Home Random Page



Changes in Old English

vowel phonemes

1.2.0. The changes that took place in the prehistoric period of the development of the English language and which explain the difference between Old English and Common Germanic vowels were of two types: assimilative changes and independent (non-assimilative) changes.Independent changes do not depend upon the environment in which the given sound was found. They cannot be explained, but they are merely stated.

Common Germanic Old English

ai> a

a> e, etc.

Assimilative changes are explained by the phonetic position of the sound in the word and the change can and must be explained. Among the many phonetic assimilative changes which took place in the prehistoric period of the development of the English language and which account for the discrepancy between the Old English and the Common Germanic vowel system the most important are breaking and palatal mutation.

3. BreakingThe process of breaking took place in the 6 century. It affected two vowels [se] and [e] when they were followed by the consonants [r], [1], [h] generally followed by another consonant.The resulting vowel was a diphthong (hence the name "breaking" a monophthong "was broken" into a diphthong), consequently the

process may be summed up" as diphthongization of short vowels []and [e] before certain consonant clusters.

For example:a; > ea before r+consonant asrm > earm (arm)1+consonant asld > eald (old)h+consonant aehta > eahta (eight)hfinalsseh > seah (saw)e > ea before r+consonant herte > heorte (heart)lc+consonant melcan meolcan (to milk)1h+consonant selh > seolh (seal)hfinal feh > feoh (cattle)

4. Palatal mutationThe qualitative change of Old English vowels that experts call palatal mutation, or i-mutation, occurred somewhere during 6th7th centuries. The process affected Germanic words where a

vowel in a stressed syllable was immediately followed by the sound [i]or [j] in the next syllable. Almost all vowels, both diphthongs and monophthongs, in the context described above became further

forward and higher, or more palatal and more narrow, with the exception of [e] and [i] which could go no further. This may be described as a kind of vowel hamiony a natural process affecting many modern languages: the vowels mutate, the change being caused by their partial assimilation to the following vowel (or semi-vowel).


a>e* strangipu> strengpu1 (strength)

ae > e*tselian> tellan (to tell)

a > *halian> hiilan (to heal)

>e*ofstian> efstan (to hurry)

>*domian> deman (to deem)

u >*fullian> fyllan (to fill)

>*cubian> cypan (to announce)

As a result of palatal mutation new phonemes entered the vowel-

system in Old English the vowel phoneme [y] and. the vowel

phoneme [y], the result of the mutation of [u] and [], respectively.


ea > ie*ealdira> ieldra (elder)

> *3eleafian> 3el!efan (to believe)

eo > ie*afeorrian> afierran (to remove)

to > *3etreowi> 3etnewe (true)

5. Effect of palatal mutation upon grammar and word-stockThough palatal mutation was a phonetic process it left traces in Old English grammar and word-stock.Grammar: As a result of the process of palatal mutation

there appeared vowel gradation in the system of the declension of nouns (root-stem declension). In the system of adjectives we have vowel gradation in the degrees of comparison, in the system of verbs vowel gradation is found in Old English irregular weak verbs.1 Word-stock: Palatal mutation resulted in vowel interchange as a

word building means.

Adjective Verb

ful (full) fyllan (fill)

Noun Verb

dom (doom) deman (deem)

Verb Verb

sittan (sit)s ettan (set)

13. Old English consonants. Dependence of the quality of the consonant phoneme upon its environment in the word. Grimm's law, Verner's law.

The Old English consonant system consisted of some consonant phonemes denoted by the letters p, b, m, f , t, d, n, s, r, l , p ,c, 3, h.

The consonant system in Old English manifested the following peculiarities. 1. The relatively small number of consonant phonemes only 14 phonemes.

2. The absence of affricates and fricative consonants which we now find in the language such as [d3], [J]> [3]

3. Dependence of the quality of the phoneme upon its environment in the word. Among the 14 consonant phonemes that existed in Old English there were at least 5 that gave us positional variants which stand rather wide apart. 1 The phonemes denoted by the letters f , p, z or s are voiced or voiceless depending upon their phonetic position. They are generally voiced in the so-called "intervocal position" that is between vowels and voiceless otherwise. 2. The phoneme denoted by the letter also gave at least two variants palatal [k'] and velar [k]. In the majority of cases it was a velar consonant and palatal generally before the vowel i.

3. Similar remarks can be made about the phoneme denoted by the letter z: we have the voiced velar plosive variant [g] of it at the beginning of the word before back vowels or consonants or in the middle of the word after Grimm's law & Verner's lawn Grimm's law explains the correspondence between certain groups of Germanic and non-Germanic consonants. Those correspondences involve three sets of Germanic consonants consequently they generally speak of three stages of Grimm's law. But we shall speak here about only one stage which is the simplest to explain and the most consistent the Germanic consonants [f], [s] [h] and the corresponding consonants [p], [t] [k] we find in similar phonetic environment. A careful analysis of Germanic words and the correspondingIndo-European words other than Germanic shows, however, that there are certain words or word-forms in Germanic languages where instead of the expected voiceless fricative consonants we find in Germanic languages voiced plosive consonants. These seeming "exceptions" to the rule are a result of the further development of the fricative consonants which appeared in Germanic languages after the first consonant shift. The essence of this change was explained by Karl Verner.

14. Old English grammar. General survey of the nominal system. The noun. Gender. Number. Case.

The Old English language was a synthetic language which means that all the principal grammatical notions were expressed by a change of the form of the word in the narrow meaning of the term. The grammatical means that the English language used were primarily a) suffixation, b) vowel gradation and c) use of suppletive forms. Old English was a highly inflected language. The abundance of inflections resulted from the fact that the paradigm of declension and the paradigm of conjugation were formed by many grammatical categories and there was more than one declension in the system of declension and more than one conjugation in the system of conjugation due to the splitting of the once uniform paradigm in accordance with the original structure of the word.

1. General survey of ihe nominal system There were five declinable parts of speech in Old English: the noun, the pronoun, the adjective, the numeral, the participle. The nominal paradigm in Old English was characterised by the following grammatical categories. As we can see, the paradigms of different parts of speech had the same number of grammatical categories but these parts of speech were different in the number of categorial forms composing a given grammatical category. Hence the system of forms of each part of speech requires special consideration. 2. The noun The Old English noun paradigm was composed by the following grammatical categories: gender, number, case. Gender The category of gender was formed by the opposition of three gender-forms: masculine, feminine and neuter. All nouns, no matter whether they denoted living beings, inanimate things or abstract notions belonged to one of the three genders. The subdivision of Old English nouns in accordance with their grammatical gender is traditional, the correspondence between the meaning of the word and its grammatical gender being hard to trace.

Some nouns denoting animals were also treated as neuter, such as cicen (chicken), hors (horse), etc. The grammatical gender did not always coincide with the natural gender of the person and sometimes even contradicted it (thus, for instance, the noun wifman (woman) was declined as Masculine). Number The grammatical category of number was formed by the opposition of two categorial forms: the singular [fisc (fish)] and the plural [fiscas]. Case The Old English noun formed its paradigm by the opposition of three genders, two numbers and four cases. Thus, presumably, the noun had twenty-four word-forms. On the whole the same could be observed in Common Germanic. In the course of the development of Old English, however, the original paradigm had undergone great changes due to the fusion of the original stem suffix and the original grammatical ending into one element which from the point of view of Old English is to be regarded as a grammatical ending. As a result of that fusion nouns that are known to have had different stem-suffixes originally in Old English acquired materially different endings in the same case, for example: Nominative plural a-stem o-stem n-stem stan-as (stones) car-a (cares) nam-an (names), etc.

Date: 2015-01-29; view: 4947

<== previous page | next page ==>
Establishment of the literary norm | Old English grammar. Declensions in Old English. Vowel-Stems. Declension of a-stem nouns. Consonant stems. Declension of n-stem nouns. Declension of root-stem nouns.
doclecture.net - lectures - 2014-2024 year. Copyright infringement or personal data (0.007 sec.)