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Loss of Consonants in Some Positions

Comparison with other OG languages, especially Gothic and O Icel, has revealed certain instances of the loss of consonants in WG and Early OE.

Nasal sonorants were regularly lost before fricative consonants; in the process the preceding vowel was probably nasalised and lengthened. Cf.:

Gt fimf, 0 Icel fim, OHG fimf — OE fif (NE five)

Gt uns, OHG uns — OE ūs (NE us)

Fricative consonants could be dropped between vowels and before some plosive consonants; these losses were accompanied by a compensatory lengthening of the preceding vowel or the fusion of the preceding and succeeding vowel into a diphthong, cf. OE sēon, which corresponds to Gt saihwan, OE slēan (NE slay), Gt slahan, G. schlagen, OE sægde and sæde (NE said).

We should also mention the loss of semi-vowels and consonants in unstressed final syllables, [j] was regularly dropped in suffixes after producing various changes in the root: palatal mutation of vowels, lengthening of consonants after short vowels. The loss of [w] is seen in some case forms of nouns: Norn, treo, Dat. treowe (NE tree);

Nom. sæ, Dat. sæwe (NE sea), cf. Gt triwa, saiws.

Lecture 3. Old english grammar Preliminary Remarks

OE was a synthetic, or inflected type of language; it showed the relations between words and expressed other grammatical meanings mainly with the help of simple (synthetic) grammatical forms. In building grammatical forms OE employed grammatical endings, sound interchanges in the root, grammatical prefixes, and suppletive formation.

Grammatical endings, or inflections, were certainly the principal form-building means used: they were found in all the parts of speech that could change their form; they were usually used alone but could also occur in combination with other means.

Sound interchanges were employed on a more limited scale and were often combined with other form-building means, especially endings. Vowel interchanges were more common than interchanges of consonants.

The use of prefixes in grammatical forms was rare and was confined to verbs. Suppletive forms were restricted to several pronouns, a few adjectives and a couple of verbs.

The parts of speech to be distinguished in OE are as follows: the noun, the adjective, the pronoun, the numeral (all referred to as nominal parts of speech or nominal, the verb, the adverb, the preposition, the conjunction, and the interjection. Inflected parts of speech possessed certain grammatical categories displayed in formal and semantic correlations and oppositions of grammatical forms. Grammatical categories are usually subdivided into nominal categories, found in nominal parts of speech and verbal categories found chiefly in the finite verb.

We shall assume that there were five nominal grammatical categories in OE: number, case, gender, degrees of comparison, and the category of definiteness / indefiniteness. Each part of speech had its own peculiarities in the inventory of categories and the number of members within the category (categorial forms). The noun had only two grammatical categories proper: number and case. The adjective had the maximum number of categories — five. The number of members in the same grammatical categories in different parts of speech did not necessarily coincide: thus the noun had four cases. Nominative, Genitive, Dative, and Accusative, whereas the adjective had five (the same four cases plus the Instrumental case). The personal pronouns of the 1st and 2nd p., unlike other parts of speech, distinguished three numbers — Singular, Plural and Dual. Cf.

sg OE ic (NE I), dual wit 'we two', pl we (NE we)

OE stān (NE stone) — stānas (NE stones).

Verbal grammatical categories were not numerous: tense and mood — verbal categories proper — and number and person, showing agreement between the verb-predicate and the subject of the sentence.

The distinction of categorial forms by the noun and the verb was to a large extent determined by their division into morphological classes: declensions and conjugations.

In OE there were with the following parts of speech: the noun, the adjective, the pronoun, and the verb.

The OE grammatical system is described synchronically as appearing in the texts of the 9th and 10th c. (mainly WS); facts of earlier, prewritten, history will sometimes be mentioned to account for the features of written OE and to explain their origin.

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