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II Weak verbs

WVs are peculiar to Germanic languages only. They are more numerous. They were built from nouns, adj-s, other strong verbs with the help of the stem-forming suffix (sfs): they built their past tense forms and Part II with the help of the dental suffix (ds). The structure was: root+sfs+ds.

There were 3 classes of weak verbs. They were differentiated by the stem-building/forming suffix.

Class I i/j; class II ō; class III ai.

Class I employed the sound i/j as their stem-forming suffix. Ex. dōmian (dōm - root, dōmi - stem, i- stem-forming suffix, an - the ending of the Inf). The Past Tense was domida (d- the stem-forming suffix - the dental suffix, a - the ending). In OE i changed into e (i >e) and then disappeared. The exception was when it was after r (Ex. werian werede wered). After all other consonants it caused palatal mutation.

dōmian domjan

dēman dēmde

kopjan cēpan (cepte)



subclass of Irregular Verbs

In some verbs the Past Tense suffix was added directly to the stem without the stem-forming suffix i. That is why palatal mutation was present only in the Infinitive.

OE tellan tālde tald (ME-tell)

PG (<taljan) (<talda) (<tald)

sellan salde sald (ME- sell)

Þencan Þōhte Þōht (ME- think)

Bycan bohte boht (buy)

Tæcan tahte that

Such verbs as mētan and cēpan belong to class 1 of weak verbs. ?Long-root stem= ?their stem ended in a voiceless consonant (t, p) +long-root vowel. The short vowel of the dental suffix disappeared. After the loss of the unstressed vowel e, under the influence of the voiceless consonant in the root, the suffix became voiceless too. Ex: OE- mētan (Inf)-mētte(PastT) (<*mētde<*mētede<*motida)-mēt (PII).

If the root of the weak verb ended in a consonant + d after the loss of the unstressed e the dental suffix was completely assimilated by the consonant in the root. As a result of this the forms of the past tense did not differ from the forms of the Present tense. Ex: sendan-sende (<*sendde<sendede<sandida) (ME send, send, send).

Class II

Class II of weak verbs had the following features- the stem ended in o (o-stem). (Inf-karon; Past tense- karoda, where kar=root, o=stem-forming suffix and on=ending, da= the dental suff).

Inf lufian lufode lufod

macian macode macod

ascian ascode ascod

The infinitive always ended in ian. The component o is found in the the Past Tense and in Participle II ?the Past Participle? before the dental suffix. It is the marker of this class. The ending od of the class later developed into the modern ed (OE ode>ME ede>NE ed).

Many verbs, borrowed from Scandinavian, French followed this pattern.

Class III

Even in OE very few verbs belonged to this class (habban-hafde-hæfd). In these verbs there was an interchange of vowels and consonants. In the form of the Inf. and Present Tense there were plosive consonants, whereas in the Past tense and in the P II- fricative consonants. Later in ME there was a levelling of consonants and the fricative sounds remained and even replaced the plosives.

Strong verbs had vowel-interchange in the root. Weak- employed the dental suffix. The Inf. of strong verbs ended in an. The Inf. of weak verbs ended in an, ian ?ean?.

The Past tense sg. of the 1st and 3d person of weak verbs ended in e. The Past tense sg. of the 1st and 3d person of strong verbs did not end in e. P II of strong verbs ended in en.

Minor Groups of verbs in OE

They are Suppletive, Anomalous and Preterit-present.

Suppletive verbs. They had different roots in the conjugation. In present day English there are 2 verbs of this kind-to be, to go.

1)The OE verb gān had the following forms: gan- eode- ge-gan. In ME the form eode disappered and instead of it the OE verb wendan wente came into use.

2)The OE beon is an ancient IE suppletive verb.

The verbs wesan, beon, es had no Past Participle in OE. In ME these forms underwent many changes. Synonymous parallel forms were lost. Infinitive wesan disappeared. The form beon survived in ME.

OE beon>ME ben>NE be.

Out of numerous forms of the present tense plural the form earon/aron survived.

OE aron>ME aren>NE are.

The form of the Present Participle beonde but not wesende survived. When the suff -ende was replaced by -inde/-ing the Participle became being.

The missing forms were formed in ME ( The Imper. Mood- be, Past Participle- being). As a result of these processes in ME we find 5 roots in the conjugation of the verbs: am, is, are, be, was.

Anomalous verbs. They combined the features of weak and strong verbs.

OE don dyde ge-don (NE do) formed a weak Past tense with a vowel interchange in the root and its Participle ended in n- gedon.

Preterit-present verbs (12). (now modal). They go back to the time when the IE ablaut was used to express different aspect forms. These verbs are called so because their present tense originated in pre-historic times from the Past tense of strong verbs. These verbs never denoted actions, only attitude to the action.( ) Their meaning was realized as the Preset tense forms. Originally they were past tense forms, but later they became used as the Present tense forms. Later they built up new past tense forms, following the pattern of weak verbs. These verbs gradually formed a special group of modern modal verbs.

Since historically they were past tense forms now they do not use the ending -s in the 3d person sg. And they had no infinitives.

The preterit-present verbs had a number of characteristic features: 1) the vowel-interchange occurred not in the Past tense (cunnan), but in the Present (can); 2) these verbs usually had the dental suffix in the past-t (ahte=ought).



The verbal grammatical categories.

1. Grammatical categories.

In Finite Forms they were: mood (3), tense (2), number (2), person(3).

1) There were 3 moods: Ind, Subj, Imp. They had approximately the same meanings which they have today with the exception of the Subj Mood, which was frequently used to express a problematic action and was found in indirect speech. It was much more often than in the Present.

2) The OE verbs had 2 tenses: the Present and the Past. The present form was used to denote both tenses present and future (..to denote Pr and Future actions as in other Germanic langeages). There were no analytical forms, only inflexion. Futurity was shown lexically with the help of adverbial modifiers and the context. It is true that in OE there were combinations with the verbs: sculan (shall), willan (will), but they had there own lexical meaning. They were not auxiliary verbs. From these constructions the future forms (the future tense was) were formed later.

3) The category of person was represented only in the Indicative sg and in the Imperative in OE. There was no indication of person in the Ind pl or in the Subj forms. (One form for all persons.) Three persons were distinguished only in the present tense of the Ind Mood.

4) The Ind and Subj had 2 numbers in both tenses. The Imp Mood also distinguished 2 numbers. No dual number. At that time they were ?homonymous? forms. In the Subj M the past and the present pl were the same and also in the sg present and past. In the Indicative they were homonymous forms in the sing and plural.

Lōcian (look) wv2 (weak verb class 2).


Tense Present Sg   Ind 1. lōcie 2. lōcast 3. lōcaÞ Subj   lōcie (only one form -present sg)   Imp   lōca  
Pl   lōciaÞ   lōcien   lōciaÞ  


Tense Past Sg Ind 1. lōcode 2. lōcodes 3. lōcode   Subj   lōcode      
Pl lōcodon lōcoden  


Non-Finite forms.

The non-finite forms were the Infinitive and two Participles (Part I, Part II).

Inf Part I Part II
lōcian (weak v) wrītan (strong v I) lōciende wrītende (e)lōcod (e)wrīten

The Participle in OE was a verbal adj and it did not possess any verbal categories. But Part I was opposed to Part II in the same way as in Modern Eng. Part I was always active in meaning. Part II was active in meaning in intransitive verbs, but passive in transitive. Ex. Hē wæs eslegen. (He was killed (passive m-g).Hē wæs cumen. (He has come (active m-g). Part I was formed from the present tense stem (the Infinitive without the ending -an/ian with the help of the suffix -ende. Part II has a stem of its own in strong verbs and the suff en/n. In weak verbs it was formed by the dental suffix d. (ME ed). Participles shared the categories of the adj (nominal Gr Categories). They were declined as weak and strong and agreed with the noun in Number, Gender and Case.


The Infinitive. The Inf was a verbal noun. It was also devoid of any verbal gram.category but it had a kind of a noun declension, a sort of reduced Case system. It had 2 forms which roughly corresponded to the Nominative and the Dative Cases of nouns. The so-called Dative Case of the Inf was used with the preposition tō [] and it was an inflected form.

Ex. tō drincenne (Dat Case purpose or direction)

Nom drincan



As for form-building means they were the same as in the nominal system: inflexions, sound interchange, suppletive formations (forms) and the prefix e. It was sometimes used to help to build Part II. Ex. macian>(e)macod.

All the verbal forms were build 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).


Date: 2015-04-20; view: 1719

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