Grammatical categories of the Verbals

In OE there were two non-finite forms of the verb: the Infinitive and the Participle. The Infinitive had no verbal grammatical categories. Being a verbal noun by origin, it had a sort of reduced case-system: two forms which roughly corresponded to the Nom. and the Dat. cases of nouns –

beran – uninflected Infinitive (“Nom.” case)

tō berenne or tō beranne – inflected Infinitive (“Dat.” case)

Like the Dat. case of nouns the inflected Infinitive with the preposition tō could be used to indicate the direction or purpose of an action. The uninflected Infinitive was used in verb phrases with modal verbs or other verbs of incomplete predication.

The Participle was a kind of verbal adjective which was characterized not only by nominal but also by certain verbal features. Participle I (Present Participle) was opposed to Participle II (Past Participle) through voice and tense distinctions: it was active and expressed present or simultaneous processes and qualities, while Participle II expressed states and qualities resulting from past action and was contrasted to Participle I as passive to active, if the verb was transitive. Participle II of intransitive verbs had an active meaning; it indicated a past action and was opposed to Participle I only through tense. Participles were employed predicatively and attributively like adjectives and shared their grammatical categories: they were declined as weak and strong and agreed with nouns in number, gender and case.

The verbal system in Old English (morphological classification).

The majority of OE verbs fell into two great divisions: the strong verbs and the weak verbs. Besides these two main groups there were a few verbs which could be put together as “minor” groups. The main difference between the strong and weak verbs lay in the means of forming the principal parts, or “stems” of the verb. The strong verbs formed their stems by means of ablaut and by adding certain suffixes; in some verbs ablaut was accompanied by consonant interchanges. The strong verbs had four stems, as they distinguished two stems in the Past Tense – one for the 1st and 3rd p. sg Ind. Mood, the other – for the other Past tense forms, Ind. and Subj. the weak verbs derived their Past tense stem and the stem of Participle II from the Present tense stem with the help of the dental suffix -d- or -t-; normally they did not interchange their root vowel, but in some verbs suffixation was accompanied by a vowel interchange. Minor groups of verbs differed from the weak and strong verbs. Some of them combined certain features of the strong and weak verbs in a peculiar way (“preterite-present” verbs); others were suppletive or altogether anomalous.

Strong Verbs

The strong verbs in OE are usually divided into seven classes. Classes from 1 to 6 use vowel gradation which goes back to the IE ablaut-series modified in different phonetic conditions in accordance with PG and Early OE sound changes. Class 7 includes reduplicating verbs, which originally built their past forms by means of repeating the root-morpheme; this doubled root gave rise to a specific kind of root-vowel interchange.

The principal forms of all the strong verbs have the same endings irrespective of class: -an for the Infinitive, no ending in the Past sg stem, -on in the form of Past pl, -en for Participle II.

Weak Verbs

The number of weak verbs in OE by far exceeded that of strong verbs.

The verbs of Class I usually were i-stems, originally contained the element [-i/-j] between the root and the endings. The verbs of Class II were built with the help of the stem-suffix -ō, or -ōj and are known as ō-stems. Class III was made up of a few survivals of the PG third and fourth classes of weak verbs, mostly -ǽj-stems.

Minor groups of Verbs

The most important group of these verbs were the so-called “preterite-presents” or “past-present” verbs. Originally the Present tense forms of these verbs were Past tense forms. Later these forms acquired a present meaning but preserved many formal features of the Past tense. Most of these verbs had new Past Tense forms built with the help of the dental suffix. Some of them also acquired the forms of the verbals: Participles and Infinitives. In OE there were twelve preterite-present verbs. Six of them have survived in Mod E: OE āз; cunnan; cann; dear(r), sculan, sceal; maзan, mæз; mōt (NE owe, ought; can; dare; shall; may; must). Most preterite-presents did not indicate actions, but expressed a kind of attitude to an action denoted by another verb, an Infinitive which followed the preterite-present. In other words they were used like modal verbs, and eventually developed into modern modal verbs.

21. Economic and social conditions in the 11-12th centuries.

The OE period in the history of the language corresponds to the transitional stage from the slave-owning and tribal system to the feudal system in the history of Britain. In the 11th c. feudalism was already well established. According to a survey made in the late 11th c. slaves and freemen were declining classes. The majority of the agricultural population ware bound to their lord and land. Under natural economy, characteristic of feudalism, most of the things needed for the life of the lord and the villain were produced on the estate. Feudal manors were separated from their neighbors by tolls, local feuds, and various restrictions concerning settlement, traveling and employment. These historical conditions produced a certain influence on the development of the language. In Early ME the differences between the regional dialects grew. Never in history, before or after, was the historical background more favorable for dialectal differentiation. The main dialectal division in England, which survived in later ages with some slight modification of boundaries and considerable dialect mixture, goes back to the feudal stage of British history.

22. The Scandinavian invasions, the Norman Conquest & the way they influenced English.

Scandinavian invasions

Since the 8th c. the British Isles were ravaged by sea rovers from Scandinavia, first by Danes, later – by Norwegians. By the end of the 9th c. the Danes had succeeded in obtaining a permanent footing in England; more than half of England was yielded to the invaders and recognized as Danish territory – “Danelaw”. The new settlers and the English intermarried and intermixed; they lived close together and did not differ either in social rank or in the level of culture and customs. In the areas of the heaviest settlement the Scandinavians outnumbered the Anglo-Saxon population, which is attested by geographical names. Altogether more than 1,400 English villages and towns bear names of Scandinavian origin (with the element thorp meaning ‘village’, e.g. Woodthorp). Eventually the Scandinavians were absorbed into the local population both ethnically and linguistically. They merged with the society around them, but the impact on the linguistic situation and on the further development of the English language was quite profound. The increased regional differences of English in the 11th and 12th c. must partly be attributed to the Scandinavian influence. Due to the contacts and mixture with O Scand, the Northern dialects had acquired lasting and sometimes indelible Scandinavian features. In later ages the Scandinavian element passed into other regions. The incorporation of the Scandinavian element in the London dialect and Standard English was brought about by the changing linguistic situation in England: the mixture of the dialects and the growing linguistic unification.

The Norman Conquest

The new English king, Edward the Confessor (1042-1066) brought over many Norman advisors and favorites; he distributed among them English lands and wealth to the considerable resentment of the Anglo-Saxon nobility and appointed them to important positions in the government and church hierarchy. He not only spoke French himself but insisted on it being spoken by the nobles at his court. William, Duke of Normandy, visited his court and it was rumored that Edward appointed him his successor. However, the government of the country was still in the hands of Anglo-Saxon feudal lords, headed by the powerful Earl Godwin of Wessex. In 1066, upon Edward’s death, the Elders of England proclaimed Harold Godwin king of England. As soon as the news reached William of Normandy, he mustered (gathered) a big army by promise of land and, with the support of the Pope, landed in Britain. In the battle of Hastings, fought in October 1066, Harold was killed and the English were defeated. This date is commonly known as the date of the Norman Conquest. After the victory at Hastings, William by-passed London cutting it off from the North and made the Witan of London (the Elders of England) and the bishops at Westminster Abbey crown him king. William and his barons laid waste many lands in England, burning down villages and estates. Most of the lands of the Anglo-Saxon lords passed into the hands of the Norman barons, William’s own possessions comprising about one third of the country. Normans occupied all the important posts in the church, in the government and in the army. Following the conquest hundreds of people from France crossed the Channel to make their home in Britain. French monks, tradesmen and craftsmen flooded the south-western towns, so that not only the higher nobility but also much if the middle class was French.


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