Verbals in the history of English

In OE there were two non-finite forms of the verb: the Infini­tive and the Participle. In many respects they were closer to the nouns and adjectives than to the finite verb; their nominal features were far more obvious than their verbal features, especially at the morphological level. The verbal nature of the Infinitive and the Participle was revealed in some of their functions and in their syntactic "combinability": like finite forms they could take direct objects and be modified by ad­verbs.

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 Like the Dat. case of nouns the inflected Infinitive with the prepo­sition to could be used to indicate the direction or purpose of an action.

The Participle was a kind of verbal adjective which was characterized not only by nominal but also by certain verbal features. Par­ticiple 1 (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 slates and qualities resulting from past action and was contrast­ed Jo Participle 1 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.

The forms of the two participles were strictly differentiated. Participle 1 was formed from the Present tense stem (the Infinitive without the endings -an, -ion) with the help of the suffix -ende. Participle II had a stem of Its own — in strong verbs it was marked by a certain grade of the root-vowel interchange and by the suffix -en; with weak verbs it ended in -dl-t Participle 11 was commonly marked by the prefix 3e-, though it could also occur without it, especially if the verb had other word-building prefixes.

Participles were employed predicalively 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 main trends of their evolution in ME and NEcan be defined as gradual loss of most nominal features (except syntactical functions) and growth of verbal features. The simplifying changes in the verb par­adigm, and the decay of the OE inflectional system account for the first of these trends — loss of case distinctions in the infinitive and of forms of agreement in the Participles.

The Infinitive lost its inflected form (the so-called "Dat. case") in Early ME. The preposition to, which was placed to show direction or purpose, lost its prepositional force and changed into a formal sign of the Infinitive. In ME the Infinitive with to does not necessarily express purpose. In order to reinforce the meaning of purpose another preposition, for, was sometimes placed before the inf, but it was lost in early NE.

The distinctions be­tween the two participles were preserved in ME and NE: Par­ticiple I had an active mean­ing and expressed a process or quality simultaneous with the events described by the predicate of the sentence. Par­ticiple II had an active or passive meaning depending on the transitivity of the verb, and expressed a preceding ac­tion or its results in the sub­sequent situation. Participle I coincided with the verbal noun, which was formed in OE with the help of the suffixes -ung and -ing, but had preserved only one suffix, -ing, in ME. In OE Participle 1 was considered Present Participle, had only the form of the Active Voice, possessed the categories of Number, Gender, Case. It was used predicatively and attributively (agreed with the noun in Number, Gender, Case).

In ME it lost its nominal and adjectival features together with the categories of Number, Gender, Case and became unchangeable. In OE P1 had 1 form and in ME there were 4 forms.

Development of the Gerund

The Late ME (14-15c) period witnessed the growth of a new verbal known in modern grammars as the Gerund. The gerund can be traced to three sources; on the basis of verbal noun, but the article and the prepositions were lost and it gained some verbal features like a direct object -J. as well as the frequent absence of article before the ing-form functioning as a noun. Those were the verbal features of the Gerund. The nominal features, retained from the verbal noun, were its syntactic functions and the abil­ity to he modified by a possessive pronoun or a noun in the Gen. case

In the course of time the sphere cf the usage of the Gerund grew: it replaced the Infinitive and the Participle in many adverbial functions; its great advantage was that it could be used with various prepositions It took direct object (verbal feature) (e.g. buying a book); It could be preceded by an article or a possessive pronoun

24. the rise of analytical forms in verbal system in ME.

OE didn’t poses any fully-developed analytical forms but certain free syntactic combinations bagan to approach analytical forms in their function and structure.

Part of new anal forms appeared in ME (future, perfect, passive) but others (cont, do-forms) came into use in NE. The rise of anal. forms can be observed in other Gmc lang too.

The general structure of anal. forms: aux. verb (have lost its own meaning, shows tense, mood, number, person) and a notional verb (Infinitive, Participle 1, 2 forms do not express tense but they have the lexical meaning)

The Future Tense

In the OE language there was no form of the Future tense.. The Pres. tense could indicate both present and future actions, depending on the context Alongside this form there existed other ways of presenting future happenings: modal phrases.

In ME the use of modal phrases, especially with the verb shall, became increasingly common. Shall(scullan) plus Inf. was now the prin­cipal means of indicating future actions in any context. Shall could retain its modal meaning of necessity, but often weakened it to such an extent that the phrase denoted "pure" futurity. In Late ME texts shall was used both as a modal verb and as a Fu­ture tense auxiliary

Future happenings were also commonly expressed by ME willan with an Inf., but the meaning of volition in will must have been more obvious than the modal meaning of shall:

In the age of Shakespeare (14c) the phrases with shall and will as well as the Pres. tense of notional verbs, occurred in free variation; they can express "pure" futurity and add different shades of modal meanings.

In the 17th c. will was sometimes used in a shortened form –‘ll and the rule about the regular interchange of shall and will depending on person was introduced (shall-1st person). The em­ployment of shall and will as Future tense auxiliaries was supported by the use of their Past tense forms — should and would — Ind- and Subj. in similar functions. But nowadays there is a tendency to use will for all persons.

Category of Voice. Passive

In OE the finite verb had no category of Voice.

The analytical passive forms developed from OE verb phrases con­sisting of OE beon (NE be) and weorthan ('become') and Part. II of tran­sitive verbs.

But in the 14th c weorthan died out and passive with 1 aux verb be. In ME beon plus Past Part, developed into an analytical form. Now it could express not only a state but also an action.

ME Passive constructions included a variety of prepositions — from, mid, with, of, by — two were selected and generalised: by and with. Thus in ME the Pass, forms were regularly contrasted to the active forms throughout the paradigm, both formally and semantically. Therefore we can say that the verb had acquired a new grammatical category — the category of Voice.

In Early NE the Pass. Voice continued to grow and to extend its application.

The wide use of various pass, constructions in the 16th and 19th c. testifies to the high productivity of the Pass. Voice At the same time the Pass. Voice continued to spread to new parts of the verb paradigm: the Gerund and the Continuous forms

Perfect Forms.

Like other analytical forms of the verb, the Perf. forms have developed from OE verb phrases. The main source of the Perf. form was the OE "possessive" construc­tion, consisting of the verb habban (NE have), a direct object and Part.2

The participle, like other attributes, agreed with the noun-object in Number, Gender and Case. And inflexions were used to show this agreement. But then the word order became fixed and Part2 was no longer separated from have by an object and inflexions were lost.

Originally the verb kabban was used only with participles of transi­tive verbs; then it came to be used with other verbs.

The other source of the Perl, forms was the OE phrase consisting of the link-verb beon and Part. 11 of intransitive verbs. Beon was used with intransitive verbs and habban with transitive. But in NE the aux verb to be began to disappear from perfrct forms and was replaced by have.

The Perf forms were synonymous with Past simple for many centuries.

Continuous Forms (NE). Category of Aspect

The development of Aspect is linked up with the growth of the Continuous forms. In the OE verb system there was no category of Aspect/ The Cont forms are the peculiarity of English among other Gmc lang.

be+Part 1. Isolated traces of such combination occurred in OE They denoted a quality, or a lasting state, characterising the person or thing indicated by the subject of the. sentence but they were not popular until NE period.

be + Participle 1 = be + on/in + Gerund (indicated a process of limited duration) In the I5th and 16th c. be plus Part. I was often con­fused with a synonymous phrase — be plus the preposition on (or its reduced form a) plus gerund. By that time the Pres. Part, and the verbal noun had lost their formal differences: the Part. I was built with the help of ing and the verbal noun had the word-building suffix -ing, Achasing the deer (=on chasing)

Only in the 19th c Wordsworth introduced cont forms into literature. In the I8th c. that the Cont. forms acquired a specific meaning of their own; to use modern definitions, that of incomplete concrete process of limited duration. Only at that stage the Cont. and non-Cont. made up a new grammatical category — Aspect.

Interrogative and Negative Forms with do (NE)

The Early NE period witnessed the development of a new set of analytical Forms which entered the paradigms interrogative and negative forms with the auxiliary verb do. These forms are known in English grammars as the "periphrasis with do* or "do-periphrasis".

In the 16th and 17th c. the periphrasis with do was used in all types of sentences — negative, affirmative and interrogative; it freely inter­changed with the simple forms, without do.

Towards the end of the 17th c. the use of simple forms and the do-periphrasis became more differentiated: do was found mainly in nega­tive statements and questions, while the simple forms were preferred in affirmative statements. Thus the do-periphrasis turned into analy­tical negative and interrogative forms of simple forms: Pres. and Past.

The growth of new negative and interrogative forms with do can be accounted for by syntactic conditions. By that time the word order in the sentence had become fixed: the predicate of the sentence normally followed the subject. The use of do made it possible to adhere to this order in questions, for at least the notional part of the predicate could thus preserve its position after Ihe subject. In affirmative sentences “do” acquired an emphatic meaning (e.g. Did you really see him? – I did see him, I swear!).

Growth of Analytical Forms and New Grammatical Categories of the Verbals

The development of analytical forms and new grammatical categories has transformed not only the finite verb but also the verbals.

Compound forms of the infinitive appeared at a very early date: the Pass. Inf., consisting of beon plus Part. II, is found in OE text In ME texts we find different types of compound Inf.: the Pass. Inf.. the Perf. Inf. in the Active and Pass, forms Evidently in the 17th c. the Inf. had the same set of forms as it has |n present-day English. The analytical forms of Part. I began to develop later than the forms of the Inf. It was not until the 15th c- that the first compound forms are found in the records: In the 17th c. Part. I is already used in all the four forms which It can build today: Perf. and non-Perf., Pass, and Active, e. g.: The forms of Part. I made a balanced system: Pass, versus Active Perf. versus non-Perf. Part. II remained outside this system, correlated to the forms of Part. I

Compound forms of the Gerund, were the last to appear. The earliest in­stances of analytical forms of the Gerund are found in the age of the Lit­erary Renaissance, —when the Inf. and Part. I possessed already a com­plete set of compound forms. The formal pattern set by the Part, was repeated in the new forms of the Gerund.

26. Causes of Grammatical Changes

The prob­lem of transition from a synthetic to a more analytical grammatical type has given rise to many theories.

In the 19th c. the simplification of English morphology was attrib­uted to the effect of phonetic changes, namely the weakening and loss of unstressed final syllables caused by the heavy Germanic word stress. As the stress was fixed on the root-syllable or the first syllable of the word, the final syllables, i. e. inflectional endings, were reduced and dropped. As a re­sult of phonetic changes many forms fail together and it became diffi­cult to distinguish between cases, genders, numbers and persons. To make up for the losses, new means of showing grammatical relations and of connecting words in a sentence began to develop: prepositions and a fixed word order.

This theory, often called "phonetic", regards sound changes as the primary cause of grammatical changes. And yet if is well known that prepositional phrases were used a long time before the inflections had been dropped. It is true that the changes at different linguistic levels were ­connected, but this does not mean that there could be only one direc­tion of influence — from the lower, phonetic level to the grammatical levels. The interaction of changes at different levels must have operated in different ways in various historical periods, and the changes were de­termined not only by internal linguistic factors but also by external conditions.

The second popular theory, often referred to as "functional", attributed the loss of inflectional endings and the growth of analytical means to functional causes: the endings lost their grammatical role or their functional load and were dropped as unnecessary and redundant for other means began to fulfill their functions. As compared to the pho­netic theory, the changes started at the opposite end: the grammatical inflections of nouns became unnecessary after their functions were taken over by prepositions;

The functional theory first advanced by W. Horn, M. Lehnert and other linguists, was supported by some recent views on language.

A similar approach to the grammatical changes is found in the theo­ry of the "least effort" which claims that the structure of language is an unstable balance between the needs of more numerous expressive means and man's inertia, or his strive for the least effort in achieving the same aims. It is believed that the speakers are always in need of more expressive linguistic means, as the existing means gradually lose their expressive force; these needs, inherent in every living language, account for the use of prepositional phrases alongside case-forms and the growth of verb phrases and analytical forms in addition to simple verb forms.

Although these hypotheses take into account some important general properties of language, they ignore the specific conditions of the devel­opment of English at different historical periods and are therefore in some respects as one-sided as the phonetic theory.

Many scholars ascribe the simplification of the English mor­phology and the general transformation of the grammatical type to cer­tain facts of external history, namely to contacts with other tongues. The age of great grammatical changes — between the 10th and 13th c. was the time of heavy Scandinavian settlement in the North-East and of the Norman Conquest.

In the areas of Scandinavian settlement OE and О Scand intermixed. The two OG languages were not too far apart to allow of a good deal of mutual understanding; they had a large common vocabulary, with certain differences in pronunciation and inflectional endings. Probably distinct pronunciation of the roots was therefore more essential than the pronunciation of endings; consequently grammatical inflections could be missed out and dropped the Northern dialects showed a high degree of levelling and simplification as early as the 10th c, when the other dialects still retained the OE inflectional system. Nevertheless, it should be recalled that some of the simplifying changes started in the South and spread north — those were. e. g. the grammatical changes in personal pronouns.

Another theory ascribes the simplification of the noun and adjective morphology to the mixture of English with О Fr, though this tongue was not closely related to English. According to this view the French language of the Norman rulers of Britain could have played a more decisive role in the grammatical changes than О Scand for the sim­ple reason that it had a far greater effect on the development of English as a whole It is thought that any mixture with a foreign tongue leads to an unsettling of the inflectional system; mixture with О Fr could favour the tendency to greater analyt-icism because at that time French had a more analytical grammatical structure than English. This theory, however, is not confirmed by the chronology of the changes: at the time of strongest French influence — the 13th and 14th c. — English had already lost most of its inflections and had acquired many of its analytical features.

one more popular theory which at­tempted to explain the grammatical changes in English — the so-called "theory of progress advanced by 0. Jespersen. O. Jespersen protested against the interpretation of the history of all IE languages as grammati­cal decay. He tried to show the advantages of the ana­lytical type of language over the synthetic type and presented the his­tory of English as the only way to progress and a superior kind of lan­guage. He believed that the general tendency of all languages was to­wards shorter grammatical forms, though languages differ much in the speeed with which they had been moving in this direction: on this way to an ideal grammatical structure English had reached a more ad­vanced stage than other languages' The theory of progress was severely criticised.

With the exception of the theory of progress, all the other views outlined above are partly correct, since each factor played a cer­tain role in grammatical changes, though it was only one of their causes, and not the only cause. Like other changes, grammatical changes were brought about by numerous intra- and extra linguistic factors, such as the internal tendencies operating at different linguistic levels, the inter-action of these tendencies and Ihe specific external conditions which determined the linguistic situation at different historical periods.

The simplification of the nominal paradigms and the replace­ment of synthetic means by analytical means of word connection — took place mainly in the Early ME period. We should recall that even in OE the nominal system was in some respects inconsistent and con­tradictory: there was little regularity in form-building and the meaning of many cases was unclear

intra linguistic conditions of grammat­ical changes in Early ME:

The phonetic reduction of final unaccented syllables, originally caused by the Germanic word stress, made the grammatical endings less distinct; in Early ME many inflections were weakened and some of them were lost. The main trend In the morphological system was to preserve and to work out reliable formal markers for the most essential grammat­ical distinctions (in the first place* the distinction of number In nouns); this was achieved by means the regular use of the same markers for similar forms. such as prepositions which accompanied the forms of cases and differ­ent types of word order; the use of these reliable means favoured the indistinct pronunciation of the endings and their confusion in writing.

There is no doubt that the extralinguistic conditions contributed to the changes. The increased dialectal divergence of the feudal age, the two foreign influences, Scandinavian and French, and the break in the written tradition made for a wider range of variation, greater gram­matical instability and more intensive realisation of internal tenden­cies.

The transformation was on the whole completed in the 14th—15th c, when some of the co-existing forms and syntactic patterns used in free variation were selected and adopted by the language system and by the prevailing literary dialect — the dialect of London.

The growth of analytical forms in the verb system and the formation of new grammatical categories were also to a certain extent pre-determined by the state of the verb system in OE: the paradigm. of the verb was relatively poor and, in addition to categorial forms of the verb system, the language made wide use of verb phrases and verb-pre­fixes to express a variety of meanings connected with the main meanings of the verb forms — temporal, modal and aspective. The main changes of the ensuing period consisted in the enrichment of the verb system which саше to include new forms in the paradigm and to develop new oppositions and categories.

The changes at the syntactic level can, on the whole, be attributed to the same factors which operated in the evolution of English morphology. The predominance of syntactic ways of word connection, the strict word order, the wide use of prepositional phrases were a part of the general transition of English from the synthetic to the analyt­ical type. Syntactic changes were linked up with simplifying changes in morphology and made a part of a single historical process

Traces of a-stem in Modern English:

· -es (M, Sg, Gen) à ‘s (student’s book) – Possessive Case;

· -as (M, Pl, Nom) à -(e)s (watches, books) – plural ending for the majority of nouns;

· - (N, Pl, Nom) à zero ending(deer, sheep) – homogeneous Sg and

Traces of n-stem in Modern English:

· -an (M, Pl, Nom) à -en (oxen, children, brethren) – irregular plural ending.

· root-sound interchange (M, Pl, Nom) à root-sound interchange (men, geese, mice) – irregular Plural.


OE was largely a synthetic language; it possessed a system of gram­matical forms which could indicate the connection between words; consequently, the functional load of syntactic ways of word connec­tion was relatively small. It was primarily a spoken language, therefore the written forms of the language resembled oral speech. Consequently, the syntax of the sentence was relatively simple; complicated syntactical constructions were rare.

The Phrase. Noun, Adjective and Verb Patterns

The syntactic structure of a language can be described at the level of the phrase and at the level of the sentence. In OE texts we find a variety of word phrases (also: word groups or patterns). OE noun pat­terns, adjective patterns and verb patterns had certain specific features which are important to note in view of their later changes.

A noun pattern consisted of a noun as the head word and pronouns, adjectives (including verbal adjectives, or participles), nu­merals and other nouns as determiners and attributes. Most noun modi­fiers agreed with the noun in gender, number and case, Infinitives and participles were often used in verb phrases

The Simple Sentence

The structure of the OE sentence can be described in terms of Mod E syntactic analysis, for the sentence was made up of the same parts, except that those parts were usually simpler. Attributive groups were short and among the parts of the sentence there were very few predicative constructions ("syntactical complexes"). Absolute constructions with the noun in the Dat. case were sometimes used in translations from Latin in imita­tion oF the Latin Dativus Absolutus. The objective predicative con­struction "Accusative with the Infinitive" occurred in original OE texts:

The connection between the parts of the sentence was shown by the form of the words as they had formal markers for gender, case, number and Person. As compared with later periods agreement and government played an important role in the word phrase and in the sentence. Accordingly the place of the word in relation to other words was of secondary importance and the order of words was relatively free

The presence of formal markers made it possible to miss out some parts of the sentence which would be obligatory in an English sentence now. In the following instance the subject is not repeated but the form of the predicate shows that the action is performed by the same person as the preceding action:

One of the conspicuous features of OE syntax was multiple negation within a single sentence or clause. The most common negative particle was ne, which was placed before the verb; it was often accom­panied by other negative words, mostly naht or noht {which had devel­oped from ne plus d-wikt 'no thing'). These words reinforced the mean­ing of negation:

Another peculiarity of OE negation was that the particle ne could be attached to some verbs, pronouns and adverbs to form single words:

Compound and Complex Sentences. Connectives

Compound and complex sentences existed in the English lan­guage since the earliest times. Even in the oldest texts we find numerous instances of coordination and subordination and a large inventory of subordinate clauses, subject clauses, object clauses, attributive clauses,

Coordinate clauses were mostly Joined by and, a conjunc­tion of a most general meaning, which could connect statements with various semantic relations.

Repetition of connectives at the head of each clause (termed "correlation") was common in complex sentences:

Attributive clauses were joined to the principal clauses by means of various connectives, there being no special class of relative pronouns. The main connective was the indeclinable particle pe employed either alone or together with demonstrative and personal pronouns:

The pronouns could also be used to join the clauses without the par­ticle pe:

Word Order

The order of words in the OE sentence was relatively free. The position of words in the sentence was often determined by logical and stylistic factors rather than by grammatical constraints.

The order of words could depend on the communicative type of the sentence — question versus statement, on the type of clause, on the presence and place of some secondary parts of the sentence.

Inversion was used for grammatical purposes in questions; full in­version with simple predicates and partial — with compound predi­cates, containing link-verbs and modal verbs:

A peculiar type of word order is found in many subordinate and in some coordinate clauses: the clause begins with the subject following 'be connective, and ends with the predicate or its finite part, all the secondary parts being enclosed between them

Different types of word order couid be used in similar syntactical conditions. It appears that in many respects OE syntax was characterised by a wide range of varia­tion and by the co-existence of various, sometimes even opposing, tend­encies

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