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GRAMMATICAL CATEGORIES OF VERBS

OUTLINE

  1. Grammatical categories of verbs in Proto-Indo-European.

  2. Grammatical categories of verbs in Old Germanic and Old English.

  3. The rise and the development of analytical forms

  1. the passive voice

  2. perfect forms

  3. future tense

  4. future-in-the past-forms

  5. continuous aspect

Grammatical categories of verbs in Proto-Indo-European

  1. Aspect: Presence, Aorist, Perfect;

  2. Mood: the Indicative, Imperative, Optative and Conditional;

  3. Voice: Active and Middle (Medium);

  4. Number: Singular, Plural, Dual;

  5. Person: first, second, third.

It is assumed that tense forms of the verbs emerged on the basis of aspectual meanings. Thus, peculiar for Indo-European verbal forms was the representation of action in a certain aspect. Therefore, there existed the opposition of durative action (presence) and non-durative action (aorist). Presence indicated a durative action, which coincides with the moment of speaking, aorist represented non-durative action and perfect indicated a completed action or state (it referred either to the present or past). The examples from Old Greek illustrate the category of aspect: λειπο I am leaving” (Presence – Modern English equivalent– the Present Continuous Tense), ελιπον ‘I left’ (Aorist – Modern English equivalent – the Past Simple Tense).

Mood. The category of mood is represented by the Indicative, Imperative, Optative and Conditional (Conjunctive) Mood. The indicative mood represents a real action that happened, happens, or will happen. The imperative mood represents speaker’s request or order. The Conditional mood indicates conditions and circumstances under which the action took or will take place. The Optative mood shows the speaker’s volition, as well as, the circumstances and options of performing the action.

Voice. The meaning of active voice in Proto-Indo-European coincides with its meaning in Modern English. Medium rendered reflexive or possessive.

Person and Number. The verb had three persons (1st – the speaker, 2nd – the hearer, 3rd – a person or this which is talked about), as well as, three numbers: singular, plural and dual.

Grammatical categories of verbs in Old Germanic Languages and Old English

The main grammatical categories of verbs were: person, number, tense, voice and mood.

Person and number. Verbs had three persons: 1st, 2nd, 3rd. The ending for each person also indicated number, tense, mood and voice. It is assumed that in Old Germanic (Common Germanic) there were three numbers: singular, plural and dual, which were preserved in some Gothic verbal forms, however, they were not already fixed in Old English.

Tense. Proto-Indo-European aspectual forms were reconsidered as the tense ones. Thus, in Old Germanic languages, including Old English, there were two tense forms: Present (Presence) and Past (Preterit). The Past forms are based on Indo-European Perfect forms (for singular) and aorist (for Plural). In Old English they rendered a past action, the same form was implemented to indicate Modern English Present Perfect, Past Perfect, Past Simple and Past Progressive Tenses.

The Present tense also had several functions. It indicated:

1) the action that coincides with the moment of speaking (Present Progressive): E.g. ic cweþe on wordum. – “I am saying with words”.

2) permanent action: E.g. Sume gað on twam fotum sume on feower fotum. Sume fleoð mid fyðerum sume on flodum. – “Some go on two feet, some on four, some fly with wigs (feathers), and some swim in water”.

3) indicated a future action: E.g. Ic lufige tō dæǯ oððe tō merǯen. – I will love today or tomorrow.

Mood. There were three moods in Old Germanic and Old English inclusive: indicative, optative and imperative. Indo-European conjunctive was not recorded.

Indicative expressed a real action and had a rich system of personal endings. The differentiation of indicative and optative was possible by means of verbal stem, since suffix –i- was added to the stem in order to form optative. It can be illustrated by Gothic examples: hait-am ‘we name’, hait-a-i-ma ‘we would name’. Optative expressed wish, that is why is was used to express future or some functions of imperative. Imperative did not have tense forms, i.e. tense was not differentiated. Some of imperative endings coincided with indicative, e.g. the forms of the 1st and 2nd persons plural. Singular was formed from the stem and required no ending.

Voice. The category of voice in Germanic languages was represented by active and medio-passive voices, the latter was well preserved only in Gothic. In Old English it belonged to the disappearing categories. Some Old English verbs contained medio-passive meaning, as e.g. the verb ‘hātan’ ‘to be named’, which literary meant ‘to name itself’.

The rise and the development of analytical forms

Passive voice

Peculiar feature of OE was the ebsence of special analytical passive forms of verbs. The passive meaning was represented syntactically by means of complex verbal predicate, which consisted of the verb bēōn (wesan) and weorþan +PII of transitive verbs.

The verbs bēōn (wesan) and weorþan partially lost their lexical meaning and acquired general grammatical meaning, however the collocations with weorthan rendered passive meaning more distinctly, therefore the forms with weorthan appeared more frequently in OE texts. (10-13% in the records of the VIII cen. and 35-40% forms were recordered at the end of OE period).

Þǣr wearþ Ordhēh cyninǯes þeǯn ofslæǯen – There was Ordheh, the king’s servant, murdered.

Þæt ǯeweorc ǯeworct wæs – This fortress was built.

The constructions with weorthan rendered passive meaning only, unlike the constructions with beon beside the passive meaning also expressed the meaning of state.

Þǣr wǣron bollan stēape boren – Here were high vessels brought.

The passive forms were mostly used if the subject is unknown or is preferred not to be spoken about.

The analytical passive forms of the verbs were formed in ME and is connected with the process of grammaticalization, which means the loss of lexical meaning by the auxiliary verbs wurthen and ben (wesen). Along with this process there was also lost the agreement of the nominative predicate with the subject. Therefore PII loses its case forms in ME and becomes an unchangeable form.

Due to these important changes there appears a special passive form in ME.

and that was sayd in forme and reverence – and this was said politely and respectably.

(Contact location of parts of analytical verbal form)

By the end of ME period there emerged different analytical tense forms of verbs for the group of Simple and Perfect.

He knew wel that Troye sholde destroyed be.

Among the two analytical auxiliary verbs there remained the forms of with ben by the end of the period. This is explaned by the loss of the verb wurthen in ME, firstly it was lost as a notional verb in Northern dialects and later on in all ME dialects.

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