Changes in the vocabulary system in ME

The ME period had a much richer representation than was in OE. Material in English began to appear in the 13th century and during the 14th century. There was a marked increase in the number of translated writings from Latin and French. The diversity in spelling was much greater than in OE. Middle English is practically characterized by intensive and extensive borrowings from other languages. The effect of the borrowings on the balance of the vocabulary was unprecedented. In early ME over 90% of the lexicon was of native English origin. Loan words by no means the only way in which the vocabulary of ME increased. The process of word formation such as compounding and affixations which were established in OE continued to be used and were extended in various ways.

Compound nouns were built according to a variety of patterns. The most productive type – two noun-stems. A group of compounds with the first component godhave been recorded since early ME:godson, godfader, godmoder.

Compounds containing a verbal noun or the newly formed gerund or stem system of agent nouns were new modifications of this basic patter. They yielded words like ME working-day, dwelling house.

Instances of compound nouns with stems of agent nouns in er are ME landholder, householder.

Other types of compound nouns were less productive. Adjective stems as the first components occur in ME stronghold. A new pattern of compound nouns arose in NE – consisting of a verb-stem and an adverb. The development of this type owes its origin to the use of stereotyped verb phrases with adverbs and prepositions, which became common in ME as “composite verbs”. Compound adjectives in ME and early NE continued to be formed in accordance with the same patterns as in OE. Noun- and adjective stems are combined in ME threedbare, heedstrong, NE world-wide,country-wide.

The most productive type of compound adjectives in ME and NE was “derivational compounds”. They appeared in Late OE and have been gaining productivity ever since. Derivational compounds consisted of an adjective stem, a noun-stem and the suffix –ed (from the OE -ede).

All through the ME and early NE periods compound words could be subjected to morphological simplification. Simplification of compound nouns and adjectives in OE transformed many compounds into derived words, producing new suffixes out of root-morphemes - -dōm, -scipe.

Internal sources of the replenishment of the vocabulary include also multiple semantic changes. They are commonly divided into widening and narrowing of meaning.

Many semantic changes in the vocabulary proceed together with stylistic changes.

 






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