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The history of English - курс лекций

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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 Grimms and Verners 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 Grimms Law and Verners 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 Verners 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]>[kild]; 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 [kild], ciest [kiest] (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 cases. 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 sin ...........

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