Degrees of Comparison


Degree Period Positive Comparative Superlative
Old English Middle English New English   heard hard hard   heardra hardre harder     heardost hardest hardest  
Old English Middle English New English   eald ald old ieldra/yldra eldre elder   ieldest eldest eldest
Old English Middle English New English   Зōd Зood good betera bettre better   betst best best


It should be noted, however, that out of three principal means of forming degrees of comparison that existed in old English: suffixation, vowel interchange and suppletive forms, there remained as a productive means only one: suffixation, the rest of the means seen only in isolated forms. At the same time there was formed and developed a new means – analytical, which can be observed in such cases encountered, for instance, in the works of J. Chaucer, as:

Comfortable – more comfortable.

The pronoun

In old English all pronouns were declined, and the pronominal paradigm was very complicated. In Middle English the system was greatly simplified and nowadays what remained of the pronominal declension is mainly represented by the declension of the personal pronoun and on a small scale – demonstrative and interrogative (relative).




The four-case system that existed in Old English gave way to a two-case system in Late Middle English and in New English. The development may be illustrated by the following scheme of the pronominal paradigm.


Personal Pronouns



Old English Middle English New English


Nominative IcNominative INominative I

Accusative mec

Dative } Objective meObjective me

Genitive mīn


Possessive Pronounsminemine





As a grammatical phenomenon gender disappeared already in Middle English, the pronouns he and she referring only animate notions and it – to inanimate.



The three number system that existed in early Old English (singular, dual, plural) was substituted by a two number system already in late Old English.


The article


The first elements of the category of the article appeared already in Old English, when the meaning of the demonstrative pronoun was weakened, and it approach the status of an article in such phrases as:


Sē mann (the mann), sēo sǽ (the sea), þæt lond (the land)



However, we may not speak of any category if it is not represented by an opposition of at least two units. Such opposition arose only in Middle English, when the indefinite article an appeared.

The form of the definite article the can be traced back to the old English demonstrative pronoun (that, masculine, singular), which in the course of history came to be used on analogy with the forms of the same pronoun having the initial consonant [θ] and began to be used with all nouns, irrespective of their gender or number.

The indefinite article developed from the Old English numeral ān. In Middle English ān split into two words: the definite pronoun an, losing a separate stress and undergoing reduction of its vowel, and the numeral one, remaining stressed as only other notional word. Later the indefinite pronoun an grew into the indefinite article a/an, and together with the definite article the formed a new grammatical category – the category of determination, or the category of article.





The system of the declinable parts of speech underwent considerable simplification, at the same time developing new analytical features:

1. Reduction in the number of the declinable parts of speech.

2. Reduction in the number of declensions (whatever is preserved follows the a-stem masculine).

3. Reduction in the number of grammatical categories.

4. Reduction in the number of the categorical forms (the category of number of personal pronouns and case – all nominal parts of speech).

5. Formation of the new class of words – article.






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