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Лекции Historical background of the History of English. Assimilative Vowel Changes: Breaking and Diphthongisation. Old English phonetics and grammar. Morphological classification of nouns. Evolution of the grammatical system. Personal and possessive pronouns.


Тип работы: Лекции. Предмет: Ин. языки. Добавлен: 23.07.2009. Сдан: 2009. Уникальность по antiplagiat.ru: --.

Описание (план):

Lecture Classes 1-2: Old English Phonetics
Historical background.
Pre-Germanic Britain. Celts. Branches of Celtic languages.
Germanic settlement in Britain.
Historical events between 5th and 11th centuries.
The linguistic situation in Britain before and after the Germanic settlement.
Old English (OE) dialects.
OE written records.
Runic inscriptions
OE manuscripts. OE poetry. OE prose.
OE Alphabet and Pronunciation. Word Stress in OE.
Changes of stressed vowels in Early OE. Development of Monophthongs and Diphthongs in OE.
Breaking and Diphthongization.
Palatal Mutation. Changes of Unstressed Vowels in Early OE.
OE Consonants.
Treatment of fricatives. Hardening.
Voicing and devoicing.
West Germanic Gemination of Consonants. Velar Consonants in Early OE. Loss of consonants in some positions.
Lecture Classes 3-4: Old English grammar.
The Noun in OE
Grammatical categories of the noun. The use of cases.
Morphological classification of nouns. Declensions.
The Pronoun in OE.
Personal pronouns. Declension of personal pronouns.
Demonstrative pronouns. Declension of demonstrative pronouns.
Other classes of Pronouns.
The Adjective.
Grammatical categories.
Weak and strong declension.
Degrees of Comparison.
The Verb.
Grammatical categories of the Finite Verb.
Conjugation of Verbs in OE.
Morphological Classification of Verbs. Strong Verbs.
Morphological Classification of Verbs. Weak Verbs. Minor Groups of Verbs.
Grammatical categories of the Verbal.
The Infinitive
The Participle
The Simple Sentence
Compound and Complex Sentences
Word Order
Lecture Classes 5-6: Development of the Grammatical System (11th-18th centuries)
The Noun
Decay of Noun declensions
Grammatical Categories of the Noun
The Pronoun
Personal and Possessive Pronouns
Demonstrative Pronouns. Development of Articles
Other Classes of Pronouns
The Adjective
Decay of Declensions and Grammatical Categories
Degrees of Comparison
The Verb
Simplifying Changes of the Verb Conjugation
Verbals. The Infinitive and the Participle.
Development of the Gerund.
Changes in the Morphological Classes of Verbs
Strong Verbs
Weak Verbs
Minor groups of Verbs
Growth of New Forms within the Existing Grammatical Categories
The Future Tense
New Forms of the Subjunctive Mood
Interrogative and Negatives Forms with do
Development of New Grammatical Categories
Passive Forms. Category of Voice
Perfect Forms. Category of Time-Correlation
Continuous Forms. Category of Aspect

Pre-Roman Britain

Man lived in what we now call the British Isles long before it broke away from the continent of Europe, long before the great seas covered the land bridge that is now known as the English Channel, that body of water that protected this island for so long, and that by its very nature, was to keep it out of the maelstrom that became medieval Europe. Thus England's peculiar character as an island nation came about through its very isolation. Early man came, settled, farmed and built. His remains tell us much about his lifestyle and his habits. Of course, the land was not then known as England, nor would it be until long after the Romans had departed.

We know of the island's early inhabitants from what they left behind on such sites as Clacton-on-Sea in Essex, and Swanscombe in Kent, gravel pits, the exploration of which opened up a whole new way of seeing our ancient ancestors dating back to the lower Paleolithic (early Stone Age). Here were deposited not only fine tools made of flint, including hand-axes, but also a fossilized skull of a young woman as well as bones of elephants, rhinoceroses, cave-bears, lions, horses, deer, giant oxen, wolves and hares. From the remains, we can assume that man lived at the same time as these animals which have long disappeared from the English landscape.

So we know that a thriving culture existed around 8,000 years ago in the misty, westward islands the Romans were to call Britannia, though some have suggested the occupation was only seasonal, due to the still-cold climate of the glacial period which was slowly coming to an end. As the climate improved, there seems to have been an increase in the number of people moving into Britain from the Continent. They were attracted by its forests, its wild game, abundant rivers and fertile southern plains. An added attraction was its relative isolation, giving protection against the fierce nomadic tribesmen that kept appearing out of the east, forever searching for new hunting grounds and perhaps, people to subjugate and enslave.
The Celts in Britain used a language derived from a branch of Celtic known as either Brythonic, which gave rise to Welsh, Cornish and Breton; or Goidelic, giving rise to Irish, Scots Gaelic and Manx. Along with their languages, the Celts brought their religion to Britain, particularly that of the Druids, the guardians of traditions and learning. The Druids glorified the pursuits of war, feasting and horsemanship. They controlled the calendar and the planting of crops and presided over the religious festivals and rituals that honored local deities.
Many of Britain's Celts came from Gaul, driven from their homelands by the Roman armies and Germanic tribes. These were the Belgae, who arrived in great numbers and settled in the southeast around 75 BC. They brought with them a sophisticated plough that revolutionized agriculture in the rich, heavy soils of their new lands. Their society was well-organized in urban settlements, the capitals of the tribal chiefs. Their crafts were highly developed; bronze urns, bowls and torques illustrate their metalworking skills. They also introduced coinage to Britain and conducted a lively export trade with Rome and Gaul, including corn, livestock, metals and slaves.
Of the Celtic lands on the mainland of Britain, Wales and Scotland have received extensive coverage in the pages of Britannia. The largest non-Celtic area, at least linguistically, is now known as England, and it is here that the Roman influence is most strongly felt. It was here that the armies of Rome came to stay, to farm, to mine, to build roads, small cities, and to prosper, but mostly to govern.
The Roman Period

The first Roman invasion of the lands we now call the British Isles took place in 55 B.C. under war leader Julius Caesar, who returned one year later, but these probings did not lead to any significant or permanent occupation. He had some interesting, if biased comments concerning the natives: "All the Britons," he wrote, "paint themselves with woad, which gives their skin a bluish color and makes them look very dreadful in battle." It was not until a hundred years later that permanent settlement of the grain-rich eastern territories began in earnest.
In the year 43 A.D. an expedition was ordered against Britain by the Emperor Claudius, who showed he meant business by sending his general, Aulus Plautius, and an army of 40,000 men. Only three months after Plautius's troops landed on Britain's shores, the Emperor Claudius felt it was safe enough to visit his new province. Establishing their bases in what is now Kent, through a series of battles involving greater discipline, a great element of luck, and general lack of co-ordination between the leaders of the various Celtic tribes, the Romans subdued much of Britain in the short space of forty years. They were to remain for nearly 400 years. The great number of prosperous villas that have been excavated in the southeast and southwest testify to the rapidity by which Britain became Romanized, for they functioned as centers of a settled, peaceful and urban life.
The highlands and moorlands of the northern and western regions, present-day Scotland and Wales, were not as easily settled, nor did the Romans particularly wish to settle in these agriculturally poorer, harsh landscapes. They remained the frontier -- areas where military garrisons were strategically placed to guard the extremities of the Empire. The stubborn resistance of tribes in Wales meant that two out of three Roman legions in Britain were stationed on its borders, at Chester and Caerwent.
Major defensive works further north attest to the fierceness of the Pictish and Celtic tribes, Hadrian's Wall in particular reminds us of the need for a peaceful and stable frontier. Built when Hadrian had abandoned his plan of world conquest, settling for a permanent frontier to "divide Rome from the barbarians," the seventy-two mile long wall connecting the Tyne to the Solway was built and rebuilt, garrisoned and re-garrisoned many times, strengthened by stone-built forts as one mile intervals.
For Imperial Rome, the island of Britain was a western breadbasket. Caesar had taken armies there to punish those who were aiding the Gauls on the Continent in their fight to stay free of Roman influence. Claudius invaded to give himself prestige, and his subjugation of eleven British tribes gave him a splendid triumph. Vespasian was a legion commander in Britain before he became Emperor, but it was Agricola who gave us most notice of the heroic struggle of the native Britons through his biographer Tacitus. From him, we get the unforgettable picture of the druids, "ranged in order, with their hands uplifted, invoking the gods and pouring forth horrible imprecations." Agricola also won the decisive victory of Mons Graupius in present-day Scotland in 84 A.D. over Calgacus "the swordsman," that carried Roman arms farther west and north than they had ever before ventured. They called their newly-conquered northern territory Caledonia.
When Rome had to withdraw one of its legions from Britain, the thirty-seven mile long Antonine Wall, connecting the Firths of Forth and Clyde, served temporarily as the northern frontier, beyond which lay Caledonia. The Caledonians, however were not easily contained; they were quick to master the arts of guerilla warfare against the scattered, home-sick Roman legionaries, including those under their ageing commander Severus. The Romans abandoned the Antonine Wall, withdrawing south of the better-built, more easily defended barrier of Hadrian, but by the end of the fourth century, the last remaining outposts in Caledonia were abandoned.
Further south, however, in what is now England, Roman life prospered. Essentially urban, it was able to integrate the native tribes into a town-based governmental system. Agricola succeeded greatly in his aims to accustom the Britons "to a life of peace and quiet by the provision of amenities. He consequently gave private encouragement and official assistance to the building of temples, public squares and good houses." Many of these were built in former military garrisons that became the coloniae, the Roman chartered towns such as Colchester, Gloucester, Lincoln, and York (where Constantine was declared Emperor by his troops in 306 A.D.). Other towns, called municipia, included such foundations as St. Albans (Verulamium).
Chartered towns were governed to a large extent on that of Rome. They were ruled by an ordo of 100 councillors (decurion). who had to be local residents and own a certain amount of property. The ordo was run by two magistrates, rotated annually; they were responsible for collecting taxes, administering justice and undertaking public works. Outside the chartered town, the inhabitants were referred to as peregrini, or non-citizens. they were organized into local government areas known as civitates, largely based on pre-existing chiefdom boundaries. Canterbury and Chelmsford were two of the civitas capitals.
In the countryside, away from the towns, with their metalled, properly drained streets, their forums and other public buildings, bath houses, shops and amphitheatres, were the great villas, such as are found at Bignor, Chedworth and Lullingstone. Many of these seem to have been occupied by native Britons who had acquired land and who had adopted Roman culture and customs.. Developing out of the native and relatively crude farmsteads, the villas gradually added features such as stone walls, multiple rooms, hypocausts (heating systems), mosaics and bath houses. The third and fourth centuries saw a golden age of villa building that further increased their numbers of rooms and added a central courtyard. The elaborate surviving mosaics found in some of these villas show a detailed construction and intensity of labor that only the rich could have afforded; their wealth came from the highly lucrative export of grain.
Roman society in Britain was highly classified. At the top were those people associated with the legions, the provincial administration, the government of towns and the wealthy traders and commercial classes who enjoyed legal privileges not generally accorded to the majority of the population. In 212 AD, the Emperor Caracalla extended citizenship to all free-born inhabitants of the empire, but social and legal distinctions remained rigidly set between the upper rank of citizens known as honestiores and the masses, known as humiliores. At the lowest end of the scale were the slaves, many of whom were able to gain their freedom, and many of whom might occupy important governmental posts. Women were also rigidly circumscribed, not being allowed to hold any public office, and having severely limited property rights.
One of the greatest achievements of the Roman Empire was its system of roads, in Britain no less than elsewhere. When the legions arrived in a country with virtually no roads at all, as Britain was in the first century A.D., their first task was to build a system to link not only their military headquarters but also their isolated forts. Vital for trade, the roads were also of paramount important in the speedy movement of troops, munitions and supplies from one strategic center to another. They also allowed the movement of agricultural products from farm to market. London was the chief administrative centre, and from it, roads spread out to all parts of the province. They included Ermine Street, to Lincoln; Watling Street, to Wroxeter and then to Chester, all the way in the northwest on the Welsh frontier; and the Fosse Way, from Exeter to Lincoln, the first frontier of the province of Britain.
The Romans built their roads carefully and they built them well. They followed proper surveying, they took account of contours in the land, avoided wherever possible the fen, bog and marsh so typical in much of the land, and stayed clear of the impenetrable forests. They also utilized bridges, an innovation that the Romans introduced to Britain in place of the hazardous fords at many river crossings. An advantage of good roads was that communications with all parts of the country could be effected. They carried the cursus publicus, or imperial post. A road book used by messengers that lists all the main routes in Britain, the principal towns and forts they pass through, and the distances between them has survived: the Antonine Itinerary.. In addition, the same information, in map form, is found in the Peutinger Table. It tells us that mansions were places at various intervals along the road to change horses and take lodgings.
The Roman armies did not have it all their own way in their battles with the native tribesmen, some of whom, in their inter-tribal squabbles, saw them as deliverers, not conquerors. Heroic and often prolonged resistance came from such leaders as Caratacus of the Ordovices, betrayed to the Romans by the Queen of the Brigantes. And there was Queen Boudicca (Boadicea) of the Iceni, whose revolt nearly succeeded in driving the Romans out of Britain. Her people, incensed by their brutal treatment at the hands of Roman officials, burned Colchester, London, and St. Albans, destroying many armies ranged against them. It took a determined effort and thousands of fresh troops sent from Italy to reinforce governor Suetonius Paulinus in A.D. 61 to defeat the British Queen, who took poison rather than submit.
Apart from the villas and fortified settlements, the great mass of the British people did not seem to have become Romanized. The influence of Roman thought survived in Britain only through the Church. Christianity had thoroughly replaced the old Celtic gods by the close of the 4th Century, as the history of Pelagius and St. Patrick testify, but Romanization was not successful in other areas. For example, the Latin tongue did not replace Brittonic as the language of the general population. Today's visitors to Wales, however, cannot fail to notice some of the Latin words that were borrowed into the British language, such as pysg (fish), braich (arm), caer (fort), foss (ditch), pont (bridge), eglwys (church), llyfr (book), ysgrif (writing), ffenestr (window), pared (wall or partition), and ystafell (room).
The disintegration of Roman Britain began with the revolt of Magnus Maximus in A.D. 383. After living in Britain as military commander for twelve years, he had been hailed as Emperor by his troops. He began his campaigns to dethrone Gratian as Emperor in the West, taking a large part of the Roman garrison in Britain with him to the Continent, and though he succeeded Gratian, he himself was killed by the Emperor Thedosius in 388. Some Welsh historians, and modern political figures, see Magnus Maximus as the father of the Welsh nation, for he opened the way for independent political organizations to develop among the Welsh people by his acknowledgement of the role of the leaders of the Britons in 383 (before departing on his military mission to the Continent) The enigmatic figure has remained a hero to the Welsh as Macsen Wledig, celebrated in poetry and song.
The Roman legions began to withdraw from Britain at the end of the fourth century. Those who stayed behind were to become the Romanized Britons who organized local defences against the onslaught of the Saxon hordes. The famous letter of A.D. 410 from the Emperor Honorius told the cities of Britain to look to their own defences from that time on. As part of the east coast defences, a command had been established under the Count of the Saxon Shore, and a fleet had been organized to control the Channel and the North Sea. All this showed a tremendous effort to hold the outlying province of Britain, but eventually, it was decided to abandon the whole project. In any case, the communication from Honorius was a little late: the Saxon influence had already begun in earnest.

The Dark Ages

From the time that the Romans more or less abandoned Britain, to the arrival of Augustine at Kent to convert the Saxons, the period has been known as the Dark Ages. Written evidence concerning the period is scanty, but we do know that the most significant events were the gradual division of Britain into a Brythonic west, a Teutonic east and a Gaelic north; the formation of the Welsh, English and Scottish nations; and the conversion of much of the west to Christianity.

By 410, Britain had become self-governing in three parts, the North (which already included people of mixed British and Angle stock); the West (including Britons, Irish, and Angles); and the South East (mainly Angles). With the departure of the Roman legions, the old enemies began their onslaughts upon the native Britons once more. The Picts and Scots to the north and west (the Scots coming in from Ireland had not yet made their homes in what was to become later known as Scotland), and the Saxons, Angles, and Jutes to the south and east.

The two centuries that followed the collapse of Roman Britain happen to be among the worst recorded times in British history, certainly the most obscure. Three main sources for our knowledge of the Anglo-Saxon permeation of Britain come from the 6th century monk Gildas, the 8th century historian Bede, and the 9th century historian Nennius.

The heritage of the British people cannot simply be called Anglo-Saxon; it is based on such a mixture as took place in the Holy Land, that complex mosaic of cultures, ideologies and economies. The Celts were not driven out of what came to be known as England. More than one modern historian has pointed out that such an extraordinary success as an Anglo-Saxon conquest of Britain "by bands of bold adventurers" could hardly have passed without notice by the historians of the Roman Empire, yet only Prosper Tyro and Procopius notice this great event, and only in terms that are not always consistent with the received accounts.

In the Gallic Chronicle of 452, Tyro had written that the Britons in 443 were reduced "in dicionen Saxonum" (under the jurisdiction of the English). He used the Roman term Saxons for all the English-speaking peoples resident in Britain: it comes from the Welsh appellation Saeson). The Roman historians had been using the term to describe all the continental folk who had been directing their activities towards the eastern and southern coasts of Britain from as early as the 3rd Century. By the mid 6th Century, these peoples were calling themselves Angles and Frisians, and not Saxons.

In the account given by Procopius in the middle of the 6th Century (the Gothic War, Book IV, cap 20), he writes of the island of Britain being possessed by three very populous nations: the Angili, the Frisians, and the Britons. "And so numerous are these nations that every year, great numbers migrate to the Franks." There is no suggestion here that these peoples existed in a state of warfare or enmity, nor that the British people had been vanquished or made to flee westwards. We have to assume, therefore, that the Gallic Chronicle of 452 refers only to a small part of Britain, and that it does not signify conquest by the Saxons.

The Anglo Saxon Period

To answer the question how did the small number of invaders come to master the larger part of Britain? John Davies gives us part of the answer: the regions seized by the newcomers were mainly those that had been most thoroughly Romanized, regions where traditions of political and military self-help were at their weakest. Those who chafed at the administration of Rome could only have welcomed the arrival of the English in such areas as Kent and Sussex, in the southeast.

Another reason cited by Davies is the emergence in Britain of the great plague of the sixth century from Egypt that was particularly devastating to the Britons who had been in close contact with peoples of the Mediterranean. Be that as it may, the emergence of England as a nation did not begin as a result of a quick, decisive victory over the native Britons, but a result of hundreds of years of settlement and growth, more settlement and growth, sometimes peaceful, sometimes not. If it is pointed out that the native Celts were constantly warring among themselves, it should also be noted that so were the tribes we now collectively term the English, for different kingdoms developed in England that constantly sought domination through conquest. Even Bede could pick out half a dozen rulers able to impose some kind of authority upon their contemporaries.

So we see the rise and fall of successive English kingdoms during the seventh and eighth centuries: Kent, Northumbria, Mercia, and Wessex. Before looking at political developments, however, it is important to notice the religious conversion of the people we commonly call Anglo-Saxons. It began in the late sixth century and created an institution that not only transcended political boundaries, but created a new concept of unity among the various tribal regions that overrode individual loyalties.

During the centuries of inter-tribal warfare, the Saxons had not thought of defending their coasts. The Norsemen, attracted by the wealth of the religious settlements, often placed near the sea, were free to embark upon their voyages of plunder.
The first recorded visit of the Vikings in the West Saxon Annals had stated that a small raiding party slew those who came to meet them at Dorchester in 789. It was the North, however, at such places as Lindisfarne, the holiest city in England, lavishly endowed with treasures at its monastery and religious settlement that constituted the main target. Before dealing with the onslaught of the Norsemen, however, it is time to briefly review the accomplishments of the people collectively known as the Anglo-Saxons, especially in the rule of law.
By the year 878 there was every possibility that before the end of the year Wessex would have been divided among the Danish army. That this turn of events did not come to pass was due to Alfred. Leaving aside the political events of the period, we can praise his laws as the first selective code of Anglo-Saxon England, though the fundamentals remained unchanged, those who didn't please him, were amended or discarded. They remain comments on the law, mere statements of established custom.
In 896, Alfred occupied London, giving the first indication that the lands which had lately passed under Danish control might be reclaimed. It made him the obvious leader of all those who, in any part of the country, wished for a reversal of the disasters, and it was immediately followed by a general recognition of his lordship. In the words of the Chronicle, "all the English people submitted to Alfred except those who were under the power of the Danes."
Around 890 the Vikings (also known as Norsemen or Danes) came as hostile raiders to the shores of Britain. Their invasions were thus different from those of the earlier Saxons who had originally come to defend the British people and then to settle. Though they did settle eventually in their newly conquered lands, the Vikings were more intent on looting and pillaging; their armies marched inland destroying and burning until half of England had been taken. However, just as an earlier British leader, perhaps the one known in legend as Arthur had stopped the Saxon advance into the Western regions at Mount Badon in 496, so a later leader stopped the advance of the Norsemen at Edington in 878.
But this time, instead of sailing home with their booty, the Danish seamen and soldiers stayed the winter on the Isle of Thanet on the Thames where the men of Hengist had come ashore centuries earlier. Like their Saxon predecessors, the Danes showed that they had come to stay.
It was not too long before the Danes had become firmly entrenched seemingly everywhere they chose in England (many of the invaders came from Norway and Sweden as well as Denmark). They had begun their deprivations with the devastation of Lindisfarne in 793, and the next hundred years saw army after army crossing the North Sea, first to find treasure, and then to take over good, productive farm lands upon which to raise their families. Outside Wessex, their ships were able to penetrate far inland; and founded their communities wherever the rivers met the sea.
Chaos and confusion were quick to return to England after Cnut's death, and the ground was prepared for the coming of the Normans, a new set of invaders no less ruthless than those who had come before. Cnut had precipitated problems by leaving his youngest, bastard son Harold, unprovided for. He had intended to give Denmark and England to Hardacnut and Norway to Swein. In 1035, Hardacnut could not come to England from Denmark without leaving Magnus of Norway a free hand in Scandinavia.
Although the two hundred years of Danish invasions and settlement had an enormous effect on Britain, bringing over from the continent as many people as had the Anglo-Saxon invasions, the effects on the language and customs of the English were not as catastrophic as the earlier invasions had been on the native British. The Anglo-Saxons were a Germanic race; their homelands had been in northern Europe, many of them coming, if not from Denmark itself, then from lands bordering that little country. They shared many common traditions and customs with the people of Scandinavia, and they spoke a related language.
There are over 1040 place names in England of Scandinavian origin, most occurring in the north and east, the area of settlement known as the Danelaw. The evidence shows extensive peaceable settlement by farmers who intermarried their English cousins, adopted many of their customs and entered into the everyday life of the community. Though the Danes who came to England preserved many of their own customs, they readily adapted to the ways of the English whose language they could understand without too much difficulty. There are more than 600 place names that end with the Scandinavian -by, (farm or town); some three hundred contain the Scandinavian word thorp (village), and the same number with thwaite (an isolated piece of land). Thousands of words of Scandinavian origin remain in the everyday speech of people in the north and east of England.
There was another very important feature of the Scandinavian settlement which cannot be overlooked. The Saxon people had not maintained contact with their orginal homelands; in England they had become an island race. The Scandinavians, however, kept their contacts with their kinsman on the continent. Under Cnut, England was part of a Scandinavian empire; its people began to extend their outlook and become less insular. The process was hastened by the coming of another host of Norsemen: the Norman Conquest was about to begin.
William of Normandy with his huge host of fighting men, landed unopposed in the south. Harold had to march southwards with his tired, weakened army and did not wait for reinforcements before he awaited the charge of William's mounted knights at Hastings. The only standing army in England had been defeated in an-all day battle in which the outcome was in doubt until the undisciplined English had broken ranks to pursue the Normans' feigning retreat. The story is too well-known to be repeated here, but when William took his army to London, where young Edgar the Atheling had been proclaimed king in Harold's place, English indecision in gathering together a formidable opposition forced the supporters of Edgar to negotiate for peace. They had no choice. William was duly crowned King of England at Westminster on Christmas Day, 1066.
William's victory also linked England with France and not Scandinavia from now on. Within six months of his coronation, William felt secure enough to visit Normandy. The sporadic outbreaks at rebellion against his rule had one important repercussion, however: it meant that threats to his security prevented him from undertaking any attempt to cooperate with the native aristocracy in the administration of England.
By the time of William's death in 1087, English society had been profoundly changed. For one thing, the great Saxon earldoms were split: Wessex, Mercia, Northumbria and other ancient kingdoms were abolished forever. The great estates of England were given to Norman and Breton landowners, carefully prevented from building up their estates by having them separated by the holdings of others.
The majority of Old English manuscripts are scattered throughout the libraries of England. The two largest collections belong to the British Library and the Bodleian Library of Oxford University. While these documents are national treasures and should be accessible to anyone, they obviously need to be protected; hence, heightened powers of persuasion notwithstanding, it is unlikely that an individual without an academic position or recommendation will be allowed access. Fortunately, many of these documents are on public display.
Most of the existing Old English manuscripts were made in the scriptoria of monasteries by members of the clergy. Anyone who has ever visited the remnants of such a monastery can imagine how difficult this must have been, with such little comfort, light and warmth in winter. It only goes to show the skill of monastic scribes in rendering their words so beautifully.
Anglo-Saxon manuscripts were written exclusively on parchment or vellum. While in modern times we know these media as semi-transparent writing papers used for tracing and sketching, they were originally made out of calf, goat or pig skins which had been stretched, shaved and treated. The result of this process was a thin membrane with one completely smooth side and another with a thin layer of leftover hair. Hundreds of animal skins were required to make a single book. This meant that the cost of creating literature during the Anglo-Saxon period was staggering - and hence the value of the finished product.
After the skins had been treated, they were folded into page-size squares (one fold created a folio, two folds a quarto, four folds an octavo, and so on - denoting the number of pages created by the folds). The result was a "quire," or section of pages. This process permitted the scribe to prick small holes through the pages of each quire, which could then be ruled, making uniformly straight lines of text on each page. Finally the quires would be bound together and covered. Unfortunately, we have few decent examples of what these covers looked like; one notable exception is the small Gospel book found in St. Cuthbert's tomb, now on display at the British Library. This method of book production meant that manuscripts could be easily unbound, permitting portions of texts to become separated, swapped or lost. For this reason, and because medieval writers frequently wrote wherever they could fit text (in blank spaces, on flyleaves, etc.), many manuscripts contain a wide assortment of different documents.
The dominant script of the Old English manuscripts is Anglo-Saxon (also called Insular, a Latin word meaning "island"; in this context, the term means "from England or Ireland"). It stemmed from the Uncial script brought to England by Augustine and his fellow missionaries, and incorporated the initially Irish Roman Half-Uncial. The Anglo-Saxon hand was generally miniscule (a calligraphic term meaning smaller, lower-case letters), reserving majuscule characters (larger, upper-case letters) for the beginnings of text segments or important words (this developed into the norm for modern writing - beginning sentences and "important" words with capital letters). These fonts are perfect for calligraphers who want to work on their hand or experiment with page layouts before writing. They may also be useful for those who are unfamiliar with the slight variations between the appearances of Old English and modern English characters.
The most popular element of medieval manuscripts in general is illumination - the decoration of text with drawings. Latin texts were more often illuminated than were Old English texts. But there are some spectacular examples of Old English illumination, including the stark line drawings, the biblical illustrations of Cotton Claudius, the mysterious Sphere of Apuleius in Cotton Tiberius, the Lindisfarne Gospels (Cotton Nero - one of the few manuscripts that approaches the Book of Kells), and so on.
Why would someone want to read a manuscript facsimile of an Old English text rather than a printed edition? A couple answers come to mind. First of all, Old English manuscripts are, by and large, beautiful. Second, you never know exactly what you're getting when you read a printed edition (maybe this is a slight exaggeration, but still only a slight one). Some printed texts are "normalized," reducing the natural variation in spelling, conjugation, declension, etc., common in Old English works (most medieval writers were not nearly as concerned with consistency of spelling as modern writers). Furthermore, some printed texts collate or "average" between multiple manuscripts of the same work, offering a composite text which, while perhaps more representative of that work, loses the qualities which make a manuscript unique. Naturally, this process can thwart anyone trying to make deductions about the dialectical, calligraphic or interlinear aspects of a particular manuscript (sometimes the most interesting aspects).
OE is so far removed from Mod E that one may take it for an entirely different language; this is largely due to the peculiarities of its pronunciation.
The survey of OE phonetics deals with word accentuation, the systems of vowels and consonants and their origins. The OE sound system developed from the PG system. It underwent multiple changes in the pre-written periods of history, especially in Early OE. The diachronic description of phonetics in those early periods will show the specifically English tendencies of development and the immediate sources of the sounds in the age of writing.

Word Stress

The system of word accentuation inherited from PG underwent no changes in Early OE.

In OE a syllable was made prominent by an increase in the force of articulation; in other words, a dynamic or a force stress was employed. In disyllabic and polysyllabic words the accent fell on the root-morpheme or on the first syllable. Word stress was fixed; it remained on the same syllable in different grammatical forms of the word and, as a rule, did not shift in word-building either. The forms of the Dat. case of the nouns hlaforde ['xla:vorde], cyninge ['kyninge] used in the text and the Nom. case of the same nouns: hlaford ['xla:vord], cyning ['kyning]. Polysyllabic words, especially compounds, may have had two stresses, chief and secondary, the chief stress being fixed on the first root-morpheme, e.g. the compound noun Nor?monna from the same extract, received the chief stress upon its first component and the secondary stress on the second component; the grammatical ending -a (Gen. pl) was unaccented. In words with prefixes the position of the stress varied: verb prefixes were unaccented, while in nouns and adjectives the stress was commonly thrown on to the prefix.

Cf: a'risan - arise v., 'toweard - toward adj., 'misd?d - misdeed n.

If the words were derived from the same root, word stress, together with other means, served to distinguish the noun from the verb, cf:
Changes of Stressed Vowels in Early Old English

Sound changes, particularly vowel changes, took place in English at every period of history.
The development of vowels in Early OE consisted of the modification of separate vowels, and also of the modification of entire sets of vowels.
It should be borne in mind that the mechanism of all phonetic changes strictly conforms with the general pattern. The change begins with growing variation in pronunciation, which manifests itself in the appearance of numerous allophones: after the stage of increased variation, some allophones prevail over the others and a replacement takes place. It may result in the splitting of phonemes and their numerical growth, which fills in the "empty boxes" of the system or introduces new distinctive features. It may also lead to the merging of old phonemes, as their new prevailing allophones can fall together. Most frequently the change will involve both types of replacement, splitting and merging, so that we have to deal both with the rise of new phonemes and with the redistribution of new allophones among the existing phonemes. For the sake of brevity, the description of most changes below is restricted to the initial and final stages.

Independent Changes. Development of Monophthongs

The PG short [a] and the long [a:], which had arisen in West and North Germanic, underwent similar alterations in Early OE they were fronted and, in the process of fronting, they split into several sounds.

The principal regular direction of the change - [a]>[?] and [a:]>[?:] - is often referred to as the fronting or palatalisation of [a, a:]. The other directions can be interpreted as positional deviations or restrictions to this trend: short [a] could change to [o]or [a] and long [a:] became [o:] before a nasal; the preservation (or, perhaps, the restoration) of the short [a ] was caused by a back vowel in the next syllable-- see the examples in Table 1 (sometimes [a] occurs in other positions as well, e.g. OE macian, land, NE make, land).

Table 1

Splitting of [a] and [a:] in Early Old English

Change illustrated
other OG languages



Gt ?ata

O Icel dagr




Gt mann(a)
O Icel land
Gt magan
Gt dagos





OHG slafen

OHG mano






OI cel mana?r
Development of Diphthongs
The PG diphthongs (or sequences of monophthongs) [ei, ai, iu, eu, au] -- uderwent regular independent changes in Early OE; they took place in all phonetic conditions irrespective of environment. The diphthongs with i-glide were monophthongised into [i:] and [a:], respectively; the diphthongs in u-glide were reflected_a&_long__diphthongs [io:], [eo:] and [au] >[ea:].
If the sounds in PG were not diphthongs but sequences of two separate phonemes, the changes should be defined as phonologisation of vowel sequences. This will mean that these changes increased the number of vowel phonemes in the language. Moreover, they introduced new distinctive features into the vowel system by setting up vowels with diphthongal glides; henceforth, monophthongs were opposed to diphthongs.
All the changes described above were interconnected. Their independence has been interpreted in different ways.
The changes may have started with the fronting of [a] (that is the change of [a] to [?]), which caused a similar development in the long vowels: [a:]>[?:], and could also bring about the fronting of [a] in the biphonemic vowel sequence [a + u], which became [?a:], or more precisely [?: :], with the second element weakened. This weakening as well as the monophthongisation of the sequences in [-i] may have been favoured by the heavy stress on the first sound.
According to other explanations the appearance of the long [a:] from the sequence [a+i] may have stimulated the fronting of long [a:], for this latter change helped to preserve the distinction between two phonemes; cf. OE rod (NE road) and OE r?d ('advice') which had not fallen together because while [ai] became [a:] in rad, the original [a:] was narrowed to [?:] in the word r?d. In this case the fronting of [a:] to [?:] caused a similar development in the set of short vowels: [a] > [?], which reinforced the symmetrical pattern of the vowel system.
Another theory connects the transformation of the Early OE vowel system with the rise of nasalised long vowels out of short vowels before nasals and fricative consonants ([a, i, u] plus [m] or [n] plus [x, f, 0 or s]), and the subsequent growth of symmetrical oppositions in the sets of long and short vowels .
Assimilative Vowel Changes: Breaking and Diphthongisation

The tendency to assimilative vowel change, characteristic of later PG and of the OG languages, accounts for many modifications of vowels in Early OE. Under the influence of succeeding and preceding consonants some Early OE monophthongs developed into diphthongs. If a front vowel stood before a velar consonant there developed a short glide between them, as the organs of speech prepared themselves for the transition from one sound to the other. The glide, together with the original monophthong formed a diphthong.
The front vowels [i], [e] and the newly developed [?], changed into diphthongs with a back glide when they stood before [h], before long (doubled) [ll] or [l] plus another consonant, and before [r] plus other consonants, e.g.: [e]>[eo] in OE deorc, NE dark. The change is known as breaking or fracture. Breaking is dated in Early OE, for in OE texts we find the process already completed: yet it must have taken place later than the vowel changes described above as the new vowel [?], which appeared some time during the 5th c., could be subjected to breaking under the conditions described.
Breaking produced a new set of vowels in OE - the short diphthongs [ea] and [eo]; they could enter the system as counterparts of the long [ea:], [eo:], which had developed from PG prototypes.
Breaking was unevenly spread among the OE dialects: it was more characteristic of West Saxon than of the Anglian dialects (Mercian and Northumbrian); consequently, in many words, which contain a short diphthong in West Saxon, Anglian dialects have a short monophthong, cf. WS tealde, Mercian talde (NE told).
Diphthongisation of vowels could also be caused by preceding consonants: a glide arose after * palatal consonants as a sort of transition to the succeeding vowel.
After the palatal consonants [k`], [sk`] and [j] short and long [e] and [?] turned into diphthongs with a more front close vowel as their first element, e.g. Early OE *sc?mu>OE sceamu (NE shame). In the resulting diphthong the initial [i] or [e] must have been unstressed but later the stress shifted to the first element, which turned into the nucleus of the diphthong, to conform with the structure of OE diphthongs (all of them were falling diphthongs). This process known as "diphthongisation after palatal consonants" occurred some time in the 6th c.
Breaking and diphthongisation are the main sources of short diphthongs in OE. They are of special interest to the historians of English, for OE short diphthongs have no parallels in other OG languages and constitute a specifically OE feature.
The status of short diphthongs in the OE vowel system has aroused much discussion and controversy. On the one hand, short diphthongs are always phonetically conditioned as the)' are found only in certain phonetic environments and appear as positional allophones of respective monophthongs (namely, of those vowels from which they have originated). On the other hand, however, they are similar in quality to the long diphthongs, and their phonemic status is supported by the symmetrical arrangement of the vowel system. Their very growth can be accounted for by the urge of the system to have all its empty positions filled. However, their phonemic status cannot be confirmed by the contrast of minimal pairs: [ea], [?], [a] as well as [eo] and [e] occur only in complementary distribution, never in identical phonetic conditions to distinguish morphemes; they also occur as variants in different dialects. On these grounds it seems likely that short diphthongs, together with other vowels, make up sets of allophones representing certain phonemes: [a, ?, ea] and [e, eo]. Perhaps the rise of short diphthongs merely reveals a tendency to a symmetrical arrangement of diphthongs in the vowel system, which was never fully realised at the phonemic level.

Palatal Mutation

The OE tendency to positional vowel change is most apparent in the process termed "mutation". Mutation is the change of one vowel to another through the influence of a vowel in the succeeding syllable.

This kind of change occurred in PG when [e] was raised to [i] and [u] could alternate with [o] under the influence of succeeding sounds.

In Early OE, mutations affected numerous vowels and brought about profound changes in the system and use of vowels.

The most important series of vowel mutations, shared in varying degrees by all OE languages (except Gothic), is known as "i-Umlaut" or "palatal mutation". Palatal mutation is the fronting and raising of vowels through the influence of [i] or [j] (the non-syllabic [i]) in the immediately following syllable. The vowel was fronted and made narrower so as to approach the articulation of [i]. Cf. OE an (NE one) with a back vowel in the root and OE ?nig (NE any) derived from the same root with the root vowel mutated to a narrower and more front sound under the influence of [i] in the suffix: [a:]>[?:].

Since the sounds [i] and [j] were common in suffixes and endings, palatal mutation was of very frequent occurrence. Practically all Early OE monophthongs, as well as diphthongs except the closest front vowels [e] and [i] were palatalised in these phonetic conditions.

Due to the reduction of final syllables the conditions, which caused palatal mutation, that is [i] or [j], had disappeared in most words by the age of writing; these sounds were weakened to [e] or were altogether lost (this is seen in all the examples above except ?nig).

Of all the vowel changes described, palatal mutation was certainly the most comprehensive process, as it could affect most OE vowels, both long and short, diphthongs and monophthongs. It led to the appearance of new vowels and to numerous instances of merging and splitting of phonemes.

The labialised front vowels [y] and [y:] arose through palatal mutation from [u] and [u:], respectively, and turned into new phonemes, when the conditions that caused them had disappeared. Cf. mus and mys (from the earlier *mysi, where [y:] was an allophone of [u:] before [i]). The diphthongs [ie, ie:] (which could also appear from diphthongisation after palatal consonants) were largely due to palatal mutation and became phonemic in the same way, though soon they were confused with [y, y:]. Other mutated vowels fell together with the existing phonemes, e.g. [oe] from [o] merged with [e, ?:], which arose through palatal mutation, merged with [?:] from splitting.

Palatal mutation led to the growth of new vowel interchanges and to the increased variability of the root-morphemes: "owing to palatal mutation many related words and grammatical forms acquired new root-vowel interchanges. Cf., e.g. two related words: OE gemot n 'meeting' and OE metan (NE meet), a verb derived from the noun-stem with the help of the suffix -j- (its earlier form was *motjan; -j- was then lost but the root acquired two variants: mot'/met-). Likewise we find variants of morphemes with an interchange of root-vowels in the grammatical forms mus, mys (NE mouse, mice), boc, bec (NE book, books), since the plural was originally built by adding -iz. (Traces of palatal mutation are preserved in many modern words and forms, e.g. mouse -- mice, foot--feet, tale -- tell, blood-- bleed; despite later phonetic changes, the original cause of the inner change is t-umlaut or palatal mutation.)

The dating, mechanism and causes of palatal mutation have been a matter of research and discussion over the last hundred years.

Palatal mutation in OE had already been completed by the time of the earliest written records; it must have taken place during the 7th c., though later than all the Early OE changes described above. This relative dating is confirmed by the fact that vowels resulting from other changes could be subjected to palatal mutation, e. g. OE ieldra (NE elder) had developed from *ealdira by palatal mutation which occurred when the diphthong [ea] had already been formed from [?] by breaking (in its turn [?] was the result of the fronting of Germanic [a]). The successive stages of the change can be shown as follows: fronting - breaking - palatal mutation [a] > [?] > [ea] > [ie] The generally accepted phonetic explanation of palatal mutation is that the sounds [i] or [j] palatalised the preceding consonant, and that this consonant, in its turn, fronted and raised the root-vowel. This "mechanistic" theory is based on the assumed workings of the speech organs.. An alternative explanation, sometimes called "psychological" or "mentalistic", is that the speaker unconsciously anticipates the [i] and [j] in pronouncing the root-syllable - and through anticipation adds an. i-glide to the root-vowel. The process is thus subdivided into several stages, e.g. *domjan >*doimjan >*doemjan >*deman (NE deem). It has been found that some OE spellings appear to support both these theories, e.g. OE secgan has a palatalised consonant [gg`] shown by the digraph cg; Coinwulf, a name in BEOWULF, occurring beside another spelling Cenwulf, shows the stage [oi:] in the transition from PG [o:] to OE [oe:], and [e:]: OE cen 'bold'. The diphthongoids resulting from palatal mutation developed in conformity with the general tendency of the vowel system: in Early OE diphthongal glides were used as relevant phonemic distinctive features. In later OE the diphthongs showed the first signs of contraction (or monophthongisation) as other distinctive features began to predominate: labialisation and vowel length. (The merging of [ie, ie:] and [y, y:] mentioned above, can also be regarded as an instance of monophthongisation of diphthongs.)

Changes of Unstressed Vowels in Early Old English

All the changes described above affected accented vowels. The development of vowels in unstressed syllables, final syllables in particular, was basically different. Whereas in stressed position the number of vowels had grown (as compared with the PG system), due to the appearance of new qualitative differences, the number of vowels distinguished in unstressed position had been reduced. In unaccented syllables, especially final, long vowels were shortened, and thus the opposition of vowels - long to short - was neutralised. Cf. OE nama (NE name) to the earlier *namon. It must also be mentioned that some short vowels in final unaccented syllables were dropped. After long syllables, that is syllables containing a long vowel, or a short vowel followed by more than one consonant, the vowels [i] and [u] were lost. Cf. the following pairs, which illustrate the retention of [u] and [i] after a short syllable, and their loss after a long one: OE scipu and sceap (NE ships, sheep, pl from *skeapu); OE werian--demon (NE wear, deem; cf. Gt domjan).

Old English Vowel System (9th-10th c.)

The vowels shown in parentheses were unstable and soon fused with resembling sounds: [a] with [a] or [o], [ie, ie:] with [y, y:].

The vowels are arranged in two lines in accordance with the chief phonemic opposition: they were contrasted through quantity as long to short and were further distinguished within these sets through qualitative differences as monophthongs and diphthongs, open and close, front and back, labialised and non-labialised. Cf. some minimal pairs showing the phonemic opposition of short and long vowels:

OE d?l -- d?l (NE dale, 'part') is -- оs (NE is, ice)) col -- cфl (NE coal, cool).

The following examples confirm the phonemic relevance of some qualitative differences:

OE rїd -- rвd -- rзad (NE 'advice', road, red), sз -- sзo 'that' Masc. and Fern. mв -- mз (NE

more, me)

The OE vowel system displayed an obvious tendency towards a symmetrical, balanced arrangement since almost every long vowel had a corresponding short counterpart. However, it was not quite symmetrical: the existence of the nasalised [a] in the set of short vowels and the debatable phonemic status of short diphthongs appear to break the balance.

All the vowels listed in the table could occur in stressed position. In unstressed syllables we find only five monophthongs, and even these five vowels could not be used for phonemic contrast:

i - ?nig (NE any)

e - stвne, Dat. sg of stвn as opposed to

a - stвna Gen. pl of the same noun (NE stone)

o - b?ron -- Past pl Ind (of beran as opposed to b?ren. Subj. (NE bear)

u -- talu (NE tale), Nom. sg as opposed to tale in other cases

The examples show that [e] was not contrasted to [i], and [o] was not contrasted to [u]. The system of phonemes appearing in unstressed syllables consists of three units: e/i a o/u

Consonant Changes in Pre-Written Periods

On the whole, consonants were historically more stable than vowels, though certain changes took place in all historical periods.

It may seem hat being a typical OG language OE ought to contain all the consonants that arose in PG under Grimm's and Verner's Law. Yet it appears that very few noise consonants in OE correspond to the same sounds in PG; for in the intervening period most consonants underwent diverse changes: qualitative and quantitative, independent and positional.

Some of the consonant changes dated in pre-written periods are referred to as "West Germanic" (WG) as they are shared by all the languages of the WG subgroup; WG changes may have taken place at the transitional stage from PG to Early OE prior to the Germanic settlement of Britain.

Treatment of Fricatives. Hardening. Rhotacism. Voicing and Devoicing

After the changes under Grimm's Law and Verner's Law PG had the following two sets of fricative consonants-voiceless [f, 0, x, s] and voiced [v, ?, y, z].

In WG and in Early OE the difference between the two groups was supported by new features. PG voiced fricatives tended to be hardened to corresponding plosives while voiceless fricatives, being contrasted to them primarily as fricatives to plosives, developed new voiced allophones.

The PG voiced [?] (due to Verner's Law or to the third act of the shift) was always hardened to [d] in OE and other WG languages, cf., for instance, Gt go?s, godai [?], O Icel go?r and OE god (NE good), The two other fricatives, [v] and [y] were hardened to [b] and [g] initially and after nasals, otherwise they remained fricatives.

PG [z] underwent a phonetic modification through the stage of [ж] into [r] and thus became a sonorant, which ultimately merged with the older IE [r]. Cf. Gt. wasjan, 0 Icel verja and OE werian (NE wear). This process, termed rhotacism, is characteristic not only of WG but also of NG.

In the meantime or somewhat later the PG set of voiceless fricatives [f, 0, x, s] and also those of the voiced fricatives which had not turned into plosives, that is, [v] and [y], were subjected to a new process of voicing and devoicing. In Early OE they became or remained voiced mtervocally and between vowels, sonorants and voiced consonants; they remained or became voiceless in other environments, namely, initially, finally and next to other voiceless consonants Cf. Gt qi?ian, qa?i with [0] in both forms, and OE cwe?an [?] between vowels and cw?? [0] at the end of the word (NE arch, quoth 'say').

The mutually exclusive phonetic conditions for voiced and voiceless fricatives prove that in OE they were not phonemes, but allophones.

West Germanic Gemination of Consonants

In all WG languages, at an early stage of their independent history, most consonants were lengthened after a short vowel before [j]. This process is known as WG "gemination" or "doubling" of consonants, as the resulting long consonants are indicated by means of double letters, e.g.: *fuljan > OE fyllan (NE fill); * s?tjan OE > settan (NE set), cf. Gt satjan.

During the process, or some time later, [j] was lost, so that the long consonants ceased to be phonetically conditioned. When the long and short consonants began to occur in identical phonetic conditions, namely between vowels, their distinction became phonemic.

The change did not affect the sonorant [r], e.g. OE werian (NE wear); nor did it operate if the consonant was preceded by a long vowel, e. g. OE demon, metan (NE deem, meet) -- the earlier forms of these words contained [j], which had caused palatal mutation but had not led to the lengthening of consonants (the reconstruction of pre-written forms *motjan and *domjan is confirmed by OS motion and Gt domjan).

Velar Consonants in Early Old English. Growth of New Phonemes

In Early OE velar consonants split into two distinct sets of sounds, which eventually led to the growth of new phonemes.

The velar consonants [k, g, x, y] were palatalised before a front vowel, and sometimes also after a front vowel, unless followed by a back vowel. Thus in OE cild (NE child) the velar consonant [k] was softened to [k'] as it stood before the front vowel [i]: [*kild]>[k'ild]; similarly [k] became [k'] in OE spr?c (NE speech) after a front vowel but not in OE sprecan ("NE speak) where [k] was followed by the back vowel [a]. In the absence of these phonetic conditions the consonants did not change, with the result that lingual consonants split into two sets, palatal and velar. The difference between them became phonemic when, a short time later, velar and palatal consonants began to occur in similar phonetic conditions; cf. OE cild [k'ild], ciest [k'iest] (NE child, chest) with palatal [k'] and ceald, cepan (NE cold, keep) with hard, velar [k] -- both before front vowels.

Though the difference between velar and palatal consonants was not shown in the spellings of the OE period, the two sets were undoubtedly differentiated since a very early date. In the course of time the phonetic difference between them grew and towards the end of the period the palatal consonants developed into sibilants and affricates: [k']>[t?], [g']>[dz]; in ME texts they were indicated by means of special digraphs and letter sequences.

The date of the palatalisation can be fixed with considerable precision in relation to other Early OE sound changes. It must have taken place after the appearance of [?, ?:] (referred to the 5th c.) but prior to palatal mutation (late 6th or 7th c.); for [?, ?:] could bring about the palatalisation of consonants (recall OE spr?c, NE speech), while the front vowels which arose by palatal mutation could not. In OE cepan. (from *kopjan) and OE cyning (with [e:] and [y] through palatal mutation) the consonant [k] was not softened, which is confirmed by their modern descendants, keep and king. The front vowels [y] and [e:] in these and similar words must have appeared only when the splitting of velar consonants was well under way. Yet it is their appearance that transformed the two sets of positional allophones into phonemes, for a velar and a palatal consonant could now occur before a front vowel, that is, in identical phonetic conditions: cf. OE cyning and cyse (NE king, cheese).

Loss of Consonants in Some Positions

Comparison with other OG languages, especially Gothic and O Icel, has revealed certain instances of the loss of consonants in WG and Early OE.

Nasal sonorants were regularly lost before fricative consonants; in the process the preceding vowel was probably nasalised and lengthened. Cf.:

Gt fimf, 0 Icel fim, OHG fimf -- OE fif (NE five)

Gt uns, OHG uns -- OE ыs (NE us)

Fricative consonants could be dropped between vowels and before some plosive consonants; these losses were accompanied by a compensatory lengthening of the preceding vowel or the fusion of the preceding and succeeding vowel into a diphthong, cf. OE sзon, which corresponds to Gt saihwan, OE slзan (NE slay), Gt slahan, G. schlagen, OE s?gde and s?de (NE said).

We should also mention the loss of semi-vowels and consonants in unstressed final syllables, [j] was regularly dropped in suffixes after producing various changes in the root: palatal mutation of vowels, lengthening of consonants after short vowels. The loss of [w] is seen in some case forms of nouns: Norn, treo, Dat. treowe (NE tree);

Nom. s?, Dat. s?we (NE sea), cf. Gt triwa, saiws.

Preliminary Remarks

OE was a synthetic, or inflected type of language; it showed the relations between words and expressed other grammatical meanings mainly with the help of simple (synthetic) grammatical forms. In building grammatical forms OE employed grammatical endings, sound interchanges in the root, grammatical prefixes, and suppletive formation.
Grammatical endings, or inflections, were certainly the principal form-building means used: they were found in all the parts of speech that could change their form; they were usually used alone but could also occur in combination with other means.
Sound interchanges were employed on a more limited scale and were often combined with other form-building means, especially endings. Vowel interchanges were more common than interchanges of consonants.
The use of prefixes in grammatical forms was rare and was confined to verbs. Suppletive forms were restricted to several pronouns, a few adjectives and a couple of verbs.
The parts of speech to be distinguished in OE are as follows: the noun, the adjective, the pronoun, the numeral (all referred to as nominal parts of speech or nominal, the verb, the adverb, the preposition, the conjunction, and the interjection. Inflected parts of speech possessed certain grammatical categories displayed in formal and semantic correlations and oppositions of grammatical forms. Grammatical categories are usually subdivided into nominal categories, found in nominal parts of speech and verbal categories found chiefly in the finite verb.
We shall assume that there were five nominal grammatical categories in OE: number, case, gender, degrees of comparison, and the category of definiteness / indefiniteness. Each part of speech had its own peculiarities in the inventory of categories and the number of members within the category (categorial forms). The noun had only two grammatical categories proper: number and case. The adjective had the maximum number of categories -- five. The number of members in the same grammatical categories in different parts of speech did not necessarily coincide: thus the noun had four cases. Nominative, Genitive, Dative, and Accusative, whereas the adjective had five (the same four cases plus the Instrumental case). The personal pronouns of the 1st and 2nd p., unlike other parts of speech, distinguished three numbers -- Singular, Plural and Dual. Cf.
sg OE ic (NE I), dual wit 'we two', pl we (NE we)
OE stвn (NE stone) -- stвnas (NE stones).
Verbal grammatical categories were not numerous: tense and mood -- verbal categories proper -- and number and person, showing agreement between the verb-predicate and the subject of the sentence.
The distinction of categorial forms by the noun and the verb was to a large extent determined by their division into morphological classes: declensions and conjugations.
In OE there were with the following parts of speech: the noun, the adjective, the pronoun, and the verb.
The OE grammatical system is described synchronically as appearing in the texts of the 9th and 10th c. (mainly WS); facts of earlier, prewritten, history will sometimes be mentioned to account for the features of written OE and to explain their origin.

The noun. Grammatical Categories. The Use of Cases

The OE noun had two grammatical or morphological categories: number and case. In addition, nouns distinguished three genders, but this distinction was not a grammatical category; it was merely a classifying feature accounting, alongside other features, for the division of nouns into morphological classes.

The category of number consisted of two members, singular and plural. As will be seen below, they were well distinguished formally in all the declensions, there being very few homonymous forms.

The noun had four cases: Nominative, Genitive, Dative and Accusative. In most declensions two, or even three, forms were homonymous, so that the formal distinction of cases was less consistent than that of numbers.

Before considering the declension of nouns, we shall briefly touch upon the meaning and use of cases. The functions of cases in OE require little explanation for the Russian student, since they are those, which ought to be expected in a language with a well-developed case system.

The Nom. can be loosely defined as the case of the active agent, for it was the case of the subject mainly used with verbs denoting activity; the Nom. could also indicate the subject characterised by a certain quality or state; could serve as a predicative and as the case of address, there being no special Vocative case, e. g.:

??t flod weox ?в and вbїr upp ?one arc -- subject, active agent ('that flood increased then and bore up the arc')

wear? ?в їlc ?ing cwices вdrenct -- subject, recipient of an action or state ('was then everything alive drowned')

Hз wїs swi?e spзdig man -- predicative ('He was a very rich man')

Sunu mоn, hlyste minre lвre -- address ('My son, listen to my teaching').

The Gen. case was primarily the case of nouns and pronouns serving as attributes to other nouns. The meanings of the Gen. were very complex and can only roughly be grouped under the headings "Subjective" and "Objective" Gen. Subjective Gen. is associated with the possessive meaning and the meaning of origin, e. g.:

Beowulf gзata 'Beowulf of the Geats'. hiora scipu "their ships"

Objective Gen. is seen in such instances as ??s landes sceawung 'surveying of the land'; and is associated with what is termed "partitive meaning" as in sum hund scipa 'a hundred of ships', hыsa sзlest 'best of the houses'. The use of the Gen. as an object to verbs and adjectives was not infrequent, though the verbs which regularly took a Gen. object often interchanged it with other cases, cf.: hз bвd ... westanwindes 'he waited for the west wind'

frige menn ne mфtan wealdan heora sylfra - 'free men could not control themselves' (also with the Acc. wealdan hie.).

Dat. was the chief case used with prepositions, e. g.: on morgenne 'in the morning' from ??m here 'from the army', ?a sende sз cyning tф??m here and him cy?an hзt 'then sent the king to the army and ordered (him) to inform them'.

The last example illustrates another frequent use of the Dat.: an indirect personal object. The OE Dat. case could convey an instrumental meaning, indicating the means or manner of an action: hit hagolade stвnum 'it hailed (with) stones', worhte AElfred cyning lytle werede geweorc 'King Alfred built defense works with a small troop'.

Alongside the Acc., Dat. could indicate the passive subject of a state expressed by impersonal verbs and some verbs of emotion:

him gelicode heora ?зawas 'he liked their customs' (lit. 'him pleased their customs').

The Acc. case was the form that indicated a relationship to a verb. Being a direct object it denoted the recipient of an action, the result of the action and other meanings:

se wulf nim? and tфdїl? ?в scзap 'the wolf takes and scatters the sheep'. (Its use as an object of impersonal verbs, similar to the use of Dat., is illustrated by hine nвnes ?inges ne lyste 'nothing pleased him').

It is important to note that there was considerable fluctuation in the use of cases in OE. One and the same verb could be construed with different cases without any noticeable change of meaning. The semantic functions of the Gen., Dat. and Acc. as objects commonly overlapped and required further specification by means of prepositions. The vague meaning of cases was of great consequence for the subsequent changes of the case system.

Morphological Classification of Nouns. Declensions

The most remarkable feature of OE nouns was their elaborate system of declensions, which was a sort of morphological classification. The total number of declensions, including both the major and minor types, exceeded twenty-five. All in all there were only ten distinct endings (plus some phonetic variants of these endings) and a few relevant root-vowel interchanges used in the noun paradigms; yet every morphological class had either its own specific endings or a specific succession of markers. Historically, the OE system of declensions was based on a number of distinctions: the stem-suffix, the gender of nouns, the phonetic structure of the word, phonetic changes in the final syllables.

In the first place, the morphological classification of OE nouns rested upon the most ancient (IE) grouping of nouns according to the stem-suffixes. Stem-suffixes could consist of vowels (vocalic stems, e. g. a-stems, i-stems), of consonants (consonantal stems, e. g. n-stems), of sound sequences, e. g. -ja-stems, -nd-stems. Some groups of nouns had no stem-forming suffix or had a "zero-suffix"; they are usually termed "root-stems" and are grouped together with consonantal stems, as their roots ended in consonants, e. g. OE man, bфc (NE man, book).

The loss of stem-suffixes as distinct component parts had led to the formation of different sets of grammatical endings. The merging of the stem-suffix with the original grammatical ending and their phonetic weakening could result in the survival of the former stem-suffix in a new function, as a grammatical ending; thus n-stems had many forms ending in -an (from the earlier -*eni, -*enaz, etc.); u-stems had the inflection -u in some forms.

Sometimes both elements -- the stem-suffix and the original ending -- were shortened or even dropped (e. g. the ending of the Dat. sg -e from the earlier -*ai, Nom. and Acc. pl -as from the earlier -os; the zero-ending in the Nom. and Acc. sg) in a-stems.

Another reason, which accounts for the division of nouns into numerous declensions is their grouping according to gender. OE nouns distinguished three genders: Masc., Fem. and Neut. Though originally a semantic division, gender in OE was not always associated with the meaning of nouns. Sometimes a derivational suffix referred a noun to a certain gender and placed it into a certain semantic group, e. g. abstract nouns built with the help of the suffix -?u were Fern. -- OE len?u, hyh?u (NE length, height), nomina agentis with the suffix -ere were Masc. -- OE fiscere, bфcere (NE fisher, 'learned man'). The following nouns denoting human beings show, however, that grammatical gender did not necessarily correspond to sex: alongside Masc. and Fem. nouns denoting males and females there were nouns with "unjustified" gender, cf:

OE widuwa, Masc. ('widower') -- OE widow, Fem. (NE widow);

OE spinnere, Masc. (NE spinner) -- OE spinnestre. Fem. ('female spinner'; note NE spinster with a shift of meaning) and nouns like OE wоf, Neut. (NE wife). OE m?gden, Neut. (NE maiden, maid), OE wоfman, Masc. (NE woman, originally a compound word whose second component -man was Masc.).

In OE gender was primarily a grammatical distinction; Masc., Fem. and Neut. nouns could have different forms, even if they belonged to the same stem (type of declension).
The division into genders was in a certain way connected with the division into stems, though there was no direct correspondence between them: some stems were represented by nouns of one particular gender, e. g. o-stems were always Fem., others embraced nouns of two or three genders.
Other reasons accounting for the division into declensions were structural and phonetic: monosyllabic nouns had certain peculiarities as compared to polysyllabic;
monosyllables with a long root-syllable (that is, containing a long vowel plus a consonant or a short vowel plus two consonants -- also called "long-stemmed" nouns) differed in some forms from nouns with a short syllable (short-stemmed nouns).
The majority of OE nouns belonged to the a-stems, o-stems and n-stems. Special attention should also be paid to the root-stems which displayed specific peculiarities in their forms and have left noticeable traces in Mod E.
a-stems included Masc. and Neut. nouns. About one third of OE nouns were Masc. a-stems, e. g. cniht (NE knight), hвm (NE home), ? (NE mouth); examples of Neut. nouns are:
lim (NE limb), hыs (NE house), ?ing (NE thing). (Disyllabic nouns, e. g. finger, differed from monosyllables in that they could drop their second vowel in the oblique cases: Nom, sg finger, Gen. fingres, Dat. fingre, NE finger.
The forms in the a-stem declension were distinguished through grammatical endings (including the zero-ending). In some words inflections were accompanied by sound interchanges: nouns with the vowel [?] in the root had an interchange [?>a], since in some forms the ending contained a back vowel, e. g. Nom. sg d?ge Gen. d?ges -- Nom. and Gen. pl dagas, daga. If a noun ended in a fricative consonant, it became voiced in the intervocal position, cf. Nom. sg mu?, wulf-- [0], [f] -- and Nom. pl mu?as, wulfas -- [o], [v]. (Note that their modem descendants have retained the interchange: NE mouth -- mouths [0>?], wolf-wolves, also house--houses and others.) These interchanges were not peculiar of a-stems alone and are of no significance as grammatical markers; they are easily accountable by phonetic reasons.
Declension of nouns: a-stem*
Nom. fisc
Gen. fisces
Dat. fisce
Acc. fisc
Nom. fiscas
Gen. fisca
Dat. fiscum
Acc. fiscas
(NE fish)
(NE ship)
(NE deer)
(NE) end
cnзowa cnзowum cnзo(w)
(NE knee)
*For more examples, consult “History of English” by Rastorguyeva, pp.98-99

Neut. a-stems differed from Masc. in the pl of the Nom. and Acc. cases. Instead of-as they took -u for short stems (that is nouns with a short root-syllable) and did not add any inflection in the long-stemmed variant -- see Nom. and Acc. pl of scip and dзor in the table. Consequently, long-stemmed Neuters had homonymous sg and pl forms: dзor -- dзor, likewise sceap--sceap, ?ing - ?ing, hus--hus. This peculiarity of Neut. a-stems goes back to some phonetic changes in final unaccented syllables which have given rise to an important grammatical feature: an instance of regular homonymy or neutralisation of number distinctions in the noun paradigm. (Traces of this group of a-stems have survived as irregular pl forms in Mod E: sheep, deer, swine.)
wa- and ja-stems differed from pure a-stems in some forms, as their endings contained traces of the elements -j- and -w-. Nom. and Acc. sg could end in -e which had developed from the weakened -j-, though in some nouns with a doubled final consonant it was lost -- cf. OE bridd (NE bird); in some forms -j- is reflected as -i- or -ig- e.g. Nom. here, Dat. herie, herige or herge ('army'). Short-stemmed wa-stems had -u in the Nom. and Acc. sg which had developed from the element -w- but was lost after a long syllable (in the same way as the plural ending of neuter a-stems described above); cf. OE bearu (NE bear) and cnзo; -w- is optional but appears regularly before the endings of the oblique cases (see the declension of cnзo in Table 2).
o-stems were all Fem., so there was no further subdivision according to gender. The variants with -j- and -w- decline like pure o-stems except that -w- appears before some endings, e.g. Nom. sceadu, the other cases -- sceadwe (NE shadow). The difference between short-and long-stemmed o-stems is similar to that between respective a-stems: after a short syllable the ending -u is retained, after a long syllable it is dropped: wund, talu. Disyllabic o-stems, like a-stems, lost their second vowel in some case forms: Nom. ceaster, the other cases ceastre ('camp'), NE -caster, -Chester--a component of place-names). Like other nouns, o-stems could have an interchange of voiced and voiceless fricative consonants as allophones in intervocal and final position: glof--glofe [f>v] (NE glove). Among the forms of o-stems there occurred some variant forms with weakened endings or with endings borrowed from the weak declension -- with the element -n- wundena alongside wunda. Variation increased towards the end of the OE period.
The other vocalic stems, i-stems and u-stems, include nouns of different genders. Division into genders breaks up i-stems into three declensions, but is irrelevant for u-stems: Masc. and Fem. u-stems decline alike, e.g. Fem. duru (NE door) had the same forms as Masc. sunu shown in the table. The length of the root-syllable is important for both stems; it accounts for the endings in the Nom. and Acc. in the same way as in other classes: the endings -e, -u are usually preserved in short-stemmed nouns and lost in long-stemmed.
Comparison of the i-stems with a-stems reveals many similarities. Neut. i-stems are declined like Neut. ja-stems; the inflection of the Gen. for Masc. and Neut. i-stems is the same as in a-stems -es; alongside pl forms in -e we find new variant forms of Masc. nouns in -as, e. g. Nom., Acc. pl --winas 'friends' (among Masc. i-stems only names of peoples regularly formed their pl in the old way: Dene, Engle, NE Danes, Angles). It appears that Masc. i-stems adopted some forms from Masc. a-stems, while Neut. i-stems were more likely to follow the pattern of Neut. a-stems; as for Fem. i-stems, they resembled o-stems, except that the Acc. and Nom. were not distinguished as with other i-stems.
The most numerous group of the consonantal stems were n-stems or the weak declension, n-stems had only two distinct forms in the sg: one form for the Nom. case and the other for the three oblique cases; the element -n- in the inflections of the weak declension was a direct descendant of the old stem suffix -n, which had acquired a new, grammatical function, n-stems included many Masc. nouns, such as boga, cnotta, steorra (NE bow, knot, star), many Fem. nouns, e. g. cirice, eor?e, heorte, hl?fdige (NE church, earth, heart, lady) and only a few Neut. nouns: зaga (NE eye).

The pronoun

OE pronouns fell roughly under the same main classes as modem pronouns: personal, demonstrative, interrogative and indefinite. As for the other groups -- relative, possessive and reflexive -- they were as yet not fully developed and were not always distinctly separated from the four main classes. The grammatical categories of the pronouns were either similar to those of nouns (in "noun-pronouns") or corresponded to those of adjectives (in "adjective pronouns"). Some features of pronouns were peculiar to them alone.

Personal Pronouns*

OE personal pronouns had three persons, three numbers in the 1st and 2nd p. (two numbers--in the 3rd) and three genders in the 3rd p. The pronouns of the 1st and 2nd p. had suppletive forms like their parallels in other IE languages. The pronouns of the 3rd p., having originated from demonstrative pronouns, had many affinities with the latter.

In OE, while nouns consistently distinguished between four cases, personal pronouns began to lose some of their case distinctions: the forms of the Dat. case of the pronouns of the 1st and 2nd p. were frequently used instead of the Acc.; in fact the fusion of these two cases in the pi was completed in the WS dialect already in Early OE: Acc. eowic and usic were replaced by Dat. eow, us; in the sg usage was variable, but variant forms revealed the same tendency to generalise the form of the Dat. for both case's. This is seen in the following quotation:

Se ?e me geh?lde, se cw?? tф me 'He who healed me, he said to me' -- the first me, though Dat. in form, serves as an Acc. (direct object); the second me is a real Dat.

*See a table of personal pronouns declension at p.103 in “History of English” by Rastorguyeva.

Demonstrative Pronouns

There were two demonstrative pronouns in OE: the prototype of NE that, which distinguished three genders in the sg and had one form for all the genders in the pi. and the prototype of this with the same subdivisions: ?es Masc., ?eos Fem., ?is Neut. and ?as pl. They were declined like adjectives according to a five-case system:

Nom., Gen., Dat., Acc., and Instr. (the latter having a special form only in the Masc., Neut.sg).

Declension of sз, sзo, ??t


All genders
sз, se ??t sзo
??s ??s ??re
?вra, ??ra
??m, ?вm ??m, ?вm ??re
?вm, ??m
?one ??t ?в

?y, ?on ?y, ?on ??re
??m, ?вm

The paradigm of the demonstrative pronoun se contained many homonymous forms. Some case endings resembled those of personal pronouns, e.g. -m - Dat. Masc. and Neut. and Dat. pl;

the element -r- in the Dat. and Gen. sg Fem. and in the Gen. pl. These case endings, which do not occur in the noun paradigms, are often referred to as "pronominal" endings (-m, -r-, -t).

The adjective. Grammatical Categories

As stated before, the adjective in OE could change for number, gender and case. Those were dependent grammatical categories or forms of agreement of the adjective with the noun it modified or with the subject of the sentence -- if the adjective was a predicative. Like nouns, adjectives had three genders and two numbers. The category of case in adjectives differed from that of nouns: in addition to the four cases of nouns they had one more case, Instr. It was used when the adjective served as an attribute to a noun in the Dat. case expressing an instrumental meaning -- e.g.: lytle werede 'with (the help of) a small troop'.

Weak and Strong Declension

As in other OG languages, most adjectives in OE could be declined in two ways: according to the weak and to the strong declension. The formal differences between the declensions, as well as their origin, were similar to those of the noun declensions. The strong and weak declensions arose due to the use of several stem-forming suffixes in PG: vocalic a-, o-, u- and i- and consonantal n-. Accordingly, there developed sets of endings of the strong declension mainly coinciding with the endings of a-stems of nouns for adjectives in the Masc. and Neut. and of o-stems -- in the Fem., with some differences between long-and short-stemmed adjectives, variants with j- and w-, monosyllabic and polysyllabic adjectives and some remnants of other stems. Some endings in the strong declension of adjectives have no parallels in the noun paradigms; they are similar to the endings of pronouns: -um for Dat. sg, -ne for Acc. Masc., [r] in some Fem. and pl endings. Therefore the strong declension of adjectives is sometimes called the "pronominal" declension. As for the weak declension, it uses the same markers as (n-stems of nouns except that in the Gen. pl the pronominal ending -ra is often used instead of the weak -ena.

The difference between the strong and the weak declension of adjectives was not only formal but also semantic. Unlike a noun, an adjective did not belong to a certain type of declension. Most adjectives could be declined in both ways. The choice of the declension was determined by a number of factors: the syntactical function of the adjective, the degree of comparison and the presence of noun determiners. The adjective had a strong form when used predicatively and when used attributively without any determiners, e.g.:
?a menn sindon gode 'the men are good'
The weak form was employed when the adjective was preceded by a demonstrative pronoun or the Gen. case of personal pronouns.
Strong (pure a- and o-stems)
Nom. blind blind blind
Gen. blindes blindes blindre
Dat. blindum blindum blindre
Acc. blindne blind blinde
Instr. blinde blinde blindre
blinda blinde blinde
blindan blindan blindan
blindan blindan blindan
blindan blinde blindan
blindan blindan blindan
Nom. blinde blind blinda, -e
Gen. blindra blindra blindra
Dat. blindum blindum blindum
Acc. blinde blind blinda, -e
Instr. blindum blindum blindum
(NE blind)
All genders
blindra, -ena
Some adjectives, however, did not conform with these rules.

Degrees of Comparison

Like adjectives in other languages, most OE adjectives distinguished between three degrees of comparison: positive, comparative and superlative. The regular means used to form the comparative and the superlative from the positive were the suffixes -ra and -est/ost. Sometimes suffixation was accompanied by an interchange of the root-vowel.

The adjective god had suppletive forms. Suppletion was a very old way of building the degrees of comparison

god - bettra - bet(e)st,

lytel - l?ssa - l?st.

The OE verb was characterised by many peculiar features. Though the verb had few grammatical categories, its paradigm had a very complicated structure: verbs fell into numerous morphological classes and employed a variety of form-building means. All the forms of the verb were synthetic, as analytical forms were only beginning to appear. The non-finite forms had little in common with the finite forms but shared many features with the nominal parts of speech.

Grammatical Categories of the Finite Verb

The verb-predicate agreed with the subject of the sentence in two grammatical categories: number and person. Its specifically verbal categories were mood and tense. Thus in OE he binde? 'he binds' the verb is in the 3rd p. Pres. Tense Ind. Mood; in the sentence Bringa? me hider ?a 'Bring me those (loaves)' bringa? is in the Imper. Mood pl.

Finite forms regularly distinguished between two numbers: sg and pl. The homonymy of forms in the verb paradigm did not affect number distinctions: opposition through number was never neutralised.
The category of Person was made up of three forms: the 1st, the 2nd and the 3rd. Unlike number, person distinctions were neutralised in many positions. Person was consistently shown only in the Pres. Tense of the Ind. Mood 'In the Past Tense sg of the Ind. Mood the forms of the 1st and 3rd p. coincided and only the 2nd p. had a distinct form. Person was not distinguished in the pl; nor was it shown in the Subj. Mood.
The category of Mood was constituted by the Indicative, Imperative and Subjunctive. There were a few homonymous forms, which eliminated the distinction between the moods: Subj. did not differ from the Ind. in the 1st p. sg Pres. Tense -- here, deme -- and in the 1st and 3rd p. in the Past. The coincidence of the Imper. and Ind. Moods is seen in the pl -- locia?, dema?.
The category of Tense in OE consisted of two categorial forms, Pres. and Past. The tenses were formally distinguished by all the verbs in the Ind. and Subj. Moods, there being practically no instances of neutralisation of the tense opposition.
The use of the Subj. Mood in OE was in many respects different from its use in later ages. Subj. forms conveyed a very general meaning of unreality or supposition. In addition to its use in conditional sentences and other volitional, conjectural and hypothetical contexts Subj. was common in other types of construction: in clauses of time, clauses of result and in clauses presenting reported speech, e.g.:
?a giet he ascode hw?t heora cyning haten w?re, and him man andswarode and cw?? ??t he ?lle haten w?re. 'and yet he asked what their king was called, and they answered and said that he was called ?lle'. In presenting indirect speech usage was variable: Ind. forms occurred by the side of Subj.
Conjugation of Verbs in Old English
deman deem
Present tense

Singular 1st




finde fintst

fint finda?
bere bir(e)st bir(e)? bera?
deme demst dem? dema?



loca? locia?
Subjunctive Singular Subjunctive Plural
finde finden
bere beren
deme demen


Imperative Singular

Imperative Plural

Participle I
finda? findende
bera? berende
dema? demend
locia? lociende
Past Singular 1st

The meanings of the tense forms were also very general, as compared with later ages and with present-day English. The forms of the Pres. were used to indicate present and future actions. With verbs of perfective meaning or with adverbs of future time the Pres. acquired the meaning of futurity; Cf: ?onne ?u ?a in bringst, he ytt and bletsa? ?e -- futurity -- 'when you bring them, he will eat and bless you' ?u gesihst ??t ic ealdige 'you see that I am getting old' the Pres. tense ealdie indicates a process in the present which is now expressed by the Continuous form. Future happenings could also be expressed by verb phrases with modal verbs:

for??m ge sculon ... wepan 'therefore you shall weep'.

The Past tense was used in a most general sense to indicate various events in the past (including those which are nowadays expressed by the forms of the Past Continuous, Past Perfect, Present Perfect and other analytical forms). Additional shades of meaning could be attached to it in different contexts, e. g.:
Ond ??s ofer Eastron gefor ?pered cyning; ond he ricsode fоf gear 'and then after Easter died King Aethered, and he had reigned five years' (the Past Tense ricsode indicates a completed action which preceded another past action -- in the modem translation it is rendered by had reigned).

Grammatical Categories of the Verbals

In OE there were two non-finite forms of the verb: the Infinitive and the Participle. In many respects they were closer to the nouns and adjectives than to the finite verb; their nominal features were far more obvious than their verbal features, especially at the morphological level. The verbal nature of the Infinitive and the Participle was revealed in some of their functions and in their syntactic "combinability": like finite forms they could take direct objects and be modified by adverbs.

The forms of the two participles were strictly differentiated. P I was formed from the Present tense stem (the Infinitive without the endings -an, -ian) with the help of the suffix -ende. P II had a stem of its own -- in strong verbs it was marked by a certain grade of the root-vowel interchange and by the suffix -en; with weak verbs it ended in -d/-t. P II was commonly marked by the prefix ge-, though it could also occur without it, especially if the verb had other word-building prefixes.

Infinitive Participle I Participle II (NE bindan bindende gebunden bind)

Morphological Classification of Verbs

The conjugation of verbs shows the means of form-building used in the OE verb system. Most forms were distinguished with the help of inflectional endings or grammatical suffixes; one form -- P II -- was sometimes marked by a prefix; many verbs made use of vowel interchanges in the root; some verbs used consonant interchanges and a few had suppletive forms. The OE verb is remarkable for its complicated morphological classification which determined the application of form-building means in various groups of verbs. The majority of OE verbs fell into two great divisions: the strong verbs and the weak verbs. Besides these two main groups there were a few verbs which could be put together as "minor" groups. The main difference between the strong and weak verbs lay in the means of forming the principal parts, or the "stems" of the verb. There were also a few other differences in the conjugations.

All the forms of the verb, finite as well as non-finite, were derived from a set of "stems" or principal parts of the verb: the Present tense stem was used in all the Present tense forms, Indicative, Imperative and Subjunctive, and also in the Present Participle and the Infinitive; it is usually shown as the form of the Infinitive; all the forms of the Past tense were derived from the Past tense stems; the Past Participle had a separate stem.

The strong verbs formed their stems by means of vowel gradation (ablaut) and by adding certain suffixes; in some verbs vowel gradation was accompanied by consonant interchanges. The strong verbs had four stems, as they distinguished two stems in the Past Tense - one for the 1 st and 3rd p. Ind. Mood, the other -- for the other Past tense forms, Ind. and Subj.

The weak verbs derived their Past tense stem and the stem of Participle II from the Present tense stem with the help of the dental suffix -d- or -t- normally they did not change their root vowel, but in some verbs suffixation was accompanied by a vowel interchange.

The Past tense stem of the weak verbs is the form of the 1st and 3rd p. sg; the pl locodon is formed from the same stem with the help of the plural ending -on). The same ending marks the Past pl of strong verbs.

Both the strong and the weak verbs are further subdivided into a number of morphological classes with some modifications in the main form-building devices.

Minor groups of verbs differed from the weak and strong verbs but were not homogeneous either. Some of them combined certain features of the strong and weak verbs in a peculiar way ("preterite-present" verbs); others were suppletive or altogether anomalous. The following chart gives a general idea of the morphological classification of OE verbs.

Strong Verbs

There were about three hundred strong verbs in OE. They were native words descending from PG with parallels in other OG languages; many of them had a high frequency of occurrence and were basic items of the vocabulary widely used in word derivation and word compounding. The strong verbs in OE (as well as in other OG languages) are usually divided into seven classes.

Classes from 1 to 6 use vowel gradation which goes back to the IE ablaut-series modified in different phonetic conditions in accordance with PG and Early OE sound changes. Class 7 includes reduplicating verbs, which originally built their past forms by means of repeating the root-morpheme; this doubled root gave rise to a specific kind of root-vowel interchange.

The principal forms of all the strong verbs have the same endings irrespective of class: -an for the Infinitive, no ending in the Past sg stem, -on in the form of Past pl, -en for Participle II. Two of these markers - the zero-ending in the second stem and -en in Participle II - are found only in strong verbs and should be noted as their specific characteristics. The classes differ in the series of root-vowels used to distinguish the four stems. Only several classes and subclasses make a distinction between four vowels as marker of the four stems - see Class 2, 3b and c, 4 and 5b; some classes distinguish only three grades of ablaut and consequently have the same root vowel in two stems out of four (Class 1, 3a, 5a); two classes, 6 and 7, use only two vowels in their gradation series.

In addition to vowel gradation some verbs with the root ending in -s, -? or -r employed an interchange of consonants: [s-z-r]; [0-?-d] and [f-v]. These interchanges were either instances of positional variation of fricative consonants in OE or relics of earlier positional sound changes; they were of no significance as grammatical markers and disappeared due to levelling by analogy towards the end of OE.

The classes of strong verbs - like the morphological classes of nouns - differed in the number of verbs and, consequently, in their role and weight in the language. Classes 1 and 3 were the most numerous of all: about 60 and 80 verbs, respectively; within Class 3 the first group - with a nasal or nasal plus a plosive in the root (findan, rinnan - NE find, run) included almost 40 verbs, which was about as much as the number of verbs in Class 2; the rest of the classes had from 10 to 15 verbs each. In view of the subsequent interinfluence and mixture of classes it is also noteworthy that some classes in OE had similar forms; thus Classes 4 and 5 differed in one form only - the stems of P II; Classes 2, 3b and c and Class 4 had identical vowels in the stem of P II.

The history of the strong verbs traced back through Early OE to PG will reveal the origins of the sound interchanges and of the division into classes; it will also show some features which may help to identify the classes.

The gradation series used in Class 1 through 5 go back to the PIE qualitative ablaut [e-o] and some instances of quantitative ablaut. The grades [e-o] reflected in Germanic as [e/i-a] were used in the first and second stems; they represented the normal grade (a short vowel) and were contrasted to the zero-grade (loss of the gradation vowel) or to the prolonged grade (a long vowel) in the third and fourth stem. The original gradation series split into several series because the gradation vowel was inserted in the root and was combined there with the sounds of the root. Together with them, it was then subjected to regular phonetic changes. Each class of verbs offered a peculiar phonetic environment for the gradation vowels and accordingly transformed the original series into a new gradation series.

In Classes 1 and 2 the root of the verb originally contained [i] and [u] (hence the names i-class and u-class); combination of the gradation vowels with these sounds produced long vowels and diphthongs in the first and second stems. Classes 3, 4 and 5 had no vowels, consequently the first and second forms con и т.д.................

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