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System of Declensions
The Development of the Noun
1. Cardinal –ān (one), twēζen (two), þrēō (three) – had the categories of Gender and Case. All the other cardinal numerals were unchangeable.
2. Ordinal –were unchangeable.
As it has been mentioned in Lecture 14, the Noun had the following categories in OE:
Number –Singular (Sg) and Plural (Pl).
Case –Nominative (Nom), Genitive (Gen), Dative (Dat), Accusative (Acc).
Gender –Masculine (M), Feminine (F), Neuter (N):
· Originally (in PG) it was a semantic division (he/she/it – associated with the lexical meaning of a noun), but in OE this principle did not work any more (e.g. wīf (wife) = Neuter);
· In OE the nouns [A31] started to be groupped into genders according to the suffix:
- -þu (F) – e.g. lenζþu (length);
- -ere (M) – e.g. fiscere (fisher).
Though the stem-suffixes merged with the root, declensions were still existent in OE and were based on the former IE stem-suffixes:
a-stem –the most numerous declension and proved to be productive (M, N):
Traces of a-stem in Modern English:[A32]
· -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 Pl.
n-stem(M, N, F):
Traces of n-stem in Modern English[A33] :
· -an (M, Pl, Nom) à -en (oxen, children, brethren) – irregular plural ending.
root-stem –never had stem-suffix, words consisted of just a root(M, F):
Traces of root-stem in Modern English:
· root-sound interchange (M, Pl, Nom) à root-sound interchange (men, geese, mice) – irregular Plural.
Most changes occurred to the Noun in ME.
System of Declensions[A34]
In ME the declensions disappeared due to the reduction of endings. As far as the Case endings were reduced to one or two, there remained no distinction between the Case forms of different declensions and there was no necessity any more to distinguish these declensions.
The Gender in OE was not supported semantically. It was only a classifying feature for the declensions and as far as the declensions disappeared there was no necessity to preserve the Gender. It disappeared by the 11th – 12th c.
The quantity of the Number endings was also reduced as far as the declensions disappeared. The markers of the Plural became more uniform (-s, -en, root-sound interchange). The preference of the consonantal endings[A36] can be explained by the fact that the vowels were more apt to change and reduction then the consonants that in general proved to be more stable.
The Case system was contracted in ME due to the reduction of endings. As far as the Case endings were reduced to one or two, there remained no distinction between the Case forms and there was no necessity any more to distinguish 4 Cases:
Causes for Decay of Case System:
1.Influence of the Scandinavian Dialects that were grammatically simpler in comparison with OE Dialects and this influence led to the minimization of grammar.
2.Phonetic reduction of final unstressed syllables (inflections).
Consequences of Case System Decay:
1.The number of prepositions started to grow to help to replace the former Case forms.[A37]
2.As far as there was no distinctions between the Cases, the distinction between the Subject and the Object of a sentence was lost à fixed word order appeared (The Subject almost always took the first place and was followed by the Object).
1. After reading the material of the lecture, use the glossary of “A Reader in the History of English” by Е.К. Щука and analyse the following nouns: ēaζan, sunu, daζas, fæder, brēðer. Plan of analysis:
· initial form;
· type of declension;
· Modern English equivalent;
2. Find all the nouns in the abstract from “Beowulf” on p. 8 in “A Reader in the History of English” by Е.К. Щука and analyse them according to the plan given above.
3. Find the proofs of the changes in the Noun in ME in the abstract from the “Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer (lines 1-14) on p. 33-34 in “A Reader in the History of English” by Е.К. Щука.