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Morphological classification of OE nouns. Types of declension.

A noun is the name of a person, place or thing.

In Modern English, nouns have only a few inflections. The plural is usually made by adding -s, and a possessive is made by adding -'s. These inflections come to us from Old English. But Old English had many more inflections than Modern English has, for nouns were marked in these categories:

Gender. Every noun was masculine, feminine or neuter

Declension. The manner in which a noun was inflected. In Modern English we have one major declension consisting of nouns that make their plural by adding -s; this comes to us from the Old English strong declension. But some nouns make plurals by adding -en (e.g. oxen), and these are descended from the weak declension; still others make plurals by changing their vowel (e.g. mice), and these are from the athematic declension. Old English had other, minor declensions as well. A useful rule of thumb is that nouns whose stems end with a consonant are strong, while nouns whose stems end with a vowel (except for "u") are weak (we'll go over the paradigms for weak nouns in the next chapter).The strong declension is itself subdivided into first, second, and third declensions, which are also called "masculine," "neuter," and "feminine."

Case. The Modern English possessive is descended from the Old English masculine/neuter genitive. Old English had four cases, nominative, accusative, genitive and dative

Number. This is the easiest inflectional category, since we still inflect nouns for plurality. But Old English had both singular and plural endings, and these varied depending on a word's gender, case and declension.


11. The nominal and the verbal systems developed in widely different ways. The morphology of the noun has on the whole become simpler:

many grammatical categories were lost (e.g. gender in nouns);

the number of forms within the surviving grammatical categories diminished (e.g. the number of cases);

the morphological division into stems or types of declension disappeared.


The nouns in OE had the grammatical categories of gender, number and case, and were grouped into an elaborate system of declensions based on an earlier division into stems and correlated with gender.

In the Early ME period the noun lost the grammatical category of gender. The two other categories of the noun, case and number, were preserved in a modified shape. The category of number proved to be the most stable of the grammatical categories of the noun.


Date: 2015-01-29; view: 1878

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