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Grammatical categories. The use of cases

The OE noun had two grammatical categories: number and case. Also, nouns distinguished three genders, but gender was not a grammatical category; it was merely a classifying feature accounting for the division of nouns into morphological classes. The category of number consisted of two members: singular and plural. The noun had four cases: Nominative, Genitive, Dative and Accusative.

The Nom. can be defined as the case of the active agent, for it was the case of the subject mainly used with verbs denoting activity; the Nom. could also indicate the subject characterized by a certain quality or state; could serve as a predicative and as the case of address.

The Gen. case was primarily the case of nouns and pronouns serving as attributes to other nouns. The meanings of the Gen. case were very complex and can only be grouped under the headings “Subjective” and “Objective” Gen. Subjective Gen. is associated with the possessive meaning and the meaning of origin. Objective Gen. is associated with what is termed “partitive meaning” as in sum hund scipa ‘a hundred of ships’.

Dat. was the chief case used with prepositions, e.g. on morçenne ‘in the morning’

The Acc. case was the form that indicated a relationship to a verb. Being the direct object it denoted the recipient of an action, the result of the action and other meanings.

Morphological classification of nouns. Declensions(see table)

Historically, the OE system of declensions was based on a number of distinctions: the stem-suffix, the gender of nouns, the phonetic structure of the word, phonetic changes in the final syllables. In the first place, the morphological classification of OE nouns rested upon the most ancient IE grouping of nouns according to the stem-suffixes. Stem-suffixes could consist of vowels (vocalic stems, e.g. a-stems, i- stems), of consonants (consonantal stems, e.g. n-stems), of sound sequences, e.g. -ja-stems, -nd-stems. Some groups of nouns had no stem-forming suffix or had a “zero-suffix”; they are usually termed “root-stems” and are grouped together with consonantal stems, as their roots ended in consonants, e.g. OE man, bōc (NE man, book). Another reason which accounts for the division of nouns into numerous declensions is their grouping according to gender. OE nouns distinguished three genders: Masc., Fem. and Neut. Sometimes a derivational suffix referred a noun to a certain gender and placed it into a certain semantic group, e.g. abstract nouns built with the help of the suffix –þu were Fem. – OE lençþu (NE length), nomina agentis with the suffix –ere were Masc. – OE fiscere (NE fisher ‘learned man’). The division into genders was in a certain way connected with the division into stems, though there was no direct correspondence between them: some stems were represented by nouns of one particular gender, e.g. ō-stems were always Fem., others embraced nouns of two or three genders. Other reasons accounting for the division into declensions were structural and phonetic: monosyllabic nouns had certain peculiarities as compared to polysyllabic; monosyllables with a long root-syllable differed in some forms from nouns with a short syllable. The majority of OE nouns belonged to the a-stems, ō-stems and n-stems.

The Pronoun

OE pronouns fell under the same main classes as modern pronouns: personal, demonstrative, interrogative and indefinite. As for the other groups – relative, possessive and reflexive – they were as yet not fully developed and were not always distinctly separated from the four main classes.

Personal pronouns(see table)

In OE, while nouns consistently distinguished between four cases, personal pronouns began to lose some of their case distinctions: the forms of the Dat. case of the pronouns of the 1st and 2nd p. were frequently used instead of the Acc. It is important to note that the Gen. case of personal pronouns had two main applications: like other oblique cases of noun-pronouns it could be an object, but far more frequently it was used as an attribute or a noun determiner, like a possessive pronoun, e.g. sunu mīn.

Demonstrative pronouns (see table)

There were two demonstrative pronouns in OE: the prototype of NE that, which distinguished three genders in the sg. And had one form for all the genders in the pl. and the prototype of this. They were declined like adjectives according to a five-case system: Nom., Gen., Dat., Acc., and Instr. Demonstrative pronouns were frequently used as noun determiners and through agreement with the noun indicated its number, gender and case.

Date: 2015-12-18; view: 1315

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