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Lecture 4-5 (continuance)

The verb

Like the other Gmc languages, OE had two major groups of verbs: strong and weak, the latter being a specifically Gmc feature. This division was based on the method of forming the past tense and part. II. In the system of strong verbs they were formed by means of vowel interchange in the root, while weak verbs took a dental suffix at the end. Part.II of strong verbs could be kept араrt from that of weak verbs by the suffix -EN which is preserved in the majority of historically strong verbs which have survived into MnE.

The strong verbs were primary verbs because they were formed from roots whose meaning was in itself verbal. The weak verbs were later formations. Most of them were derivatives, formed from nouns, adjectives, and even the past tense of strong verbs.

Strong verbs as well as weak ones were as a rule thematic, i.e. inflections were added to the root by means of a thematic or stem vowel. As for athematic verbs, in which the endings were added straight to the root, only a few of them survived into OE. These survivals were actually anomalous and preterite-present verbs, whose past had become present in meaning, and which had formed a new past tense with the same suffix as the weak verbs.

Strong verbs

There existed 300 strong verbs in OE. They were of PIE and PGmc origin, and denoted basic actions and states.

The strong verbs had four principal forms: the infinitive (=present stem), past sg (found in the 1st and 3rd person sg, past indicative), past pl (found in the 2nd person sg and in the pl of the past indicative and the past subjunctive), part.II. They were called strong because each of their principal forms was distinguished by a different ablaut grade (gradation vowel), which was inherited from the PIE with some PGmc modification. Most of them had a qualitative gradation series, i.e. a qualitative ablaut, which may be illustrated by such Ru instances as беру - сбор - брал, мереть - мормрут, in which three grades of the vowel are found: normal /e-grade – timbre /o-grade – ø.

Due to the regular phonetic changes in Gmc languages this gradation series appeared in OE as e/i - a - ø, i.e. a front gradation vowel in the рrеsent stem alternated with a back vowel in the past and a zero in the past pl and part.II: WRĪTAN “write” – WRĀT – WRITON - WRITEN

OE Strong Verbs

I class

[ī] [ā] [i] [i]

wrītan “писать” wrāt writon writen

snīiþan “резать” snāþ snidon sniden

II class

[ēo] [ēa] [u] [o]

beodan “предлагать” bead budon boden

ceosan “выбирать” ceas curon coren

III class

а) before nasal + cons.

[i] [a (o)] [u] [u]

drincan “пить” dranc druncon druncen

b) before l + cons.

[e] [ea] [u] [o]

helpan “помогать” healp hulpon holpen

c) before r + cons. before h + cons.

[ео] [еа] [u] [o]

steorfan “умирать” stearf sturfon storfen

weorðan “становиться” wearð wurdon worden

feohtan “бороться” feaht fuhton fohten

IV class

before 1, r

[е] [æ] [ǣ] [o]

stelan “красть” stæl stǣlon stolen

beran “нести” bær bǣron boren

V class

before noise cons.

[е] [æ] [ǣ] [e]Ʒ

tredan “ступать” træd trǣdon treden

cweþan “связать” cwæþ cwǣdon cweden

VI class

[a] [ō] [ō] [a]

faran “ехать” fōr fōron faren

VII class

hātan “называть” hēt hēton hāten

feallan “падать” feoll feollon feallen

cnawan “знать” cneow cneowon cnawen

The vowels which were found in the 3rd and 4th forms either pertained to the root or developed as epenthetic, i.e. additional, which sometimes served to make the pronunciation of the word easier. With some verbs epenthetic vowels reflected intrusion of quantitative ablaut.

The quantitative ablaut was based on the alternation of verb forms with the gradation vowel in its lengthened grade (ē,ā): HEBBAN “heave” - HŌF - HŌFON-HAFEN; FARAN “go” - FŌR - FŌRON - FAREN.

Verbs which had some traces of IE reduplication (doubling of the initial syllable or root) are also treated as strong verbs.

The class of strong verbs was closed in membership, and each of them could be assigned to a certain subclass depending on the sound or cluster of sounds that followed the gradation vowel. Verbs of the first five classes were known for qualitative ablaut. The 7th class comprised miscellaneous verbs, some of which were reduplicative.

A small number of strong verbs, besides the vowel gradation, also had consonant interchange, called grammatical alternation. This regularity took place under Verner’s law: the last consonant in the present and past tense stems, if it was / θ /, / x /, or / s /, was voiced and appeared as / d /, / у/, / r / in the past pl and part.II (SĒŌþAN “seeth” - SĒĀþ - SUDON - SODEN “sodden”, TĒŌN “draw” - ТĒĀН - TUƷON - TOƷEN (cf. MnE tow:: tug), WESAN - WÆS - WǢRON (cf. MnE was - were).

Weak verbs

Unlike strong verbs, weak verbs distinguished only three principal forms, their past sg and pl stems being identical. They were called weak because their past tense and part.II were built after one pattern: the stem + the dental suffix-D/-T.

The main difference between strong and weak verbs in PGmc consisted in the stem of the latter being unchangeable in all grammatical forms. In OE this feature was preserved to a great extent, though some verbs had undergone phonetic changes and developed certain irregularities in their roots: TǢCAN “teach” - TAHTE - TAHT; HABBAN “have” ~ HÆFDE ~ HÆFD.

Weak verbs, with the exception of those in class III, were mostly derivatives, built either from substantives and adjectives (denominative), or from verbs (deverbative). In OE there were three classes of weak verbs, those with the suffix -ja (class I), those with the suffix -o (class II), and those with the suffix –e/-i (class III). This last type had almost disappeared in OE.

Class I

Verbs of class I, or ja-stems, comprised three types distinguished by the method of word building.

  1. Primary verbs, whose base word happened to have disappeared:

wyrcan “work” þyncan “think” brinʒan “bring”

  1. Denominatives, whose root vowel had undergone fronting caused by the -j- of the stem suffix:

hǣlan “heal” < hāl “whole”, fyllan “fill” < ful “full”, nemnan “call” < nama “name”, etc.

  1. Deverbative formations, most of which were causatives, i.e. verbs with the meaning “make someone or something perform the action denoted by the strong verb”. To produce these verbs, past sg forms of strong verbs were used as the base. In a № of instances the root vowel was mutated under the influence of the stem suffix:

fēran “march” (< ferjan) < fōr of the verb faran(cf. MnG führen - fuhr)

settan “set** (< satjan) < sæt of the verb sittan “sit” (cf. MnG setzen - sass)

ræran “rear” (< rasjan) from rās of the verb risan “rise” (the consonant changed under Vemer’s law)

In some verbs the stem suffix was preserved:

werian “defend”, ferian “go”, herian “praise”, erian “plough”, etc.

Verbs of class I were subdivided into regular and irregular. Regular verbs had the same vowel in all the principal forms. It is often mutated due to the original i/j-element in the suffix.

Verbs with the long root vowel dropped the -i-:

dēman “judge” - dēmde – dēmed

hīēran “hear” - hīērde - hīērd.

Verbs with the short root vowel accompanied by -r- retained the -i- in the infinitive and present:

styrian “stir” - styrede - styred.

Verbs with the short root vowel accompanied by any consonant but -r- dropped the -i- and the consonant in the infinitive and present was doubled:

trymman “strengthen” - trymede – trymed

cnyssan “push” - cnysede - cnysed

When the -d- of the suffix was preceded by a voiceless consonant it changed to -t- ; in part.II both -t and -ed were indiscriminately used:

cēpan “keep” - cēpte – cēpt, cēped

ʒrētan “greet” - ʒrētte -ʒrēt, ʒrētted

If the verb ended in a consonant + d or a consonant + t, part.II could end either in –d, -t or in -ded, -ted:

sendan “send” - sende – send, sended

restan‘‘rest” – reste – rest, rested

Irregular verbs were characterized by several phonetic factors: i-mutation only in the infinitive and present tense, traces of the OE breaking in the past tense and part.II, and other sound changes:

sellan “give” sealed seald

rǣcan “reach” rāhte rāht

ðencan “think” ðōhte ðōht

Class II

Verbs of class П, or -o- stems, were built with the stem suffix whose original shape was -oj. The prewritten reconstructed forms of their infinitives can be illustrated by lokojan (>locian) “look”, lufojan (>lufian) “love”. In the course of time the stem suffix in the infinitive was reduced to -i and became the marker of the class.

In the past tense and part.II the stem suffix -oj appeared as the element -o- before the dental suffix, which later developed into a neutral sound and gave rise to -ed, a productive means of building the past tense and part.II forms of regular verbs.

There were denominative verbs (SORƷIAN “to be sorry for” – SORƷ “anxiety”) as well as deverbatives (CUNNIAN “to find out” - CUNNAN “to be able”). All of them built their principal forms after the following pattern:

macian “make” macode macod

hopian “hope” hopode hopod

As the shape of the root in the three forms was the same, verbs of class II proved to be most influential. The majority of verbs which were originally of the 3rd class became members of the 2nd class. New denominative verbs which appeared in English followed the conjugation pattern of weak verbs of class II.

Class III

Class Ш was made up from the survivals of PGmc verbs known as stems. Only a few verbs still belonged to this conjugation in OE, the greater part having merged with class II of weak verbs (e.g. WÆCCAN “watch” WACODE - WACOD). The doubling of the consonant in the infinitive and the mutated vowels were accounted for by the presence of the element -i/-j in some forms in EOE.

habban “have hæfde hæfd

libban “live” lifde lifd

secʒan “say” sæʒde(sǣde) sæʒd (sǣd)

Preterite-present verbs

In the paradigm of 12 verbs known as preterite-present a sort of blend of strong and weak forms was observed. The present forms built with the help of ablaut were originally past tense forms of these verbs, which had acquired the meaning of the present. This change in their paradigm was connected with their semantics, either modal or mental (usually psychic). They were used to express the state of the subject as the result of its previous activity. Cf. Ru (я) узнал = знаю; (я) научился = могу; (я) приобрел = имею, which show the resultative nature of their past tenses and synonymity with the present Thus, IC CAN originally meant “I have learnt to do it”. New past forms of these verbs were built as were those of weak verbs, i.e. with a dental suffix: ĀƷAN - ĀHTE; SCULAN — SCEOLDE. As they had their present tense forms similar to the principal forms of strong verbs, they can be divided into classes according to their vowel gradation series.

Some of them had no infinitive. Those infinitives which were registered in manuscripts were built with the zero grade of ablaut. The verbs sculan and motan never appeared in non-finite forms.

The paradigm of some preterite-present verbs was incomplete.

ƷENEAH with its impersonal meaning of “enough” had only the 3rd and pl of the indicative and subjunctive present and the sg of the past tense. DEAH “avail” and some other preterite-present verbs had no part.II as their passive meaning was incompatible with their semantic structure.

The majority of preterite-present verbs had the properties of auxiliaries, however some of

them could be used as notionals, e.g. expressing necessity or moral as well as financial obligation:

Ʒif sē lytla finʒer bið ofsleʒen, ðam sceal tō bōte .viiii. scillinʒa, + ān scillinʒ his næʒles, ʒif sē siē ofsleʒen (Alf., 43). Если мизинец будет отрублен, должен штрафа в 9 шиллингов, а шиллинг за его ноготь, если он будет оторван.

Of ðissum ānum dōme mon mæʒ ʒeðencean, þæt hē ǣʒhwelcne on ryht ʒedēmeð; ne ðearf he nānra dōmbōca ōþerra (Alf., 1) По одному этому установлению любой человек может думать, что он любого по праву судить будет, не нуждается он ни в каком своде законов другом.

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