OLD ENGLISH GRAMMAR. THE VERBAL SYSTEM


 

 

List of principal questions:

1. General survey of finite and non-finite forms of the verb

2. Grammatical categories of the finite forms of the verb

Person

Number

Tense

Mood

3. Morphological classification of verbs

Strong verbs

Weak verbs

Irregular verbs

Literature

1. R.V. Reznik, T.C. Sorokina, I.V. Reznik A History of the English language. M., 2003.

2. T.A. Rastorguyeva History of English. M., 1983.

3. А.И. Смирницкий Лекции по истории английского языка. М., 2000.

4. К. Бруннер История английского языка. Т.1 М., 2001.

5. И. Чахоян, Л. Иванова, Т. Беляева. История английского языка. СПб., 1998.

6. А.И. Смирницкий Древнеанглийский язык. М., 1955.

 

 


General survey of finite and non-finite forms of the verb

 

 

The verb-system in Old English was represented by two sets of forms: the finite forms of the verb and the non-finite forms of the verb, or verbals (Infinitive, Participles). Those two types of forms – the finite and the non-finite – differed more than they do today from the point of view of their respective grammatical categories, as the verbals at the historical period were not conjugated like the verb proper, but were declined like nouns or adjectives. Thus the infinitive could have two case-forms which may conventionally be called the “Common” case and the “Dative” case.

 

Common case Dative case

wrītan (to write) to writenne (so that I shall write)

cēpan (to keep) to cepenne (so that I shall keep)

drincan (to drink) to drincenne (so that shall I drink)

 

The so-called Common case form of the Infinitive was widely used in different syntactical functions, the Dative case was used on a limited scale and mainly when the Infinitive functioned as an adverbial modifier of purpose, i.e.

 

Ic зā tō drincenne(I go to drink)

The participle had a well-developed system of forms, the declension of the Participle resembling greatly the declension of adjectives. The one typically “verbal” grammatical category of the participle was the category of tense, for example:

Present tense Past tense

wrītendewriten

cēpendecēpt

dricendedruncen

 

Grammatical categories of the finite forms of the verb

 

As we have already said the system of conjugation mainly embraced the finite forms of the verb as the non-finite forms were not conjugated but declined. The system of conjugation of the Old English verb was built up by four grammatical categories, those of person, number, tense and mood.

 

Person

There were three person forms in Old English: first, second and third. For example:

First person – Ic wrīte

Second person – þu writes

Third person – hē wrīteð

But we have distinct person forms only in the Indicative mood, the Imperative and the Oblique mood forms reflecting no person differences and even the Indicative mood forms changing for person only in the Singular, the plural forms being the same irrespective of person, for example:

 



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