Old English was a synthetic language (the lexical and grammatical notions of the word were contained in one unit). It was highly inflected, with many various affixes. The principal grammatical means were suffixation, vowel interchange and supplition.
Suffixation: (1 keep) - (you keep) - (he keeps)
Vowel interchange: (to write) - (I wrote)
Supplition: (to go) - (went)
There was no fixed word-order in Old English, the order of the words in the sentence being relatively free.
The Germanic verbs are divided into two principal groups: strong and weak verbs, depending on the way they formed their past tense forms.
The past tense (or preterite) of strong verbs was formed with the help of Ablaut, qualitative or quantitative. Depending upon the phonetic root structure, the exact manifestation of Ablaut could be somewhat different, and accordingly strong verbs were further subdivided into classes. Weak verbs expressed preterite with the help of the dental suffix -d/-t. They also had stem-forming suffixes, depending on which they fell into separate classes.
There was also a small group of highly frequent suppletive verbs forming their forms from different roots, the same as in other Indo-European languages.
The Germanic verb had a well-developed system of categories, including the category of person (first, second, third), number (singular and plural)1, tense (past and present, the latter also used for expressing future actions), mood (indicative,imperative and optative) and vr_____e (only in Gothic-active and mediopassive). The categorial forms employed synthetic means of form-building.
14. OLD ENGLISH VOCABULARY.
Almost all of it was composed of native words, there were very few borrowings.
Borrowings were mainly from Latin:
a) The forefathers of English, when on the Continent, had contacts with the Roman empire and borrowed words connected mainly with trade: (cheese), (wine),(apple)
b) They borrowed Latin words from the Romanized Celts: (street) (wall), (mill)
c) Some borrowings were due to the introduction of Christianity: (bishop),(devil),(monk)
New words appeared as a result of two processes:
a) word derivation: (fish - fisher) (wool - woolen) (clean - to cleanse)
b) word composition: (sun + day = Sunday) (moon + day = Monday)
15. SCANDINAVIAN INVASION
The end of the Old English period and the beginning of Middle English is marked by two outstanding political events —the Scandinavian invasion and the Norman conquest.
It is impossible to state the exact date of the Scandinavian invasion as it was a long process embracing over two centuries. Various Scandinavian adventurers at the head of their troops came to England wave after wave, although the English offered the invaders a stubborn resistance. At first the invaders fought with the natives, robbed and plundered the country, but later they began to settle on the ands they had managed to conquer.
The kingdom that was the strongest among many existing in Britain at that time and that could consequently withstand the invasion more successfully than any other was the Wessex kingdom, especially under the rule of King Alfred the Great. King Alfred the Great was so powerful and successful in his struggle.
The Scandinavians in England remained very strong through centuries, and at the beginning of the 11th century, namely in the period between 1016 and 1042 the whole of England came under the Scandinavian rule. Although in 1042 England was back under English power, the English king who came to the throne - Edward the Confessor - was to be the last English king for more than three centuries.
The Scandinavian invasion brought about many changes in different spheres of the English language: word-stock, grammar and phonetics. The influence of Scandinavian dialects was especially felt in the North and East parts of England, where mass settlement of the invaders and intermarriages with the local population were especially common. The relative ease of the mutual penetration of the languages was conditioned by the circumstances of the Anglo-Scandinavian contacts, i.e.:
a) There existed no political or social barriers between the English and the Scandinavians, the latter not having formed the ruling class of the society but living on an equal footing with the English;
b) There were no cultural barriers between the two people as they were approximately the same in their culture, habits and customs due to their common origin, both of the nations being Germanic.
c) The language difference was not so strong as to make their mutual understanding impossible, as their speech developed from the same source - Common Germanic, and the words composing the basic word-stock of both the languages were the same, and the grammar systems similar in essence.