Grammatical categories of the Finite Verb
The verb-predicate agreed with the subject of the sentence in two grammatical categories: number and person. Its specifically verbal categories were mood and tense. Finite forms regularly distinguished between two numbers: sg and pl. The category of Person was made up of three forms: th 1st, the 2nd and the 3rd. The category of Mood was constituted by the Indicative, Imperative and Subjunctive. The category of Tense in OE consisted of two categorical forms, Present and Past. The use of Subj. forms conveyed a very general meaning of unreality or supposition. In addition to its use in conditional sentences and other volitional, conjectural and hypothetical contexts Subj. was common in other types of construction: in clauses of time, clauses of result and in clauses presenting reported speech. The meanings of the tense forms were also very general, as compared with later ages and with present-day English. The forms of the Present tense were used to indicate present and future actions. The Past tense was used in a most general sense to indicate various events in the past. In addition to Mood and Tense we must mention Aspect and Voice.
Until recently it was believed that in OE the category of aspect was expressed by the regular contrast of verbs with and without the prefix çe-; verbs with the prefix had a perfective meaning while the same verbs without the prefix indicated a non-completed action, e.g. feohtan – çefeohtan ‘fight’ – ‘gain by fighting’. In some recent explorations, however, it has been shown that the prefix çe- in OE can hardly be regarded as a marker of aspect, it could change the aspective meaning of the verb by making it perfective, but it could also change its lexical meaning, e.g. beran – çeberan ‘carry’ – ‘bear a child’. It follows that the prefix çe- should rather be regarded as an element of word-building, a derivational prefix of vague general meaning, though its ties with certain shades of aspective meaning are obvious. It is important to note that in OE texts there were also other means of expressing aspective meanings: the Past or Present Participle. The phrases with Participle I were used to describe a prolonged state or action, the phrases with Participle II indicated a state resulting from a previous, completed action. The category of voice in OE is another debatable issue. The passive meaning was frequently indicated with the help of Participle II of transitive verbs used as predicatives with the verbs beōn ‘be’ and weorðan ‘become’.
Date: 2015-04-20; view: 645