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Chronical division of the el history


  1. phonetic

  2. spelling

  3. grammatical

  4. lexical

  5. stylistic


  • a simple one-to-one replacement;

  • merging (cases)

  • splitting (c)

Pure innovations

Causes of changes:

  • internal

  • external

The Laws:

  1. the law of uneven or irregular development of different aspects of the language (vocabulary>phonetics>grammar)

  2. the law of abstraction of linguistic elements (-ly<LIC)

  3. the law of concretizing (tenses)

  4. the law of analogy (could-should-would)

  5. the law of differentiation

The theories:

  • romanticists

  • naturalists

  • psychologists

  • sociologists

  • Young-Grammarian school representatives

Periodization (Henry Sweet)

  1. Early OE (450-700) pre-written, oral, tribal dialects, the stage of transition from PG to written OE;

  2. OE written (700-1066) Anglo-Saxon English, growing dialectal divergence, lang historical instability. Purely Germanic vocabulary with few foreign borrowings. An inflected/synthetic language (FULL ENDINGS)

  3. Early ME (1066-1350) French was dominant, French and Scandinavian borrowings. Transition from a highly inflected into a mainly analytical.

  4. Classical ME (1350-1475) The Age of Chaucer. State language. Most inflections in nouns, adjectives and pronouns fell together. (LEVELLED ENDINGS)

  5. Early NE (1476-1660) Shakespeare. Transformation in the vowel system, growing gap between written and spoken forms. (LOST ENDINGS)

  6. Normalization period (1660-1800)

  7. Late NE (1800-up to now)

Old english phonetics

23 letters: a, ae, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, l, m, n, o, p, r, s, t, th, u, w, x, y.

15 monophthongs and 8 diphthongs.

Monophthongs: a, a:, o, o:, ae, ae:, u, u:, e, e:, i, i:, y, y:, a(naz)

Diphthongs: ea, eo, ie, io (and long ones)

In unstressed syllables: i e a o u

39 consonants.

  1. f, s, th – voiced between vowels and a vowel and a voiced consonant.

  2. g:

    • г before back vowel (u o a), before & after n

    • j before and after front vowels (e i)

    • H between back vowels and after l, r

    • г’ mostly when preceded by c

3. the letter ‘h’ – h’ next to a front vowel

4. the letter n, when followed by k, g – ng

The mechanism changes:

1) the Variation stage (growing variations in pronunciation, appearance of allophones)

2) the Replacement stage ( allophones prevail and replace the others)

3) the Splitting stage/Merging stage

Development of monophthongs:

fronting or palatalization (a,a: > ae)

Development of diphthongs:

  • Breaking/fracture (a,e,ae > diph: herte – heorte)

  • diphthongization (e & ae > diph with a: jer > jear)

  • mutation/umplaut (u/u: > y/y: )

palatal mutation (i-umlaut)

  • back umlaut or velar umlaut (the change of the root vowel under the influence of the back vowel in the suffix. The root vowel changes into a diphthong)

  • contraction (x & x’ had dropped between 2 vowels, these 2 vowels contracted into one diph slahan – slean)

Processes in consonants:

  • voicing and devoicing of consonants (wif – wifes)

  • hardening of consonants (th > d)

  • germination of consonants/doubling (most con-s were lengthened after a) r – not (fuljan-fyllan)

  • metathesis (exchange their places: thridda – thirdda)

  • palatalization/velar con-t changing (before a front vowel)

  • loss of consonants (nasal cts were lost before fricatives: fimf – fif)

  • rhotacism (z>r)


In building grammatical forms OE employed:

  • grammatical endings

  • sound interchanges in the root

  • grammatical prefixes (rare, usually verbs)

  • suppletive formation

Nominal parts of speech: noun, pronoun, adj, numeral



Preposition, conjunction, interjection

nomimal categories

verbal categories

number, case, gender, degrees of comparison, the category of definiteness/indefiniteness

tense, mood, number, person


Two-part structure: root + ending; stem-building suffix was lost

Gender: m, n, f

Number: sg, pl (inflections, umlaut, zero-inflection)

Cases: Nom, Gen (possession), Acc, Dat (instrumental meaning)

Declensions: strong and weak; root-declension, r-dec, s-dec.


  • personal

  • demonstrative

  • interrogative

  • definite

  • indefinite

Gender: m, n, f

Number: sg, pl, dual

Cases: N, G, D, A

Demonstratives – the oldest class. Declined like adjectives. 5 cases (+Instrumental)

Interrogatives – hwa, hwaet. 4 cases


5 cases (+Instrumental: “with the help of a small troop”)

Strong declension – indefiniteness, weak – definiteness.

Weak – when preceded by a demonstrative pronoun or the Gen case of personal pronoun, and when adj formed a part of direct address.

eall, manigm other – always strong

adjs in superlative & comparative degrees, ilca – always weak.

Comparison: suffixation/s+vowel interchange/suppletion


  • cardinal (the first three (one…) had cases and gender and declined like strong; tine, tig)

  • ordinal (always weak)


Finite and Non-finite. Non-finite: Infinitive & Participle.

1. Finite

  • number (sg, pl)

  • person (1, 2, 3)

  • mood (indicative, imperative, subjunctive)

  • tense (present and past; sculan/willan)

+ aspect + voice

Strong verbs

7 classes, 4 stems (inf/pres tense/imper – past sg – past pl – past participle)

  1. long [i:] in the infinitive

  2. [o] in the 4th form

  3. nd, lp, nt after the root vowel

  4. the ablaut contained narrow open sound [e, ae]

  5. a long [ae] in past plural stem

  6. quantitative ablaut [a-ö-ö-a]

  7. reduplication of the root syllable

Weak verbs

3 classes, 3 stems

  1. regular & irregular

hieran – hierde – hiered

tellan – tealde – teald

  1. connecting –o- before the suffix

locian – locoed – locod

  1. no connectives before the dental suffix and the root vowels slightly changed in the past tense and Participle 2

haban – haefde – haefd

Preterite-presents or past-present verbs

12 verbs; 6 surived

Not actions, but mental state

Built their present forms by means of ablaut (like strong verbs) and their past forms with the help of the dental suffixes (like weak verbs)

Anomalous verbs

Willan/ Buan/Don

Suppletive Verbs


beon (more than 11 roots)

2. Infinite


A verbal noun by origin; could be declined; a reduced case system

2 forms which roughly corresponded to the Nom & Dat cases of nouns

Beran – uninflected infinitive (Nom case)

to berenne/to beranne – inflected infinitive (Dat case) – direction or purpose of action


A verbal adjective; nominal & verbal feature

P1 – from the Present Tense stem with the help op suffix ‘ende’

P2 – a stem of its own: in strong verbs it was marked by the root-vowel interchange and by the suffix ‘en’, with the weak verbs, it ended in d/t. It was commonly marked by the prefix ‘ge’

Bindan – P1: bindende – P2: bunden

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