Main types of word-formation in OE

OE employed 2 ways of word-formation:


Derived words in OE were built with the help of affixes: prefixes & suffixes; in addition to these principal means of derivation, words were distinguished with the help of sound interchanges & word stress.

Sound interchanges in the roots of related words were fre­quent, and nevertheless they were used merely as an additional feature which helped to distinguish between words built from the same root. Sound interchanges were never used alone; they were combined with suffixation as the main word-building means and in many cases arose as a result of suffixation.

The role of word accentuation in OE word-building was not great. Like sound interchanges, the shifting of word stress helped to differentiate between some parts of speech being used together with other means. The verb had unaccented prefixes while the corresponding nouns had stressed prefixes, so that the position of stress served as an additional distinctive feature between them, e.g. ond-'swarian v - 'ond­swaru n

-Prefixation was a productive way of building new words in OE. Prefixes were widely used with verbs but were far less productive with other parts of speech. We can cite long lists of verbs derive from a single root with the help of different prefixes: 3an - 'go' faran - 'travel'

a-3an - 'go away' a-faran - 'travel'

be-3an - 'go round' to-faran - 'disperse'

fore-3an - 'precede' for-faran - 'intercept'

ofer-3an - 'traverse' forp-faran - 'die'

3e~3an - 'go', 'go away' 3e-faran - 'attack', etc.

The most frequent, and probably the most productive, OE prefixes were: ii-, be-, for-, fore-, 3e-, ofer-, uno. Of these only un- was common with nouns and adjectives, the rest were mainly verb prefixes.

The prefix modified the lexical meaning of the word, usually without changing its reference to a part of speech.

Some prefixes, both verbal and nominal, gave a more special sense to the word and changed its meaning very considerably: gytan – on-gytan (NE get)

- Suffixation was by far the most productive means of word derivation in OE. Suffixes not only modified the lexical meaning of the word but could refer it to another part of speech. Suffixes were mostly applied in forming nouns and adjectives, seldom - in forming verbs.

Suffixes are usually classified according to the part of speech which they can form. In OE there were two large groups of suffixes: suffixes of nouns and suffixes of adjectives. Noun suffixes are divided into suffixes:

1)of "agent nouns" ("nomina agentis") - -a(hunta – NE hunter); -ing (centing – a man, coming from kent; cyning – head of clan or tribe)

2)and those of abstract nouns - -t (siht - sight)

--ung/ing(to build abstr. Nouns from verbs – earnian – earning(NE ear, earning))

In the derivation of adjectives we find suffixes proper such as -i3, -ise, -ede, -sum, -en (from the earlier –in)

2. Word composition was a highly productive way of developing the vocabulary in OE. This method of word-formation was common to all IE languages but in none of the groups has it become as widespread as in Germanic. An abundance of compound words, from poetic meta­phors to scientific terms, are found in OE texts.

As in other OG languages, word composition in OE was more pro­ductive in nominal parts of speech than in verbs. Compound nouns contained various first components - stems of nouns, adjectives and verbs; their second components were nouns. The pattern "noun+noun" was probably the most productive type of all: OE heafod-mann 'leader' (lit. "head-man"), mann-cynn (NE mankind). Compound nouns with adjective-stems as the first components were less productive, e.g. wid-sre 'ocean' (lit. "wide sea"). Compound adjectives were formed by joining a noun-stem to an adjective: dom-georn (lit. 'eager for glory'). The remarkable capacity of OE for derivation and word­ composition is manifested in numerous words formed with the help of several methods: un-wis-dom 'folly' - un- -- negative prefix, wis -:- ad­jective-stem (NE wise), dam - noun-stem turning into a suffix


French loans.

The French language was brought to England by the Norman conquerors. The Normans remained masters of England for a sufficiently long time to leave a deep impress on the language. The Norman rulers and the immigrants, who invaded the South-Westem towns after the Conquest, spoke a variety of French, known as "Anglo-Norman". This variety died out about two hundred years later, having exerted a profound influence upon English; In the 13th and 14th c. English was exposed to a new wave of French influence; this time it came from Central, Parisian French, a variety of a more cultivated, literary kind.

The effect of these successive and overlapping waves was seen first and foremost in a large number of lexical borrowings in ME. At the initial: the speech of the aristocracy at the king's court; the speech of the middle class, who came into contact both with the rulers and with the ruled; the speech of educated people and the population of South-Eastern towns. Eventually French loanwords spread throughout the language space and became an integral of the English vocabulary. Early borrowings were mostly made in the course of oral communication; later borrowings were first used in literature — in translations of French books. The total number of French borrowings by far exceeds the number of borrowings from any other foreign language (though sometimes it is difficult to say whether the loan came from French or Latin). The greater part of French loan-words in English date from ME.

To the 13th c. no more than one thousand words entered the English language, whereas by 1400 their number had risen to 10,000 (75% of them are still in common use). The majority of French loan-words adopted in ME were first recorded in the texts of the 14th c. Chaucer's vocabulary, which amounts to 6,000 words, contains about 4,000 words of Romance origin, i.e. French and Latin borrowings.

Among the earliest borrowings are Early ME prisun (NE prison), Early ME castel (NE castle). Early ME werre (NE war). Late OE pryio, prut (NE pride, proud). The French borrowings of the ME period are usually described according to semantic spheres. To this day nearly all the words relating to the:

1.government and administration of the country are French by origin: assembly, authority, pertaining to the

2.Feudal system and words indicating titles and ranks of the nobility: baron, count, lord, lady, king, queen, earl, knight.

3.military terms: armour, arms, army, banner, and jurisdiction, : accuse,court, crime, damage

5. Church and religion, for in the 12th and 13th c. all the important posts in the Church were occupied by the Norman clergy: abbey, altar, archangel, Bible

6. house, furniture and architecture: arch, castle, cellar, chimney, column, couch, curtain,.

7. art: art, beauty, colour, design, figure, image, ornament, paint. Another group includes names of garments: apparel, boot, coat, collar, costume, dress, fur, garment, gown, jewel, robe.

8. entertainment, are: cards, dance, dice, leisure, partner, pleasure, adventure (ME aventure),

We can also single out words relating to different aspects of the life of the upper classes and of the town life: forms of address—sir, madam, and also mister, mistress, smith.

French influence led to different kinds of changes in the vocabulary. Firstly, there were many innovations. Secondly, there were numerous replacements of native words by French

The vocabulary was also enriched by the adoption of French affixes. Derivational affixes could not be borrowed as such; they entered the language in scores of loan-words, were unconsciously or consciously separated by the speakers and used in derivation. They could become productive in English only after the loan-words with those affixes were completely assimilated by the language; that is why the use of borrowed French affixes dates largely from the Early NE period.

Anglo-Norman words must have been very hard to pronounce as they contained many sounds which did not exist in English, such as J, nasalised vowels, the sound [y] and soft, palatalised consonants. The foreign features were lost and the words were adapted to the norms of English pronunciation. French sounds were replaced by resembling English sounds.

Ex.Palatalised [1'] and ln'1 were shown as ordinary [1] and [n] or as sequences [il, in], cf. e.g. 0 Fr faillir, which contained IF], and ME fallen, NE fail.

The stress in French loan-words was shifted in conformity with the English rules of word accentuation,

People freely added English grammatical endings to the stems of the borrowed words, and used them in all grammatical forms like native words

Since the French loan-words of the ME period were completely assimilated, it is not easy to identify a French borrowing and to distinguish it from native words or borrowings from other languages.


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