The OE vowel system. Major changes during the period.

Sound changes, particularly vowel changes, took place in English at every period of history. The changes could be paradigmatic (in the whole system) and sintagmatic(in certain classes of words or syllables). The development of vowels in Early OE consisted of the modification of separate vowels, and also of the modification of entire sets of vowels.

1)English long vowels have tended to become narrower or closer, while short vowels have shown the opposite tendency> became more open ( a: » o, a » a:). Short vowels have shown themselves more stable than long vowels.

2)Within the vowels the changes of stressed ones were basically different from that of unstressed vowels. Thus in OE practically all vowels, including long vowels, could occur in the unstressed position (mona, sunu)

The state of things changes in Early ME, when all unstressed vowels were leveled under neutral (э)

Later on in the Late ME(14-15c.)this final unstressed (ə) was weakened further and was reduced to zero. (ti:mэ – ti:m). This change brought a great number of monosyllabic words.

OE vowel system: 7- 11c. Wessex dialect or West Saxon possessed the following vowel system: i, i:, e, e:, æ, æ:, a, a:, o, o:, u, u:, y, y:, a·(short-ma·nn). In Early OE, mutations affected numerous vowels and brought about profound changes in the system and use of vowels. The most important series of vowel mutations, shared invarying degrees by all OE languages (except Gothic), is known as i-mutation or "palatal mutation".Mutation- is a change in vowel sound brought by the sound in the following syllable. I- mutation is the mutation of the route back or open vowel to a front one by a following iorj (fuljan » fyllan » fill,kopjan » cepan » keep). The labialized front vowels [y] and ly:] arose through palatal mutation from [u] and [u:l. respectively, and turned into new phonemes, when the conditions that caused them had disappeared.

Late West Saxon had 2 long diphthongs ea [æə] and eo [εə], where final [ə] was reduced and lost in 11 cent. This long diphthongs became monophthongs; in ME they became ī [i:] (beatan →beat).

In Early OE there were other diphthongs: ie, io, but they disappeared by the 7-11 c., were replaced by ie→ y, io→eo

Diphthongization of short vowels (a, e) before certain consonant clusters:

a → ea before clusters r + consonant, l + cons, h + cons, h (final)

e → eo before clusters r + consonant, h + cons, lc, lh, h(final)

In 9 c. vowels were lengthened before the clusters nd, ld, mb(cild→cīld→child)

In the clusters, followed by another consonant, lengthening didn’t take place(cildru-children).

Middle E. changes: Short vowels: ĭ ě ă ŏ ŭ. Long vowels: i: e: ε: o: O: u: , since 14 cent. + a:

1)reduction and loss of final [ə]

2)lengthening. Only 3 short vowels [e, o, a] became long in opened stressed syllables of disyllabic words (měte → mε:tə → meat). These were syntagmatic positional changes or quantative.

3)I-mutation- the most important of all changes. OE stressed rout front vowels changed into back or more narrow vowels: u→y, o→ e, ă→e, ā →æ:

This process influenced the word change (mani-men, fōti – fēt – fε:t – feet, tooth-teeth, goose-geese) and word formation( full-fill, food-feed, strong- strength)

4) shortening. The long vowels became short before consonant clusters other than nd, ld, mb, st.(cēpte - keptə - kept)

5) unrounding: [u] → [^](ME come[kum]>NE[k^m])This change happened in 17c. But we still pronounce [u] in words: full, put, bull, because [f,p,b] are labialized. In Yorkshire this change didn’t occur at all.

6) the peculiarity of ME long vowel stem , as compared with OE and NE, is the presence of 2 long front mid-rise vowels;[e:]: ē→ō and ε→O: It came as a result of long term tendency of English long vowels for narrowing. In ME 4 out of 6 long vowels became narrower: ē→ē ō→ō æ→ε: ā→O:

This change didn’t affect [i:] and [y:].

Word order

The order of words in the OE sentence was relatively free.The position of words in the sentence was often determined by logical and stylistic factors rather than by grammatical constraints. The word order depends on the order of presentation and emphasis laid by the author on different parts of communication.

The order of words could depend on the communicative type of the sentence – question versus statement, on the type of clause, on the presence and place of some secondary parts of the sentence.

Inversion was used for grammatical purposes in questions; full inversion with simple predicates and partial – with compound predicates, containing link-verbs and modal verbs.

A peculiar type of word order is found in many subordinate and in some coordinate clauses: the clause begins with the subject following the connective, and ends with the predicate or its finite part, all the secondary parts being enclosed between them.

Those were the main tendencies in OE word order. In many respects OE syntax was characterized by a wide range of variation and by the co-existence of various, sometimes even opposing, tendencies.

SPOO- occurred in non-defendant clauses in simple sentences and main clauses unless they open with an adverb

SOP- occure when the object was a pronoun or was used in dependent clauses.

PSO- in questions






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