You are on page 1of 17

SEMANTIC CHANGE = change in meaning

The meaning of a word is made up of components -> attributes (which are adjectives)
Some words cannot be broken down
Some components have a certain connotation, therefore are subjective
Can be added, dropped; prominence is changed
Meaning: detached from the thing it refers to -> we still get a concrete image in our
brains
All components are supplied by the listener, but misunderstandings still occur

PHONETIC CHANGE
Vowels:
-

ME: became language of commoners, also spoken by non-native speakers -> a simpler
system of vowels: a, e, i, o, u
Certain vowels went to cardinal ones

The development different between vowels:

Most turned y to i -> <y> (spelling)


West midland dialects: y to i -> <u>
South west midland: y -> <u>
South eastern: y -> e (bury was pronounced with the y sound in OE; first vowel
pronounced according to the south eastern dialect, spelled according to west
midland dialect -> later e and o split into long and short (closer to <a>))

OE: diphthongs (long and short): ea, eo, ie


Turned into monophthongs with SMOOTHING
Ea -> a
Eo -> e
(were not widely used in OE)
Ie -> e

in ME new diphthongs arose -> all closing diphthongs


ending in semi-vowels or w or j
many came from OE <g>, <h>
new short vowels evolved in ME -> scheme more complicated again
most changed: ME <a> and <u>
best tested by using a short word with the same spelling

a -> // (glad: ME glad, NE /gld/)


if preceded by /w/ fronting did not happen, it changed to rounded //
if followed by a velar consonant /g, k/ the rounding did not happen
ME /u/ -> Modern English: //
in some regions the change didnt happen
pronounced //, in some more //
-

words which never changed: when preceded by a bilabial and followed by /l/, /t/ or //

THE GREAT VOWEL SHIFT (1500-1700)


- A series of changes which affected all long vowels
- The spelling did not follow the changes
- Clues: misspellings, rhymes
1400

1500
i
u

1600
ei
ou

1700
[a]
[a]
[i:]
[u:]
[i:]
[ou]
[e]

rsan > [raz] rise


hs > [has] house
f t > [fi:t] feet
f l > [fu:l] fool
strm > [stri:m] stream
bt > [bt] boat
nme > [nem

Why? Hard to say


- No outer cause
- The same timber of the high vowel is how to mantain no possible explanation
- If there is a letter in a word that we do not pronounce, it had to be pronounced at some
time in history and disappeared after 1500. Otherwise it would not be in the word at
all.
CLOSING DIPHTHONGS IN REGIONAL VARIETES
[a, e, , , a]
Southern accents -> wider first element
Northern accents - > narrow first element
Far south-west E, far north E, Scotland, Ireland, Wales: monophthongs
NE [i:] < ME <ee>
NE [u:] < ME <oo>
NE [e] < ME <a->
NE [a] < ME
NE [] < ME

(NE [a:])
(NE [3:]

All resuslts of the shift are diphthongs today. Some of the closing diphthongs today are a
result of the GVS.
ME DIPHTHONGS IN NE
ME ei, ai > ai (13th c) > NE [e]
OE d > ME dai > NE [de] day
OE r > ME grei > NE [gre] gray, grey
ME in iu, eu, > in (13th c) > NE [ju:]
OE fawe > ME feu(e) > fiu > NE [fju:] few
ME amsen > amius (e (n > NE [mju:z] amuse
ME a > NE [:]

ME cause > NE [k:z] cause


ME oi, ui, > NE []
ME choice > NE [ts] choice
DEPENDENT CHANGES OF ME VOWELS IN NE
a) ME a before VOICELESS FRICATIVES
ME a > NE [] > [:] > [a:]/_[+fricative, -voiced]
In the 17th century: lengthened, retracted to the position of [a:]
Moves from East Anglia to America: grass etc. because it hasnt changed yet at
that time
Class, path, basket, cast, after
ALSO: father, rather
LATER: dance, branch, tomato if [n] is followed by a [t] or []
BUT: masculine, massive, classic, aspect, passage
[] : [a:]
The trap-bath split
Northern accents, Scottish, Northern Irish [a]
Neither [] or [a:] are pronounced
b) Before n/m + consonant
Dance, grant, demand, example BUT: romance, pant, band
Welsh, Irish, Australian have [], although [a:] in path
c) Before former l + labial, some other lexical items
Palm, half, banana, tomato
- To some extent you can predict the changes, but it doesnt always work
a) ME vowels before r
Short vowels:
ME a > NE [] > [:] > [a:]/_r (c, #)
Car, carbon -> started to be lengthened
ME o > NE [:]/_(c, #)
Forth, north -> lengthening effect
ME e > NE [] > [3:]/_(c, #) serve
ME i > NE [] > [3:]/_(c, #) third
ME u > [] > [3:]/_(c, #) curse
Long vowels:
ME > NE [a] + [] > [a]/_r fire GVS complete
ME > NE [a] + [] > [a]/_r hair GVS complete

In some cases the GVS was already completed like in these two cases

ME > NE [i:] + [] > []/_r here GVS complete


ME > NE [] + [] > []/_r poor GVS complete
- Only because of [r]
ME > NE [e:] > [e:] + []/_r bear GVS complete
ME > NE [o:] + [] > []/_r more GVS complete
ME > NE [:] + [] > [] bare GVS incomplete
[] > [] > [:] poor
[] > [:] more
[a] > [a] tyre
[a] > [a] tower
Disappearing esp in lexemes that do not appear in the same environment, context
- People more careful of maintaining this when it plays a role, helps distinguish the
words
ME vowels a, o before l
- Very frequently happens the same to l as to r (on a smaller scale)
Late ME:
ME a > a/_l (c, #)
ME au > NE [:]
ME all > aul > NE [:l] all
ME o > ou/_l (c, #)
ME folle > foulk > NE [fk] folk
VOWELS IN UNACCENTED SYLLABLES
(1) OE unaccented vowels were levelled to in ME
OE cyngas (N.pl.), cynges (G. sg.)
OE cynge (D. sg.), cynga (G. pl.)
ME kinges,; kinges
(Me kinge; kinge)
(2) ME was lost by the 14th century, first in final, then in medial position, especially
in grammatical endings
- No longer a difference between plural and genitive
NE [kz] kings; [kz] kings;
(3) If preserved, ME [] is pronounced [] or [] in NE

Begin, ended, houses, of


Do, done (< dn); go, gone (< gn); be, been (< bon)
The voicing of fricatives in final unaccented position:
Of [v] : off [of] -> relaxed speech organs
[s] > [z] / [-accented] _ #
[t] > [v]
[] > []
ME of > of [v], off [of]
[tS] > [d] ME es > [z] > NE [z], [z], [s] -> words, churches
ME with > [w]
ME spinach > [spnd]
FROM ME TO NE
ME [x] and [] <>, <gh>
ME [] > NE /
ME light > light > NE [lat] light
Qnot: ME [x] > NE /, f
Enough, tough, rough, though, daughter, slaughter
If vowel preceding gh is short f, otherwise not pronounced (not always)
(witmann pl. wif men ME wimman pl wimmen)
(
wumman wummen
)
H dropping
In many RP speakers /n/ is mute in initial position in unstressed pronoms and auxiliaires
[stopn] stop (h) im
H-dropping much more common in other varieties
No H-dropping in scottish and irish accents
YOD COALESCENCE AND YOD DROPPING
Merger of /j/ with preceding alveoral plosives to form affricates
NE [s] + [j] > [S] Russia
NE [z] + [j] > [] precision
NE [t] + [] > [t] nature
NE [d] + [j] > [d] soldier
AFTER ACCENTED SYLLABLES
YOD- DROPPING loss of /j/
NE [j] > - / (t, , d, S, r, t) early NE

In early NE after [r] in most RP (younger) speakers, today also after /l/ and /s/: rude, luke,
allude, suit, suitable
London (northern parts); AmE: after all alveolars: news, duty, student
North England: after []: enthousiastic
Easter England: after all consonants before [u:]: human, beauty
The loss of non-prevocalic r and final position
18th century
ME r > 0/_(c, #) car, carbon, for, forth
Rhotic accents: some English accents, Scottish English, Irish English, Canadian English,
American English
Non-rhotic accents: RP, most English accents, South African English, Australian, New
Zealand English
Linking and intrusive r
L- DROPPING
17th century
NE l > 0/[+back vowel]_[peripheral consonant]
Peripheral consonant labial or velar
Talk, calf, calves
L-realisation: Cockney, Estuary English, New York, New Zealand English,
Late ME:
NE g > 0/[]_#
Among, long, bring in word final position the g is not pronounced
[g] preserved in non-final position: anger, England, longer, stronger
BUT: [s] singer, [rol] wrongly -> derivational process!
Derived from a verb sing which dropped [g] -> final position
-

In comparatives and superlatives -> pronounce [g]


Derivated from verbs -> dont pronounce [g]

Early NE [] > [n]: talkin -> relaxed pronounciation


PHONEMIC SPLIT! (phonetic change when one variant spreads at the expense of another)
/n/ - [n], [] > /n/, / /
[] (g-droppin) in PDE
Most RP speakers have [n] in ing.

Western central England (Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham): singing [sigig]


Early NE:
NE b > 0/m_#
Climb, comb, bomb -> if preceded by m
ALSO: climbing, climber, climbs
In final position
Sporadic loss of final [d] after [n]
Lawn > f. lande, scan > L. scandere, line (lime) < linde
RULE: voiced plosives were lost in final position if preceded by a nasal
Happened to b, g, but there are many exceptions
LOSS OF WORD-INITIAL CONSONANTS
17th century:
NE k, g > 0/#_n (if this particular consonant is followed by n)
Knight, know, gnome
Night knight
Before 17th c k was not before n etc.
Somewhere between 15th c and now it happened
NE w > 0/#_r
Wrong, write, wrench
GERMANIC *xw IN ENGLISH
Germ. *xw > OE <hw> [xw] hwt, hw
OE [xw] > ME [] (southern dialects): what, where, which
ME [] > NE [w], [h]/_[u:] what, who
Only when preceded by u
Not in Scotland, Ireland, parts of USA
(Scots, Hiberno-English: wh > [f] whine=fine)
The complexity and interdependence of linguistic change
Grammaticalisation of phonetic variation
- Palatal mutation -> mutation plurals
- Indo-European vowel gragation -> Germanic system of strong verbs

Contradiction of periphrastic structures


GRAMMATICAL CHANGES
Grammar is a system of morpho-syntactic tools, which the speakers of a language use to
convey mandatory information (grammatical changes).
Two aspects of grammatical change:
I.
-

The number (list) grammatical category changes


The emergence of feminine gender in Indo-European languages
The loss of dual in most Indo-European languages.
The general loss of grammatical categories in pidgin languages.
The emergence of grammatical categories in creole languages

II.
-

The encodement of grammatical categories changes


Full content words become function words
Function words can turn into inflections
Alternative (periphrastic) structures emerge

Loss/Emergence of grammatical categories in English


Nominal categories:
In Old English:
- Number: singular, plural, dual (in pronouns)
- Case: nominative, genitive, dative and accusative
- Gender: Grammatical
In Modern English:
- Number: Singular, plural (no number distinction in 2nd person personal pronoun)
- Case: Common case, possessive case (objective case)
- Gender: Natural
OE dual personal pronouns: wit (1st person), git (2nd person)
Personal pronouns for the 2nd person:
2nd person
Singular nominative: : OE > ME: th > NE [au] thou
Singular dative: OE > ME: th > NE: [yi:] ye
Plural nominative: OE > ME y > NE [ju:] you
Plural dative: OE ow > ME you > NE [ju:] you
French influence (Middle English): plural of respect
Thou, thee obsolete since the 18th century
Singular forms still in use in the north and in the rural
South-west
Thou, thee > tha:
Tha cast = you can

You refers to the addressee. There used to be a distinction between thou and ye. In
Middle English under the influence of French culture singular became marked for intimacy,
and NOT the plural for formality.
The problem is that you do not know whether singular or plural is meant, so we use
constructions like you guys, you lot, yall to make things clearer. Language compensated
because the need arose. But it never goes back. We rather have the trend of constant
innovation, as no language is perfect.
GENDER
How to encode grammatical change? By adding stems
In Old English gender was grammatical, discernable mostly through adjectives/determiners
and pronominal references. It makes no sense and it cannot be guessed
se gda mann (h) - Masculine
so gde sunne (ho) - Feminine
t gde wf (hit) Neuter
The grammatical gender was lost in Middle English and there was no agreement anymore.
Pronominal reference assumed the form of natural gender.
The good man (he)
The good sun (it)
The good wife (she)
Gender encodement in NE:
Man woman human (being), person
Girl boy - youngster
King queen ruler, monarch
Father mother parent
Brother sister sibling
Son daughter child, kid, offspring
Bull cow ox, steer cattle
Bullock heifer calf
Fox, Reynard vixen
Dog bitch
Stallion, steed mare horse
Cold filly
Ram ewe sheep
Boar sow pig, swine
Lion lioness
Boar bear sow bear
Tiger tigress
Tom cat tabby cat
Billy goat nanny goat
Cock sparrow hen sparrow
He wolf she wolf
Gender is seen from the meaning of the word, rather than adjectives and determiners.
Relevance of the gender determines the expression:
The difference between a bull and a cow, as the latter gives milk VS a dog, where the gender
basically does not matter.

VERBAL CATEGORIES
Old English:
- Person: 1st, 2nd, 3rd
- Tense: Present, preterite
- Mood: Indicative, imperative, subjunctive
- Aspect: /
- Voice: active, passive
Modern English:
- Person: 1st, 2nd, 3rd
- Tense: present, present perfect, past, past perfect, future, future perfect
- Mood: Indicative, imperative, (subjunctive)
- Aspect: progressive, non-progressive
- Voice: active, passive
Old English: two formal tenses: preterite and present (non-preterite)
OE PRESENT TENSE real present, universal time, future reference
OE PRETERITE TENSE a single act in the past, a continuous act in the past, present
perfect, past perfect
TYPOLOGICAL FEATURES OF OLD ENGLISH
Old English - Inflectional language
Old English did, though not exclusively, but predominantly, express grammatical categories
with bound morphemes (very Indo-European) Inflections.
namENA = plural + genitive (number, case, gender)
wulfas = pural
In the ending one or more categories are encoded: number + case + (gender)
mannes nama genitive singular = name of the man
wulfum gegiefen dative plural = given to the wolves
t he dyden person + number + tense + mood
Modern English, on the other hand, is much more analytical (isolating=.
a) Man's name, name of the man
b) Given to the wolves
c) That they should do
Grammatical categories are expressed with parahprastic constructions (having the nature of
being a paraphrase).
Old English Concordial language (displays agreement)
Grammatical categories are encoded redundantly, they are repeated.
Agreement, redundancy, concord: the adjustment of forms within phrases and/or between the
subject and the predicator (the most frequent).
Geongum mannum gedafena t he leornien sumne wsdm.
In Modern English agreement is kept only in the 3rd person singular of the present indicative.
It behooves young people that they acquire some knowledge.

THE NOUN PHRASE (NOUNS)


- Nominative, genitive, dative, accusative -> declensions
- Singular, plural
DECLENSIONS = patterns of case/number endings
- 5 major, several minor; vocalic or strong
MIDDLE ENGLISH- REDUCTION OF PLURAL ENDINGS
Gender encodement was dropped, except where it mattered. With number, only manner of
encodement was changed.
Two declensions were expanded: the a-declension and the weak declension (mainly in the
south 50% of the names). Only the most popular survived.
OE stnas > ME stnes
OE naman > ME nmen
OE hs > ME hs, hses, hsen
OE bc > ME beech, bookes, booken
The s ending was far more common in the north.
In Middle French the accusative case form ends in s, to the French ear the s sounded plural.
So this ending eventually prevailed (the form in which nouns were taken to English was the
accusative case).
Eventually the /es/ morpheme prevailed. All other endings are relics of the old declension
system and are considered irregular:
- The en plural: oxen, children
- The mutation plurals: mice, feet, men
- The zero plurals: sheep, deer, fish
- The voicing of final fricatives: wolf wolves
ME; REDUCTION OF CASE ENDINGS
Case is the formal encodement of semantic roles, denoting special, temporal and other
relations.
Semantic roles are determined by the valency of verbs. We have to determine the role of the
entities you mention.
Valency: each verb has multiple roles it can perform.
For example, the verb give has the valency of three: kdo, komu, kaj.
Three possible roles to be played = three valencies.
sleep has the valency of 1, as you need only one person for ir.
Depending on the valency, we differentiate verbs into four groups:
- Impersonal verbs: 0 arguments it rains
- Intransitive verbs: 1 argument she sleeps
- Monotransitive verbs: 2 arguments he loves her
- Ditransitive verbs: 3 arguments: he gave her a flower
Semantic roles:
Agen/doer (grammatical subject), instrument (grammatical subject), recipient/benefactor
(performs the syntactic function of the Indirect Object) and the patient (Direct Object).
Assigning semantic roles are the word order, prepositions and in some cases morphemes, that
is to say case endings.
Panini, for example, identified 6 semantic roles in Sanskrit: agent, patient, means, recipient,
source and locus.

The assignment of cases (or, the alignment of semantic roles) differs across languages in
terms of which role is central:
- Nominative-accusative languages (Indo-European languages)
- Ergative-absolutive languages (Basque, Native American, Caucasian)
- Trigger languages
In Indo-European languages the subject is the least marked semantic role, making it the most
cenrtral.
Side note: In ergative languages subject is not marked when the verb is intransitive. But when
verb is transitive, the object is not marked, making it central, as it does not have a case
ending. Just the opposite as our Lovec je ubil leva. There it would be Lovca je ubil lev.
and it would mean the same.
In trigger languages the unmarked semantic role is the topic.
Old English was an inflectional language, which means that case endings merged with plural
endings. Old English knew four cases: Nominative, Genitive, Dative and Accusative.
This means that it had 4 potential different endings + plural = 8 potential endings. The only
one that survived is the singular genitive s.
In Middle English case endings were replaced with prepositional phrases and fixed word
order:
OE .hit licode Herode and eallum e him mid ston
ME and (it) pleside to Eroude and also to men restynge
In nouns, the only case that had survived in present-day English is the Saxon Genitive also
called the Possessive Case.
There two theories as to why inflections were lost:
I.
One is all about sound changes, mainly about vowels in unaccented endings. But
endings are not very prominent in any language and the system does not crumble.
England at the time was multilingual and under the influence of other languages
inflections were lost.
II.
First prepositional phrases started to expand for greater transparency and endings
became redundant.
Perhaps they were parallel. You need frequency.
-es (genitive singular, a-declension):
OE es > ME [z] > NE [z] Marys
> NE [s] Mats
> NE [z] Bruces
From late OE spreading to all masculine, all neuter, all feminine and plural nouns
The Rule of the Apostrophe: -s is the same as for plural, making it ambiguous. Apostrophe is
usually loss of a sound. Since 1650 it has been used in the singular and in the plural since
1780.
cows added in 18th century. There is no vowel loss. The apostrophe is there just to show
visually the genitive and has nothing to do with pronunciation.
Why were they OK with the same ending for plural and genitive? The use of this ending
underwent great changes. There is an alternative: the of-phrase. s is restricted to humans,

expressing possession. You do not mistake tables and Marys out of context, because the use
is restricted. And some verbs simply require genitive.
In pronouns, the old case forms have been preserved:
- Old English genitive forms have been preserved as possessive pronouns.
- Old English dative forms have been preserved as the objective case form.
Old English accusative forms have been preserved as objective case in 3rd person
REFERENCE: SPECIFIC VS. NON-SPECIFIC
In Slovene we do not make a distinction. We can do it, but we do not have to.
In Old English the use of determiners was not obligatory or regulated. Today we have to
decide between a and the. In Old English this reference of the nominal phrase was
encoded through:
I.

The use of 2 different declensions of adjectives:


(sum) gd mann (se) gda mann .

II.

The use of of n, sum (non-specific)


. n mann ws eardiende on Israhla ode a man lived in Israel
... nim sume tigelan take a tablet
Todays pronunciation is so different because usually you say the numeral in a
more emphatic way and the article is anaccented.

OE n > ME n, wn, wn > NE wn, wun > [wn] one


OE n > ME an, a(n) > NE [n], [] an, a
A nick name < ME an ke nme -> NE [en ik neim]
An adder < a n|adder
An apron < a n|apron
NOTE: Exam question: How do you explain this to a pupil?
III.

The use of demonstratives (specific)


masc. sg.
fem. sg.
neut. sg.
N. se
so
t
G. es
re
es
D. m
re
m
A. one

pl.

ra
m

lc ra e s mn word eher and wyrc bi gelc m wsan were e


his hs ofer stn etimbrode.
ME the > NE [], [i:] the
the origin of the definite article is a set of demonstratives meaning that
From the Middle English period on, the use of the article spread; From ME on, no
more agreement within NP!
In Old English specifying reference was not obligatory. In New English we use articles, when
we understand what they mean we can more easily decide between one or the other.

Language is not about the rules, but about the se.


The that (specific) show some contrast between this one and something else also lurking
around. Singling something out. This is the function of definitive articles and demonstratives
with specific reference.
All the changes happened in Middle English period because the language was completely
restructured.
The more frequently you say something, the weaker it gets.
VERBAL CATEGORIES
A verb, we can say, is a noun that gets in motion. It changes, gets a temporal reference and
you also need somebody to do it.
The Encodement of Verbal Categories:
The Person:
We always need somebody to do it, otherwise there is no verb and no meaning. We have to
connect the name/static notion of the doer to the verb. We required the agent.
The personal ending is the most economical way to express it: he does it. It can sometimes
be also morphological.
Personal ending is the agreement of the verbal form with the subject. In English this is shown
with the obligatory subject and we have only one personal ending: -(e)s.
The person is a deictic reference to the participant in an event: the speaker, the addressee,
none of the two
Deixis: refers to the phenomenon, wherein understanding the meaning of certain words and
phrases in an utterance requires contextual information. A deictic word = semantic meaning is
fixed, but the denotational meaning varies depending on time and/or place.
Personal pronouns
Personal endings: Agreement of the verbal form within the subject. The only personal ending
in New English is (e)s in the 3rd person singular or the present indicative.
Old English present tense (indicative):
wrt-e
wrt-a
wrt-est
wrt-e
Personal pronouns express 1st and 2nd person, whereas a nominal phrase is preferred fot the 3 rd
person.
grem (personal ending) VS I go (pronoun + verb)
He goes we see that a formal subject is needed. Ending is only agreement, repeated
information (3rd person singular + present tense + indicative).
In New English the person is explicitly expressed with the nominal phrase, the it of which can
be a noun or a pronoun.
New English has only one personal ending.
Old English: (e), -t (in contracted forms) remains in ME as (e)th, but gradually
it is replaced with es from the north.
OE es > ME []s, [][z] > NE [s], [z], [z] (All of these are allomorphes)
Where are the other personal endings?
1st person was lost through regular sound change. But this is not the only reason, as there had
to be other factors, since there is never just one.

2nd person ending was not lost through sound change, but in Middle English under French
influence people started addressing each other in plural. We come across est only as
agreement with thou (replaced with ye/you) English, motherfucker, dost though speaketh
it?!
Plural: a was replaced with en in Middle English, which was subsequently lost (via regular
change).
If personal endings disappeared, they had to be dispensable, because for complete loss of
something like that there has to be a reason. Rule: Personal pronouns are obligatory. The
ending is no longer enough. In Middle English transparency was much more important than
economy. Even dummy it is obligatory.
Subjunctive
God save the queen!
The subjunctive mood had only two ending in Old English: -e for the singular and en for the
plural. Both were lost in Middle English (via regular sound change).
Various theories are true
They can have proof in literature. Not one is the whole truth. Speculations are common and
necessary, but some are more convincing than others.
The History of Tense Encodement
Tense is the system of encoding mandatory temporal information.
Modern English:
- Regular verbs: base + dental suffix (-d, -t, -ed)
- Irregular verbs: vowel alternation, same form
- Not a single formula for encodement of the past tense
- The sems in present and perfect are different
Old English knew two formal tenses: preterite and present (non-preterite).
The central point is now, which is when I speak. Time is divided with reference to the
moment of speaking. Tense is the obligatory reference, it is expressed every single time.
In pidgin/creole languages there is no formal tense. They do distinct it but it is not obligatory.
In pidgin aspect is much more important.
The form of the verb was marked to make sure that the addressee knows something already
happened, or is still going on, or will happen. Now + everything after it is included in present
tense.
Temporal division is the most important division. If something survives, it has to be this one.
Present tense: base form (+ personal endings)
Preterite tense: the marking depended on the form of the verb (somewhat similar to past
simple).
Preterite can be expressed with an adverbial, but you have to repeat the information in the
verbal phrase.
We know four types of verbs: strong, weak, preterite present and anomalous.
Regular verbs < Weak verbs (poor as far as contrastiveness is concerned)
They are a Germanic formation: the dental preterite.
They have only one stem, the present stem and the preterite tense is marked with the dental
suffix.

Tense is encoded in the dental suffix:


OE -ede, -ode > ME []d[] > NE [d], [t], [d]
played, worked, embedded
how do we know they were germanic formations? Less than 200 today, OE 364, very
frequently used!! Some forgotten (being replaced)
The origin of the dental suffix is the same as the one of the verb do.
IRREGULAR VERBS:
1) OE strong verbs (360 examples, verbs that go way back to IE parent language)
2) OE weak verbs, subsequent sound changes
Strong verbs
What is typical for them is Indo-European vowel gradation.
If you take IE that are somehow related/semantically similar (consonants the same, different
vowels) -> preserved in some languages
Gradation (ablaut) is alteration of vowels in the stems of related words or different
grammatical forms of the same words.
*e~ *o~ *~ *~ *The preterite forms of Germanic verbs from Indo-European perfect forms:
- IE present stem: accented, the vowel *e -> the basic vowel
- IE perfect stem: unaccented, the vowel reduced (dynamic accent -> you pronounced
unaccented with a lower voice/tone) or changed (accent can be a grammatical
instrument, ne, en) in the direction of *o (pitch accent)
Present stem:
IE *writ > Germ. *writ- > OE writ- >ME writ- > NE [rait] write
Perfect stem:
IE *wroit- > Germ. *wrait- > OE wrt > ME wrt > NE [reut] wrote
IE *writ- > Germ. *writ- > OE writ- > NE [riten] written
FROM OE TO NE:
But, during the transition from Old English to New English:
Many strong verbs became weak/regular
helpen healp - geholpen > helped helped helped
- The classes are no longer transparent
Vowel patterns no longer consistent with the OE classes
sprecen sprc gesprecen > speak spoke - spoken
standen std gestanden > stand stood stood
swingan swang geswunged > swing swung swung
Many weak verbs became irregular due to different sound changes
OE cpan cpte gecpt
ME kpen kepte ykept
NE [ki:p] [kept] [kept]
OE rdan rdde
ME rden redde

NE [ri:d] [red] read, read


ME casten cast-te
NE [ka:st] [ka:st]
sometimes two variants still exist
Periphrastic tenses common in OE, but their use not consistent with their modern eng.
Functions:
a) Bon/wesan + present participle ende
From 16th century on the use of expanded tenses spread from the north, since 18 th
century in the function of progressive tenses [green]
b) Bon/wesan/habban + past participle
habban with transitive, bon/wesan with intransitive verbs the meaning of the
construction not necessarily perfective, but definitely hinted at.
In ME, the auxiliary HAVEN spread to intransitive verbs, and the past participle lost
its adjectival properties. The use became consistent with the function of perfect tenses.
c) Willan/sculan + infinitive
After the year 1200 SHALL 'to be obligated' and WILL 'to want' lost some of their
modal meaning and started to be used for future time reference.
In the 18th century WILL reported as expressing simple futurity in the 2nd and 3rd
person, volition in the 1st person; shall reported as expressing simple futurity in the 1st
person, obligation in 2nd and 3rd