ME and ENE grammar.

1. Early New English background. Conditions for linguistic unity.

2. The establishment of the literary norm. The Age of Renaissance.

3. The Age of Normalisation.

4. English outside Britain.

5. Changes in phonetics and spelling.

6. Development of the vocabulary.

7. Causes of grammatical changes. ME and ENE grammar:

a) the Noun;

b) the Adjective;

c) the Pronoun;

d) the Article;

e) the Verb.

1. Early New English is considered to be the period of the national literary English language formation. There were two major events that influenced the rise of the language and its further development: unification of the country and the progress of culture. Economic and political unification of the country prompted linguistic unity, and due to the progressive influence of the Renaissance movement the language underwent a period of the greatest changes it had ever seen.

In the 15th and 16th c. all the basics of the political, social and economic life in the country were changing: the old feudal relations were dying out and the new bourgeois mode of production was establishing its position. Trade, farming and cattle breeding were developing rapidly. The first big enterprises began to export woolen cloth. There appeared two new social classes, those of bourgeoisie, and workers. Due to these changes people from different regions of the country came to big cities in search of work, and that led to strengthening of ties between the various parts of the country.

In the first quarter of the 15th c. England became a centralized state. The unification was preceded by the War of the Roses (1455-1485) which, on the one hand, weakened the English throne, and, on the other hand, resulted in the establishment of a strong royal power under Henry VII, the founder of the Tudor dynasty. His reign is known as the period if prosperity and stability for England. Henry VII built a new nation-state on the ruins of the old nobility which had practically exterminated itself during the wars. He based his power on the support of the new aristocracy which he created out of the rural and town bourgeoisie and is known for having laid the foundations of one of the most fruitful periods of the English history. He was diplomatic enough to avoid quarrels with neighbouring Scotland and France and careful in handling the state finances. It was Henry VII who built a powerful merchant fleet, which led to England's domination in international trade. Those were important steps towards the establishment of England as a world power.

His son, Henry VIII, was a brilliant scholar and tried to make England politically important in Europe, but he was too self-centered and extravagant to realize the idea. Once having been nominated 'Defender of the Faith' for his theological work as a young man, Henry had little influence on the Pope of Rome, and the Church could disobey him. Wishing to subdue it he broke with the church of Rome and declared himself head of the English Church in the first half of the XVI c. on the pretext that the Pope refused to give agreement to his divorce with his first wife, who failed to supply him with a male heir. The event marked the complete victory of the crown and beginning of the absolute monarchy.

Elizabeth I contributed much to the unification and prosperity of the country avoiding quarrels with European countries and spending a considerable part of the budget on building a strong fleet. The role of the Parliament, tough was quite limited: it was called only to obtain and to win support of merchants and yeomen. The House of Commons became more influential (because it was richer) though it was not representative. It was commonly practiced to sell official positions in those days.

The political and economic unification was accompanied by progressive changes in the realm of culture. The 15th and 16th c. are marked by an interest in literature and a general efflorescence of culture. In England a new requirement of the period was the education of the newly formed class of bourgeoisie. In the 12th c. the universities of Oxford and Cambridge were founded, they became the centers of humanistic learning. Education was no longer a privilege of the clergy. As before, Latin was the main subject in schools. Scientific and philosophical treatises were written in Latin, Latin was the language of religion, philosophy and science. English, being considered a rude tongue, was used only as an instrument to teach Latin.

For the language, the greatest achievement was the introduction of printing. The earliest publications included the poems of Geoffrey Chaucer, John Gower and John Lydgate. The first printer, William Caxton, was interested in publishing the works of the medieval writers from England and the continent. The published works included many translations from French.

Before publishing, William Caxton edited the texts so that to bring the language into conformity with the norms of the London dialect. This had contradicting effects: on the one hand, he sometimes distorted the manuscripts, on the other hand, he prompted the further spread of the London dialect. The language the first printers used was the London literary English established since the Age of Chaucer, and due to the low price of the printed books it was quickly carried to other regions and later was imitated in the written works all over England.

Due to printing, English spelling became more normalized. The variants given by Caxton were accepted as standard and have survived till nowadays.

2. The establishment of the literary norm of the language was closely connected with the period of literary Renaissance which began in Europe in the early 15th c. and spread to England in the 16th c. This epoch was the period of newly aroused interest to the linguistic matters. As before, the main subject at schools was Latin and the English language was considered as a "rude" tongue that could be used as an instrument to teach Latin.

At the same time, discussions concerning the possibility of writing scientific works in the vernacular were held in England, France, Italy and other countries of Western Europe. The very fight for the native tongue was progressive and was an expression of nation's consciousness. Simultaneously, the most progressively-minded circles of European society fought with scholasticism of Middle Ages, representatives of which tried to preserve Latin as a language of religious and scientific treatises that provided against availability of the latter for all the social layers.

But it was necessary to have scientific books in the vernacular to simplify the teaching process. The end of XV c. was the time of great geographic discoveries. The merchants wishing to trade with the New World, and that required the knowledge of mathematics, astronomy, sea navigation and the elementary data about the countries they were going to. So, while the supporters of both Latin and English were holding on their debates the unknown translators did their job and translated the descriptions of the overseas lands and the guides in the exact sciences. In the course of the XVI c. Latin was completely ousted from all the spheres of writing. Anyway, the English language did not have its own terminology, and the terms were created on the bases of Latin borrowings.

Of all the important events that took place in the Early New English period introduction of printing was to play the crucial role in establishing English as the national language. By the end of XVI c. English had become a national language. The difference with a dialect is geographic: the dialect is spoken on a certain territory and is not understood beyond it, whereas the national language is an accepted standard all over the country. The dialect by that time had had no written form as the national language was used in all spheres of writing: state documents, scientific works and fiction. It also becomes everyday speech of educated citizens, especially in London with its suburbs. In more distant areas dialects still exist and influence standard English which results in the creation of local dialects, but gradually the national tongue absorbs them. Still, the dialects survive in oral speech till nowadays.

The 15th and 16th c. in Europe are marked by a renewed interest in classical art and literature. The key literary figures in the English Renaissance are now generally considered to be the poet Edmund Spenser; the philosopher Francis Bacon; the poets and playwrights Christopher Marlowe, William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson; and the poet John Milton. Sir Thomas More is often considered one of the earliest writers of the English Renaissance. He wrote his Utopia in Latin, it was translated into English 35 years later. During the period many classics, collections of sermons and theological compositions were translated into English. The other representatives of the age were poets John Lyly, Philip Sydney. William Shakespeare is recognized to be the master of the English tongue of the period. His works best represent the language of the day. His vocabulary included over 20,000 words, his style is characterized by freedom in creating new words and new meanings and versatility of grammatical construction.

3. The age of Renaissance was followed by the age of "normalization", or "fixing the language norms". In 1664 a special committee for "improving the English tongue" was established by the Royal Society. Its members considered the fixed structures of the dead Latin and Greek languages to be the perfection to be followed and they suggested that no linguistic change should "corrupt" the English language. The XVIII c. is known for the attempts to block the language progress and fix the language phenomena as they were. The movement was supported by the writer Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), the founders of the first English newspapers Richard Steele and Joseph Addison, the authors of prescriptive English grammars and the great 18th c. lexicographers.

In the 60-s of XVI c. France was the first European country to recognize the necessity to teach the vernacular at school alongside other subjects. The idea was favoured by the progressive people in England and from the beginning of XVII c. English was taught at schools as well.

It was widely understood that it was necessary to distinguish the "right" in the language from the "wrong". In 1589 George Puttenham in his book "The art of English Poesy" wrote that the speech of the court and Londoners was to be taken as the norm. Still, in the very national standard there were variants in both pronunciation and grammar. XVII and XVIII c. saw the appearance of numerous grammars and dictionaries describing the rules of pronunciation and grammar. Alongside linguistic works the questions of the language were widely discussed in other educated people's circles.

The creation of the Academy of Sciences in France which concentrated mainly on the problems of the language, aroused great interest in England. The necessity of a similar Academy, whose duty would have been to establish the linguistic norm and to make its use obligatory, was widely pronounced in England. Several projects of such an Academy are still preserved but the idea was not to be realized as the bourgeois revolution and Restoration drew the public's attention away from the linguistic matters. Later orthographers and grammarians were active enough to make the establishment of the Academy unnecessary.

The most important linguistic works of the period were Hart's "Orthographie of English speech" (1580), William Bullokar's "Booke at large for the amendment of Orthographie for English Speech", A. Gill's "Logonomia Anglica" (1621), Charles Butler's "English Grammar" (1634), Ch. Cooper's "Grammatica Linguae Anglicanae" (1685), John Jones's "Practical Phonography" (1701) and John Walker's "Historical Grammar" (1801). These authors not only tried to describe the grammatical level of the language but also the rules of reading, spelling and pronunciation. They tried to describe the contemporary pronunciation and recommend on how to articulate the sound, but the drawback was that not always did they distinguish between the sound and the letter; sometimes they confused digraphs and diphthongs.

The first English grammars were compiled on the basis of the Latin ones, those of W. Bullokar (XVI c.), B. Jonson, Ch. Butler, G.Wallis and others. They interpreted language phenomena as they were in Latin grammars. Anyway, in this period there were grammarians who stuck to the traditional views and those who were more progressive. They did not agree on the points of parts of speech, number of noun cases, etc.

In XVII and the beginning of XVIII c. their were two trends in grammar: representatives of the first one considered that language norms were to proceed from reason, or logics, whereas their opponents were of the view that rules should be established on the basis of traditional usage. In fact, these principles of 'reason' and 'tradition' were only considered when solving disputable questions, e.g. when it was necessary to give preference to one of the two existing variants.

In the second half of XVIII c. the grammarians were aiming at 'perfecting' the language and fixing it forever. The attempts were preceded by the fact that the linguists having witnessed the unavoidable linguistic evolution were frightened by the fact of the possible oblivion of their great countrymen, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dryden and the others. Their second task consisted in creating the rules and recommendations because by the end of XVIII c. it was commonly understood that the idea to fix the language was nothing more but utopia.

The most outstanding representative of the "correctness", or "reason" trend, was R. Lowth, the author of "A Short Introduction to English Grammar" (1758). In this book, a volume of recommendations and prohibitions, Lowth says his word against using double comparatives (more stronger), against the It's me construction. He considers the variant had better to an incorrect decoded form of the abbreviation I'd better, instead of I would better.

The opposite trend is represented by J. Priestley, the author of "The Rudiments of English Grammar" (1761). Priestley insists on following the traditional usage though in disputable matters he prefers to be "reasonable", thus indirectly supporting his opponents.

"English Grammar" published in 1795 by an American Lindley Murray got the widest recognition and was used in XIX c. for teaching many generations of Englishmen. Murray declares himself a supporter of the "tradition" but, in fact, he establishes certain obligatory rules, e.g. he prohibits adverbs without the suffix ly,as inDo it quick!, and the combination these kind of things.Murray's book was republished unchanged more than 150 times and than, more than 100 times with amendments.

Meanwhile, lexicographers were working at fixing the English vocabulary. The first dictionaries of XV c. were Latin-English, but later, in XVI c. there also appeared dictionaries of "hard" words including archaic and the rarely used Latin words (Robert Cawdrey and H. Cockeram). E. Coles compiles a dictionary of robbers' jargon.

The explanatory dictionaries of the period did not describe all the words in the language and the etymological data sometimes did not coincide with the real origin of the words but they were an important step forward. Nathaniel Bailey's "Universal Etymological English Dictionary" included the greater portion of the Early New English lexis and gave information on the origin of the words.

In 1755 there appears "A Dictionary of the English Language, in which the words are deduced from their originals and illustrated in their different significations by examples from the best writers" compiled by Samuel Johnson. Johnson tries to preserve the orthography of the day; in pronunciation he distinguishes between 2 types "cursory and colloquial" and "regular and solemn" and recommends the latter, which is characterized by the distinct pronunciation of words. The entries of Johnson's dictionary contain definitions of meaning, illustrations of usage, information on the words' etymology and stylistic comments. Johnson did not include professionalisms in his dictionary as he considered it impossible to know all the professions well enough to be entitled to give explanations to the terms.

The importance of Johnson's work was too great to let the later authors deviate from the rules prescribed by the dictionary. Today the Oxford Dictionary is based on the data gathered by Samuel Johnson.

4. In the last three hundred years the English language has reached all the continents of the world and the number of English speaking people has increased greatly. In Old English and Early Middle English the English dialects were only spoken on the territory known as England proper; from Late Middle English to the 17th c. it occupied a wider area extending to the whole of the British Isles with the exception of some mountainous areas in Scotland and Wales. The number of English speaking people was about one and a half or two million people at the beginning of XI c.; in 1700 it was over eight million speakers; by 1900 it had reached 123 million people.

In XIX c. there appeared the first works on the American English language. The first works containing Americanisms was "A Vocabulary, or Collection of Words and Phrases which have been supposed to be peculiar to the United States of America" by John Pickering. Anyway, Pickering tried to avoid using non-British patterns.

American English was proclaimed to be an independent language by Noah Webster (1758 1843) whose work was opposed to Pickering's in an attempt to defend the Americans' right to have their own language. In 1828 he published "An American Dictionary of the English Language" in which he gave the American variants of pronunciation and spelling. Webster, supporting the idea of the language simplification, played an important role in the establishing of the simplified variants of spelling accepted today.

The disputable question today is that of the status of the language in America. As is known, British and American English are not different enough not to be understood by the either side; any person knowing one of the variants can easily understand a written text in the other. These facts prove that the American variant cannot be separated as the American language.

On the other hand, the language of the USA is a state language, the language of the American nation and cannot be considered as a "corrupt" variant of British English. There have been views, popularizing the idea of American English being an independent language, e.g. H.L. Menken in his book "The American Language" (1938) insists that the language of the USA has nothing in common with that of Britain except the origin. He also insists on making slang the norm of the language.

English expansion to Canada started in XVII c. In XVIII c. the number of British immigrants grew rapidly. The newcomers from Scotland and Ireland inhabited the territory, which got the name of Nova Scotia. In 1763, after the British interference Canada was made a part of British territories, and in 1867 it became a British dominion. Since 1931 Canada has been included into the Commonwealth. French has been preserved in some areas, e.g. in Quebec. English is the state language, it has but a few differences with the American variant.

The expansion of English to Asia is mainly connected with the occupation of India, acquiring some other possessions in Asia and turning them into colonies, dominions or protectorates. In this way the English language spread to many Asian countries as the language of state and writing.

Australia, once being a place of deportation of British convicts, later saw a flow of immigrants attracted by the free grants of land and, then, by the discovery of gold. The greater number of the immigrants were from Great Britain. Some linguists regard Australian English to be an independent geographical variant of English but the difference is not great, it is confined to some phonetic and lexical differences. At the end of XIX c. J. Lake published "A Dictionary of Australian Words" (1898).

Like in America, there are two opposing movements in the questions of the language status in Australia: representatives of the first prefer to keep to tradition and maintain the British norm, the other ones insist on the right to have their own language. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), as distinct from BBC, broadcasts in Australian English attracting more and more viewers.

5. The numerous changes in the phonetic system of the language that took place in the course of Middle English and Early New English influenced both the consonants and the vowels.

The vowels in the unstressed position which had already been neutralized to the (ә) type during Middle English are dropped in New English if they are found in the endings of words, e.g.

nama (OE) name (ME) name (NE);

sunu (OE) sone (ME) son (NE).

Sometimes the vowel is preserved for phonetic reasons:

wanted, dresses.

Stressed vowels have undergone both qualitative and quantitative changes. All long monophthongs in the XV XVII c. underwent The Great Vowel Shift, due to which the vowels were narrowed and fronted:

[ā] > [ei]: make make;

[ē] > [i:]: see see;

[o] < [ou]: ston stone, etc.

The long close vowels [ū] and [ī] firstly changed into diphthongs of the [uw] or [ij] type, but they were unstable and gradually gave way to [au] and [ai]:

[u] > [au]: hous house;

[i] > [ai]: time time.

Two short monophthongs changed their quality in New English (XVII c.):

[a] > [æ]: that that;

[u] > [Λ]: cut cut.

These processes depended to a certain extent upon the preceding sounds, e.g. a) when [a] was preceded by [w] it changed into [כ]; b) [u] preceded by [p], [b] or [f] often did not change into [Λ]:

a) [a] > [æ]: that (ME) that (ME)

[a] > [כ]: was (ME) was (NE) (but: wax [wæks])

b) bull, butcher, pull, push, full, etc. (but: but [bΛt])

The consonant [r] had its influence upon the Great Vowel Shift. When a long vowel was followed in a word by the consonant [r] the given consonant did not prevent the Great Vowel Shift, but the resulting vowel was more open than the resulting vowel in such cases when the long vowel undergoing the shift was followed by a consonant other than [r], e.g.:

[ei] but [εə] fate but fare

[i:] but [iə] steep but steer

[ai] but [aiə] time but tire

[u:] but [uə] moon but moor

[au] but [auə] house but hour

Two out of the four Middle English diphthongschanged in New English, the diphthong [ai] becoming [ei] and the diphthong [au] contracted to [כ:]:

[ai] > [ei]: dai day;

[au] > [כ:]: lawe law.

The most important quantitative change of vowels was the lengthening of the vowel, when it was followed by the consonant [r]. Short vowels followed by the consonant [r] became long after the disappearance of the given consonant at the end of the word or before another consonant:


[a] > [a:]: farm farm;

[o] > [כ:]: hors horse.

The consonant [r] following the vowels [e], [i] and [u] changed not only their quantity but also quality:

her [hε:];

fur [fε:];

fir [fε:].

The sound [h] before [t] also changed the quality of the preceding vowel:

might [mait];

night [nait];

fight [fait].

In the system of consonants there were the following changes:

1) appearance of [g] and development of [dg] and [t∫] from palatal consonants. This change took place in native words. Thus Middle English [sj], [zj], [tj], [dj] gave in New English the sounds [s], [g], [t∫], [dg]. This change took place in borrowed words.

2) Certain consonants disappeared at the end of the word or before another consonant, e.g. the sound [r] was longer pronounced in the mentioned position: stern, horn, firm, horse, etc.

3) The fricatives [s], [θ] and [f] were voiced after unstressed vowels or in words having no sentence stress the so-called Verners Law in New English: possess, observe; the, this, that, there, then, though, etc.

While the Old English spelling was mainly phonetic, Middle English and New English witnessed many changes in the English spelling, which were the result of the influence of other languages. The first serious shift in the sphere of spelling took place after the Norman conquest, when some runic characters went out of use, e.g. þ ("thorn") and ρ ("wen"); ð and þ [ð/θ] were replaced by th (þat that), æ [ę] was replaced by e (lætan - leten), ρ [w] was replaced by w. Simultaneously, some letters, which had already existed in Old English, expanded their sphere of usage, like the letter k; some letters were introduced:

jfor [dg] (in words of French origin: joy, judge),

gfor [g] and [dg] (god, singe), v for [v] (love),

k for [k] (instead of c before front vowels and n: OE drincan ME drinken, OE cnawan ME knowen),

q for [kw] or [k] (OE cwen NE queen) and zfor [z] (zeal).

Many digraphs appeared:


ch for the sound [t∫]: cild child;

ch for the sound [k] in Latin borrowings: chemical;

ph for the sound [f] in Latin borrowings: phonology;

th for the sound [ð, θ]: þencan thinken, moðor mother;

sh for the sound [∫]: scip ship;

gh for the sound [χ] rigt right;

dg for the sound [dg]: brycg bridge;

and vowel digraphs:

ou/ow [u:]: hus hous, tun town;

ea [e]: mete meat;

ee [e]: fet feet;

oo [o]: fot foot;

ie [e:]: feld field;

oa [o]: bat boat.

Another major event that resulted in spelling shifts the revival of learning in XVI c. It led to the introduction of a new, etymological, principle of spelling. It was believed that the spelling should reflect the origin of the word, the spelling of the word from which it was derived (the tendency was especially strong in words of Greek or Latin origin): the new spelling of the French borrowing dett was debt, as it could be traced back to Latin debitum, dout borrowed from French douter was respelled as doubt from Latin dubitare. Anyway, sometimes the origin of the word was wrongly defined, and that entailed the wrong etymological spelling, e.g. ME iland was respelled as island from a wrongly supposed connection with French isle and Latininsula (the word came from OEigland).

The major phonetic changes of the period, mainly the Great Vowel Shift, sometimes did not find any reflection in spelling, that resulted in such a phenomenon today when one and the same sound can be indicated in several ways, e.g. [Λ]: love, son, cut; [ε:]: learn, burnt, stir; [i:]: he, green, read, field, receive; [a:]: car, class, half, calm, plant, heart; [כ:]: short, all, sauce, draw, taught, thought, war.

All these changes resulted in the creation of one of the most complex spelling systems in the world.

6. Since Old English the English vocabulary has increased greatly. Among the changes in the vocabulary linguists distinguish losses of words or their meanings, replacements and additions. Losses of words were connected with extralinguistic factors: with the changing mode of life and dying out of many old concepts and traditions, e.g.

OE witenagemōt "assembly of the elders" ceased to exist in Middle English under the Norman rule, and the word, consequently, became useless and died out;

the Old English word Danegeld denoting the tax paid to the Scandinavian invaders disappeared after the collapse of the Danish empire;

OE wergeld stood for a fine paid by the murderer to the family of the murdered man the word went out of use after the abolishment of the custom.


Some of the words, which generally became obsolete were preserved in some dialects.

Sometimes the word survived but the loss of one of its meanings took place that reflected the changing life of the speakers and the impact of the contacts with other nations, e.g.

OE gift meant "price of a wife" connected with one of the meanings of the verb "gyfan" (NE give) "give in marriage", later the meaning was lost;

OE sellan lost the meaning "give" which it once had alongside "sell";

OE talu meant "number, series" and "story, narrative" while in NE only the latter meaning is preserved.

It has been calculated that from 80 to 85 % of the Old English words went out of use in later periods. Most of them were replaced by other words of the same or similar meanings. The replacement was the result of the selection of one of the existing synonyms, e.g.

OE clipian was replaced by ME callen (NE call);

OE niman > ME taken (NE take);

OE hīe and hēo > they and she;

OE weorðan > become;

OE ēa > river.

Like losses, replacements could also occur in the content, when the word was retained but one of its meanings was replaced by a new one, e.g. OE cniht "boy, servant" changed its meaning to ME and NE "knight"; OE cleric "clergyman" changed into ME clerk "student, scholar" and NE "secretary in an office".

Such replacements did not increase the number of words in the vocabulary, but many of the replacements were of the "split"-type, when one meaning developed into two or one word was replaced by two or more. These changes are called additions to the vocabulary. Among additions we can find words denoting new things, qualities, ideas and notions, e.g. ME citee "town with a cathedral", duke, duchesse and prynce stood for new ranks and titles; NE innovations were bourgeois, potato, nylon, etc. Many additions took place due the differentiation in the meanings of the synonyms. The development of new meanings in the existing words led to the extension of the vocabulary and the growth of polysemy and homonymy.

The sources of new words are usually divided into external and internal, the latter ones being very productive at all stages of the linguistic history. Here belong word-formation and semantic changes, which were especially productive in the periods of the rapid vocabulary growth, e.g. the Renaissance period.

The external sources played an important role in the extension of the English vocabulary. The Old English word stock included words mostly of Germanic origin; the language of the period was resistant to borrowing. In the succeeding periods, though, the situation changed: as a result of the invasions and the political, social changes in the country lots of words were borrowed from other languages, and the proportion of the native element fell. Modern statistics says that from 30 to 50 % of New English vocabulary is etymologically Germanic.

Anyway, the native element could fail to be preserved as the surviving native words denote the most frequently mentioned units, the native word deriving element is widely used to make new words, as well as in word phrases and phraseological units.

The main sources of borrowings for the English language were Latin and Greek, Scandinavian and French.

The first Latin borrowings came into the language even prior to the Introduction of printing due to the trade contacts with the Roman empire. They denote the names of household things and products:

pepper, cheese, apple, kettle, dish, etc.

The Introduction of the Christian religion gave an impetus to a new wave of borrowing, which brought into the language many religious terms:

bishop, psalm, candle, devil, martyr, monk, pope, altar, etc.

Another group of the Latin borrowings entered the language in Early New English, in XV-XVI c., that was connected with the development of science. The learned men of the time tried to preserve the Latin words to denote scientific terms. Hence such words as:

antenna antennae, index indices, datum data, phenomenon phenomena, etc.

It is easy to recognize Latin borrowings by the typical suffixes and combinations of letters: ate, -ute, -ant, -ent, -ior, -al, -ct-:

anticipate, prosecute, important, evident, prior, individual, correct.

Loan-words from another classical language, Greek can also be identified by the typical elements a) derivational suffixes and prefixes; b) peculiarities in spelling:

a) ism, -ist, anti-, neo-, etc.: communism, monopolist, antidepressant, neoclassicism;

b) ph for [f], ps for [s], ch for [k]: photography, psychology, scheme, archaic.

The total number of Scandinavian borrowings in English is about 900 words. They do not differ from native words as both languages belong to the same linguistic group and penetrated the English language so deeply that it is not always easy for linguists to determine their real origin. These words mostly denote things of everyday life and habitual actions:

they, husband, knife, law, leg, bag, birth, egg, happy, ill, ugly, call, cut, die, take, want, forget, forgive, get, give, etc.

There is also the characteristic Scandinavian element that helps to identify the origin of the words:

- the sk/sc combination: sky, skin, scare, score (some words with the same combination of letters, however, are traced back to the French roots);

- words with the sound [g] or [k] before front vowels [i], [e], [ei], in the spelling i, e, ue, ai, a (open syllable) or at the end of the word: give, get, again, game, kid, kilt, hug, drag, etc.

Some personal names, containing the son element are also Scandinavian loan-words:


Johnson, Jefferson.

The number of French borrowings exceeds the number of borrowings from any other foreign language. Words of this origin entered the language in Middle English and New English.

Middle English saw two stages of borrowing, the first being of the Norman origin. These are the words which entered the language beginning with the time of Edward the Confessor and up to the loss of Normandy in 1204. These words are often fully assimilated in English:

court, crime, government, justice, parliament, peace, prison, etc.

Later Middle English borrowings are traced back to Parisian French dated from the end of the 13th century up to 1500. They are more colloquial words:

air, branch, cage, calm, chair, cost, mountain, river, table, etc.

French borrowings of the New English period began to enter the language in the 17th century that was connected with the reign of Charles II, who had long lived in exile in France:

aggressor, apartment, brunette, campaign, caprice, caress, console, coquette, cravat, billet-doux, carte blanche, etc.

Later New English borrowings;

garage, magazine, policy, machine.

Since the French borrowings are numerous it is possible to divide them according to semantic spheres:

- government and administration: authority, country, crown, government, nation, parliament, people, power, realm, etc.;

- military terms: army, battle, captain, force, navy, regiment, victory, etc.;

- war and jurisdiction: accuse, case, crime, defendant, guilt, heir, judge, jury, justice, marry, money, poor, robber, etc.;

- church and religion: abbey, Bible, charity, clergy, divine, honour, glory, miracle, paradise, passion, pray, religion, sacrifice, etc.;

- house, furniture and architecture: castle, chimney, column, curtain, lamp, palace, table, wardrobe;

- art and fashion: art, beauty, colour, design, figure, image, paint, costume, fur, dress, jewel, etc.;

- entertainment: dance, leisure, partner, pleasure, sport, etc.;

- miscellaneous: advice, air, carry, change, close, double, enjoy, face, flower, hour, joy, letter, manner, necessary, obey, pass, pale, remember, scissors, single, travel, very, use, etc.

The French borrowings are rather easy to identify because of some phonetic features and affixes. First, if the word does not have stress on the first syllable (provided the syllable is not a prefix) it can be identified as French. Second, words containing the sounds [∫] spelled not sh, [dg] spelled not dg, [t∫] spelled not chare of French origin:


aviation, social, Asia, soldier, jury, literature, pleasure, treasure.

Besides, the French suffixes able, -ess, -ee, -or and Latin-French prefixes re-, dis-, in- also show that the word was borrowed from French.

There are also word-hybrids containing elements of different origin, as in the table below:

English French be-cause, a-round, out-cry, over-power, false-hood, fore-front
French English hobby-horse, scape-goat, trouble-some, plenty-ful, aim-less, re-take
English Scandinavian par-take, bandy-leg
French Scandinavian re-call
Latin French juxta-position


Word formation in Middle English and New English fell into word derivation and word composition. Word derivation included such means of word formation as suffixation, prefixation, sound interchanges and shifting of word stress and conversion. Affixation, as before, was the most productive way of deriving new words because many OE derivational suffixes were preserved and, as mentioned above, new suffixes and prefixes came from both external and internal sources.

Sound interchanges and shifting of word stress were mainly used to differentiated between the words.

Conversion was the new, typically English way of word formation that sprang up in the Early New English period. Conversion is the transportation of one word into another part of speech without changing the initial form. It has developed into a productive way of derivation.

Word composition became more productive in New English. The words have been built according to the definite patterns:

2) noun + noun: football, puppetshow, tablecloth, etc.;

3) gerund + noun: reading-room, working-day, looking-glass, etc.;

4) two noun-stems + -er: type-writer, baby-sitter, landholder, etc.;

5) noun + adjective: sea-green, stone-dead, country-wide, etc.;

6) adjective + noun + -ed: light-hearted, absent-minded, long-legged, etc.


Another innovation of New English was simplification, a process of word-building based on analogy. Some verbs were formed by dropping the suffix er/-or/-ar of the nouns:

beggar to beg

editor to edit

to televise television

to enthuse enthusiasm.



7. In Middle English and Early New English the grammatical system of the English language changed a lot. From a synthetic language it turned into an analytical one. Analytical forms developed from free word groups, which consisted of two components: the first one gradually lost its lexical meaning and was preserved as a grammatical marker while the second retained its lexical meaning and acquired a new grammatical value in the compound form.

The parts of speech in ME and Early NE were the same as before: the noun, the adjective, the pronoun, the numeral, the verb, the adverb, the preposition, the conjunction and the interjection. The article was the only new part of speech, which developed form the pronouns in Early New English.

The ways of building up grammatical forms underwent considerable changes. The proportion of synthetic forms in the language had fallen as the new analytical forms appeared and replaced the old synthetic ones. The synthetic forms were the same as before: inflections, sound interchanges and suppletion.

Morphological simplification has always been the main direction of development for the nominal parts of speech. The evolution of the verbal system was a more complicated process: on the one hand, the morphology of the verb has undergone essential simplifying changes, on the other hand, the paradigm of the verb grew, as there came into being the new analytical forms and new categories.

The noun paradigm was subjected to simplification of declensions in Middle English that affected the grammatical categories of the noun. The Old English gender gradually disappeared; in Chaucer's time gender was already purely a lexical category, nouns could be substituted by "he" or "she" if they denoted human beings.

The category of case was preserved but the number of its members altered: it was changed from four to two in Late Middle English, which was connected with the change in the meaning and functions of the cases. Today's Common case is the result of the fusion of the Old English Nominative, Accusative and Dative cases.

Number has always been the most stable of all the nominal categories: it has preserved the distinction between two members. By Late Middle English es has become the main plurality ending. The Middle English ending en lost its productivity in the course of time, and nowadays it is only found in oxen, children, brethren (poetic).

The adjective lost all its grammatical categories except the degrees of comparison in Middle English. Anyway, the means to build up the degrees of comparison have altered. In Old English the endings ra, -est/-ost were used, sometimes they were combined with root vowel interchange, the other times suppletive forms were engaged. In Middle English the suffixes have been weakened to er, -est, the vowel interchange gradually fell into disuse (today it can be exemplified by old-elder-eldest).

The adjective was the first part of speech to develop analytical forms distinctly. In Middle English the words more and most (since the combinations with them are considered to be analytical forms) were used with all the adjectives regardless of the number of syllables: more kind, difficulter difficultest.

Another interesting peculiarity of the Early New English adjectives is the use of "double comparatives" and "double superlatives", that is the use of both the endings and the auxiliary words to build up the comparative and superlative degrees: more better, the most unkindest (Shakespeare).

The pronouns was another part of speech to undergo extensive grammatical changes. The category of number was simplified as it lost the form of the dual number in Early Middle English; the category of case preserved only two members as the Accusative and the Dative cases had merged by the end of Middle English, and the Genitive case turned into a new class of pronouns possessive. In the 17th an 18th c. the possessive pronouns developed two distinct sets of forms known today as "conjoint" and "absolute": my / mine, your / yours, her / hers, our / ours, their / theirs.

The Old English oblique case forms of personal pronouns combined with the adjective self gave rise to reflexive pronouns.

The Old English demonstrative pronouns þes, þeos, þis (NE this)and sē, sēo, þæt (NE that)lost most of their inflected forms with the exception of two, which today make up the paradigm of the demonstrative pronouns: this these, that those.

The other classes of the Old English pronouns interrogative (hwā {NE who}, hwæs {NE whose}, hwī {NE why}, hwelc {NE which}, hwæþer {NE whether}) and indefinite (ænig {NE any}, nan {NE none}, nanþing {NE nothing}, nawiht/nowiht/noht {NE nothing}, hwæt-hwugu {NE something}) were also subjected to some simplifying changes, which in the course of time led to the development of modern system of pronouns. The Old English demonstrative and interrogative pronouns became the source of relative pronouns (who, what).

During Middle English and Early New English the Old English morphological classification of verbs into seven classes degenerated due to several reasons: 1) weakening and later loss of the final syllables, which led to the coincidence of some forms; 2) phonetic changes made root vowel interchanges less consistent; 3) development of analytical forms, due to which the strong verbs lost consonant interchanges; 4) the reduction in the number of past tense forms from two to one; 5) the transition of some strong verbs into weak.

The grammatical forms of the finite verbs and the ways of their formation were affected greatly by the simplifying changes. Number distinctions were preserved and became more regular. In the 13th and 14th c. there were two ways to indicate plurality in verbs: the ending en and root vowel interchange in strong verbs. Both of them went out of use in the 15th c. The only number distinction remaining was that of singular forms of the 2nd and 3rd person Present Indicative indicated with the help of est and eth/-es (number distinctions of the 2nd person existed as long as thou).

The OE endings þ, -eþ, -iaþ denoting the 3rd person singular merged into a single ending -(e)th. At the same time a new marker of the 3rd person singular, -es, came from the Northern dialects and by the end of th18th century it was the dominant inflection of the 3rd person singular.

The reduction of endings and leveling of forms influenced the formal differences between the moods. When en became the dominant flection of the Indicative plural in Present and Past the Indicative and the Subjunctive moods could no longer be distinguished. Middle English and Early New English witnessed the appearance of the new analytical forms of the Subjunctive Mood: the modal phrases sholde and wolde, which gradually turned into auxiliaries should and would. Today would and 'd tend to replace should.

In the Past tense the differences between the moods could be distinguished by the root vowel interchange, but after the two stems of the strong verbs had merged, all the forms of the moods in the Past coincided with the exception of the verb to be (was were).

Tense distinctions were preserved in all historical periods. The Past Tense was shown with the help of the dental suffix in the weak verbs and with the help of the root vowel interchange in strong verbs. The only exception were a few verbs of OE Class I, in which the dental suffix merged with the final stem consonant [t], and the three stems coincided: set set set (OE settan sette geset(ed); ME seten sette set).

In Old English there was no form of the Future Tense, the meaning was denoted by lexical means and modal phrases with sculan (shall), willan (will) magan (may) and cunnan (can) and the infinitive of the main verb.

OE: Þonne sculon hīē þās helle sēcan and þas grimman grund.

Then shall they that hell seek and that horrible ground.

NE: Then they will have to seek that hell and that horrible ground.

OE: Ic wille wyrcean mīn setl on norðæle.

I will construct my seat on north part.

NE: I shall construct my residence in the northern part.

OE: Iclufige tō dæg oððe tō mergen.

I love today or tomorrow.

NE: I shall love today or tomorrow.

The modal phrases combined the meaning of futurity with that if modality (volition, obligation, possibility). Gradually shall and will began to indicate future actions:

ME: I wol telle forth as I bigan.

I will tell forth as I began.

ME: Me thinketh that I shal reherce it here.

I think that I shall rehearse it here.

Nevertheless, today shall still retains its modal meaning in some situations:

What shall we do? (Asking for instructions)

Someone's knocking at the door. It'll be our guest. (Assumption)

Besides, in Early New English there has developed a set of analytical forms with the auxiliary do / did used to build up interrogations, negations and emphatic forms in Present and Past Indicative, e.g.:

ME: Did he ask for me?

Didst thou not swear?

Doth he know that I am in thin forest?

Only then did I see her.


The new verbal categories to develop in Middle English and Early New English were Voice, Aspect and Time-Correlation. The category of Voice developed from the OE verb phrases consisting of bēon (NE be) and weorðan (NE become) and Participle II of transitive verbs. In Middle English the combination of bēon and Participle II turned into an analytical form of the Passive Voice, which could express both a state and an action.

ME: And that was sayd in forme and reverence.

And that was said in form and reverence.

The category of Aspect developed from the OE phrases consisting of bēon and Participle I, which denoted a quality, a lasting state, or a continuous action, e.g.

OE: Sē wer wæsswīðe belewite, and ondrædende god and forbūgende yfel.

This man was exceedingly innocent and feared god and avoided evil.


OE: Ond hīē wæron feohtende ealne dæg.

And they were fighting all day.

Later, in the 18th century, these meanings were lost but the combination acquired a new meaning, identical with the modern one.

The Perfect forms have also developed from OE 'possessive' verb constructions comprising the verbs bēon (NE be) and Participle II of an intransitive verb or habban (NE have), a direct object and Participle II of a transitive verb, e.g.:

OE: Sē hālga fæder wæs inn āgān.

This saint father was in gone.

OE: Hīē hæfdon heora lufsang gesungene.

They have their love song sung.

Gradually the combinations with be stopped to denote actions, preserving only the meaning of a state (he is gone; the tree is fallen), and those of the have + Participle II type acquired the definite meaning of the Perfect Tense forms (he has gone; the tree has fallen).

The alternations also had a definite impact on the system of verbals, or non-finite verbs. In Old English there were only two non-finite forms: the Infinitive and the Participle, which had more nominal characteristics that the verbal ones. In Middle English they developed the verbal features. The formal sign of the Infinitive, the preposition to,came from the OE Dative case marker; the inflected form of the Infinitive (the one of the Dative case) was lost, e.g.:

ME: He hade schame to schryfehym of many synns.

He had shame to write him of many sins.


ME: And gaffe hem londe to lyve upon.

And gave him land to live upon.

Both Participles were preserved with their meanings and ways of formation unaltered. Participle I in Middle English and New English had an active meaning and denoted a process simultaneous with the events described by the predicate of the sentence or a continuous action; it was normally formed from the Present Tense stem and the suffix ing(e), e.g.:

ME: He was singinge al the day.

He was singing all the day.

Participle II had an active or passive meaning depending on the transitivity of the verb, it had the meaning of a preceding action or its results; Participle II was built up with the help of the suffix e(d), -t in weak verbs and in strong verbs it employed vowel gradation and the suffix en, e.g.:

ME: The seid Duke of Suffolk being most trostid with you.

The said Duke of Suffolk being most trusted by you.

Late Middle English witnessed the appearance of another verbal, the Gerund, the source of which is difficult to define; it might have developed from the OE verbal noun ending in ung/ing, the Present Participle and the Infinitive. The verbal feature of the Early New English Gerund consisted in the fact that it could be used with an adverbial modifier and with a direct object; the nominal ones were those of its specific functions and the ability to be modified by a possessive pronoun or a noun in the Genitive case.

The development of the English grammar system was a very complicated process, which included both simplification of the old synthetic forms and growth of the new analytical ones, and which gradually led to the change of the whole structure of the language.

Additional reading


  1. Old English Grammar.
  2. Semantic trends in grammar.

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