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  1. Middle English grammatical system

The Noun In the Southern dialect distinction between genders and between strong and weak declensions was to some extent preserved, but differences between various types of strong declension disappeared. Later, distinction of genders was weakened and lost. In the Northern and the Midland dialects distinctions between different stems of strong declension and between strong and weak declension, and those between genders disappeared. The genitive singular ending –es of the ston type substantives (a-stem) spread to all nouns. The former Dative case merged with the Accusative which often had the same form as the Nominative even in Old English. Declension of some ME nouns Strong declension

Singular Plural

  • Nominative ston stones

  • Genitive stones stones

Weak declension

Singular Plural

  • Nominative name namen

  • Genitive name namen


Singular Plural

  • Nominative fot fet

  • Genitive fotes fetes

The Adjective

The adjective in Middle English lost the categories of gender and case. The distinction between numbers is observed only in the forms of strong declension (zero ending in the singular and ending – e in the plural (s.good – pl. goode); adjectives of weak declension had the ending –e in both numbers (s.goode - pl.goode).The degrees of comparison of adjectives are formed with the help of the suffixes –er, -est (hard- harder –hardest) or suppletively (good-bettre-best).

The Pronoun

Personal pronouns lost the dual number. The system of cases was also changed. The Genitive case turned into a separate subclass of pronouns – possessive pronouns. The Dative case merged with the Accusative. Together they formed the Objective case. Demonstrative Pronouns gradually lost the categories of gender and case and acquired the modern form (this – thes; that – thos). The category of number was preserved. Possessive Pronouns

Singular Plural

  • Min,myn, my our

  • Thin, thyn/thy your

  • Hir/her,his hire/their

All the other pronouns in Middle English lost the categories of gender and case, some lost their number. They simplified their paradigm according to the changes in the system of the noun.

The Verb

The Old English division of verbs into strong, weak and preterite-present was preserved in Middle English but many of the strong verbs either disappeared or turned weak.

ME weak verbs All Middle English weak verbs had the ending –en in the infinitive and the suffix –ed in the past tense. So, the way of formation of regular verbs took its shape in Middle English. The number of weak verbs grows significantly in Middle English, because practically all borrowings and new verbs derived from other parts of speech become weak. The changes in the weak verbs were mainly phonetical. Some of them lost the sound –i- in the suffix of the infinitive (lufian – louen).

Class II lost its specific –ode ending due to the levelling of endings and turned into –ed. Class III retained only the verbs se33en, libben, habben – seien, liven, haven.

The system of conjugation was simplified. In the Northern and the Southern dialects verbs took the ending –es in the third person singular. Later this ending spread to other dialects and became the only person ending which survived.

The most characteristic feature of the development of the verb in Milddle English is the development of the analytical forms which goes together with the formation of the system of tenses.

Tense forms which appeared in Middle English

  • Shal + infinitive – Future

  • Haven + Participle II – Perfect forms

  • Ben + Participle I – Continuous forms (at the end of the period)

  • Ben + Participle II – Passive Voice (a new category in Middle English!)

Future Tenses – developed from the analytical formation shal + Infinitive (3)

Perfect Tenses – developed from the analytical formation haven + Participle II (1) (ben + Participle II for the verbs of motion)

Continuous Tenses appeared at the end of the period. They developed from the analytical formation ben + Participle I

A new category appeared in Middle English. It was the category of the voice. The forms of the Passive Voice developed from the analytical formation ben + Participle II (2).

As for the other categories of the verbs, the changes were such:

The category of aspect lost its importance and gradually disappeared. 3e before Participle II was changed into y.

The category of mood was preserved.

The categories of person and number remained, but the system of conjugation was simplified, as it has already been mentioned.

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