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History of English

Lecture 1
Subject and Aims of the History of English. Its Ties with Other Disciplines.
Germanic Language in the System of Indo-European Family of Languages
1. History of English in the systemic conception of English
Learning ones mother tongue (first language, native language) is a natural process.
When a child acquires first knowledge of his or her mother tongue, s/he usually takes all its
peculiarities for granted as s/he has no other language to compare with. Things are quite
different with mastering a foreign language: when learning it the student compares it to his/her
mother tongue and is often astonished to find great differences in the way ideas are expressed
in the two languages, and if the learner is an adult person, he or she will often be struck by
inconsistencies in the foreign language, illogicalities, and contradictions in its structure. Thus,
any student of English is well aware of the difficulties of reading and spelling English. The
written form of the English word is conventional rather than phonetic. The values of Latin
letters as used in English differ greatly from their respective values in other languages, e.g.
French, German or Latin. Cf.:
bit [bit]
three letters three sounds

full correspondence between Latin

letters and English sounds

bite [bait]
four letters three sounds

no correspondence between the vowels

and their graphic representation: the
final e is not pronounced, but
conventionally serves to show that the
preceding letter i has its English alphabetic
value which is [ai], not [i] as in other languages

knight [nait]
six letters three sounds

the letters k and gh do not stand for

any sounds but gh evidently shows
that i stands for [ai]

This illogicality can be explained by the history of English sounds and spelling. Without
going into details, suffice it to say that at the time when Latin characters were first used in
Britain (7th c.) writing was phonetic: the letters stood, roughly, for the same sounds as in Latin.
Later, especially after the introduction of printing in the 15 th c., the written form of the word
became fixed, while the sounds continued to change. This resulted in a growing discrepancy
between letter and sound and in the modern peculiar use of Latin letters in English. Many

modern spellings show how they were pronounced some four or five hundred years
ago, e.g. in the 14th c. knight sounded as [knixt], root as [ro:t], tale as ['ta:l].
In the sphere of vocabulary, there is considerable likeness between English and German.
Thus, for example, the German for summer is Sommer, the German for winter is Winter, the
German for foot is Fu, the German for long is lang, the German for sit is sitzen, etc. On the
other hand, in certain cases English has something in common with French, as the following
examples will show: English autumn French automne, English river French rivire,
English modest French modeste, etc. These similarities are easily observed by anyone having
some knowledge of German or French. But we cannot account for them if we remain within
the limits of contemporary English; we can only suppose that they are not a matter of chance
and that there must be some cause behind them. These causes belong to a more or less remote
past and they can only be discovered by going into the history of the English language.
As far as grammar is concerned, it can only be noted that the history of the language
will supply explanations both for the general, regular features of the grammatical structure and
for its specific peculiarities and exceptions. It will explain why English has so few inflections;
how its analytical structure arose with an abundance of compound forms and a fixed word
order; why modal verbs, unlike other verbs, take no ending s in the 3rd; why some nouns
add en or change the root-vowel in the plural instead of adding s (e.g. oxen, feet) and so on
and so forth.
All the above-mentioned phenomena are traced back to a distant past and they cannot be
accounted for without a study of history.
Thus knowledge of the history of English should be an integral part in the training of a
teacher of the language.
1.1. The aims and the purpose of the study of the subject
The purpose of this course is a systematic study of the languages development from the
earliest times to the present day. Such study enables the student to acquire a more profound
understanding of the language of today. Besides, history of English is an important subsidiary
discipline for history of England and of English literature.
Another important aim of this course is of a more theoretical nature. While tracing the
evolution of the English language through time, the student will be confronted with a number
of theoretical questions such as the relationship between statics and dynamics in language, the
role of linguistic and extralinguistic factors, the interdependence of different processes in

language history. These problems may be considered on a theoretical plane within the
scope of general linguistics. In describing the evolution of English, they will be discussed in
respect of concrete linguistic facts, which will ensure a better understanding of these facts and
will demonstrate the application of general principles to language material.
One more aim of this course is to provide the student of English with a wider
philological outlook. The history of the English language shows the place of English in the
linguistic world; it reveals its ties and contacts with other related and unrelated languages.
1.2. Connection of the subject with other disciplines
History of the English language is connected with other disciplines. It is based on the
history of England, studying the development of the language in connection with the concrete
conditions in which the English people lived in the several periods of their history. It is also
connected with disciplines studying present-day English, viz., theoretical phonetics, theoretical
grammar, and lexicology. It shows phonetic, grammatical, and lexical phenomena as they
developed, and states the origin of the present-day system.
2. Sources of Language History
The history of the English language has been reconstructed on the basis of written
records of different periods. The earliest extant written texts in English are date in the 7 th c.; the
earliest records in other Germanic languages go back to the 3 rd or 4th c. A.D. However, we have
relatively few texts from that time, and the texts we do have do not cover all types of language.
For example, we do not have many examples of everyday speech, domestic language or the
dialects of particular areas. This means that whatever generalization we do make about Old
English, we always have to bear in mind the gaps in our data, and the fact that we are
interpreting the past, not objectively describing it.
The development of English, however, began a long time before it was first recorded. In
order to say where the English language came from, to what languages it is related, when and
how it has acquired its specific features, one must get acquainted with some facts of the prewritten history of the Germanic group.
Certain information about the early stages of English and Germanic history is to be
found in the works of ancient historians and geographers, especially Roman. They contain
descriptions of Germanic tribes, personal names and place-names. Some data are also provided

by early borrowings from Germanic made by other languages, e.g. the Finnish and the Baltic
languages. But the bulk of our knowledge comes from scientific study of extant texts.
2.1. Writings in early English
Both poetry and prose have survived in manuscript form since Old English times, though
hardly huge amount of either. One must bear in mind that at that time literacy was a scarce
facility, confined mostly to clerics. The copying of books was carried out by hand, and
producing and owning any manuscript was a costly business reserved for the privileged few.
Moreover, it was not self-evident that works should be written in English at all, since Latin
was the language of learning.
English was the first of the European languages of the time to develop a respectable
written prose tradition. Much of the Old English prose that survives is translated from Latin,
such as King Alfreds translations of Bedes Ecclesiastical History of the English People
(completed around 731 AD), Pope Gregory the Greats Cura Pastoralis, Boethius
Consolation of Philosophy, and Orosius history. Parts of the Old Testament, some of the
Psalms and the Gospels were translated into Old English. Thus, most of the prose we have
from this period is religious in nature. However, a few fragments of prose fiction do survive,
including Apollonius of Tyre, Alexanders Letter to Aristotle and Wonders of the East.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was also most likely instigated by King Alfred. It survives
in seven manuscript versions and is a continuous record of annual events, starting with the first
landing of Julius Caesar (55 BC) and ending with the coronation of Henry II in 1154. But no
one knows exactly when, or by whom, it was started, though the oldest chronicle, the Parker
Chronicle, indicates that it may have been started in 891.
There is also a considerable body of religious prose writing from Abbot lfric and
Bishop Wulfstan.
There also survive a number of genealogies, glossaries to Latin works, laws, charters,
letters, leech books and herbal catalogues.
The 30,000 lines of Old English poetry that survive today come down to us from the
tenth and eleventh centuries, and are for the most part contained in four manuscripts:
1) The British Museum manuscript of Beowulf and Judith which is part of the 17th-century
(Robert) Cotton manuscript collection, and which is referred to as MS Vitellius A 15. It
also contains several prose texts.

2) The Bodleian manuscript, called Junius XI after Franz Junius, who gave the
manuscript to Oxford University in the 17th c. This manuscript includes Genesis, Exodus,
Daniel, and Christ and Satan.
3) The Exeter Book or Codex Exoniensis at Exeter Cathedral, which contains a large
collection of Anglo-Saxon poetry dating approximately from 970 to 990; there are also
two later editions. The main text contains 123 pages with the originals of Phoenix,
Julian, The Wanderer, The Seafarer, Widsith, Deor, Wulf and Eadwacer, The Wifes
Lament and The Husbands Message. It also contains a number of maxims, Maxim I, and
The Cotton Gnomes (Maxims II).
4) The Vercelli Book, Codex Vercellis, from the cathedral library of Vercelli, Italy. This
manuscript contains The Dream of the Rood, Elene, The Fates of the Apostles, and
Address of the Soul to the Body. In it are also found a number of prose homilies and the
Life of Guthlac.
3. General notes on the language study
3.1 The definition of the language
At first sight, it seems to be very easy to give the definition of the language. According to
Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, language is a system of communication by
written or spoken words, which is used by the people of a particular country or area. From the
linguistic perspective, language is a semiotic system. It is a system of communication units and
rules of their functioning.
Language is a social phenomenon. It originated in the society, serves the society, is one
of the most important features of the society and cannot exist without the society.
3.2 The functions of the language
It should be mentioned that there is no exact number of the language functions. Taking
into consideration all the functions named in different linguistic works, it is possible to single
out 25 functions of the language. But mainly, the functions of the language are divided into
nominal and functional. Among the functional functions, we can name communicative,
cultural, and so on. Yu. Stepanov, in his turn, singles out three functions of the language:
nominative (semantics level), syntactic (syntactics level), and pragmatic (pragmatics level).

3.3 The structure of the language

The evolution or historical development of language is made up of diverse facts and
processes. In the first place, it includes the internal or structural development of the language
system, its various subsystems and component parts. The description of internal linguistic
history is usually presented in accordance with the division of language into linguistic levels.
The main, commonly accepted levels are: the phonemic level (phoneme), the morphemic
(morpheme), the lexemic level (lexeme), the sememic level (sememe), the syntaxemic level
(syntaxeme), the textemic level (texteme), and the discoursemic level (discourse).
3.4 The language classification principles
Within the field of linguistics, three different approaches to language classification are
Genetic (genealogical) classification categorizes languages according to their descent.
Languages that developed historically from the same ancestor language are grouped together
and are said to be genetically related. This ancestor may be attested (that is, texts written in this
language have been discovered or preserved, as in the case of Latin), or it may be a
reconstructed protolanguage for which no original tests exist (as is the case for IndoEuropean).
Although genetically related languages often share structural characteristics, they do not
necessarily bear a close structural resemblance. For example, Latvian and English are
genetically related (both are descended from Indo-European), but their morphological structure
is quite different. Of course, Latvian and English are very distantly related, and languages that
are more closely related typically manifest greater similarity.
On the other hand, it is also necessary to recognize that even languages that are totally
unrelated may be similar in some respects. For example, English, Thai, and Swahili, which are
unrelated to each other, all employ subject-verb-object word order in simple declarative
For this reason, another approach to language classification is useful. Known as
linguistic typology (typological classification), it classifies languages according to their
structural characteristics, without regard for genetic relationships. Thus, typologists might
group together languages with similar sound patterns or, alternatively, those with similar
grammatical structures.



(geographical) classification identifies characteristics shared

by languages that are in geographical contact. Languages in contact often borrow words,
sounds, morphemes, and even syntactic patterns from one another. As a result, neighboring
languages can come to resemble each other, even though they may not be genetically related.
Thus, according to the genetic classification, the English language can be described like this:



West Indo-European


Germanic group


West Germanic



According to the typological principle, languages are classified into synthetic, analytic,
and agglutinating languages. A synthetic language is characterized by many inflectional
affixes. An analytic language would contain only words that consist of a single (root)
morpheme. In such a language there would be no affixes, and categories such as number and
tense would therefore have to be expressed by a separate word. An agglutinating language has
words that can contain several morphemes, but the words are easily divided into their
component parts (normally a root and affixes). In such languages, each suffix is clearly
identifiable and typically represents only a single grammatical category or meaning.
3.5 Synchrony and diachrony in the language study
A language can be considered from different angles. In studying Modern English we
regard the language as fixed in time and describe each linguistic level phonetics, grammar or
lexis synchronically, taking no account of the origin of present-day features or their
tendencies to change. The synchronic approach can be contrasted to the diachronic. When
considered diachronically, every linguistic fact is interpreted as a stage or step in the neverending evolution of language. In practice, however, the contrast between diachronic and
synchronic study is not so marked as in theory: we commonly resort to history to explain
current phenomena in Mod E. Likewise in describing the evolution of language we can present
it as a series of synchronic cross-sections, e.g. the English language of the age of Shakespeare
(16th 17th c.) or the age of Chaucer (14th c.).

4. The comparative-historical method

The comparative-historical method is widely used to study the history of the language.
It helps to reconstruct language phenomena of the past, which are not recorded in the earliest
extant written texts. If two or more languages contain words with the same root, it is possible
to assume that these words are of the same origin. Thus, at the beginning of the 19 th century it
was proved that there was a remarkable likeness between certain languages now called IndoEuropean. These languages have much in common both in the vocabulary, phonetic, and
grammatical structure. For example,







4.1 The stages of the comparative-historical method

Dr. Yuriy O. Zhluktenko distinguishes the following stages of the comparative-historical
1. Comparison of sounds and morphemes in the related languages. It is supposed that these
units are of the same origin.
2. Determination of natural correspondences between the compared elements.
3. Determination of approximate chronological correlations between the compared
4. Reconstruction of the archaic form, so-called archetype. At this stage, the phonetic
peculiarities of the language development and the possible effect of analogy are taken into
4.2 The principles of the comparative-historical method
The principles of the comparative-historical method are as follows:
1. The compared language units should be genetically related.
2. The compared units should be meaningful. It means that a comparison is made not between
separate sounds, but between meaningful words or morphemes, which contain these sounds.
3. One should ascertain that the sound similarity in the compared words is not accidental, but


4. It should be proved that the sound correspondences, which we trace as regular,

could be really caused by the development of one archaic sound.
5. Semantic correspondence. Even if the sound correspondences are natural, the semantic
correspondences between the compared words or morphemes should be analyzed.
4.3 The drawbacks of the comparative-historical method
Despite all the merits, the comparative-historical method has its drawbacks:
1. It is impossible to precisely date the phenomenon reconstructed with the help of the
comparative-historical method.
2. This method cannot completely reconstruct the language under study.
3. This method can be used only to analyze those phenomena, which are similar in the
compared languages, but it is not good for different phenomena.
4. This method makes it possible to explain only the results of the language divergence, but it
does not explain the results of the language convergence.
5. This method cannot be used to study languages with amorphous structure or isolating
languages, that is, languages, which have no affixes, case or number conjugation, etc.
6. This method does not apply data of other sciences.
5. The Germanic group of languages
The late 18th-century discovery that Sanskrit (an ancient language of India) was related
to Latin, Greek, Germanic, and Celtic revolutionized European linguistic studies. This
discovery led to several decades of intensive historical-comparative work and to important
advances in historical linguistics during the 19th century. By studying phonetic
correspondences from an ever-increasing number of languages, linguists eventually ascertained
that most of the languages of Europe, Persia (Iran), and the northern part of India belong to a
single family, now called Indo-European.
The vast Indo-European family of languages, to which most of the languages spoken in
Europe belong consists of several branches, of which the Germanic languages are one.
Nowadays Germanic languages are spoken in many countries: German (in Germany,
Austria, and partly in Switzerland), Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, and Icelandic,


In ancient times the territory of Germanic languages was much limited. Thus,
in the 1st c. AD Germanic languages were only spoken in Germany and in territories adjacent
to it, and also in Scandinavia.
Germanic languages are classified into three groups: (1) East Germanic, (2) North
Germanic, (3) West Germanic.
East Germanic languages have been dead for many centuries. Of the old East Germanic
languages only one is well known, namely, Gothic.
All North Germanic and West Germanic languages have survived until our own time.


Lecture 2
The Formation of the English National Language. Periods in the History of the
English Language
One of the most characteristic features of a nation is the national language, which rises
above all the territorial and social dialects and unites the whole nation. Usually a national
language develops on the basis of some territorial dialects, which under certain historical,
economic, political, and cultural conditions become generally recognized as a means of
The English national language has developed on the basis of the dialects of London,
which can be easily explained by the fact that after the Norman Conquest London became the
political, cultural center of England and its economic center as well.
1. Territorial dialects of the period of the Anglo-Saxon invasion
The Germanic tribes who settled in Britain in the 5 th and 6th century spoke closely
related tribal dialects belonging to West Germanic subgroup. Their common origin and their
separation from other related languages as well as their joint evolution in Britain transformed
them eventually into a single language, English. Yet, at the early stages of their development in
Britain the dialects remained disunited. Thus, Old English was not entirely uniform language.
Not only are there differences between the language of the earliest written records and that of
the later literary texts, but the language differed somewhat from one locality to another. We
can distinguish four dialects in Old English times: Kentish, an offshoot of the Jutes who settled
in Kent; West Saxon, spoken south of the Thames; Mercian, spoken from the Thames to the
Humber (except in Wales, of course, where (Brythonic) Celtic was still spoken); and
Northumbrian, spoken north of the Humber (hence the name), excluding Scotland, where,
again, (Gaelic) Celtic was spoken. Since Mercian and Northumbrian share common features
not found in West Saxon and Kentish, they are sometimes spoken of together under the name
Anglian, because most of the Germanic tribes north of the Thames were the Angles.
Unfortunately we know less about them than we should like since they are preserved mainly in
charters, runic inscriptions, a few brief fragments of verse, and some interlinear translations of
portions of the Bible. Kentish is known from still scantier remains and is the dialect of the


Jutes in the southeast. The only dialect in which there is an extensive collection of texts
is West Saxon, which was the dialect of the West Saxon kingdom in the southwest. Nearly all
of Old English literature is preserved in manuscripts transcribed in this region. The dialects
probably reflect differences already present in the continental homes of the invaders. There is
evidence, however, that some features developed in England after the settlement. With the
ascendancy of the West Saxon kingdom, the West Saxon dialect attained something of the
position of a literary standard, and both for this reason and because of the abundance of the
materials it is made the basis for the study of Old English. Such a start as it had made toward
becoming the standard speech of England was cut short by the Norman Conquest, which
reduced all dialects to a common level of unimportance. And when in the late Middle English
period a standard English once more began to arise, it was on the basis of a different dialect,
that of the East Midlands.
2. The dialects of the period of the Norman Conquest
The Norman Conquest put an end to the supremacy of Wessex and its dialect. With the
Norman Conquest French became the official language of the country, and those dialects
spoken during the Germanic invasion were of local importance.
Traditionally we isolate five major dialects of that time: Northern, Midland, East
Anglian, South-Eastern, South-Western. The Northern dialect area of Middle English extends
from the middle of Yorkshire to Scotland. The Midlands area, which extends from London to
Gloucestershire, is traditionally split into East Midlands and West Midlands. East Anglian is
posited as a separate dilect area, as a number of texts display markedly different forms from
those found in East Midlands dialects. The South-Eastern dialects cover an area that is closely
related to the extent of Kentish in the Old English period, while the South-Western dialect area
correlates with the OE West Saxon region, and dialectologists occasionally also separate out a
Middle South dialect area.
3. The development of the dialect of London into a national language
The history of the London dialect reveals the sources of the literary language in Late
ME and also the main source and basis of the Literary Standard, both in its written and spoken


The history of London extends back to the Roman period. Even in OE times London
was by far the biggest town in Britain, although the capital of Wessex the main OE kingdom
was Winchester. The capital was transferred to London a few years before the Norman
conquest. London eventually became the commercial and cultural capital, and it clearly had a
central role to play in the emergence of a standard dialect in Britain. However, the dialect that
developed into standard is not simply the London dialect. It had both East Midlands elements
and southern elements. But gradually East Midlands elements took the upper hand, so that the
London dialect had comparatively few elements from other dialects.
There were some other factors that contributed to the development of the English
national language. The popularity of Geoffrey Chaucer helped a great deal in the development
of the London dialect into a literary language. Chaucers literary language, based on the mixed
(largely East Midland) London dialect, is known as classical ME; in the 15 th and 16th c. it
became the basis of the national literary English language.
Of greatest linguistic consequence was the activity of John Wycliff. His most important
contribution to English prose was his translation of the Bible completed in 1384. It was coped
in manuscript and read by many people all over the country. Written in the London dialect, it
played an important role in spreading this form of English.
A major reason for the standardization of the London dialect was the introduction of
printing by William Caxton in 1476. Caxton probably did more to standardize English in his
time than any other individual, since it was expedient for him to edit the works he printed to
resolve the dialect variants in order to gain the broadest readership possible for his
publications. Strong dialectal traits disappeared from written works by the mid-15 th c. and by
the end of the 17th c. most orthographical variants had been standardized.
Periods in the History of the English Language
1. Henry Sweet and his division of the history of English
Each of the periods is marked by a set of specific features of phonology, grammar, and
vocabulary, and may be also defined in these terms. Henry Sweet classified them as the Period
of Full Endings, which means that any vowel may be found in an unstressed ending (e.g. OE
sunu), the Period of Levelled Endings, which means that vowels of unstressed endings were
leveled under a neutral vowel [] represented in spelling by the letter e (e.g. OE sunu ME
sune), and the period of Lost Endings (e.g. NE sun).


2. Historical periodization as offered by B. Khaimovich

According to B. Khaimovich, the history of the English language is divided into three
periods: Old English, Middle English, and New English. As landmarks separating the three
periods, he uses very important events, which had a great influence on the history of English:
The Anglo-Saxon invasion of the 5th century is taken as the beginning of the Old
English period.
The Norman Conquest of the 11th century is regarded as the beginning of the Middle
English period.
The introduction of printing in the 15th century is the beginning of the New English
3. T. Rastorguyevas periodization of the English language
According to T. Rastorguyeva, the history of English is divided into the seven periods:

Early OE (also: Pre-written OE) c. 450 c. 700


OE (also: Written OE)

c. 700 1066


Early ME

1066 c. 1350


ME (also: Classical ME)

c. 1350 1475

Early NE

1476 c. 1660


Normalization Period

c. 1660 c. 1800

(also: Age of Correctness,

Neo-Classical period)

Late NE, or Mod E

c. 1800 . . . . . .

(including Present-day English) since 1945 . . . .

4. The division of the history of English as suggested by V. Arakin
Arakins periodization is a traditional one because it is based on the extra linguistic,
which means that periodization connotes the character of the society speaking the language.
So, he divided the history of English into the following periods:
the Ancient English Period dated between the first centuries AD and the 7 th 8th c. This
is the period of the languages of the Old English tribes;


the Old English Period dated between the 7th and 11th c. This is the period of the
language of the establishing English nationality. The end of this period is marked by the
Norman Conquest of England;
the Middle English Period dated from the beginning of the 12th c. to the 15th c. This is
the period of the language of the established English nationality transforming gradually
into the nation. The end of this period is marked by the Wars of Roses (1455-1485);
the New English Period dated from the end of the 15th c. to present. It is subdivided into
two periods: a) the Early New English Period the period of establishing standards of
the national language; and b) the Late New English Period the period of the
established standards of the national language.
5. The periods of the development of English as offered by A. Markman and E. Steinberg
The American linguists A. Markman and E. Steinberg also admit that it is not possible
to precisely divide the history of the English language into periods. In their periodization they
use the dates of written documents. As it is impossible to determine the exact date of the
earliest Old English texts, the beginning of the Old English is recognized as 450 AD, when the
Germanic tribes landed on the island. The year of the last chapter of the Anglo-Saxon
Chronicle, 1154, is regarded as the end of the Old English Period. The end of the Middle
English Period coincides with the death of the famous writer Thomas Malory 1471, which is
also the time of the introduction of printing in England and Caxtons activities. The Early New
English Period (1500 1700) is the period of Englands two prominent poets William
Shakespeare and John Milton. The year of 1700, which is the year of John Drydens death, is
recognized as the end of the Early New English Period.
6. David Burnleys periodization of the history of English
According to David Burnley, the history of English is divided into:
Old English (700 1100)
Early Middle English (1100 1300)
Later Middle English (1300 1500)
Early Modern English (1500 1800)
Modern English (1800 1920)


Lecture 3
Common Linguistic Features of Germanic Languages
1. Phonetic peculiarities of the Germanic languages
Although the history of the English language begins in the 5 th century (with the AngloSaxon invasion of Great Britain) and the earliest written documents belong even to a later date,
the comparative-historical method makes it possible for us to reconstruct some of the phonetic
features which characterized the speech of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes before the invasion.
1.1. The First Consonant Shift
On the basis of observations made by Rasmus Rask in 1818, Jakob Grimm codified the
correspondences between certain consonants in the Germanic languages and those in Sanskrit,
Latin, and Greek in 1822. Following the genealogical classification of languages, the
Germanic languages diverged from the other Indo-European languages as a result of the
operation of the First Consonant Shift (First Germanic Sound Shift), which is often called
Grimms Law. The essence of Grimms law is that the quality of some sounds changed in all
Germanic languages while the place of their formation remained unchanged.
As proved by Grimm, all the Indo-European stops seem to have gradually changed in
Old Germanic. Correspondences between Indo-European and Germanic consonants may be
grouped under three categories:
1) The Indo-European voiceless stops [p, t, k] and their aspirated parallels [p h, th, kh] changed
to corresponding spirants, i.e. the labial [p] and [p h] changed to the labial [f], the dental [t]
or [th] changed to the dental [], and the velar [k] or [kh] changed to the velar [h] (originally
pronounced as [x] in the Ukrainian ).
p (ph) > f

U , Gk pente, G fnf, E five

t (th) >

U , L trs, Gt rija, E three

k (kh) > h

Gk kunos, L canis, G Hund, E hound

2) The Indo-European voiced stops [b, d, g] became voiceless [p, t, k].


U , E sleep; U , E pool


U , E two; U , E Water


U , E yoke


3) The Indo-European aspirated voiced stops [bh, dh, gh] correspond to Germanic voiced
stops without aspiration [b, d, g].
bh > b

Skt bhrtar, E brother

dh > d

Skt vidhav, E window

gh > g

Skt vhanam, E wagon

There are some exceptions to Grimms law. For example, the Indo-European [p, t, k]
remained unchanged after the sound [s]. E.g. U , E stand.
Certain apparent exceptions to Grimms law were explained by a Danish linguist Karl
Verner in 1877.
Let us compare the Latin words frter, mter, pater with their Old English equivalents
broor, modor, fder. In accordance with Grimms law the sound [t] in all the Latin words
should have corresponded to the sound [] (written ) in all the Old English words. As it was,
only the word broor showed the regular consonant-shift [t > ]. In the two other words we
find the voiced stop [d].The explanation given by K. Verner is that if an Indo-European
voiceless stop was preceded by an unstressed vowel, the voiceless fricative which developed
from it in accordance with Grimms law became voiced, and later this voiced fricative became
a voiced plosive (stop). That is p, t, k > b, d, g. Latin pater has a Germanic correspondence
fder because the stress in the word was on the second syllable, and so voiceless plosive was
preceded by an unstressed vowel.
Vernes law explains why some verbs in Old English changed their root consonant in
the past tens and in Participle II originally, these grammatical forms had the stress on the
second syllable. Hence the basic forms such as snian (to cut) and weoran (to become) were
snian sna snidon sniden; weoran wear- wurdon worden.
1.2. Vowels
The Germanic languages are also marked by some peculiarities in the development of vowels
as compared with other Indo-European languages.
a) Stressed vowels.
1) The IE. (long [a]) > Gc. (long [o])
E.g. L mter, OE mdor; U , OE bror.
2) The IE short [o] > Gc. short [a]
E.g. R , Gt Gasts.


Thus, the Indo-European vowels [a] and [o] got mixed in the Germanic languages.
The IE long vowels [] and [] were both reflected as [] in the Germanic languages. The IE
short vowels [o] and [a] were both reflected as [a].
b) Unstressed vowels.
Unstressed vowels underwent a gradual process of shortening and slurring until many of them
were lost altogether. This process has continued with different intensity in different Germanic
languages during all the investigated part of their history. Its results can be seen even in the
oldest Germanic record.
1.3. The doubling of consonants
All the consonants, except [r], were doubled (in spelling) or lengthened (in pronunciation)
between a short vowel and the sound [j] (sometimes [l] or [r]),
E.g. Gt saljan, OE sellan, E sell

Gt bidjan, OE biddan

But: Gt fdjan, OE fdan

1.4. Rhotacism
In the final position the Germanic [z] was lost in the West-Germanic languages while it
changed to [s] in the East-Germanic, and to [r] in the North-Germanic ones.
E.g. Gt dags, OE dg, G Tag
In the middle position of the word Germanic [z] remained in Gothic and changed to [r]
in the West-Germanic and North-Germanic languages. The change [z > r] is called rhotacism.
E.g. Gt maiza, OE mara, G mehr

Gt batiza, OE betera

1.5. Germanic fracture (or breaking)

This is the process of formation of a short diphthong from a simple short vowel when it is
followed by a specific consonant cluster. Thus,

r+cons., l+cons.






h final



Gt hargus, OE heard (hard)

Gt nachts, OE neaht (night)
Old Frisian herte, OE heorte (E heart)


1.6. The second consonant shift

The Germanic consonant shift is called the first to distinguish it from a second consonant shift,
which occurred in High German dialects (that is, dialects of Southern Germany). This second
shift may be illustrated by the following examples:
Common Germanic
Gt badi (bed)

High Germanic

OE bedd
OE dn (do)


OE pl (pool)


OE hopian (hope)


Gt taihun (ten)


Gt itan (eat)


The full table of correspondences would appear to be the following:

Common Germanic

High Germanic
Initially and after a


After a vowel

z [ts]

ch [x]

The second consonant shift occurred between the 5th and 7th centuries AD, gradually
spreading from South to North. A few hundred years later, between the 8 th and 12th centuries,
one more change took place, which gave the German consonants system its present shape. As
we have seen, the common Germanic d developed into t in High German; as a result the
German consonant system had no d-sound. Now a new d appeared, coming from the common
Germanic .
Common Germanic

High Germanic

Gt reis (three)


Gt u (you)


Gt broar (brother)



2. Some common grammatical features of Germanic languages

2.1. Form-building Means
Like other old IE languages, both PG and the OG languages had a synthetic
grammatical structure, which means that the relationships between the parts of the sentence
were shown by the forms of the words rather than by their position or by auxiliary words. In
later history all the Germanic languages developed analytical forms and ways of word
In the early periods of history the grammatical forms were built in the synthetic way: by
means of inflections, sound interchanges and suppletion.
The suppletive way of form-building was inherited from ancient IE, it was restricted to
a few personal pronouns, adjectives, and verbs.
The principle means of form-building were inflections.
The wide use of sound interchanges has always been a characteristic feature of the
Germanic group. This form-building (and word-building) device was inherited from IE and
became very productive in Germanic. In various forms of the word and in words derived from
one and the same root, the root-morpheme appeared as a set of variants. The consonants were
relatively stable, the vowels were variable.
2.1.1. Ablaut
Ablaut or vowel gradation is an independent vowel interchange unconnected with any
phonetic conditions; different vowels appear in the same environment, surrounded by the same
Vowel gradation did not reflect any phonetic changes but was used as a special
independent device to differentiate between words and grammatical forms built from the same
Ablaut was inherited by Germanic from ancient IE. The principal gradation series used
in the IE languages [e ~ o] can be shown in Russian or Ukrainian examples: ~
. This kind of ablaut is called qualitative, as the vowels differ only in quality. Alternation
of short and long vowels, and also alternation with a zero (i.e. lack of vowel) represent
quantitative ablaut.
The Germanic languages employed both types of ablaut qualitative and quantitative
and their combinations.


2.1.2. Word-structure
Some changes in the morphological structure of the word in Late PG account for the
development of an elaborate system of declensions in OG languages, and for the formation of
grammatical endings.
Originally, in Early PG the word consisted of three main component parts: the root, the
stem-suffix, and the grammatical ending. The stem-suffix was a means of word derivation, the
ending a marker of the grammatical form. In Late PG the old stem-suffixes lost their
derivational force and merged with other components of the word, usually with the endings.
The word was simplified: the three-morpheme structure was transformed into a two-morpheme
structure. The original grammatical ending, together with the stem-suffix formed a new
The simplification of the word structure and the loss of stem-suffixes as distinct
components was facilitated or, perhaps, caused by the heavy Germanic word stress fixed on the
2.1.3. Types of Stems
Most nouns and adjectives in PG and also many verbs had stem-forming suffixes;
according to stem-suffixes they fell into groups or classes: a-stems, i-stems, -stems, etc. This
grouping accounts for the formation of different declensions in nouns and adjectives, and for
some difference in the conjugation of verbs.
Thus, in OG languages there are the following types of substantive stems:
1) Vocalic stems: -a-, --, -i-, -u- stems. Declension of these substantives has been called
strong declension.
2) n-stems. Declension of these is called weak declension.
3) Stems in other consonants: -s- and -r- stems.
4) Root-stems. This is a peculiar type: these substantives never had a stem-building suffix,
so that their stem had always coincided with their root.
2.1.4. Strong and Weak Verbs
The verb system of OG languages consists of different elements. The main mass of
verbs are strong verbs and weak verbs. Besides these two large groups, there are also the
preterite-present verbs, with a peculiar system of forms, and a few irregular verbs, which do
not belong to any of the preceding groups.


The terms strong and weak were proposed by J.Grimm. The strong verbs built
their principal forms with the help of root vowel interchanges plus certain grammatical
endings; they made use of IE ablaut with certain modifications due to phonetic changes and
The weak verbs are a specifically Germanic innovation, for the device used in building
their principal forms is not found outside the Germanic group. They built the Past tense and
Participle II by inserting a dental suffix -d- (-t-) between the root and the ending.
3. Germanic Vocabulary
Germanic vocabulary has inherited and preserved many IE features in lexis as well as at
other levels. The most ancient etymological layer in the Germanic vocabulary is made up of
words (or more precisely roots) shared by most IE languages. They refer to a number of
semantic spheres: natural phenomena, plants and animals, terms of kinship, verbs denoting
basic activities of a person, some pronouns and numerals; in addition to roots, the common IE
element includes other components of words: word-building affixes and grammatical
Words which occur in Germanic alone and have no parallels outside the group
constitute the specific features of the Germanic languages. Semantically, they also belong to
basic sphere of life: nature, sea, home, life. Like the IE layer the specifically Germanic layer
includes not only roots but also affixes and word-building patterns.
In addition to native words the OG languages share some borrowings made from other
languages. Some of the early borrowings are found in all or most languages of the group;
probably they were made at the time when the Germanic tribes lived close together as a single
speech community, that is in Late PG. A large number of words must have been borrowed
from Latin prior to the migrations of West Germanic tribes to Britain. These words reflect the
contacts of the Germanic tribes to Britain. These words reflect the contacts of the Germanic
tribes with Rome and the influence of the Roman civilization on their life; they mostly refer to
trade and warfare.


Lecture 4
Phonetic Changes in the Old English Period
1. The Main Features of Old, Middle, and Modern English
Old English is said (technically) to begin in 449 AD with the invasion of Kent by
Hengest and Horsa, although we place its start at 500 AD, since it must have taken one
or two generations at least for it to develop its distinctive character; we do not have
the first manuscript attestations of English until about 700 AD. We know that the
Anglo-Saxons spoke West Germanic, a sister dialect to Old High German, Old Frisian,
Old Low German, Low Saxon, and Old Low Franconian.
Several very important features characterize OE:
1) Old English was synthetic, or fusional, rather than analytic or isolating.
2) The noun, verb, adjective, determiner and pronoun were highly inflected.
Consequently, word order was not as rigid as in Present-Day English.
3) There were weak and strong declensions of nouns and adjectives.
4) There were also weak and strong conjugations of verbs.
5) The









(approximately 85 per cent of the vocabulary used in OE is no longer in use in

Modern English).
6) Word formation largely took the form of compounding, prefixing, and suffixing;
there was relatively little borrowing from other languages.
7) Gender was grammatical (dependent on formal linguistic criteria), not logical or
natural (contingent on sex).
During the Middle English period a number of very significant changes became
more and more visible in the English language. The major changes from Old to Middle
English are the loss of inflections, and with it the development of more fixed word
order. As in the Old English period, language contact led to borrowing, but its scale was
far greater during this period than it had been before.
By the Early Modern Period the structure of the standard language was very close
to its structure in Present-Day English. There were still some significant changes to
come, such as the Great Vowel Shift, but with regard to short vowels, consonants,


morphology and syntax, changes were slight. What is noticeable to a present-day

reader of Early Modern English is its comparative variability. In the period of 1500 to
1700, there was considerable free variation of forms in comparison with Present-Day
English. This is hardly surprising in a language that was only just beginning to be
accepted as a legitimate medium of communication in science, the arts, and
administration. By 1700, however, English had stabilized and texts written after that
period are remarkably easy for a modern reader to comprehend. Since that time, while
some changes in the structure have indeed occurred, they are comparatively minor in
nature. Unlike in the Early Modern English period, in Present-Day English, there are
few changes in phonology and even fewer in morphology and syntax, with major
changes taking place in the lexical stock of English.
2. Old English Phonetics
OE is so far removed from Modern English 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
2.1. OE Consonants
From the following chart we see that the consonants of Old English were very similar to
those of Modern English:
Voiceless stop
Voiced stop
Voiceless affricate
Voiced affricate











The differences between this set of consonants and that of modern English are
essentially orthorgraphic in nature, as some graphemes can represent a variety of
1) The consonants w, b, d, m, l, t and p were all similar to their counterparts in
Modern English.
2) OE r was not like retroflex /r/ of British or American English, but was trilled.
3) sc and cg were pronounced [ ] and [ ] respectively: disc dish was pronounced [
] and ecg edge was pronounced [

]. Since /sk/ becomes [ ] in OE, all OE

words that pronounce sc as [sk] are clearly loans from Scandinavian.

4) The fricatives f, , and s each represented two separate sounds:


Voicing was predictable by context; that is to say whenever the sound in question
was between voiced sounds it was itself voiced: ceosan [

] choose.

Elsewhere it was unvoiced.

5) The sound spelled with the letter <n> was either [n] or, before [g] and [k], the
velarized nasal [ ]: singan [

] to sing.

6) The sounds represented by the letter <h> were: [h] initially, including the
clusters /hl-/, /hr-/, /hw-/, [x] after back vowels, and [x] after front vowels: ham

] home; leoht [

] light; hlaf [

] loaf; miht [

] might,

7) The sound spelled with the letter <c> was either [k] before a consonant or back
vowel or [ ] next to a front vowel: ceosan [

]; clne [

] clean.

8) Similarly, <g> was either [j] before or between front vowels and finally after a
front vowel:

; or [g] before consonants, back vowels and

front vowels resulting from umlaut.

9) <cg> was pronounced as [

] in medial or final position: brycg bridge.

10) OE had phonemically long consonants so that bed prayer contrasts with
bedd bed.
11) OE had a number of consonant clusters that are no longer in the language. As
well as /h/ clusters discussed above, there were /kn/ and /gn/, which are no longer


pronounced as [kn] and [gn], but whose origin remains visible in the modern
spellings knee and gnaw.
2.2. Vowels
The symbols representing vowels in classical Old English were usually monofunctional,
i.e. each letter corresponded to a certain sound. Vowel-length was often (but not
always) denoted by a slanting stroke (a), but we shall use the traditional sign (a).
Monophthongs: short
Diphthongs: short

2.2.1. Changes of stressed vowels

a) Palatal Mutation
This is the name given to a kind of regressive assimilation caused by the sounds [i] and
[j] in the 6th century. Under the influence of [i] or [j] the vowels of the preceding
syllable moved to a higher front position.
E.g. [] > [] OE
[] > [e] Gt. badi || (corresponds to) OE. bedd
[] > [] Gt. dmjan || OE. dm, dman (E. doom, to deem)
[] > [y] OHG. kuning || OE. cyning
> e OE. eald but ieldra (E. old elder)
The palatal mutation has left many traces in Modern English. The ensuing vowel
interchange serves now to distinguish:



different parts of speech: doom to deem, food to feed, blood to bleed, full
to fill, Angles English, long length;


different forms of a word: tooth teeth, foot feet, mouse mice, old elder.

b) Velar Mutation
This is another regressive assimilation called forth by the velar vowels [u, o, a]. It took
place in the 7th 8th centuries and was of comparatively small importance for the further
development of the English language. Under the influence of [u, o, a] the front vowels
[i, e, ] of a preceding syllable were usually diphthongized.

As we see, the assimilation was partial, since only part of the front vowels
became velar. But after the sound [w] full assimilation occurred.
E.g. OE. widu > wudu (E. wood)
OE. werold > worold (E. world)
c) The Diphthongization of Vowels after Palatal Consonants
After the palatal consonants [j] (written

) and [k`] (written c) most vowels were

diphthongized into [ie, io, eo, ea]. It was a long process which continued up to the 9 th
century, but it did not take place in some of the Old English dialects. Later on these
diphthongs were usually monophthongized again.

d) The Lengthening of Short Vowels before Certain Consonant Combinations

Before the combinations (ld, nd, mb), i.e. a sonorous consonants plus a homorganic
voiced plosive, not followed by a third consonant, short vowels were lengthened,
apparently in the 9th century, though graphically it was often marked much later.


2.2.2. Changes of unstressed vowels

a. Unstressed long vowels were gradually shortened in all the Germanic languages. In
English this process was completed during the earliest part of the Old English period.
All the long vowels became short, and all the diphthongs were monophthongized in an
unstressed position.

b. Unstressed vowels often fluctuated, which is seen from their representation in

Comp. OE. woruld, worold;
c. The weakening of unstressed vowels took shape of changes such as the change of [ ]
to [e], [u] to [o], etc.

d. Very often the weakening resulted in the loss of the unstressed vowel. After long
syllables it occurred earlier and much more often than after short ones.

e. Sometimes new unstressed vowels developed, especially before r, l, n.

In spite of the long process of weakening, the OE final unstressed syllables contain
various vowels a, o, u, e, i.

In comparison with the later stages of its development, Old English strikes one as a
language with developed endings, which justifies the name given it by the well-known
English philologist H.Sweet the period of full endings.


Lecture 5
Changes in the Middle English Orthography and Phonology
During the Middle English period a number of very significant changes became more
and more visible in the English language. The major changes from Old to Middle
English are the loss of inflections, and with it the development of more fixed word
order. As in the Old English period, language contact led to borrowing, but its scale was
far greater during this period than it had been before.
1. Changes in the Orthographic System
One of the consequences of the Norman Conquest was the French influence on English
spelling. Those letters which the French did not employ gradually went out of use. They
were the letter , , , .
New letters were introduced such as g, j, k, q, v.
Many digraphs and combinations of letters came into use, such as th, sh, ch, gh,
ph, dg, ck, gu, qu, ou, or ow.
E.g. OE. wi ME with; OE. fisc ME fish; OE niht ME night.
It became usual to mark the length of a vowel by doubling it, especially in closed
Thus ee and oo were used to denote [] and [].
E.g. OE swt ME sweet; OE d ME good.
Sometimes the sound [], chiefly in French borrowings, was denoted by the
digraphs ie or ei.
Many letters changed their signification.
The letter u, for instance, which had denoted only one sound in OE, [u], was
employed after the French fashion to denote also the labial front vowel [] formerly
expressed by y. E.g. bysi, ME busy.
The letter c began to signify not only the sound [k] as in OE cc, but also, in
accordance with French usage, [s] before the letters i, e, y. So, OE cpan, could no
longer be written with the letter c, for it would be read [spn]. It became necessary to
employ the letter k in similar cases. E.g. keepen, king.


The letter k was not unfrequently substituted for c in other cases. E.g. OE
bc ME book. Sometimes after short consonants the sound [k] was denoted by the
digraph ck. E.g. OE bc, ME back.
The letter o came to be used not only for the sound [o], but also for the sound [u].
All these spelling changes wakened the more or less phonetic character of the OE,
orthography. They gave rise to fluctuations in the graphic presentations of sounds and
words. In OE the sound [e:], for instance, had only one graphic equivalent, the letter .
In ME [e:] could be represented by e, ee, ei, ie. In OE, the word fisc had only one
spelling. In ME, it could be written fish, fysh, fish, fisch, fyssh, fysch.
2. Major Changes in the Sound System
2.1. The Consonants
Consonantal changes in the system are slight during this period, which is a
characteristic feature of English. Certain voiced consonants became voiceless and other
voiceless consonants became voiced; consonants could occasionally also be lost
completely. Thus, /w/ was lost before a following /o/ if it came after another consonant:
OE swa > ME so (so); OE hwa > ME ho (who). In addition, ME lost consonant clusters
beginning with /h/, so that hring became ring and hrof became rof (> roof).
Significantly, both of these consonants were glides among which change was limited to
the feature of voice.
2.2. Consonant Changes from Old to Middle English
In the following table the first group of examples represents forms which lost initial hpreceding a resonant (l, n and r); the second set shows the loss of a final consonant; the
third shows the simplification of the cluster /sw/, while the last pair reflects the voicing
of voiceless consonants in some dialects:
Old English

Middle English



2.3. Vowels in Stressed Syllables

There was also little change in the vowels in stressed or accented syllables. Most of the
short vowels, unless lengthened, passed unchanged into ME. But short was lowered
to [a] and y was unrounded to i (OE crft > ME craft; OE brycg > brigge, bridge). The
other short vowels a, e, i, o, u remained unchanged, as in OE catte > cat; bedde > bed;
scip > ship; folc > folk; full > ful.
Amongst the long vowels, the most important change was the raising and
rounding of long a > o: OE ban > ME bon (bone), bat > bot (boat). [y:] was
unrounded to [i:]: OE bryd > bride, fyr > fir (fire).
Long e in ME represented two sounds:
(1) Long e (long a in West Germanic) appears as long e in ME, unchanged from OE
(except in West Saxon): slepan > slepen.
(2) In many words was a sound resulting from the i-umlaut of a. This was a more
open vowel, appearing in ME as e (OE clne > clene, dlen > delen (deal).
Other OE vowels preserved their quality in ME: medu > mede (mead); fif > fif
(five); bok > bok (book); hus > hus (house).
OE diphthongs were all simplified and all the diphthongs of ME are new
formations resulting chiefly from the combination of a simple vowel with the following
consonant ([j] or [w]), which vocalized. Though the quality did not change in ME, the
quantity of OE vowels underwent considerable change. OE long vowels were shortened
late in the OE period or early in ME when followed by a double consonant or by most
combinations of consonants. The changes are not noticeable in spelling, but they are
very significant, since they determine the development of these vowels in later stages.
2.4. Vowels in Unstressed Syllables
The general obscuring of unstressed syllables in ME is a most significant sound change,
since it is one of the fundamental causes of the loss of inflection. Before the end of OE,
every unstressed /a/, /e/, /o/ and /u/ tended to become an <e> in spelling, presumably
pronounced as // (schwa): OE oxa > ME oxe; OE foda > ME fode. Unstressed /i/, on
the other hand, remained unchanged. When // was final in ME it was eventually lost,


hence the modern forms ox, food; often the <e> was retained in spelling, though it was
not pronounced. Certain endings in which // was followed by a consonant, especially
the possessive and plural es and preterite ed, regularly syncopated, so that here,
too, // is lost (e.g. botes > boats). Exceptions are sounds ending in a sibilant, e.g.
busses, vases, etc., or verbs ending in an alveolar sound (wedded, wetted), where [] or
[i] is still encountered in modern forms.
2.5. The Formation of Middle English Diphthongs
This phenomenon involves changes in the consonants as well, as the glides [w] and [j]
and the voiced velar fricative develop into the second member of the new diphthongs.

New OE




Lecture 6
The Old English Morphology
1. The Old English Noun.
Nouns in Old English had the categories of number, gender, and case.
Gender in OE is grammatical, not logical or natural. This means that nouns and
pronouns followed different patterns of declension as a function of linguistic
characteristics of the words. Thus wif wife is a neuter noun and mann man is a
masculine noun, and wifmann woman is therefore masculine also, as dictated by the
second element of the compound. The switch to logical gender occurred partly because
of the attrition of the system of inflections, though it actually began in the OE period
and was complete by the end of Middle English. It has been suggested on the basis of
recent work in corpus linguistics that feminine nouns kept their gender longer than
masculine or neuter nouns, and this is perhaps the reason why in Modern English she
is occasionally still used to refer to inanimate nouns such as names of countries, ships
and the like.
There are two numbers: singular and plural.
There are four cases in the noun systems depending on the grammatical function
of the noun. The nominative case was used primarily for subjects, the accusative case
for direct objects, the genitive case for possessives; and the dative case was used
primarily for indirect objects, but had other functions as well.
Nouns in OE are divided into either vocalic or consonantal stems, depending on
the element in which the noun-stem originally ended. There are four vocalic stem -a, -o,
-u and -i, though the vowel itself was often lost in OE, the declension being actually
inherited from an earlier form of Germanic. The i-stems, e.g., wine friend, for the most
part joined the masculine a-nouns and the two are therefore treated together below. The
largest group of consonantal stems was marked by the presence of n in Indo-European;
other minor groups of nouns included r- and nd- stems. Among vocalic stems,
masculines consist of a-stems (and old i-stems), neuters of a-stems and feminines of o-






either masculine or feminine. Consonant stems

could be any of the three genders.

2. The Old English Pronoun
There are several types of pronouns in OE: personal, possessive, demonstrative,
interrogative, definite, indefinite, negative, and relative.
In OE, as in Gothic, there are besides singular and plural personal pronouns, also
dual pronouns for the 1st and 2nd persons, which are used to refer to a pair of people, e.g.
a married couple. All three persons and genders are preserved in the singular. OE has
also four cases in the pronouns, still distinguishing the dative and accusative forms,
which fell together by Middle English, producing what is in Modern English often
referred to as the objective case.

As for possessive pronouns, these are derived from the genitive case of the
personal pronouns of all persons and numbers. The possessive pronouns min, in,
uncer, incer, ure, eower are declined in the same way as strong adjectives. The
possessive pronouns his, hire, and hiera are unchanged. Besides, there is the reflexive
possessive pronoun sin, which is also declined in the way of strong adjectives.
There are two demonstrative pronouns in OE: se that and es this. The
meaning of this pronoun is often weakened, so that it approaches the status of an article,
e.g. se mann the man, seo s the sea, t lond the land.
The interrogative pronouns hwa who and hwt what have only singular forms.
The interrogative pronoun hwilc which is declined as a strong adjective.


As for definite pronouns, here we find the pronouns gehwa every, gehwilc
each, ger either, lc each, swilc such and se ilca the same.
The negative pronouns nan and nnig, both meaning no, none, are also
declined as strong adjectives.
3. The Old English Adjective
The OE adjective is especially interesting for a variety of reasons. First, there are
two sets of forms, termed strong and weak: the strong endings are used when the
adjective is not accompanied by a marker of definiteness in this case an article or a
demonstrative or possessive pronoun; the weak endings occur when the adjective is
preceded by a determiner.
Second, the cases of the adjective preserve a greater degree of formal
differentiation than do the cases of the noun; this is especially true of the strong
adjective, in both numbers. In addition, the adjective preserves five distinct cases (i.e.,
preserving a separate instrumental, something that is no longer obvious in the noun).
The so-called qualitative adjectives were inflected for the degrees of comparison.
The ending of the comparative degree was usually ra, of the superlative ost.
E.g. heard heardra heardost.
A few adjectives had comparative and superlative forms from a different oot from
that of the positive (suppletivity).
E.g. god betera betst
yfel wyrsa - wyrst
mycel mara mst
lytel lssa lst
4. The Old English Adverb
The adverb in Old English was inflected only for comparison. The comparative
was regularly formed with or and the superlative with ost.
E.g. hearde severely heardor heardost





adverb- forming suffix was e. By origin it was the

ending of the instrumental case, neuter of the strong declension of adjectives. The
adverbialization of this case form produced many adverbs of adjectival nature.
E.g. deop deope, lang lange
OE adjectives formed from nouns with the help of the suffix lic (E.g. freondlic
friendly, crftlic skillful) could further form adverbs by adding e (freondlice,
Gradually a great number of adverbs in lice were formed, and lice was
regarded as an adverbial suffix which could be used beside or instead of e. E.g. hearde
and heardlice. Later lice developed into ly.
5. The Numeral in Old English
Old English had a system of numerals of common Indo-European origin. Derived
numerals have suffixes that, in phonetically modified form, are found in present-day
English, the numerals twa and rie had three genders, cardinal numerals from 1 to 4
might be declined and numerals from 20 to 100 were formed by placing units first and
then tens.


6. The Old English Verb.

The inflection of the verb in the Germanic languages is much simpler than it was in
Indo-European times. A comparison of the Old English verb with the verbal inflection
of Greek or Latin will show how much has been lost. Old English distinguished only
two simple tenses by inflection, a present and a past, and except for one word, it had no
inflectional forms for the passive as in Latin or Greek. It recognized the indicative,
subjunctive, and imperative moods and had the usual two numbers and three persons.
A peculiar feature of the Germanic languages was the division of the verb into
two great classes, the weak and the strong, often known in Modern English as regular
and irregular verbs. These terms, which are so commonly employed in modern
grammars, are rather unfortunate because they suggest an irregularity in the strong verbs
that is more apparent than real. The strong verbs, like sing, sang, sung, which represent
the basic Indo-European type, are so called because they have the power of indicating
change of tense by a modification of their root vowel. In the weak verbs, such as walk,
walked, walked, this change is effected by the addition of a dental, sometimes of an
extra syllable.
The apparent irregularity of the strong verbs is due to the fact that verbs of this
type are much less numerous than weak verbs. In Old English, if we exclude
compounds, there were only a few over 300 of them, and even this small number falls
into several classes. Within these classes, however, a perfectly regular sequence can be
observed in the vowel changes of the root. Nowadays these verbs, generally speaking,
have different vowels in the present tense, the past tense, and the past participle. In
some verbs the vowels of the past tense and past participle are identical, as in break,
broke, broken, and in some all three forms have become alike in modern times (bid, bid,
bid). In Old English the vowel of the past tense often differs in the singular and the
plural; or, to be more accurate, the first and third person singular have one vowel while
the second person singular and all persons of the plural have another. In the principle
parts of Old English strong verbs, therefore, we have four forms: the infinitive, the
preterite singular (first and third person), the preterite plural, and the past participle. In
Old English the strong verbs can be grouped in seven general classes. While there are
variations within each class, they may be illustrated by the following seven verbs:


The origin of the dental suffixes by which weak verbs form their past tense and
past participle is strongly debated. It was formerly customary to explain these as part of
the verb do, as though I worked was originally I work did (i.e., I did work). More
recently an attempt has been made to trace these forms to a type of verb that formed its
stem by adding -to- to the root. Here it is sufficient to note that a large and important
group of verbs in Old English form their past tense by adding ede, ode, or de to the
present stem, and their past participles by adding ed,

od, or d. Thus fremman (to

perform) has a preterite fremede and a past participle gefremed; lufian (to love) has
lufode and gelufod. It is to be noted, however, that the weak conjugation has come to be
the dominant one in the English language. Many strong verbs have passed over to this
conjugation, and practically all new verbs added to English are inflected in accordance
with it.


Lecture 7
The Middle English Morphology
1. Middle English as a Period of Great Change.
The Middle English period was marked by momentous changes in the English language,
changes more extensive and fundamental than those that have taken place at any time before or
since. Some of them were the result of the Norman Conquest and the conditions which
followed in the wake of that event. Others were a continuation of tendencies that had begun to
manifest themselves in Old English. These would have gone on even without the Conquest, but
they took place more rapidly because the Norman invasion removed from English those
conservative influences that are always felt when a language is extensively used in books and
is spoken by an influential educated class. The changes of this period affected English in both
its grammar and its vocabulary. They were so extensive in each department that it is difficult to
say which group is more significant. Those in the grammar reduced English from a highly
inflected language to an extremely analytic one. Those in the vocabulary involved the loss of a
large part of the Old English word-stock and the addition of thousands of words from French
and Latin. At the beginning of the period, English is a language that must be learned like a
foreign tongue; at the end it is Modern English.
2. The Middle English Noun.
The distinctive endings -a, -u, -e, -an, -um, etc. of Old English were reduced to <e>/[] by the
end of the twelfth century. In the noun there is one inflectional relic left in the singular, the
genitive -es, while one form serves for all in the plural:






















But it should be mentioned that in early Middle English only two methods of indicating
the plural remained fairly distinctive: the -s or -es from the strong masculine declension and
the -en (as in oxen) from the weak. And for a time, at least in southern England, it would have


been difficult to predict that the s would become the almost universal sign of the plural
that it has become. Until the thirteenth century the -en plural enjoyed great favor in the south,
being often added to nouns which had not belonged to the weak declension in Old English. But
in the rest of England the -s plural (and genitive singular) of the old first declension
(masculine) was apparently felt to be so distinctive that it spread rapidly. Its extension took
place most quickly in the north.
3. Articles.
Although the articles are closely connected with nouns, they are separate words with particular
lexical meanings and grammatical properties.
It was during the Middle English period that the articles were isolated from other classes
of words and became a class of words by themselves.
The definite article is an outgrowth of the OE demonstrative pronoun s. The
suppletivity observed in Old English was lost. The sound [s] of the OE nominative case,
singular, masculine (s) and feminine (so) was replaced by the sound [] on the analogy of the
oblique cases (s, m, one, etc.). With the development of o > , the forms and o
fell together as , later spelt the.
The neuter form t, ME that, retained its full demonstrative force, while the was
weakened both in meaning and form. Gradually they became two different words.
The lost all gender, case and number distinctions, and became entirely uninflected.
The indefinite article has developed from the OE numeral n (one), whose meaning
sometimes weakened to one of many, some even in OE. The weakening of the meaning
was accompanied by the weakening of the stress. The long [] was shortened in the unstressed
n, so that n > an. Later the unstressed [a] was reduced in pronunciation to []. The
consonant [n] was usually lost before consonants but retained before vowels.
4. The ME Adjective.
In the adjective the leveling of forms had even greater consequences. Partly as a result of the
sound-changes, partly through the extensive working of analogy, the form of the nominative
singular was early extended to all cases of the singular, and that of the nominative plural to all
cases of the plural, both in the strong and the weak declensions. The result was that in the weak
declension there was no longer any distinction between the singular and the plural: both ended
in -e (blinda > blinde and blindan > blinde). This was also true of those adjectives under the


strong declension whose singular ended in e. By about 1250 the strong declension had
distinctive forms for the singular and plural only in certain monosyllabic adjectives which
ended in a consonant in Old English (sing. glad, plur. glade). Under the circumstances the only
ending which remained to the adjective was often without distinctive grammatical meaning
and its use was not governed by any strong sense of adjectival inflection. Although it is clear
that the -e ending of the weak and plural forms was available for use in poetry in both the East
and West Midlands until the end of the fourteenth century, it is impossible to know the most
usual status of the form in the spoken language.
5. The ME Adverb
Adverbs in the ME period are changed phonetically, like all other parts of speech, yet
there were some other changes.
All primary adverbs existed in their slightly modified form theer (there), then, ofte
(often) etc.
Secondary adverbs, formerly made from the adjectives by means of adding the suffix e
were also in use, but with the gradual loss of the final e in ME the distinction between
adjective and adverb was lost, and a new phenomenon appeared it started the so-called
adverbial use of adjectives.
At the same time there appears a new and very productive way of forming adverbs
adding the suffix ly. The very suffix was not quite new. It goes back to Old English suffix
lice, but earlier it was limited in use. Now quite distinct adverbs were made this way. Native
adjectives as well as borrowed took it freely, and such formations very soon become prevalent
in the language.
6. The ME Pronoun
All pronouns in ME with the exception of the personal ones lose the categories of
gender and case, some lose their number that is, agreeing with nouns they simplified their
paradigm according to the changes in the system of the noun.
The loss was greatest in the demonstratives. Of the numerous forms of s, so, t we
have only the and that surviving through ME and continuing in use today. A plural tho (those)
survived to Elizabethan times. All the other forms indicative of different gender, number, and
case disappeared in most dialects early in the Middle English period.


In the personal pronoun the losses were not so great. Most of the distinctions that
existed in OE were retained. However the forms of the dative and accusative cases were early
combined, generally under that of the dative (him, her, hem). In the neuter the form of the
accusative (h)it became the general objective case, partly because it was like the nominative,
and partly because the dative him would have been subject to confusion with the corresponding
case of the masculine. One other general simplification is to be noted: the loss of the dual
7. The ME Verb
The verb retained nearly all grammatical categories it had possessed in OE: tense,
mood, person, number. Only the category of aspect was lost. The most important feature of the
history of the verb in ME was the development of analytical forms to express new grammatical
1. The syntactical combinations of OE sculan (E. shall) and willan (E. will) with the
infinitive developed into analytical forms of the future tense. As a result, the
grammatical category of tense came to be represented not by binary oppositions
past present, but by ternary oppositions past present future.
2. Combinations composed of different forms of OE habban (E. have) and participle II
of some verb developed into a set of analytical forms known as the perfect forms.
3. Word-combinations comprising different forms of OE bon/wesan (E. to be) and the
past participle of another verb developed into a set of analytical forms of the passive
7.1. Strong and weak verbs
The two morphological types of verbs strong and weak were, on the whole, well
preserved in ME. Only the number of weak verbs was constantly increasing at the expense of
the newly borrowed and the newly created verbs, whereas the number of strong verbs was
diminishing. Some of them became obsolete, others became weak.
Sometimes the distinctions between different classes of verbs were obliterated. For
instance, the suffix ode of the weak second class was reduced to ede and coincided with the
ede suffix of the first class.


The suffixes of the infinitive (OE an), the past tense plural (OE on) and the past
participle of strong verbs (OE en) became homonymous (ME en). Therefore the forms of the
past tense plural and the past participle of the strong verbs often coincided.
E.g. OE writon, writen.
ME written, writen.
7.2. The Non-finite Forms of the Verb
The two forms of the infinitive (OE wrtan and (t) wrtenne) gradually coincided (ME
wrten). The preposition t came to be used not only with infinitive of purpose but in other
cases as well. By degrees it lost its lexical meaning and became a mere sign of the infinitive. It
did not penetrate only into certain word-combinations, such as the combination of a modal
verb and the infinitive, where the infinitive never expressed purpose.
The ending of participle I (OE wrtende) was different in various dialects. In the north it
became ande (perhaps under Scandinavian influence). In the central regions it was ende. In
the south it narrowed to inde. It was in the south that the suffix ing was first used as the
ending of the present participle. Later it spread to other regions as well.

Lecture 8
The New English Morphology and Changes in the System of
English Syntax
1. New English Morphology
The range of the possessive case of nouns has been narrowed. It has come to be used
almost exclusively with nouns denoting living beings. As a spelling device the apostrophe was
introduced in the 18th century.
The personal pronoun of the second person plural (ye, you) and the corresponding
possessive pronoun (your) have gradually ousted the corresponding singular pronouns (thou,
thee, thine) from everyday usage. The form of the objective case (you) has ousted the
nominative case form (ye).
The possessive pronouns my, mine, which were originally but phonetic variants have
acquired different combinability and consequently different functions. This distinction has


become relevant and has spread to other possessive pronouns to which the suffix s
has been added. Hence the forms her and hers, our and ours, your and yours, their and theirs.
The pronoun hit has lost its initial h, the form its was introduced in the 17th century.
The adjective has lost all its inflexions but those of the degrees of comparison. The
current distribution of synthetic and analytic forms of comparison has been established.
The verb has lost the ending of the infinitive and all the inflexions of the present tense
but that of the third person singular. The latter has acquired the form -(e)s (from the northern
dialects) instead of the southern -(e)th. The form of the second person singular (e.g. speakest)
has been lost or become archaic.
The four basic forms of the strong verbs have been reduced to three, most verbs (except
to be) losing the distinction between the past tense singular and the past tense plural.
The so-called continuous and perfect continuous forms of the verb have developed
from former syntactical combinations of the verb to be and participle I of some notional verb.
The infinitive, gerund and participle have developed analytical perfect and passive
forms. The infinitive has also developed continuous forms.
2. Old English Syntax.
The syntactic structure of a language is usually closely connected with its morphology.
In a highly inflected language a word mostly carries with it indications of its class, of its
function in the sentence, of its relations to other words. It depends but little on its position in
the sentence, and it may do without special function words. With the loss of inflections the
dependence of the word grows. Much of the difference between the Old English and the
Modern English syntax is of that nature.
The order of words in a sentence was comparatively free in OE as contrasted with the
rigid word order of Modern English.
The comparative freedom of word order was felt not only in the predicative word
combination but in other combinations of words, too. It is by no means rare to find modifiers
following their nouns instead of preceding them. Prepositions, which usually preceded the
nouns or pronouns they governed, often followed them, sometimes at a considerable distance.
In OE the inflections played a much greater role in the indication of syntactical relation
between words in a sentence or group than in Modern English.
Grammatical agreement and government were of much greater importance in OE than
in Modern English.


The subject of a sentence or clause was frequently unexpressed in OE.

In OE usage of multiple negation was perfectly normal.
The OE interrogative pronouns hwt what, hwilc which, hwa who etc. were not
used as relative pronouns. Relative clauses were usually introduced by the invariable e, alone
or with a demonstrative pronoun.
OE complex sentences often involved correlation. There were many sets of correlative
elements in OE; among the commonest were a (a) a, onne onne, swa swa.
The subjunctive mood was an additional means of indicating subordination in OE
complex sentences. It is mostly found in clauses of condition, concession, cause, result,
purpose, in indirect questions, though it was by no means rare in independent sentences or
principal clauses.
In OE texts we often come across certain verbal phrases which have proved of great
importance in the development of the grammatical structure of English. The analytical forms
of the verb, so typical of Modern English, derive from those Old English verbal phrases, so
that the latter might be called analytical form in embryo.
3. Middle English Syntax
In Middle English the word order was less pliable than in OE, but not so rigid as in
Modern English. The number of sentences with direct word order was growing at the expense
of those with inverted or synthetic word order.
The weakening and loss of inflections resulted in the weakening and loss of agreement
and government. The tendency grew to place the modifiers as closely as possible to the words
which they modified.
The widespread use of prepositions in Middle English was another remarkable
development in the language. In OE most prepositions had governed the dative case. With the
disappearance of the dative case prepositions came to be used freely with the common case of
The Old English system of relative and correlative elements (e, a, etc.) was replaced
by new relatives developed from OE interrogative and demonstrative pronouns: who, what,
which, that, etc.
The single negative began to be used in the 14 th century, particularly in the north,
though the cumulative negation was still widely spread.


4. New English Syntax

The order subject predicate indirect object direct object has been established. As
a result, the position of a noun shows whether it is the subject or the object, and in the latter
case whether it is direct or indirect.
In most questions inversion has become the rule, i.e. the verb is placed before the
subject. Owing to the abundance of analytical forms of the verb and of compound predicates
this inversion usually does not break the established word-order since only a part of the
predicate (the auxiliary, modal, or linking verb) is moved, the notional part of the predicate
remaining in its fixed position after the subject.
In order to carry through the above principles of word order it was necessary to find
means of splitting the few synthetic forms of the verb that still remained in the language, such
as write, writes and wrote. This has been done with the help of special auxiliaries do, does, did.
One of the characteristic features of the New English period has been the development
of structural substitutes (there, it, one, do and others), as in There is a man there (structural
The development and extensive use of infinitival, gerundial and participial complexes is
another remarkable feature of New English syntax.