Linguistic characteristics of the German and English languages

Linguistic features of the vowels and consonants in the German language. Historical background, peculiarities of ancient and modern Germanic languages. Phonetic processes in old English, the great vowel shift. Grammatical categories of English verb.

Рубрика Иностранные языки и языкознание
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Язык английский
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1. Linguistic features of Germanic languages: vowels

Germanic languages also have some peculiarities in the sphere of vowel sounds, which distinguish them from other Indo-European languages.

Their main characteristic feature in this sphere is the treatment of the Indo-European short vowels o and a and the long vowels o and a.

Indo-European short o and a appear as short a languages. E.g.:in

IE Germanic

Russ. Яблоко germ. Apfel

Lat. Noctem goth. Nahts

Russ.ночь germ. Nacht

Indo-European long o and a appear as long o in Germanic languages:

IE Germanic IE Germanic

Lat. Frater goth. Broar lat. Flos OE bloma

Greek. Phrator rOE bro

Thus, as a result of these changes, there was neither a short o nor a long a in Germanic languages. Later on these sounds appeared from different sources.

Another phenomenon common for Germanic languages is gradation or ablaut- root vowel change in strong verbs etc.

Another common phenomenon is Germanic Fracture that concerns 2 pairs of vowels: the pair E and I and the pair U and O.

2. Spelling changes in ME and NE. Rules of reading

The most conspicuous feature of Late ME texts in comparison with OE texts is the difference in spelling. The written forms of the words in ME texts resemble their modern forms, though the pronunciation of the words was different. In ME many new devices were introduced into the system of spelling; some of them reflected the sound changes which had been completed or were still in progress in ME; others were graphic replacements of OE letters by new letters and digraphs.In ME the runic letters passed out of use. Thorn - ю - and the crossed d - р, р - were replaced by the digraph th, which retained the same sound value: [?] and [р]; the rune “wynn” was displaced by “double u” - w - ; the ligatures ж and њ fell into disuse. After the period of Anglo-Norman dominance (11th-13th c.) English regained its prestige as the language of writing. Though for a long time writing was in the hands of those who had a good knowledge of French. Therefore many innovations in ME spelling reveal an influence of the French scribal tradition. The digraphs ou, ie, and ch which occurred in many French borrowings and were regularly used in Anglo-Norman texts were adopted as new ways of indicating the sounds [u:], [e:], and [t?]. other alterations in spelling cannot be traced directly to French influence though they testify to a similar tendency: a wider use of digraphs. In addition to ch, ou, ie, and th Late ME notaries introduced sh (also ssh and sch) to indicate the new sibilant [?], e.g. ME ship (from OE scip), dg to indicate [dз] alongside j and g; the digraph wh replaced the OE sequence of letters hw as in OE hwжt, ME what [hwat]. Long sounds were shown by double letters, e.g. ME book [bo:k], though long [e:] could be indicated by ie and ee, and also by e. Some replacements were probably made to avoid confusion of resembling letters: thus o was employed not only for [o] but also to indicate short [u] alongside the letter u; it happened when u stood close to n, m, or v, e.g. OE lufu became ME love [luv?]. The letter y came to be used as an equivalent of i and was evidently preferred when i could be confused with the surrounding letters m, n and others. Sometimes, y, as well w, were put at the end of a word, so as to finish the word with a curve, e.g. ME very [veri], my [mi:]; w was interchangeable with u in the digraphs ou, au, e.g. ME doun, down [du:n], and was often preferred finally, e.g. ME how [hu:], now [nu:]. For letters indicating two sounds the rules of reading are as follows. G and с stand for [dз] and [s] before front vowels and for [g] and [k] before back vowels respectively. Y stands for [j] at the beginning of words, otherwise, it is an equivalent of the letter i, e.g. ME yet [jet], knyght [knix't]. The letters th and s indicate voiced sounds between vowels, and voiceless sounds - initially, finally and next to other voiceless consonants, e.g. ME worthy [wurрi]. To determine the sound value of o one can look up the origin of the sound in OE or the pronunciation of the word in NE: the sound [u] did not change in the transition from OE to ME (the OE for some was sum); in NE it changed to [Л]. It follows that the letter o stood for [u] in those ME words which contain [Л] today, otherwise it indicates [o].

3. Linguistic features of Germanic languages: consonants

The consonants in Germanic languages are characterized by a number of specific traits which constitute what is perhaps the most remarkable feature of the group. At first sight it may appear that Germanic consonants are similar to those of other Indo-European languages. Yet, comparison of Germanic and non-Germanic words going back to the same Indo-European root shows that Germanic consonants do not correspond to the same consonants in other languages. Thus whenever we have the sound (p) in Latin or Russian, we find (f) in its place in parallel words from Germanic languages. On the other hand, wherever Germanic has (p), non-Germanic have (b) ex. Sleep and слабеть.

It appears that Germanic languages display regular correspondences of consonants with non-Germanic languages: voiceless consonants occur instead of voiced, ex. (p), (b), fricatives instead of plosives (f), (p).

These correspondences appeared as a result of specifically Germanic tendencies in the development of consonants. Sometimes the alterations were independent, at other times they were caused by phonetics conditions and took place only in certain positions. The most remarkable change, which affected the greatest number of consonants, refers to the Common Germanic period, its results are therefore to be found in all the languages of the group.

4. ME phonetics: vowel (reduction, shortening/lengthening, development of OE monophthongs in ME)

In the ME period a great change affected the entire system of vowel phonemes. OE had both short and long vowel phonemes, and each of these could occur in any phonetics environment, that is, they were absolutely independent phonemic units. But in the 10th--12th centuries, the ME vowel system was basically different.

Shortening - a long vowel occurring before 2 consonants (including a doubled, i.e. long, consonants) is shortened. The vowels are shortened before 2 consonants, but remain long in other environments. However, long vowels remain long before the `lengthening' consonant groups ld, nd, mb, i.e. those consisting of 2 voiced consonants articulated by the same organ speech. Long consonants also remained long before such consonant clusters as belonged to the following syllable. This mainly affects the group -st.

Lengthening - short vowels were lengthened in open syllables. This was another item of the development which deprived quantity of its status as a phonetic feature. It affected the short vowels a, e, o. The narrow vowels I and u remained as a rule unaffected by this change, and thus the difference between short I and long and also that between short u and long u retained its quality as a phonemically relevant feature.

Monophthongization of OE Diphthongs - all OE diphthongs were monophthongized in ME. OE short ea became a passing through the stage of ?, as in eald - ald `old', healf - half.

5. The Earliest Period of Germanic History

The history of the Germanic group begins with the appearance of what is known as the Proto-Germanic (PG) language. It is supposed to have split from related IE tongues sometime between the 15th and 10th с B.C. The would-be Germanic tribes belonged to the western division of the IE speech community.

As the Indo-Europeans extended over a larger territory, the ancient Germans or Teutons x moved further north than other tribes and settled on the southern coast of the Baltic Sea in the region of the Elbe. This place is regarded as the most probable original home of the Teutons. It is here that they developed their first specifically Germanic linguistic features which made them a separate group in the IE family.

PG was never recorded in written form.

It is believed that at the earliest stages of history PG was fundamentally one language, though dialectally coloured. In its later stages dialectal differences grew, so that towards the beginning of our era Germanic appears divided into dialectal groups and tribal dialects. Dialectal differentiation increased with the migrations and geographical expansion of the Teutons caused by overpopulation, poor agricultural technique and scanty natural resources in the areas of their original settlement.

Towards the beginning of our era the common period of Germanic history came to an end. The Teutons had extended over a larger territory and the PG language broke into parts. PG split into three branches: East Germanic (Vindili in Pliny's classification), North Germanic (Hilleviones) and West Germanic (which embraces Ingveones, Istsevones and Hermino-nes in Pliny's list). In due course these branches split into separate Germanic languages.

The East Germanic subgroup was formed by the tribes who returned from Scandinavia at the beginning of our era. The most numerous and powerful of them were the Goths.

The Gothic language, now dead, has been preserved in written records of the 4th--6th с The Goths were the first of the Teutons to become Christian.

The other East Germanic languages, all of which are now dead, have left no written traces. Some of their tribal names have survived in place names, which reveal the directions of their migrations: Bornholm and Burgundy go back to the East Germanic tribe of Burgundians; Andalusia is derived from the tribal name Vandals; Lombardy got its name from the Langobards, who made part of the population of the Ostrogothic kingdom in North Italy.

North Germanic

The Teutons who stayed in Scandinavia after the departure of the Goths gave rise to the North Germanic subgroup of languages. The speech of the North Germanic tribes showed little dialectal variation until the 9th c. and is regarded as a sort of common North Germanic parent-language called Old Norse or Old Scandinavian. It has come down to us in runic inscriptions dated from the 3rd to the 9th c. Runic inscriptions were carved on objects made of hard material in an original Germanic alphabet known as the runic alphabet or the runes. The runes were used by North and West Germanic tribes. The disintegration of Old Norse into separate dialects and languages began after the 9th c., when the Scandinavians started out on their sea voyages.

The earliest written records in Old Danish, Old Norwegian and Old Swedish date from the 13th c. In the later Middle Ages Danish and then Swedish developed into national literary languages. Nowadays Swedish is spoken not only by the population of Sweden; the language has extended over Finnish territory and is the second state language in Finland.

Norwegian was the last to develop into an independent national language. During the period of Danish dominance Norwegian intermixed with Danish. As a result in the 19th с there emerged two varieties of the Norwegian tongue: the state or bookish tongue riksmal (later called bokmal)and landsmal. At the present time the two varieties tend to fuse into a single form of language nynorsk ("New Norwegian").

In addition to the three languages on the mainland, the North Germanic subgroup includes two more languages: Icelandic and Faroese, whose origin goes back to the Viking Age.

Faroese is spoken nowadays by about 30,000 people. For many centuries all writing was done in Danish; it was not until the 18th с that the first Faroese records were made.

At present Icelandic is spoken by over 200 000 people.

Old Icelandic written records date from the 12th and 13th c, an age of literary flourishing. The most important records are: the ELDER EDDA (also called the POETIC EDDA) -- a collection of heroic songs of the 12th c, the YOUNGER (PROSE) EDDA (a text-book for poets compiled by Snorri Sturluson in the early 13th c.) and the Old Icelandic sagas.

West Germanic

The dialectal differentiation of West Germanic was quite distinct even at the beginning of our era since Pliny and Tacitus described them under three tribal names On the eve of their "great migrations" of the 4th and 5th c. the West Germans included several tribes. The Franconians (or Franks) subdivided into Low, Middle and High Franconians. The Angles and the Frisians (known as the Anglo-Frisian group), the Jutes and the Saxons inhabited the coastal area of the modern Netherlands, the Federal Republic of Germany and the southern part of Denmark. A group of tribes known as High Germans lived in the mountainous southern regions of the Federal Republic of Germany (High Germans , Low Germans ) The High Germans included a number of tribes whose names are known since the early Middle Ages: the Alemanians, the Swabians, the Bavarians, the Thuringians and others.

The Franconian dialects were spoken in the extreme North of the Empire; in the later Middle Ages they developed into Dutch - the language of the Low Countries (the Netherlands) and Flemish - the language of Flanders. The earliest texts in Low Franconian date from the 10th c; 12th с records represent the earliest Old Dutch.

The modern language of the Netherlands, formerly called Dutch, and Its variant m Belgium, known as the Flemish dialect, are now treated as a single languuge, Netherlandish. Netherlandish is spoken by almost 20 million people.

About three hundred years ago the Dutch Language was brought to South Africa. Their dialects in Africa eventually grew into a separate West Germanic language, Afrikaans. Today Afrikaans is the mother-tongue of over four million Afrikaners and coloured people and one of the state languages in the South African Republic.

The High German dialects consolidated into a common language known as Old High German (OHG). The first written records in OHG date from the 8th and 9th c. (glosses to Latin texts, translations from Latin. and religious poems). Towards the 12th c. High German (known as Middle High Germarn had intermixed with neighbouring tongues, especially Middle and High Franconian, and eventually developed into the Literary German language. The total number of German-speaking people approaches 100 million.

The first English written records have come down from the 7th c., which is the earliest date in the history of writing in the West Germanic subgroup (see relevant chapters below). The Frisians and the Saxons who did not take part in the invasion of Britain stayed on the continent. Frisian has survived as a local dialect in Friesland (in the Netherlands) and Ostfriesland (the Federal Republic of Germany). It has both an oral and written form, the earliest records dating from the 13th c. In the Early Middle Ages the continental Saxons formed a powerful tribe. Together with High German tribes they took part in the eastward drive and the colonization of the former Slavonic territories. Old Saxon known in written form from the records of the 9th c. has survived as one of the Low German dialects.

6. Development of Old English diphthongs in М. English

One of the most important sound changes of the Early ME period was the loss of OE diphthongs and the growth of new diphthongs, with new qualitative and quantitative distinctions. OE possessed a well-developed system of diphthongs: falling diphthopgs with a closer nucleus and more open glide arranged in two symmetrical sets long and short: [ea:, eo:, ie:] and [ea, eo, ie]. Towards the end of the OE period some of the diphthongs merged with monophthongs: all diphthongs were monophthongised. In Early ME the remaining diphthongs were also contracted to monophthongs: the long [ea:] coalesced with the reflex of OE [ ж:] ME[ ]; the short [ea] ceased to be distinguished from OE [ж] and became [a] in ME; the diphthongs [eo:, eo] -- as well as their dialectal variants [io:, io] - fell together with the monophthongs [e:, e, i:, i ]. Later they shared in the development of respective monophthongs. As a result of these changes e vowel system lost two sets of diphthongs, long and short. In the meantime a new set of diphthongs developed from some sequences of vowels and consonants due to the vocalisation of OE [j] and [y], that is to their change into vowels.

In Early ME the sounds [j] and [y] between and after vowels changed into [i] and [u 1 and formed diphthongs together with the preceding vowels. These changes gave rise to two sets of diphthongs: with i-glides and u-glides.

The formation of new diphthongs in ME was an important event in the history of the language.

7. Basic grammatical features of Germanic languages

Strong evidence for the unity of all the modern Germanic languages can be found in the phenomenon known as the first Germanic sound shift or consonant shift (also called Grimm's law), which set the Germanic subfamily apart from the other members of the Indo-European family. Consisting of a regular shifting of consonants in groups, the sound shift had already occurred by the time adequate records of the various Germanic languages began to be made in the 7th to 9th cent. According to Grimm's law, certain consonant sounds found in the ancient Indo-European languages (such as Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit) underwent a change in the Germanic tongue. For example, the sounds p, d, t, and k in the former became f, t, th, and h respectively in the latter, as in Latin pater, English father; Latin dent, English tooth; and Latin cornu, English horn(рог).

Before the 8th cent. a second shift of consonants took place in some of the West German dialects. For instance, under certain circumstances, d became t, and t became ss or z, as in English bread, Dutch brood, but German Brot; English foot, Dutch voet, but German Fuss; and English ten, Dutch tien, but German zehn. The dialects in which this second consonant shift took place were the High German dialects, so called because they were spoken in more mountainous areas. Standard modern German arose from these dialects. The West Germanic dialects not affected by the second shift were the Low German dialects of the lowlands, from which Dutch and English evolved.

Also peculiar to the Germanic languages is the recessive accent, whereby the stress usually falls on the first or root syllable of a word, especially a word of Germanic origin. Another distinctive characteristic shared by the Germanic languages is the umlaut, which is a type of vowel change in the root of a word. It is demonstrated in the pairs foot (singular), feet (plural) in English; fot (singular), fцtter (plural) in Swedish; and Kampf (singular), Kдmpfe (plural) in German.

All Germanic languages have strong and weak verbs; that is, they form the past tense and past participle either by changing the root vowel in the case of strong verbs (as in English lie, lay, lain or ring, rang, rung; German ringen, rang, gerungen) or by adding as an ending -d (or -t) or -ed in the case of weak verbs (as in English care, cared, cared or look, looked, looked; German fragen, fragte, gefragt). Also typically Germanic is the formation of the genitive singular by the addition of -s or -es. Examples are English man, man's; Swedish hund, hunds; German Lehrer, Lehrers or Mann, Mannes. Moreover, the comparison of adjectives in the Germanic languages follows a parallel pattern, as in English: rich, richer, richest; German reich, reicher, reichst; and Swedish rik, rikare, rikast. Lastly, vocabulary furnished evidence of a common origin for the Germanic languages in that a number of the basic words in these languages are similar in form; however, while word similarity may indicate the same original source for a group of languages, it can also be a sign of borrowing.

The Germanic languages have two adjective declensions, a strong and a weak. The weak forms are used generally after articles, demonstrative pronouns, and possessive adjectives; the strong are used independently. The number of these forms is reduced greatly in Danish, Swedish, and Netherlandic. The comparison of adjectives and adverbs in Germanic differs from that in the Romance languages. Generally, -r and -st endings are added: long, longer, longest; Swedish, lang, langre, langst.

The eight cases of Indo-European nouns, adjectives, and pronouns were reduced to four, and sometimes even fewer, in Germanic. Free stress (accent) became recessive, and precise accent rules became dominant, with the first root syllable in Germanic carrying the stress. Umlauting, a process of modifying vowel sounds, took place extensively (man, men; foot, feet). A system of strong verbs developed as the result of vowel alternation (ablaut), as in sing, sang, sung, and a unique way of forming the past tense using weak verbs (jump, jumped) was created, probably by adding a form of did to the verb (I jump - did = I jumped). The number of strong verbs in Germanic is steadily being reduced, and the system does not seem to permit the creation of new strong verbs. Conversely, the number of weak verbs is increasing.

The runic alphabet

The runic alphabet is a specifically Germanic alphabet, not to be found in languages of other groups. The word rune originally meant 'secret', `mystery' and hence came to denote inscriptions believed to be magic. The runes were used as letters, each symbol to indicate separate sound. This alphabet is called futhark after the first six letters. Runic letters are angular; straight lines are preferred, curved lines avoided; this is due to the fact that runic inscriptions were cut in hard material: stone, bone or wood. The shapes of some letters resemble those of Greek or Latin, other have not been traced to any known alphabet, and the order of the runes in the alphabet is certainly original. The number of runes in different OG languages varied. As compared to continental, the number of runes in England was larger: new runes were added as new sounds appeared in English (from 28 to 33 runes in Britain against 16 or 24 on the continent). The main use of runes was to make short inscriptions on objects, often to bestow on them some special power or magic. The two best known runic inscriptions in England are the earliest extant OE written records. One of them is and inscription on a box called the “Franks Casket”, the other is a short text on a stone cross near the village of Ruthwell known as the “Ruthwell Cross”.

8. The Great vowel shift

Vowel Shift was a major change in the pronunciation of Germanic languages, generally accomplished in the 15th century and early 16th century, both in Europe and England. It represented a change in the long vowels (i.e. a vowel shift). In English, the shift began toward the end of the 15th century and was mostly completed in the 16th century, although it continued for some time after that, spreading toward the non-metropolitan and non-port areas.

The values of the long vowels form the main difference between the pronunciation of Middle English and Modern English, and the Great Vowel Shift is one of the historical events marking the separation of Middle and Modern English. Originally, these vowels had "continental" values much like those remaining in liturgical Latin. However, during the Great Vowel Shift, the two highest long vowels became diphthongs, and the other five underwent an increase in tongue height and one of them came to the front.

The principal changes are roughly the following -- though exceptions occur, the transitions were not always complete, and there were sometimes accompanying changes in orthography:

/a:/ -> /e:/ (in e.g. make)

/E:/ -> /e:/ or /i:/ (in e.g. break, beak)

/e:/ -> /i:/ (in e.g. feet)

/i:/ -> /ai/ (in e.g. mice)

/O:/ -> /o:/ (in e.g. boat)

/o:/ -> /u:/ (in e.g. boot)

/u:/ -> /au/ (in e.g. mouse).

This means that the vowel in the English word make was originally pronounced as in modern English father, but has now become a diphthong, as it is today in standard pronunciations of British English (see Received Pronunciation); the vowel in feet was originally pronounced as a long Latin-like e sound; the vowel in mice was originally what the vowel in feet is now; the vowel in boot was originally a long Latin-like o sound; and the vowel in mouse was originally what the vowel in moose is now, but has now become a diphthong.

The Great Vowel Shift was first studied by the Danish linguist Otto Jespersen (1860 - 1943), who coined the term.

The shift was remarkable for how widespread it was (going through most of Europe and then Great Britain), as well as its rapidity. The effects of the shift were not entirely uniform, and differences in degree of vowel shifting can sometimes be detected in regional dialects, both in written and spoken English. The surprising speed and the exact cause of the shift are continuing mysteries in linguistics and cultural history.

Because English spelling was becoming standardized in the 15th and 16th centuries, the Great Vowel Shift is responsible for many of the peculiarities of English spelling. Spellings that made sense according to Middle English pronunciation were retained in Modern English.

9. Chronological division in the history of English. Short survey of periods

The history of the English language really started with the arrival of three Germanic tribes who invaded Britain during the 5th century AD. These tribes, the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes, crossed the North Sea from what today is Denmark and northern Germany. At that time the inhabitants of Britain spoke a Celtic language. But most of the Celtic speakers were pushed west and north by the invaders - mainly into what is now Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The Angles came from England and their language was called English - from which the words England and English are derived.

Old English (450-1100 AD) The invading Germanic tribes spoke similar languages, which in Britain developed into what we now call Old English. Old English did not sound or look like English today. Native English speakers now would have great difficulty understanding Old English. Nevertheless, about half of the most commonly used words in Modern English have Old English roots. The words be, strong and water, for example, derive from Old English. Old English was spoken until around 1100.

Middle English (1100-1500) In 1066 William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy conquered England The new conquerors (called the Normans) brought with them a kind of French, which became the language of the Royal Court, and the ruling and business classes. For a period there was a kind of linguistic class division, where the lower classes spoke English and the upper classes spoke French. In the 14th century English became dominant in Britain again, but with many French words added. This language is called Middle English. It was the language of the great poet Chaucer (c1340-1400), but it would still be difficult for native English speakers to understand today.

Early Modern English (1500-1800) Towards the end of Middle English, a sudden and distinct change in pronunciation (the Great Vowel Shift) started, with vowels being pronounced shorter and shorter. From the 16th century the British had contact with many people from around the world. This, and the Renaissance of Classical learning, meant that many new words and phrases entered the language. The invention of printing also meant that there was now a common language in print. Books became cheaper and more people learned to read. Printing also brought standardization to English. Spelling and grammar became fixed, and the dialect of London, where most publishing houses were, became the standard. In 1604 the first English dictionary was published.

Late Modern English (1800-Present) The main difference between Early Modern English and Late Modern English is vocabulary. Late Modern English has many more words, arising from two principal factors: firstly, the Industrial Revolution and technology created a need for new words; secondly, the British Empire at its height covered one quarter of the earth's surface, and the English language adopted foreign words from many countries.

A brief chronology of English

BC 55

Roman invasion of Britain by Julius Caesar.


Roman withdrawal from Britain complete.


Settlement of Britain by Germanic invaders begins


Earliest known Old English inscriptions.


William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, invades and conquers England.


English replaces Latin as the language of instruction in most schools.


English replaces French as the language of law. English is used in Parliament for the first time.


Chaucer starts writing The Canterbury Tales.


The Great Vowel Shift begins.


William Caxton establishes the first English printing press.


Table Alphabeticall, the first English dictionary, is published.

Late Modern English (1800-Present) The main difference between Early Modern English and Late Modern English is vocabulary. Late Modern English has many more words, arising from two principal factors: firstly, the Industrial Revolution and technology created a need for new words; secondly, the British Empire at its height covered one quarter of the earth's surface, and the English language adopted foreign words from many countries.

A brief chronology of English

BC 55

Roman invasion of Britain by Julius Caesar.


Roman withdrawal from Britain complete.


Settlement of Britain by Germanic invaders begins


Earliest known Old English inscriptions.


William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, invades and conquers England.


English replaces Latin as the language of instruction in most schools.


English replaces French as the language of law. English is used in Parliament for the first time.


Chaucer starts writing The Canterbury Tales.


The Great Vowel Shift begins.


William Caxton establishes the first English printing press.


Table Alphabeticall, the first English dictionary, is published.

10. New English Phonetics: loss of unstressed -e, the change of -er into -ar, a into ?. Rise of new phonemes

At the outset of of the MnE period the vowel eof unstressed endings was lost. This vowel was on the verge of loss in th 14th c already, in the 15th c it disappeared. The vowel e was lost when it was final and also when it was followed by a consonant, as in the plural forms of substantitives(tables, hats, books), in the 3d person sing present indicative(likes, sits, begs), and in the past tense 2d participle in -ed(lived, filled). But the e was preserved and later changed inyo I in some adjectives and adjectivized participle in -ed (learned, wicked, ragged).The letter e was also preserved in words with long root-vowel, in this way the so-called `mute' e arose, which denotes length of the preseding vowel( house, stone, wrote).

The change -er into -ar began in the 14th c and was completed in the 15th. Spelling in most cases reflected the change. Steorra- sterra- star, heorte - herte - heart. In some cases the spelling doesn't reflects the change(clerk, sergeant, Derby). The ME substantive person has yielded 2 variants in MnE: parson and person. In some words -er didn't developed in -ar(certain, University).

The change a into ? affected all words containing [a]except those where it was preceded by w(??t- that - that).

The rise of new phonemes б:, o:, Э: took place in the 16th c. 1)[ б: ?> ?: >б: ] before fricatives and th 9[?]:father, rather, aftermath; [s]: glass, gruss, but lass, mass[?]; [st]: last, cast, but elastic, plastic[?]; [sk]: ask, mask but masculine[?]. 2) from [aх] + l+consonant: calm, palm.

But in the 16th c [aх> o] but the spelling remained unchanged - au, aw: cause, p draw.

In tthe 16th c a new vowel appears [Э:]. It rises in the following cases: i+r - sir, u+r - fur, e+r -lern, o+r after w - word, worse.

11. Old English. Historical background

Old English (also called Anglo-Saxon,[1] Englisc by its speakers) is an early form of the English language that was spoken and written in parts of what are now England and south-eastern Scotland between the mid-5th century and the mid-12th century. What survives through writing represents primarily the literary register of Anglo-Saxon. It is a West Germanic language and is closely related to Old Frisian. It also experienced heavy influence from Old Norse, a member of the related North Germanic group of languages.

Old English was not static, and its usage covered a period of approximately 700 years[2] - from the Anglo-Saxon migrations that created England in the 5th century to some time after the Norman Conquest of 1066, when the language underwent a dramatic transition. During this early period it assimilated some aspects of the languages with which it came in contact, such as the Celtic languages and the two dialects of Old Norse from the invading Vikings, who occupied and controlled large tracts of land in northern and eastern England, which came to be known as the Danelaw.

The most important force in shaping Old English was its Germanic heritage in its vocabulary, sentence structure and grammar, which it shared with its sister languages in continental Europe. Some of these features are shared with the other West Germanic languages with which Old English is grouped, while some other features are traceable to the reconstructed Proto-Germanic language from which all Germanic languages are believed to have derived.

Like other Germanic languages of the period, Old English was fully inflected with five grammatical cases (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, and instrumental, though the instrumental was very rare), which had dual plural forms for referring to groups of two objects (but only in the personal pronouns) in addition to the usual singular and plural forms. It also assigned gender to all nouns, including those that describe inanimate objects: for example, sзo sunne (the Sun) was feminine, while se mфna (the Moon) was masculine (cf. modern German die Sonne and der Mond).

One of the ways the influence of Latin can be seen is that many Latin words for activities came to also be used to refer to the people engaged in those activities, an idiom carried over from Anglo-Saxon but using Latin words. This can be seen in words like militia, assembly, movement, and service.

The language was further altered by the transition away from the runic alphabet (also known as futhorc or fuюorc) to the Latin alphabet, which was also a significant factor in the developmental pressures brought to bear on the language. Old English words were spelt as they were pronounced. The "silent" letters in many Modern English words were pronounced in Old English: for example, the c in cniht, the Old English ancestor of the modern knight, was pronounced. Another side-effect of spelling words phonetically was that spelling was extremely variable - the spelling of a word would reflect differences in the phonetics of the writer's regional dialect, and also idiosyncratic spelling choices which varied from author to author, and even from work to work by the same author. Thus, for example, the word and could be spelt either and or ond.

The second major source of loanwords to Old English was the Scandinavian words introduced during the Viking invasions of the 9th and 10th centuries. In addition to a great many place names, these consist mainly of items of basic vocabulary, and words concerned with particular administrative aspects of the Danelaw (that is, the area of land under Viking control, which included extensive holdings all along the eastern coast of England and Scotland). The Vikings spoke Old Norse, a language related to Old English in that both derived from the same ancestral Proto-Germanic language. It is very common for the intermixing of speakers of different dialects, such as those that occur during times of political unrest, to result in a mixed language, and one theory holds that exactly such a mixture of Old Norse and Old English helped accelerate the decline of case endings in Old English. Apparent confirmation of this is the fact that simplification of the case endings occurred earliest in the North and latest in the Southwest, the area farthest away from Viking influence. Regardless of the truth of this theory, the influence of Old Norse on the English language has been profound: responsible for such basic vocabulary items as sky, leg, the pronoun they, the verb form are, and hundreds of other words.

Old English should not be regarded as a single monolithic entity just as Modern English is also not monolithic. Within Old English, there was language variation. Thus, it is misleading, for example, to consider Old English as having a single sound system. Rather, there were multiple Old English sound systems. Old English has variation along regional lines as well as variation across different times. For example, the language attested in Wessex during the time of Жthelwold of Winchester, which is named Late West Saxon (or Жthelwoldian Saxon), is considerably different from the language attested in Wessex during the time of Alfred the Great's court, which is named Early West Saxon (or Classical West Saxon or Alfredian Saxon). Furthermore, the difference between Early West Saxon and Late West Saxon is of such a nature that Late West Saxon is not directly descended from Early West Saxon (despite what the similarity in name implies).

The four main dialectal forms of Old English were Mercian, Northumbrian, Kentish, and West Saxon. Each of those dialects was associated with an independent kingdom on the island. Of these, all of Northumbria and most of Mercia were overrun by the Vikings during the 9th century. The portion of Mercia and all of Kent that were successfully defended were then integrated into Wessex.

Old English was first written in runes (futhorc) but shifted to a (minuscule) half-uncial script of the Latin alphabet introduced by Irish Christian missionaries. This was replaced by insular script, a cursive and pointed version of the half-uncial script. This was used until the end of the 12th century when continental Carolingian minuscule (also known as Caroline) replaced the insular.

The letter yogh was adapted from Irish ecclesiastical forms of Latin < g > ; the letter ржt < р > (called eth or edh in modern English) was an alteration of Latin < d >, and the runic letters thorn and wynn are borrowings from futhorc. Also used was a symbol for the conjunction and, a character similar to the number seven (< ? >, called a Tironian note), and a symbol for the relative pronoun южt, a thorn with a crossbar through the ascender (< ? >). Macrons < Ї > over vowels were rarely used to indicate long vowels. Also used occasionally were abbreviations for following m's or n's. All of the sound descriptions below are given using IPA symbols.

12. Major vowel changes in NE. Great vowel shift. Vocalization of [r]

New English

Great Vowel Shift - the change that happened in the 14th - 16th c. and affected all long monophthongs + diphthong [au]. As a result these vowels were:


narrowed (became more closed);

both diphthongized and narrowed.

ME Sounds

NE Sounds





time [`ti:m?]

time [teim]



kepen [`ke:p?n]

keep [ki:p]



maken [`ma:k?n]

make [meik]




stone [`sto:n?]

moon [mo:n]

stone [stoun]

moon [mu:n]



mous [mu:s]

mouse [maus]



cause [`kauz?]

cause [ko:z]

This shift was not followed by spelling changes, i.e. it was not reflected in written form. Thus the Great Vowel Shift explains many modern rules of reading.

Short Vowels

ME Sounds

NE Sounds





[o] after [w]!!

that [at]

man [man]

was [was]

water [`wat?]

that [ржt]

man [mжn]

was [woz]

water [`wot?]



hut [hut]

comen [cumen]

hut [hЛt]

come [cЛm]

There were exceptions though, e.g. put, pull, etc.

Vocalisation of [r]

It occurred in the 16th - 17th c. Sound [r] became vocalised (changed to [?] (schwa)) when stood after vowels at the end of the word.


new diphthongs appeared: [е?], [i?], [u?];

the vowels before [r] were lengthened (e.g. arm [a:m], for [fo:], etc.);

triphthongs appeared: [ai?], [au?] (e.g. shower [`?au?], shire [`?ai?]).

13. Old and Modern Germanic languages

Old English (also called Anglo-Saxon,[1] Englisc by its speakers) is an early form of the English language that was spoken and written in parts of what are now England and south-eastern Scotland between the mid-5th century and the mid-12th century. What survives through writing represents primarily the literary register of Anglo-Saxon. It is a West Germanic language and is closely related to Old Frisian. It also experienced heavy influence from Old Norse, a member of the related North Germanic group of languages.

The Germanic languages today are conventionally divided into three linguistic groups: East Germanic, North Germanic, and West Germanic. This division had begun by the 4th cent. A.D. The East Germanic group, to which such dead languages as Burgundian, Gothic, and Vandalic belong, is now extinct. However, the oldest surviving literary text of any Germanic language is in Gothic (see Gothic language).

The North Germanic languages, also called Scandinavian languages or Norse, include Danish, Faeroese, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Swedish. They are spoken by about 20 million people, chiefly in Denmark, the Faeroe Islands, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.

The West Germanic languages are English, Frisian, Dutch, Flemish, Afrikaans, German, and Yiddish. They are spoken as a primary language by about 450 million people throughout the world. Among the dead West Germanic languages are Old Franconian, Old High German, and Old English (or Anglo-Saxon) from which Dutch, German, and English respectively developed.

Modern Germanic languages Genetically, English belongs to the Germanic or Teutonic group of languages, which is one of the twelve groups of the I-E linguistic family. The Germanic languages in the modern world are as follows:

English - in Great Britain, Ireland, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the South African Republic, and many other former British colonies;

German - in the Germany, Austria, Luxemburg, part of Switzerland;

Netherlandish - in the Netherlands and Belgium (known also as Dutch and Flemish respectively);

Afrikaans - in the South African Republic;

Danish - in Denmark;

Swedish - in Sweden and Finland;

Norwegian - in Norway;

Icelandic - in Iceland;

Frisian - in some regions of the Netherlands and Germany;

Faroese - in the Faroe Islands;

Yiddish - in different countries.

14. Middle and New English noun: morphological classification, grammatical categories

The OE noun had the gr. cat. of Number and Case. The Southern dialects simplified and rearranged the noun declensions on the basis of stem and gender distinctions. In Early ME they employed only four markers - -es, -en, -e, and the root-vowel interchange - plus the bare stem ( the zero- inflection) - but distinguished several paradigms. Masc and Neuter nouns had two declensions, weak and strong, with certain differences between the genders. Masc nouns took the ending -es in the Nom., Acc pl, while Neuter nouns had variant forms:

e.g. Masc fishes -Neut land/lande/landes

Most Fem nouns belonged to the weak declensions and were declined like weak Masc and Neuter nouns. The root-stem declention had mutated vowels in some forms and that vowel interchange was becoming a marker of number rather than case.

In the Midlands and Northern dialects the system of declension was much simplier. There was only one major type of declension and a few traces of other types. The majority of nouns took the endings of Oemasc a-stems: -(e)s in the gen sg, -(e)s in the pl irrespective of case.

Most nouns distinguished two forms: the basic form with the zero ending and the form in -(e)s .

The OE Gender disappeared together with other distinctive features of the noun declensions.

The gr category of Case was preserved but underwent profound changes in Early ME. The number of cases in the noun paradigm was reduced from four to two in Late ME. In the 14th century the ending -es of the Gen sg had become almost universal. In the pl the Gen case had no special marker- it was not distinguished from the common case. Several nouns with a weak plural form in -en or a vowel interchange (oxen, men) added the marker of the Gen case to these forms.

Number is the most stable of all the nominal categories. The number preserved the formal distinction of two numbers. -es was the prevalent marker of nouns in the plural.


With its simplified case-ending system, Middle English is much closer to modern English than its pre-Conquest equivalent.


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