Lecture 14. Evolution of the ME Nominal Morphology.



1. Adjective. Decay of declensions and grammatical categories of the adjective.

2. Pronouns.

3. Development of articles.


In ME the adjectives underwent greater simplifying changes than any other part of speech. The adjective lost all its grammatical categories except the degrees of comparison.

In OE adjective indicated the gender, case and number of the noun it modified, it had 2 declensions weak and strong and a five-case paradigm.

The strong and the weak forms of adjectives were often confused in EME texts. Sometimes a strong form was used after a demonstrative pronoun: in þere wildere sæ in that wild sea instead of wilden sæ.


In the 14th century the difference between the strong and weak form is sometimes indicated in the singular with the help of e:

Str. sg blind pl blinde

w. sg blinde pl blinde


By the end of the OE period the agreement of the adjective with the noun became looser and in ME it was lost. This process began in the North and spread in the South.

The 1st category to disappear was gender: it was not distinguished by the adjectives in the 11th century.

The number of cases shown in the adjective paradigm was reduced: the Inst. case fused with the Dat. by the end of OE; distinction of other cases in early ME was unsteady many variant forms of different cases which arose in ME, coincided.

In the 13th c. case was indicated only by some adjective endings in the strong declension (but not by the weak forms); towards the end of the century all case distinctions were lost.

Number was the most stable nominal category in all the periods. In the 14th c. plural forms were contrasted to the singular forms with the help of the ending e in the strong declension. This marker was regarded as insufficient, for in the 13th and 14th c. there appeared a new plural ending s.

The use of s is attributed either to the influence of the ending s of nouns or to the influence of French adjectives which take s in the plural:

In other places delitables in other delightful places.

In the age of Chaucer the adjective paradigm consisted of 4 forms distinguished by the ending e.

sg pl

s. blind blinde

w. blinde blinde


These endings were used only for monosyllabic adjectives bad, good, long. Polysyllabic adjectives took no endings: ME able, swete, bisy were uninflected. So singular and plural forms were often confused: arves, bright and kene arrows bright and keen.

The distinctions between the singular and plural forms, weak and strong forms could not be preserved for long the reduced ending [∂] was very unstable. In Chaucers poems e was always missed out in accordance with the requirements of the rhythm.

Conclusion. The loss of final e in the late ME made the adjective an uninflected part of speech.




The morphology of pronouns like the morphology of other nominal parts of speech was simplified.

Some lexical replacements in the sphere of personal pronouns of the 3p.sg. were introduced. Pronoun hēo she was replaced by the group of variants: he, ho, sce, sho, she. The latter she- prevailed. It developed from the OE demonstrative form seo that. The form she was a marked one: it was preserved in E to avoid homonymy and not to be coincided with masc. he.

In ME the OE 3p.pl. hie was replaced by the Scandinavian loan-word they. It came from the North and was adopted by the London dialect. It ousted the nom. hie, while them and their replaced the OE oblique cases hem and heora. But both sets of forms occur side by side in ME:

That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.

In the 17th and 18th c. the plural forms of the 2p. ye, you, your were applied generally to individuals ousting the OE thou, thee, thy. Thou became obsolete and now its used in poetry, religion, dialects. In Shakespeares time both forms are interchanged:


But if thou life, rememberd not to be,

Die single, and thine image dies with thee.

Or I shall live your epitaph to make

Or you survive when I in earth am rotten.


Demonstrative Pronouns. Development of Articles


Demonstrative Pronouns were Adjective-pronouns and in ME they lost most of their inflected forms. OE se , seo , þæt , þes , þēos , þis became this , that , thise (these) , those .

The Pl number in Dem. Pronoun is now an archaic trait because no other noun modifier agrees with the N in number.


In OE the pronouns se, sēo, þæt were used as N-determiners with a weakened meaning, approaching that of the modern definite articles. In the 11-12th centuries this use of the dem. Pronoun becomes more common. The article became an uninflected form the chiknes.


In ME the definite article came to be opposed to the indefinite article, which developed from the OE numeral and indefinite pronoun ān.

In ME ān lost its inflections and became an indefinite article: a worthy man.


But sometimes we find the instances of absence of the articles contrary to MnE rules (e.g. no article before a countable concrete N used in indef. sense).


The growth of the articles was connected with syntactical and morphological changes:


1. Relative freedom in Word Order in OE made it possible to use WO for communicative purposes to present a new thing or to refer to a familiar thing. After the loss of inflections the WO assumed a grammatical function to show the S, O etc and their fixed places. The communicative functions passed to the articles.


2. The development of the def. article is connected with the loss of distinctions between strong and weak adjectives. Strong Adj. revealed the meaning if indefiniteness which later was transferred to ān. Weak Adj. were used with the demonstrative Pronouns and revealed the meaning of definiteness. The decay of Adj. declensions speeded up the growth of articles.


Interrogative, Indefinite, Relative Pronouns


OE interrogative Pronoun hwa was reduced to 2 forms who (nom) and whom (Obj. case). In ME these forms were distinguished, but in NE they are confused: Who is there? Between who?

It is quite common today.


The Gen. case hwæs developed into a separate interrogative Pronoun whose. OE hwi Inst. Case is used as a separate Pronoun why. OE hwelc yielded ME which. OE hwæþer ME whether was used as a Pronoun which of the two but later became a conjunction.

OE indef. Pronouns ælc > each, æg-hwelc > each, swelc such, nan-þing nothing were simplified. New types of compound indef. Pronouns came into use with the component thing, -body, -one: anybody, somebody etc.


Relative Pronouns developed from OE demon. and interrog. Pronouns who, what, which, where, whose, how, why. They connect the subordinate clauses in complex sentences.




  3. LECTURE 1. Contrastive Stylistic as a Linguistic Discipline
  4. Lecture 12. Evolution of the ME Lexical System.
  5. LECTURE 13
  6. Lecture 16
  7. Lecture 16
  8. Lecture 4

: 576

<== | ==>

? google:


© studopedia.com.ua '.

: 0.002 .