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Grammatical categories of the Verbals

In OE there were two non-finite forms of the verb: the Infinitive and the Participle. The Infinitive had no verbal grammatical categories. Being a verbal noun by origin, it had a sort of reduced case-system: two forms which roughly corresponded to the Nom. and the Dat. cases of nouns

beran uninflected Infinitive (Nom. case)

tō berenne or tō beranne inflected Infinitive (Dat. case)

Like the Dat. case of nouns the inflected Infinitive with the preposition could be used to indicate the direction or purpose of an action. The uninflected Infinitive was used in verb phrases with modal verbs or other verbs of incomplete predication.

The Participle was a kind of verbal adjective which was characterized not only by nominal but also by certain verbal features. Participle I (Present Participle) was opposed to Participle II (Past Participle) through voice and tense distinctions: it was active and expressed present or simultaneous processes and qualities, while Participle II expressed states and qualities resulting from past action and was contrasted to Participle I as passive to active, if the verb was transitive. Participle II of intransitive verbs had an active meaning; it indicated a past action and was opposed to Participle I only through tense. Participles were employed predicatively and attributively like adjectives and shared their grammatical categories: they were declined as weak and strong and agreed with nouns in number, gender and case.


3. The main morphological changes in the system of verb

  1. Old English verb. Weak verbs.

I The main differences between weak and strong verbs are the following:

1) Strong verbs formed their past tense by means of changing the root vowel without adding any suffix. Weak verbs formed their past tense by means of a special dental suffix, as a rule there was no vowel interchange.

2) Weak verbs fell into 3 classes strong verbs fell into 7 classes according to the vowel interchange in the root.

In addition to weak and strong verbs there was a group of other verbs: Preterite Present verbs; the Suppletive verbs; the Irregular or Anomalous verbs.

In OE there were about 300 strong verbs. All the verbal forms were built from 4 principle forms of the verb in OE. They were Present, Past sg, Past pl, Participle II. Following the way they built their forms OE verbs fell into 3 subdivisions: strong, weak, minor.(strong, weak verbs Grim).

OE strong verbs were divided into 7 classes. Each class had a peculiar vowel gradation, which went back to the Indo-European ablaut (ĕ─ŏ). Vowel interchange was later modified in Proto Germanic. (OE ŏ→PG ǎ).

ĕ─ŏ qualitative ablaut

Ø or zero ablaut (, ). ĕ─ŏ─Ø

ĕ - a front vowel, ŏ - a back v, Ø - a zero v.

Ex. u 1-bindan 2-bānd 3 bundum-bundan

The original IE vowel gradation series split into several serious because the gradation vowel was inserted in the root and was combined there (?in the sound of the root?).



The gradation series used in classes 1-5 go back to the IE qualitative ablaut ĕ─ŏ.

Class I

In this class the gradation vowel was combined with short i in the root, as a result we find long vowels in the first two forms and short i in the zero grade.

Class II

In this class the gradation vowel was combined with u-vowel of the root. Long diphthongs in the first two forms and u in the zero grade.

u remained before- n (nasal) -i/j, o - in other cases.

Class III

To this class belong all strong verbs in which the root was followed by a sonant + one more consonant. e-o- Ø

Class IV

In this class the root was followed by a consonant.

Class V

To this class belong the strong verbs in which the root was followed by a noise consonant.

Class VI

In this class the original IE gradation was quantitative (short, long). In PG it was transformed into a qualitative-quantitative series.

Class VII

The strong verbs of this gram class built their forms by reduplication (doubling) of the root syllable. Both the consonant and vowel were doubled.

Gth haitan haihait haihaitum haitans (call)

OE hātan hāitans heht

In OE the direct traces of reduplications were very rare, only a few verbs of the class remained.

Strong verbs and their devolution.

The system of the strong verbs had undergone alternations in connection with the general tendency, which led to the falling of inflections. Within one and the same class different forms were generalized and it led to the disintegration of classes. Due to the reduction of unstressed vowels the forms of the PII and Past tense pl. became identical. They had the same ending as in Infinitive- an, on, en (reduced to)>ME en. OE writan-wrat-writton (past pl.)-written (PII). In Classes 6-7, where the infinitive and the Participle had the same gradation vowel, these forms fell together. In ME and ENE the root-vowels in the principal forms of all classes of strong verbs underwent the regular changes of stressed vowel. Lengthening of vowels before some consonant sequences split the verbs of class 3 into 2 subgroups: verbs like findan had now long root-vowel in all the forms. In the verbs like drinken the root-vowel remained short. Thus ME writen and finden (Class 1 and 3)had the same vowel in the infinitive but different vowels in the Past and PII.

Classes began to intermixture. In concerned mostly Classes 1-3, 4-5. Classes 1-3.in Class 3 the verb acquired the same long vowel as had always existed in Class 1. The 3d and 4th principal forms coincided. The final n was lost in the infinitive and the Past tense pl, but was sometimes preserved in PII. Classes 4-5. The difference between the classes was already very slight in OE. (class 4 OE beran-bær-bæron-boren. Class 5 OE sprecan-spræcan-spræcon- spræcen). Class 4 :>a> >o:. Class 5 :>a> :>o:. PII acquired long root vowel o: due to the lengthening of syllables. O: appeared by analogy with the class 4. PII of Classes 2 and 4, 6 acquired long-root-vowels [o:] and [a:] due to the lenghtening in open syllables, while in the Participle in Class 1-the vowel remained short. The strong verbs were influenced by analogy. They lost practically all consonant interchanges in ME and ENE. Class 5 began to built the PII like verbs od Class 4.

The most important change in the system of strong verbs was the reduction in the number of stems from 4 to 3, by removing the distinctions between the 2 past tense stems. In OE these stems had the same gradation vowels only in Classes 6, 7.

In OE there exist 2 forms of the Past tense- sg, pl. in ME the 4 principal forms were reduced o 3. In western dialects the form of the Past tense sg joined the past tense pl. In the Northern dialect the form of the Past tense pl. changed by analogy with the Past tense sg (Class 1 OE ridan>ME riden-rod-riden-riden). Past pl became the same as the Past sg. (NE ride-rod-riden).

The tendency to reduce the number of stems continued in ENE. At this stage it affected the distinction between the new Past tense stem and PII. Another important event in the history of strong verbs was their transition into weak. In ME and ENE many strong verbs began to form their Past and PII with the help of the dental suffix.

After the Norman conquest more than 100 native verbs came out of use, they were replaced by loan words. In OE less than 100 native verbs. The disappearance of strong verbs continued in ME. A few 30 verbs became obsolete in ME. A few strong verbs became weak- burn, climb, flee, blow, help, step, walk. 128 verbs acquired weak meaning. Only 68 strong verbs are in use in Modern E. To this number must be added 13 verbs, conjugated in both ways. Very few weak verbs joined strong- wear, dig, slick (; ) and 3 borrowings: take, thrive (, ), strive ().


Date: 2015-04-20; view: 861


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