phonetic environment only short vowels are possible; in the other the vowels are invariably long. First, a long vowel before two consonants is shortened; the exception here are the clusters mb, ld, nd or when the two consonants belonged to the second syllable of the word. (mǣste, lǣst — most; least)

Individual vowels The most significant change was monophthongization of Old English diphthongs: short ea – æ – a(heard – hard); short eo – e(feoll – fell); short ie – I or e(nieht – niht(night)). Long diphthongs: ēa – æ: — ɛ: (ēast — ɛ:st(east)); ēo – e: (dēop – deep).

Individual sounds: æ – a(ðæt – that); ǣ — ɛ: (dǣl – deal); ēā, ǣ — ɛ: open; ea, æ – (short).

long ā turned into long ͻ: (hām — hͻ:me). Long and short y turned into i(dyde – dide(did)). The system of vowels contained short I, e closed, ɛ open, a, o, u which developed: i – from OE(I – HIT – IT), e(eo – heorte – herte), a(a – abbod – abbot; æ – ðæt – that), o(a(o) — lanʒ — long), u(u – sunu – son). New diphthongs appeared in ME as a result of the changes in the consonant system of the language: k’ – [tʃ] marked by ch; sk’ — [ʃ] marked by sh; ʒ’ — [j]; cʒ — [dʒ]. h in the beginning of such clusters as hr, hl, hn, hw was lost(hrinʒ — ring). The sound γ(marked by ʒ) turned into w: aʒ — aw, æʒ — ai, ay; eʒ — ei, ey.   ʒ+vowel – long vowels: iʒ, yʒ — i;(ryʒe – rie, rye); uʒ — u: (buʒan – bowen). In combination with liquids new diphthongs appeared: lʒ, rʒ — lw, rw [oʋ] and [aʋ] : sorʒian – sorwen, sorrow.



  1. Middle English Noun

Old English complex classification of nouns was based on differences in declension, in endings that were added to them in various forms; as the endings were levelled, the grounds for distinguishing the very classes become insignificant. The category of gender was lost. The category of number was preserved. If we have a look into the Old English nominal paradigms, we’ll see that the plural ending originally were: -as ( of the a-stems masculine, r-stems masculine); 0 (a-stems neuter, some r-stems); -u (neuter a-stems, i-stems, s-stems, some r-stems ); -a (o-stems, u-stems); -e (masculine i-stems, some root stems); -an (n-stems). Due to the reduction of the unstressed vowels all these came to:-es, -0, -e or -0, -en

So finally we have -es, -en, which becomes a competing ending. Ending -es was invariably added to form the plural form of numerous borrowings(two felawes; the chambres and the stables; fresshe floures )

Several nouns retain their Old English plural with the mutated vowel (such as man — menn, foot -feet, gOOSe — geese etc.;). Some former -n-stems still retain their suffix as a marker of the plural form: Thou seist, that oxen, asses, hors, and houndes…< you see that oxen, asses, horses and hounds…);

from hise even ran the water doun… (from his eyes the water ran down)

The nouns naming some domestic animals such as sheep, swyn, hors retained their old uninflected plurals. The plural of child developed in a unique way — it retained its suffix of the former -s- stems (it was -r- through rhotacism) and additionally got the -en suffix — children.


The number of cases was reduced from Old English four to two, the Nominative and the Genitive.  The ending -es of the a-stems nouns, which were the most numerous group, becomes predominant; it irradiates not only to the singular but also to the plural. In Middle English only some nouns have a distinct paradigm of four forms: man – menn; mannes – mennes; nama – namen; names — (namene) names

In other cases the context resolved the ambiguity:he hadde a fyr-reed cherubynnes face (he had fire-red cherub’s face)

at the kvnges court ( at the king’s court)

His lordes sheep (his lord’s sheep) a wvdwes sone (a widow’s son) waspes nest (wasps’ nest) daves light (day’s light)

sette the foxes tavles alle on fire (and set the foxes’ tails all on fire) at his beddes heed (at the head of his bed)



  1. Pronouns in Middle English

All pronouns in Middle English with the exception of the personal ones lose the categories of gender and case, some lose their number.

We find the forms I or ich, with the growing frequency of the first variant, thou (just new spelling of Old English ðū), he (no visible changes); the feminine pronoun is found in variants he/she. Hit is reduced to it. We and ye in the plural did not change and neither did us and you. Scandinavian they/them penetrate into the language; but not simultaneously. By the end of the 14th the pronoun they was well established in the language, while the objective case of Old English pronoun hem persists.

The paradigm of personal pronouns now is :

Sg. N. ich/1 thou he she hit/it

  1. me thee him hir him/hit/it
  2. N. we ye hi/they
  3. us you hem/them

The tendency to use ye in addresing one person is already spreading.

A new class of pronouns appears — possesive pronouns:

1st person Singular min, myn /my             plural: our

2nd person thin, thyn/thyyour

3rd person hir/her, his                              plural: hire/their

Only the context shows the real gender of the pronoun — when referring to living beings, it is masculine and neuter when it points to a lifeless thing

Demonstrative pronouns retain the category of number only (that — tho, thos; this — thes/thise), case and gender forms disappeared, and so the reduction in the number of forms of this class of pronouns is really significant — from 17 to two: ‘’This Palamon, whan he tho wordes herde’’ (This Palamon, when he heard those words…)

Interrogative pronouns change phonetically, the aspiration is weakened and in spelling the letters h and w change place: who what, whos whos, whom what.

The instrumental case of hwy changed into the adverb why.

Reflexive pronouns are formed from the possessive pronoun my/thy or the objective case of the third person personal pronoun him/hir/hem/them + self- himselfe, hirself, hemselven (later myself ourselves, yourself and themselves replaced native hemselven)

ǣʒðer, ǣtc, swilc, sum, ǣniʒ, nān changed their phonetic form and give the present- day either, each, such, any, none. Definite pronoun the same borrowed from Scandinavian replaces sē ilca, though occasionally we may find that ilke too, more often reduced to the form thilke. The article before the pronoun varies with the demostrative pronouns this and that.                                               A new part of speech appears — the article. The pronoun was the real marker of the case of the noun. This, probably led to overuse of the demonstrative pronouns in Old English, and to weakening of their deictic function. In Middle English this weakened form of the demonstrative pronoun which signalled only the definiteness of the noun was supplemented by the weakened form of the numeral ān (one) and now was used to render the meaning of indefiniteness, a person or thing unknown or unmentioned. This part of speech contains only two words — the from reduced ðata and an, a from the numeral ān.




29.Middle English Adjective  The paradigm of the adjective in Middle English is simplified drastically. The endings become scarce. The category of gender is lost, for the nouns no longer have it. The adjective no longer agrees with the noun in case, the only remaining endings being — the plural form having the ending -e and the remains of the weak declension, the weak form (the one preceded by an article) -e : young kniht /the younge kniht;        younge knihtes/the younge knihtes                                                smale fowles maken melodie (small birds sing /make melody) ( strong,plural); a voice he had as smal as has a goot (he had as small voice like that of a goat) (strong, singular)

But some of the adjectives had the very ending -e as a result of levelling of the vowels at the and, and so such adjectives as grene were already unchangeable; in the plural the strong and the weak forms also coincided.

The forms of the suffixes of the degrees of comparison were reduced  ~er, -est :glad — gladder – gladdest; greet — gretter – grettest

His voys was murier (his voice was merrier…)

Lucifer, brightest of aungels alle (Lucifer, the brightest of all angels)

Some adjectives retained a mutated vowel they had had in Old English: old — elder – eldest; long — lenger – lengest; strong — stregner –strengest

The eldeste lady of hem alle spak (the lady, the oldest of them all, spoke).

Some preserve former suppletivity, and their degrees of comparison look like this:  good — bettre — best ;muchel — more — most, mest

She may have bettre fortune than yow semeth (She may have better fortune that it seems to you)

Some adjectives, especially of foreign origin, are found in a form that came into wider usage only later, that is they may be associated with the adverb moore/most

Moore delicaat, moore pompous of array, Moore proud was nevere emperour than he… (There never was an emperor more delicate, more pompous in clothing and more proud…).



30.New Categories of the Middle English Verb

During this period there appear analytical forms of the verb. In Old English the only ways to make the forms of the verb were suffixes/vowel interchange/using another stem + inflections; in Middle English there arise the forms now very common in Present-day English but absent in Old English.

The Tense In present day English the temporal paradigm of the verb contains two synthetic and one analytical form. This means that this form was absent in Old English, and this form is the Future tense.

The use of such verbs as shall/ will referred the action to the future as such which was desirable but not yet realized, or obligatory. In Middle English these become the true auxiliaries for the future tense. Chaucer uses them freely:I shal make us sauf for everemore (I shall make us safe forever).  The same auxiliary was also used in the already appearing analytical forms of future in the past:

For shortly this was his opinioun,That in that grove he wolde hym hyde al day, And in the nyght thanne wolde he take his way (His opinion was that he should hide himself in that grove all day and then at night should take his way)

The Present and the Past Perfect equally came into the Middle English, both using as auxiliary the verb to haven in the Present or the past tense + Participle II

The passive voice expressed by the combination ben + PII expressing a state as well as an action is widely used in Middle English.

A new form — the continuous was rising, but in Middle English it was considered an ungrammatical form of the verb, and it was not allowed into the good literary English We may observe that even more complicated forms of the Continuous, such as Perfect continuous may be found in late Middle English:

We han ben waitynge al this fourtenyght (We have been waiting all this fortnight…)

The category of mood was enriched by analytical formations wolde + inf and sholde + inf; the newly arisen form of the past perfect readily supplements the range of meanings of the old synthetic subjunctive:  sire, if that I were ye, Yet sholde I seyn …(Sir, if I were you I would say)




31.Verbals(Non-finite forms of the verb) in Middle Eng

Non-finite forms of the verb which in Old English comprised the infinitive and the two participles, have changed in the direction from the nominal to verbal parts of speech. They are no longer declined, nor are they agreed with the nouns; gradually new verbal categories penetrate into their system, and nowadays we speak about the analytical forms of the non-finite forms (passive infinitive, perfect infinitive etc.)

A new non-finite form of the verb arises — the gerund.

The infinitive loses the category of case and acquires a pre-infinitival particle to. It may still be used with what remained of the infinitival suffix (-an, -ian  -en, -n) — to goon, to writen, to spenden, to maken — but the tendency to lose the final consonant is strong.This particle is not used when the infinitive stands after other verbs

Wel coude he singe and pleven on a rote…(he could sing and play the rote well)

Participle I, having an active meaning and expressing a process of doing something, in Middle English changes its shape. Its suffix -ende turns into -inde and finally -ynge/-inge due to the processes of weakening of the final sounds and through intermixture with other dialectal forms.

The silver dropes hanginge on the leves (the silver drops hanging on the leaves)

A rose gerland, fressh and wel smellvnge (a rose garland (wreath) fresh and well-smelling)

Originally, the verbal noun was derived from transitive verbs, took an object in the genitive case (which in our times is replaced by of-phrase). But when phonetically it coincided with the participle, it began to behave more freely, now and again taking the direct object. So from the verbal noun without an article but with a direct object we have a grammatical innovation — the Gerund.

Participles II in Middle English — those of strong verbs and those of the weak ones continue to be used with the prefix y- (reduced ʒe-); but this is not universal, and they are sure to lose it in Early Modern English. Yet in Chaucer’s works we may find an interesting phenomenon when depending on the use or non-use of the prefix with the participles of the strong verbs final -n disappears; hoplen but y-holpe, while the Participle II form of the weak verbs does not change, prefixed or non-prefixed broyded — y-broyded.




  1. Modern Eng.Formation of the national language.Expansion

Mostly, the rise of English to its position as the world’s main international language was a result of chance. Britain was the world’s most active colonial nation in the 19th century, and British explorers and colonists took their language with them wherever they went. English became the official language of most of Britain’s colonies. In the 20th century, America has been the world’s most powerful nation — and Americans have brought the English language to other countries of the world.

Over a thousand years ago, when the roots of modern Europe were being formed, western Europe was divided into three sections: in the East there were people who spoke Slavonic languages, in the middle there were people speaking Germanic languages (including Scandinavians), and in the south and west there were people speaking «Romance» languages, derived from Latin. In the far west of Europe, there were also people speaking Celtic languages, such as Gaelic.

In those days, England was a Germanic country; its people spoke a variety of Germanic languages including forms of Danish and Anglo Saxon, as well as some Celtic languages.

In 1066, England was conquered by the Normans, from France, who brought with them their own langage — Norman French — a Romance language.

In the years that followed, the nobility of England spoke French and read Latin, while the ordinary people spoke varieties of old English; but since they existed side by side, the two languages immediately began to influence each other. Norman French became Anglo-Norman, and Old English, picking up lots of vocabulary from Anglo-Normans, evolved into Middle English. Middle English was thus rather different from other European languages. It was partly Germanic (particularly the vocabulary of everyday life, the grammar and structures), and partly Romance (a lot of the more litterary vocabulary). Eventually, since Middle English was spoken by far the largest part of the population, it became the dominant language in England; and by the 14th century, it was well on the way to becoming the national language, not just for everyday life, but for administration and literature too.

Finally, English also replaced Latin as the language of the church. The Bible had been translated into English in the 14th century; but it was not until the Protestant reformation of the 16th century, that English became the language of church services. From then on, its position as the national language of Britain, was firmly established.

English became the established national language just at the point in history when colonial expansion was beginning. It was the spoken and written language of the first men and women from Britain to settle in the Americas; and it was a language that went round the world with England’s early traders, commercial adventurers and missionaries.By the year 1700, England had become the world’s leading nation in terms of international trade, ensuring that the English language was taken all over the world as the principal language of international commerce.

Modern English

In recent times, as English has become a global language, used in different places all over the world, it has become a much richer language than in the past. It has picked up new words from other cultures, Today, both grammar and vocabulary are still changing. There is no such thing as «official English»; neither Britain nor the USA has anything official to decide what is acceptable and what is not. The most accepted sources of reference are the famous English dictionaries — Websters for the USA and the Oxford English Dictionary for British English. Like other dictionaries however, they are descriptive not prescriptive — i.e. they describe language as it is used, they do not tell people what they can or should say or should not say.

Today’s English is different from the English of 100 years ago; it is pronounced differently too — and no doubt, it will be even more different in 100 years’ time.




33,34 Early Modern English Phonetic Changes

The changes in the sound system of the period were significant. The process of the levelling of endings continued, there were positional and assimilative changes of short vowels, and a significant change in the whole system of long vowels, called the Great Vowel Shift. During the period the process of simplification of consonant clusters and loss of consonants in certain positions continued. The changes were as follows: Loss of unstressed e

The process of levelling of endings led to total disappearance of the neutral sound ə marked by letter e in the endings though in spelling the letter might be preserved: no vowel is found in kept, slept, crossed, played; walls, pens, bones, stones — but it is preserved in stresses, dresses; wanted, parted; watches,.

The whole syllables might be lost in the Early New English pronunciation of long words.

The sound e before r changed into a:. This change in many cases was reflected in spelling: sterre – star( ME-NE); herte — heart; Long Vowels .Beginning in the 15 century, all long vowels that existed in Middle English change their quality. All long vowels narrowed, and the narrowest of them turned into diphthongs. The shift resulted in the followings changes: i: —> ai time, like,E—>  i; meet, see, in borrowed words chief, receive, seize

e: open) —> into e: closed, then —» i: speak, sea

a: —> ei take, make;   o: open,—> ou, home, oak,

o: closed  —> u:, do, root ;  u: —> au house, mouse,

The Great Vowel Shift affected all long vowels in native as well as borrowed before it words.The causes of the shift have not yet been clarified, as well as its direction. Wilhelm Horn and Martin Lenhert  suggest that it resulted from intonation conditions — a high tone which is characteristic of English emotional speech naturally makes sound narrower.

The diphthongs that arose as a result of the Great Vowel Shift did not enrich the phonological system of the language; such diphthongs had already existed in Middle English.  Nor were the long vowels [i:] and [u:] new: what sounded [i:] in time and was diphthongized into [ai], was replaced by the change [e:] and [e: open] —> [ i:] in see, sea; hous  yielded [u:] to [au], but as a result of the Great Vowel Shift [u:] appeared in words like moon and soon.

Depending on the following consonant, r in particular, there were somewhat different variants of vowels that appeared int the Great Vowel Shift. If the long vowel was followed by r the following variants appeared: are—> [eir] fare, compare with fate; ear—> [ier]fear (but feat); eer—>[ier] steer (but steep); ir —>[aier] tire (but time);or—>[o:r] boar (but boat);o open —>[uer] moor (but moon);u—> [auer] power (but house)

Short vowels were changed, too, but the changes here are not that systematic. The vowels changed depending on their environment.     Short a found in closed syllables generally changed into æ: that; man; hat

If it was preceded by the sound w, it remained unchanged and eventually developed into /o:/ war; want;

It was lengthened before some consonant clusters and turned into a: when followed by: a + th father; rather; a + ss pass; class; a + st cast; last; a + sk ask; mask; a + sp clasp, gasp, a + lm alms; balm; a + If calf half, a + nt, nd, nch etc. plant, a + ft after; craft; When the same sound was followed by 1 + consonant (other that m and n) it turned into long o: all; call; talk; walk; stalk

The sound r changed its quality, turning from backlingual into uvular and was vocalized after vowels; that resulted in lengthening of the preceding vowels in combinations ir, ur, or, er turning them into ə : fir, fur, word; person



  1. Early Modern English Changes of Consonants

In many cases the change is resulted in the loss of consonants in certain


The sound I is lost in combinations before k, m , f v

talk; walk; stalk; folk; chalk

palm, calm, qualm, psalm (but not in helm, elm)

half, calf (but wolf, elf)

halves (but silver).

Some of these words, however, preserve the sound in the American

variant of the English language.

The sound I was preserved in the words of Latin origin such as resolve,

dissolve etc.

It was also lost after a vowel before d in should, could, would

The sound b was dropped in combinnation mb when at the end of the

word and not followed by another consonant: lamb; climb; tomb; comb;

numb; bomb

n — in combination mn autumn; solemn; column

t — in combinations stl, stn, ftn, stm and ktl — castle; whistle;

thistle; fa sten ;listen ;g listen ; often; soften; Christmas;

postman; exactly; directly

k — in combination ski — muscle

The consonants were lost in such initial clusters:

g and k in gn, kn:

knight; knee; know; knave; knack, knock; knead, knife

gnat; gnaw; gnarl; gnome

w before a consonant (mainly r) was lost at the beginning of the


wreath; write; wrong; wreck; wrestle; wretched; wring;

wrinkle; wrist

and in unstressed syllables after a consonant in such words as

answer; conquer; chequer; laquer; Southwark; Berwick;

Chiswick; Greenwich; Norwich; Warwick,

and also in such words as sword; two; towards.

The sound h disppeared in many unstressed syllables (save for American

variant of the language where in some cases it is preserved) — forehead;

shepherd; perhaps; Chatham; Nottingham, Birmingham, Brougham


Qualitative change of consonants is illustrated by voicing of fricatives

(when the preceding vowels was unstressed):

s —> z: dessert; resemble; possess; dissolve; example; exhibit;

anxiety; luxurious (in the words luxury, anxious and

exhibition, where the preceding vowel is stressed, at least has

a secondary stress they are not voiced)

/ —≫ v: o f (but adverb off is usually stressed, and the sound is not voiced)

t f —> cfj: knowledge; Greenwich; Norwich.




  1. Nominal Parts of Speech in Early 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.

Thus, we see that the complicated noun paradigm that existed in Old English was greatly simplified in Middle English, which is reflected in the following:

  1. reduction of the number of declensions.
  2. reduction of the number of grammatical categories
  3. reduction of the number of categorial forms within one of two remaining grammatical categories- the category of number.


The plural ending –es underwent several phonetic changes: the voicing of fricatives and the loss of unstressed vowels in the final syllables.


The Middle English plural ending –en lost its former productivity and is found nowdays only in oxen, children and brothren, poetic kine (cow). (Children and brothren in Old English belonged to the es-stems with –ru in the plural.)


The small group of Middle English nouns with homonymous forms of the singular and plural has been reduced to three “exceptions” in Modern English: deer, sheep, and swine.


The group of former root-stems has survived as exceptions man, tooth and the like.


The nouns wife-wives and the like have retained consonant interchange.


Now a few words about exception tooth- teeth. In Old English plural ending was –i: tōp- tōp+i. Letter ō compared to the ending –i: top > tēp > tēth > teeth


Also the words foot- feet, goose- geese.


All modern irregular noun forms are according to their origin.




37.Structures with Auxiliary do in Early Modern English

The verbs do and have are the most persistent in

keeping this old ending, at least they are used with it more frequently than the

others, especially in the function of an auxiliary.

The use of the second person singular ending is limited insomuch as

the pronoun falls out of use. Still, if the pronoun is used, the predicate verb

agrees with it. Notably, in Old and Middle English this ending in the past

tense was found only with the weak verbs, now strong verbs also take it.

The use of to be + the present participle of the verb is rare in the early modern English period, and the modern use, indicating immediate present action, is absent. Such uses as are found appear to intensify the action: ‘let your plough therfore be going and not cease’ (Hugh Latimer, 1549). There existed a gerundial construction which was similar in form—he is a-praying—and which may have influenced the development of the progressive use. The to be + present participle construction had no passive: ‘the ark was being built’ was expressed by the active the ark was building or the gerundial the ark was in building or a-building.

The use of the periphrastic construction in affirmative declarative sentences (I do or did love), however, declined rapidly in the late sixteenth century. After the do-construction had completely displaced the non-periphrastic one in questions and negatives, its use in affirmative declaratives became, in the eighteenth century, a marker of emphasis.




  1. Changes in the Verbal System of Early Modern English

During the Early Modern period, English verb inflections became simplified as they evolved towards their modern forms:

  • The third person singular present lost its alternate inflections; -(e)th became obsolete while -s survived. (The alternate forms’ coexistence can be seen in Shakespeare’s phrase, «With her, that hateth thee and hates vs all»).
  • The plural present form became uninflected. Present plurals had been marked with -en, -th, or -s (-th and -s survived the longest, especially with the plural use of is, hath, and doth). Marked present plurals were rare throughout the Early Modern period, though, and -en was probably only used as a stylistic affectation to indicate rural or old-fashioned speech.
  • The second person singular was marked in both the present and past tenses with -st or -est (for example, in the past tense, walkedst or gav’st). Since the indicative past was not (and is not) otherwise marked for person or number, the loss of thou made the past subjunctive indistinguishable from the indicative past for all verbs except to be.

Modal auxiliaries

The modal auxiliaries cemented their distinctive syntactical characteristics during the Early Modern period. Thus, the use of modals without an infinitive became rare (as in «I must to Coventry»; «I’ll none of that»). The use of modals’ present participles to indicate aspect (as in «Maeyinge suffer no more the loue & deathe of Aurelio» from 1556), and of their preterite forms to indicate tense (as in «he follow’d Horace so very close, that of necessity he must fall with him») also became uncommon.

Some verbs ceased to function as modals during the Early Modern period. The present form of must, mot, became obsolete. Dare also lost the syntactical characteristics of a modal auxiliary, evolving a new past form (dared) distinct from the modal durst.

Perfect and progressive forms

The perfect of the verbs had not yet been standardised to use uniformly the auxiliary verb «to have». Some took as their auxiliary verb «to be», as in this example from the King James Bible, «But which of you … will say unto him … when he is come from the field, Go and sit down…» [Luke XVII:7]. The rules that determined which verbs took which auxiliaries were similar to those still observed in German and French (see unaccusative verb).

The modern syntax used for the progressive aspect («I am walking») became dominant by the end of the Early Modern period, but other forms were also common. These included the prefix a- («I am a-walking») and the infinitive paired with «do» («I do walk»). Moreover, the to be + -ing verb form could be used to express a passive meaning without any additional markers: «The house is building» could mean «The house is being built.





  1. Vocabulary of Early Modern English

The vocabulary of English expanded greatly during the early modern period. Writers were well aware of this and argued about it. Some were in favour of loanwords to express new concepts, especially from Latin. Others advocated the use of existing English words, or new compounds of them, for this purpose. Others advocated the revival of obsolete words and the adoption of regional dialect.

Whereas words of foreign origins enriched the English vocabulary to a great extent, the inner factors -that is, various ways of word building were also very actively used. New words appeared in the language built by all traditional word building process – derivation, compounding, semantic word building and a new, specifically English way of making new words arose – zero-derivation, or conversion.

Derivation can be observed in all parts of speech. The most productive suffixes of the period were: noun-suffixes: -er trader,  explorer;

During this period the former suffix -our (French in origin) acquired the same form -er or turned into -or. Interpretour – interpreter robbour – robber auditour – auditor

The suffix – ster ( from femenine -estre webbstre, spinnestre, beggestre) acquired negative connotations and no longer is indicating the gender

gamester, trickster, gangster


Adjective suffixes of that were used at the times were of native origin as well as borrowed. The native suffixes are:

-y stumpy, wavy, haughty, saucy ,racy ,brassy ,

-ful bashful ,beautiful, delightful ,grateful.

In Shakespeare’s time the productivity of this suffix is great; the words with it include such as equalness, loathness, tameness, freeness, solemness, valiantness, rawness etc. which, though still registered in dictionaries are no longer in active use and are prevalently used either with other derivational morphemes, or without suffix at all. The morpheme -man, formerly a part of numerous compounds turns into a semi-suffix, which until recently was not marked with a pronounced gender meaning, probably because all the marked professions were men’s, and the question of women in profession did not arise. Boatman spokesman

The prefixes out-, over- and under- known in the language from the oldest times give a great number of new coinages out- is used to form many transitive verbs denoting a going beyond, surpassing, or outdoing in the particular action indicated: outrow 1520-30 outbid 1580-90 outbrave 1580-90 outbreak 1595-1605 while -age of the same origin may be used in either combination: luggage 1590-1600 shortage 1865-70 leakage 1480-90 rampage 1705-15

Suffix -able/- ible came into the English language in Middle English as a part of a great number of French adjectives (amyable, agreable, charitable, mesurable, honurable e tc .), but was hardly used with the stems of native English origin). In Early New English it is equally productive with stems of either origin: answerable 1540-50 approachable 1565-75 arguable 1605-15 bearable 1540-50 capable 1555-65

Words belonging to various parts of speech are found here. Some preserved Latin grammatical morphemes which are no longer felt as such the word belongs to any part of speech irrespective of the part of speech suffix. Here are some examples of the borrowings of the period:

Nouns: amplitude 1540-50 applause 1590-1600 class As far as verbs are concerned, some distinctive morphemes are to be mentioned here. A considerable number of verbs had the suffix -ate (that was the suffix of Participle II of the verbs of the 1st conjugation) — in English it has nothing to do with the non-finite forms of the verbs marker, and is generally perceived as the verbal suffix: accommodate   accumulate  agitate

  1. Early Modern English Syntax

The structure of the sentence in Early New English is conditioned by the previous development of its morphology. With the practical loss of endings by the nouns and adjectives, their position in the sentence becomes quite relevant to the meaning they render – so, the direct word order prevails, the subject precedes the predicate in non-emotional sentences, and the object is shifted to the position after the predicate.

Agreement as a means of grammatical connection of the words in the sentence is limited to the demonstrative pronouns that preserve their plural form. The predcate agrees with the subject when is it expressed by the verb to be or the passive form of the verb with this same auxiliary, and in the third person singular of the present tense.

Government is also restricted to some structures with personal pronouns and interrogative or relative who/whom, the role of prepositions grows. Some say that even the term prepositional government might be introduced to emphasize their growing role in connecting words.

As far as the general organization of the sentence is concerned, a new phenomenon arises – the structure of the sentence becomes nominative, that is a subject in the nominative case becomes a necessary part of it. The majority of sentences had it in Old and in Middle English. But at the same time impersonal sentences, where the doer of the action was indefinite had special structure without the subject, having the predicate and the object in the dative case, sometimes the object merged with the very verb. Such structures are still found in Shakespeare’s plays:

But, soft! methinks I scent the morning air ( Hamlet)

And yet me thinks I see it in thy face,

What thou shouldst be ( The Tempest)

The tendency to the nominative structure finds its expression that such meaning either are expressed in sentences with personal pronouns (I think, I like etc.) or the formal subject it is introduced and becomes quite common in New English.


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