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OE MORPHOLOGY. THE VERB

1. The grammatical categories of the verb

2. Non-Finite forms of the Verb.

3. Morphological classes of the verbs in OE (strong, weak, preterit-presents, irregular)

4. OE Syntax.

1. The categories of the Verb

  • The category of Person (three persons)

agreed with the Subject

  • The category of Number (two numbers)

  • The category of Mood (three moods)

specifically Verbal categories

  • The category of Tense (present and past)

Two debatable categories:

  • The category of Aspect

  • The category of Voice

The category of person

The category of Person was made up of 3 forms: the 1st, the 2nd and the 3d. Unlike number, person distinctions were neutralized in many positions. Person was consistently shown only in the Pres. tense of the Ind. mood Sg. In the Past Singular Indicative Mood the forms of the 1st and 3d person coincided and only the 2nd person had a distinctive form.

Person was not distinguished in the plural, nor was it shown in the Subjunctive Mood.

The category of mood

OE distinguished three moods morphologically: indicative, subjunctive and imperative.

In general, indicative is used to present a proposition as true, and subjunctive is used to cast some doubt on the truth of the proposition or to express obligation, desire and so forth.

The imperative is restricted to second person singular and plural. Morphologically it is marked by -θ and -aÞ respectively. The verb is usually clause-initial, although an adverb may precede.

The use of Subjunctive Mood in OE was different from its use in later ages. Subjunctive forms conveyed a very general meaning of unreality or supposition. In addition to its use in conditional sentences Subjunctive was common in clauses of time, result, and in clauses presenting reported speech.

The category of tense

  • past and non-past.

The category of Tense consisted of 2 categorial forms, Present and Past.

  • The forms of the Present were used to indicate present and future actions. Future actions could also be expressed by verb phrases with modal verbs.

  • The Past tense was used to indicate various events in the past (including those which are nowadays expressed by the forms of the Past Cont, Past Perfect, Pr. Perf and other analytical forms).

TWO DEBATABLE CATEGORIES

The Category of Aspect

The aspective/perfective meaning was expressed by:

  1. Prefix ge-;

e.g. OE lician – gelician (“to like, have liked”)

BUT: the prefix ge- can hardly be regarded as a marker of aspect. It could change the aspective meaning of the verb by making it perfective, but it could also change its lexical meaning:

e.g. beran “to carry” – geberan “to bear a child”

Verbs without a prefix could sometimes have a perfective meaning

  1. habban

Bēon + Participle I = prolonged state (Continuous)

weorðan

habban

Bēon

+ Participle II = a state resulting from a previous c action(Past Perfect)

weorðan

The progressive constructions

The BE-verbs beon, wesan and sometimes weorpan are used with V-ende to indicate that an action is ongoing.

Like the PDE progressive be + ing construction, the OE BE + ende construction is largely restricted to activity verbs, i.e. verbs of doing rather than verbs of being (e.g. PDE She is running but not **She is knowing (he answer).e.g.

E. g. Europe hio onginð... of Danai þære ie, seo is irnende of norÞdæle...

Europe she begins... from Don that river, that is running from northern-part...

Europe begins ... at the river Don, which runs from the North...

The perfect and pluperfect constructions

The semantic perfect (completed event with present relevance) and pluperfect (past of past) were often rendered in OE by the simple past.

habban or BE-verbs with V-past participle.

E.g. Ic hæbbe gebunden þone feond = “I have bound that enemy”

Pre-modal

The set of pre-modals includes:

- cunnan' know how to, have the power to, be able, can',

- *durran' dare',

- magan' be strong, sufficient, in good health, be able to' (with more focus on physical ability [cf. PDE might] than cunnan),

- *motan 'be allowed to, be obliged to',

- *sculan 'owe, be necessary',

- pur/an 'need',

- willan 'will, wish, desire'.

The Category of Voice

The passive meaning was frequently indicated with the help of:

Bēon

+ Participle II of transitive verbs

weorðan

Passive constructions

Be-verbs plus past participle.

This distinction between weorÞan and beon/wesan becomes less and less clear during OE, as is to be expected of a form that was to disappear in ME (weorpan was eventually replaced by the get passive).

E. g. he gefeaht wiþ Gotan, & gefliemed weard & bedrifen on anne tun

he fought against Goths and put-to-flight was and driven into one fortress

PDE: he fought against the Goths and was put to flight and driven into afortress;

The grammatical categories of verbals

In OE there were 2 non-finite forms of the verb: the Infinitive and the Participle. They were closer to the nouns and adjectives than to the finite verb. Their nominal features were obvious at the morphological level. The verbal nature of the Inf. and the Part. was revealed at the syntactical level: like finite forms they could take direct objects and be modified by adverbs.

The infinitive

The Infinitive had no verbal grammatical categories. Being a verbal noun by origin, it had a sort of reduced case-system: two forms roughly corresponded to the Nom. and the Dat. cases of nouns, e.g.

Beran – uninflected Infinitive (Nom. case) = an infinitive with the suffix -(t)an, originally the nominative case marker for a neuter verbal noun

To berenne or to beranne – inflected Infinitive (Dat. case) = an infinitive with prepositional to, originally 'toward', and the inflected infinitive suffix -attne/-enne, originally the dative case marker for a verbal noun.

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

Mani3e cōmen tō byc3enne Þa Þin3 – ‘many (people) came to buy those things’

The uninflected Inf. was used in verb phrases with modal verbs, e.g.

Þū meaht sin3an – ‘ you can sing’

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