Qestion 9: Characteristics of ME

View previous topic View next topic Go down

Qestion 9: Characteristics of ME

Post  MARCO on Thu Mar 31, 2011 1:23 pm

In ME period, there is a decay of Inflectional endings: The changes in English grammar may be described as a general reduction of inflections.

A Biography of The English language, C.M. Millward, 1996, Hartcourt Brace College Publishers.

Nouns: The -um of dative endings had become -un. At the same time, all the vowels of inflectional endings were reduced to /ə/, spelled -e. Thus -um, -an, -on, and -en all became /ən/, usually spelled -en. Later, this final -n was also lost in most, though not all, noun endings. Fiinally, by late Middle English, final inflectional -e had dropped.

Adjectives: Of all the parts of speech, the adjective suffered the greatest inflectional losses in Middle English. Although, it was the most highly inflectal part of speech in Old English, it became totally uninflected by the end of the ME period. Because its case and gender depended on that of the noun it modified, it quite predictably lost case and gender distinctions when the noun lost them, failling to preserve even the possessive endings that the noun retained.

Pronouns: If the Old English personal pronouns had developed regularly in Middle English, much of the differentiation between gender and number would have been lost. In particular, the forms for 'he' and 'she' would have become identical, resulting in 'he'.

Verbs: Compared with other branches of Indo-European, Germanic had had few verbal inflections, and compared with other Germanic languages, Old English verbal morphology had been greatly simplified.


Posts : 10
Join date : 2011-02-24

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: Qestion 9: Characteristics of ME

Post  mavezina on Sun Apr 03, 2011 11:41 am

Middle English period is above all the period when linguistic variation is reflected in the written mode. One of the most famous descriptions of such variation may be taken as a starting-point for our discussion of the lexicon during the transition from Middle English to early modern English. Oxford p.122

The remainder of this chapter falls into four major sections, dealing with the lexicon, grammar, spelling and pronunciation respectively. The chapter concludes with some remarks on the linguistic implication of a key cultural event, the arrival of the printing press in 1476.

What is known as diatopic (Through space) variation in the lexicon, and thus nay be taken as an early comment on Middle English word geography, a somewhat neglected sub-discipline still. Different forms have a different distribution in Middle English. Moreover, it is clear that the vocabulary of English varied diatopically during the late middle ages not only in forms but also in the meaning of forms, at the end of the 14th century Geoffrey Chaucer observed something of this variation in his representation of northern dialect in the Canterbury tales. For instance, he clearly understands one of the principal axioms which underpin modern theories of language change: the relationship between linguistic variation and linguistic change. Furthermore, he draws attention to the connexion between language and social standing. The value is expression above clarity of the language.

To use present day expression, he would present this as distinguishable registers characterized by different kinds of vocabulary. In doing so he follows the ancient distinction between, low, middle and high styles respectively; the terminology derives from the classical world, but it was still understood in the middle ages.

What Caxton had in mind when he referred to “curious terms” In part, he is probably referring t so-called “aureate diction”, a kind of usage found in much English writing of the 15th century.

Extensive vocabulary was used for hawking and hunting. It was permissible to use direct speech in dramatic texts as evidence for the spoken usages of the past. Oxford p128

Perhaps the most salient grammatical distinctions are between older Scots and contemporary southern English. The late 15th century saw a major divergence between these varieties, most obviously indicated by the adoption of a new name for the former; originally known as inglis to Scottish writers, the variety is called scottis from the late 15th century- a term which had been used up until that date for Gaelic.
In older Scots, by contrast, there were two paradigms for the present indicative. The system works as follows: if the subject of the clause is a personal pronoun and comes immediately before of after the verb, the paradigm is as follows:

p.129 oxford...

Otherwise, the –is form is used throughout the paradigm for all persons, A good example appears in the Brus, composed by the Aberdonian poet-priest John Barbour.

This system of grammatical concord is known as the northern personal pronoun rules. As it names suggests, it was also found in northern middle English texts, but over time it withdrew towards the increasingly permanent Scottish/English border as prestigious southern forms pushed north in England during the modern period. The system survived sporadically beyond Scotland, most notably in some of the more conservative dialects of eastern USA.

There are indications, for instance, that –s type endings were already available in southern middle English in informal situations. A similar informal/formal distinction is detectable in earliest texts, in the use or omission of adjectival –e southern texts. Distinction between strong vs weak verbs.¸

The writing system changed dramatically in Middle English:
• þ and ð were replaced by th (and sometimes y, as in ye meaning the)
• c before i or e became ch
• sc became sh
• an internal h was added after g
• hw became wh
• cw became qu
• the new symbols v and u were added; v was used word initially, and u was used everywhere else
• k was used much more often (cyning became king)
• new values were given to old symbols too; g before i or e was pronounced ǰ; ʒ became j, and c before i and e became s in some cases
• a historical h (usually not pronounced) was added to some words (it was assumed that these words had once begun with an h): honor, heir, honest, herb, habit
• sometimes words were written with o but pronounced as [ʊ] but later were pronounced [ʌ]: son, come, ton, some, from, money, honey, front, won, one, wonder, of
Because of the stress shift to the beginning of the word, Middle English lost the case suffixes at the ends of nouns. Phonological erosion also occurred because of this, and some consonants dropped off while some vowels became əand dropped off too. The generalized plural marker became -s, but it still competed with -n.
Verb infinitives dropped the -an ending, and used "to" before the verb to signify the infinitival form. The third person singular and plural was marked with -(e)th; but the singular also competed with -(e)s from the Northern dialect. More strong (irregular) verbs became weak (regular) as well.
Adjectives lost agreement with the noun, but the weak ending -e still remained. The comparative form became -er and the superlative became -est. Vowels tended to be long in the adjective form, but short in the comparative form (late - latter). The demonstratives these and those were added during this period. And the adverb ending -lič became -ly; however, some "flat" adverbs did not add the -ly: fast, late, hard.
The dual number disappeared in the pronouns, and the dative and accusative became the object forms of the pronouns. The third person plural pronouns replaced the old pronouns with th- words (they, them, their) borrowed from Scandinavian. She started being used for the feminine singular subject pronoun and you (plural form) was used in the singular as a status marker for the formal.
Syntax was stricter and more prepositions were used. New compound tenses were used, such as the perfect tenses, and there was more use of the progressive and passive voice. The use of double negation also increased as did impersonal constructions. The use of the verbs will and shall for the future tense were first used too. Formerly, will meant want and shall meant obliged to.
Pronunciation changes:
• Loss of initial h in a cluster (hleapan - to leap; hnutu - hut)
• [w] lost between consonant and back vowel (w is silent in two, sword, answer)
• [č] lost in unstressed syllable (ič - I)
• [v] lost in middle of words (heofod - head; hæfde - had)
• Loss of final -n in possessive pronouns (min fæder - mi fæder) and the addition of -n to some words beginning with a vowel (a napron - an apron, a nuncle - an uncle)
• Voiced fricatives became phonemic with their voiceless counterparts
• [ž] phoneme was borrowed from French as the voiced counterpart for [š]
• Front rounded vowels merged with their unrounded counterparts
• Vowel length became predictable (lost phonemic status); an open syllable with no consonant following it contained a long vowel, while a closed syllable with at least one consonant following it contained a short vowel
In addition, there were dialectal differences in the north and south. The north used -(e)s for the plural marker as well as for the third person singular; and the third person plural pronouns began with th- (borrowed from Scandinavian). The south used -(e)n for the plural, -(e)th for the third person singular, and h- for the third person plural pronouns. The north used [a] and [k] while the south used [o] and [č] for certain words. Eventually, the northern dialect would become the standard for modern English regarding the grammatical endings, but the southern pronunciation of [o] and [č] would also remain.
Early Modern English (1500 - 1650/1700 CE)
William Caxton introduced the printing press to England in 1476 and the East Midland dialect became the literary standard of English. Ten thousand words were added to English as writers created new words by using Greek and Latin affixes. Some words, such as devulgate, attemptate and dispraise, are no longer used in English, but several words were also borrowed from other languages as well as from Chaucer's works. In 1582, Richard Mulcaster proposed in his treatise "Elementaire" a compromise on spelling and by 1623, Henry Cockrum published his English dictionary. The printing press helped to standardize the spelling of English in its modern stages. The printing press led the path for the laser printer many, many years later in 1969 which lead to Canon, HP and Brother toner.
Characteristics of Early Modern English
Adjectives lost all endings except for in the comparative and superlative forms. The neuter pronoun it was first used as well as who as a relative pronoun. The class distinctions between formal and informal you were decreasing, so that today there is no difference between them. More strong verbs became weak and the third person singular form became -(e)s instead of -(e)th. There was a more limited use of the progressive and auxiliary verbs than there is now, however. Negatives followed the verb and multiple negatives were still used.
The Great Vowel Shift (1400-1600) changed the pronunciation of all the vowels. The tongue was placed higher in the mouth, and all the verbs moved up. Vowels that were already high ([i] and [u]) added the dipthongs [aj] and [aw] to the vowels of English.
Several consonants were no longer pronounced, but the spelling system was in place before the consonant loss, so they are still written in English today. The consonants lost include:
• Voiceless velar fricative lost in night; pronounced as f in laugh
• [b] in final -mb cluster (dumb, comb)
• [l] between a or o and consonant (half, walk, talk, folk)
• [r] sometimes before s (Worcestershire)
• initial clusters beginning with k and g (knee, knight, gnat)
• [g] in -ing endings (more commonly pronounced [ɪn])
Finally, assibilation occurred when the alveolars [s], [d], [t], and [z] preceded the palatal glide [j], producing the palatal consonants: [š], [ǰ], [č], [ž]


Posts : 15
Join date : 2011-01-17

View user profile

Back to top Go down

View previous topic View next topic Back to top

- Similar topics

Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum