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Word-building in Middle English

Word-building in Middle English develops along the same line as were found in Old English. The number of affixes grows, for some of the French suffixes become productive.

The semi-suffixes in ME remained productive. (wifehood, greenhood, godhood)

The use of prefixes was a productive way of forming new words, and their number exceeds that of prefixes in Modern English. The most frequent and important native prefixes are (befool, misadventure, overcast, unable, outcast, outcome, withdraw)



It is in the middle English that hybrid formations appearnative prefixes and suffixes are added to borrowed roots and vice versa. This testifies that the borrowed words are very soon assimilated by the lexical system of the English language: unable, uncertain…



Early New English period is marked by the introduction of printing (by William Caxton in 1475). The appearance of a considerable number of printed books contributed to the normalization of spelling and grammar forms.

This period was also a time of sweeping changes at all levels, in the first place lexical and phonetic. They include the growth of the vocabulary due to external and internal sources; extensive phonetic changes which resulted in the growing gap between pronunciation and spelling; the loss of most inflectional endings in the 15th century; the differentiation of the inventory of grammatical forms and syntactic constructions.

In the 17th and 18 th centuries there appeared a great number of grammar books whose authors tried to stabilize the use of the language. Thus Samuel Johnson, the author of the famous Dictionary „dictionary of the English language” (1755). He gave precise definitions of words, supplied the dictionary with pronunciation guide to the words given it, considering that…."

Many famous writers also greatly contributed to the formation of English, and among them, first and foremost, the great Shakespeare.


Phonetic changes in the Early New Period

The changes in the sound system of the period were significant. The process of the leveling of ending continued,there were positional and assimilative changes of short vowels, and a significant change in the whole system of long vowels, called the Great Vowel Shift. During the period the process of simplification of consonant clusters and loss of consonants in certain position continued. The changes were as follow:

[i:] – [ai] - Time[i]-time[ai]
[e:]-[i:] - Kepen [e]-keep[i:]
[a:]-[ei] - Maken[a:] – make [ei]
[o:]-[ou] - ro:d/ > /roud
[o:]-[u] - Moon
[u:]-[au] - Mous – mouse
[au]-[o:] - cause

Loss of unstressed e. the process of leveling of endings led to total disappearance of theneutral sound e marked by letter e in the endings.

The whole syllables might be lost in the ENE pronunciation of long words: fancy (ME fantasie).

The sound e before r changed into a: this changes in many cases was reflected in spelling:

Sterre – star

Herte – heart

Kerven – carve

Long vowels

The Great Vowel Shift.

Vowel Shift was a major change in the pronunciation of English language, that took place in England between 14 – close of 17 centuries. Through the Great Vowel Shift, all Middle English long vowels changed their pronunciation.

Before the Great Vowel Shift, Middle English had seven long vowels, /iː eː ɛː aː ɔː oː uː/. Through the Great Vowel Shift, all Middle English long vowels changed their pronunciation. This change was a fundamental one, changing the entire vocalic system, and the essence of it is as follows. All long vowels narrowed, and the narrowest of them turned into diphthongs. The shift resulted in the followings changes: The two closest vowels, /iː uː/, became diphthongs (vowel breaking), and the other five, /eː ɛː aː ɔː oː/, underwent an increase in tongue height(raising).



Date: 2016-03-03; view: 4487

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