ТОП 10:

The Development of the Adjective

See Lecture 14 for general information on the Adjective.

Historically the Adjective is a younger class of words as compared to the Noun. So it has borrowed many of its categories and inflections from the Noun and the Pronoun.

The Adjective had the following categories:



It still existed in OE but was the first category to disappear in the 11th c.


· At the end of OE Period Instrumental Case fell together with Dative Case due to the homonymy of inflections (see the table below);

· All other cases disappeared by the end of the 13th c. also due to the homonymy of inflections (see the table below).

System of Declensions

The system of declension was inherited from PG. Adjectives had two declensions that had to do also with the category of determinationstrong(definite) and weak (indefinite) – and unlike nouns practically all adjectives could be declined both ways (by strong and weak declension). So an adjective did not belong to a particular declension, its declension depended on several factors that will be mentioned below:


Type of Declension Strong(definite) Weak(indefinite)
Borrowed inflections from a-stemando-stem from n-stem
Factors for distinguishing type of declension – Adj used attributively without any determiners (demonstrative pronouns); – Adj used predicatively. – Adj preceded by a demonstrative pronoun or Genitive Case of a noun;
Gender Neuter Neuter
Number Singular Plural Singular Plural
OE Cases Nominative blind blind blinde blindan
Genitive blindes blindra blindan blindra
Dative blindum blindum blindan blindum
Accusative blind blind blinde blindan
Instrumental blinde blindum blindan blindum
ME Cases disappeared blind blinde blinde blinde


There were exceptions from the rule: some adjectives were declined always strong (eall (all), maniζ (many), ōþer (other)), others – always weak (ilca (same)).

The endings of the adjectives showed the agreement between a noun and an adjective. There were a lot of homonymous forms (e.g. -um (OE) – N, Sg, Dat, strong; N, Pl, Dat, strong; N, Pl, Dat, weak; N, Pl, Instr, strong; N, Pl, Instr, weak; -e (ME) – N, Pl, strong; N, Sg, weak; N, Pl, weak) à the distinction between the declensions faded in ME and the declensions disappeared as far as there was no necessity any more to keep them.



There were some homonymous forms in Singular and Plural in both declensions (see the table above: e.g. -um (OE) – N, Sg, Dat, strong; N, Pl, Dat, strong; -e (ME) – N, Sg, weak; N, Pl, weak), so the category of Number disappeared together with the system of declensions.


The Adjective lost many of its categories in ME as far as all the inflections were lost. Thus it became an unchangeable part of speech.

Degrees of Comparison

In OE there were three ways of formation of the degrees of comparison:


Way of formation Positive Degree Comparative Degree Superlative Degree
inflections soft softra softost
root-sound interchange + inflections lonζ lenζra lenζest
suppletion ζōd bettra betest


In ME the following changes happened:

· In most cases inflections -er, -est were used to form the comparative and the superlative degrees;

· Root-sound interchange fell into disuse (long – longer – longest), though in some cases it was preserved as an exception from the rule (e.g. old – elder – eldest; far – further – furthest);

· A new way of formation of the degrees of comparison appeared:

more + Adj (comparative) || most + Adj (superlative)

It was applicable to all adjectives and was interchangeable with -er, -est way of formation till 17th – 18th c.In NE, during the Normalisation Period, the modern rule appeared and this way was applicable only to a certain group of adjectives.

Lecture 17

The Development of the Pronoun. The Rise of Articles

Demonstrative Pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns belong to an ancient class of words that goes back to two Indo-European rootsseand to. In OE the sound [Ө] started to dominate over the sound [s] due to the pressure of the system (the forms with the sound [Ө] were more numerous (see the table below)).

Demonstrative pronouns in OE changed in Gender, Number, Case:


Pronoun in ModE Demonstrative Pronouns in OE
Case Masculine, Sg Feminine, Sg Neuter, Sg Plural
that Nom se* sēo* þæt* þa
Gen þes þǽre þæs þara
Dat þæm þǽre þæm þam
Acc þone þā þæt þa
Instr þý* þǽre þý þam
this Nom þes þeos þis* þās
Gen þisses þisse þisses þissa
Dat þissum þisse þissum þissum
Acc þisne þās þis þās
Instr þissum þisse þys þissum


In MEthe Case system disappeared due to the fact that there were some homonymous forms (see the table above: e.g. þǽre – F, Sg, Gen; F, Sg, Dat; F, Sg, Instr; þa – Pl, Nom; Pl, Acc; þisse – F, Sg, Gen; F, Sg, Dat) and due to phonetic reduction.


In NEthe Gender was lost due to the fact that there were some homonymous forms (see the table above: e.g. þes/þæs – M, Sg, Gen; N, Sg, Gen; þæm – M, Sg, Dat; N, Sg, Dat; þissum – M, Sg, Dat; N, Sg, Dat) and the following changes happened to the pronouns marked with * in the table above:

· se (M, Sg, Nom) – turned into the definite article “the” (discussed more particularly in the point “Rise of Articles” below);

· sēo (F, Sg, Nom) – turned into the personal pronoun “she” (discussed more particularly in the point “Personal Pronouns” (changes in the 3rd person) below);

· þæt (N, Sg, Nom) – remained as the unchangeable demonstrative pronoun “that”;

· þis (N, Sg, Nom) – remained as the unchangeable demonstrative pronoun “this”;

· þý (M, Sg, Instr) – in OE was used in the comparative constructions like “the sooner…the better” but in NE was not distinguished any more phonetically and merged with the unchangeable form of the definite article “the”.

The only category that was left in the demonstrative pronouns was the Number (e.g. ModE this – these, that – those).


Rise of Articles

The articles have to do with the category of Determination (definiteness/indefiniteness).

Causes for Rise of Articles:

1. In OE the there were two declensions of adjectives – strong (definite) and weak (indefinite) – and the inflections of these declensions indicated whether the noun that followed the adjective was definite or indefinite. At the end of the ME Period the declensions of the Adjective disappeared and there was a necessity to find another way to indicate the definiteness/indefiniteness of a noun. Thus the articles appeared.

2. In OE the word-order was free because inflections were employed to show the relations of the words in a sentence. In ME and NE the majority of the inflections disappeared and the word-order became fixed. This meant that the first place in a sentence was usually occupied by the theme (information already known à marked with the definite article) and the second place – by the rheme (new information à marked with the indefinite article).

Definite Article

As it was mentioned above, the definite article appeared from the OE demonstrative pronoun se (M, Sg, Nom) from the paradigm of the OE demonstrative pronoun “that” because it was often used to indicate a definite object or notion.


Indefinite Article

The indefinite article appeared from the OE numeral ān (one) and had the meaning of “oneness” (it still indicates only nouns in Sg, i.e. nouns indicating one object or notion).

In OE ān had 5-case paradigm that was lost in ME and only one form was left – oon/one. Later it was employed in the building of the indefinite article a/an.


Personal Pronouns

See Lecture 14 for the categories of the personal pronouns.

Personal Pronouns possessed (and still do) a very vivid Indo-European feature – suppletivity (i.e. they build their forms with the help of different roots (see also Lecture 4)).

Personal pronouns in OE changed in Gender, Number, Case, Person:


Pers. Case Number
Singular Plural Dual
1st Nom ic wit
Gen min ūre uncer
Dat ūs unc
Acc mec/mē ūsic uncit
2nd Nom þu* ζē* ζit
Gen þin ēower incer
Dat þe ēow* inc
Acc þec/þe ēowic incit



Pers. Case Gender, Number
M, Sg F, Sg N, Sg Plural
3rd Nom hē* hēo/hīo* hit* hēo/hīe*
Gen his hire his hira
Dat him hire him him
Acc hine hīe hit hēo/hīe


Later the following changes happened to the personal pronouns (some of them are marked with * in the table above so that one can trace the connection easily):



Genderisstill preserved(he, she, it) in ModE but is often denied by scholars because it is expressed lexically and practically has nothing to do with grammar.

2. Cases:

· In MEthe Genitive Case turned into a new class of pronounsPossessive Pronouns(e.g. ModE I (pers.) – mine (possess.); you – yours, he – his, she – her, etc.);

· The Dative and the Accusative Cases fell together and formed the Objective Case.Thus in ME there were only two cases left in the personal pronouns – Nominative and Objective (e.g. ModE I (Nom) – me (Obj); he – him, she – her, etc.).


Dual formsdisappeared in ME. In NE the category of Number disappeared in the 2nd person of the personal pronouns (see the explanation below).


4. 3rd person

As far as in the Early ME many forms in the 3rd person coincided phonetically and often caused confusion and difficulties in communication, the following changes occurred:


Pers. Gender OE Early ME Late ME Comments
3rd M, Sg à he à he preserved original form
F, Sg hēo/hīo à he à she As far as it coincided with M, Sg and Plural forms, a new word was found – derived from the demonstrative pronoun sēo (F, Sg, Nom) – to distinguish the forms.
N, Sg hit à hit à it preserved original form, lost initial [h]
Plural hēo/hīe à he/hi à they As far as it coincided with M, Sg and F, Sg forms, a new word was found – a Scandinavian borrowing – to distinguish the forms.


5. 2nd person

Pers. Number OE ME Comments NE
2nd Sg þu à thouà Fell out of use due to the French etiquette (it forbade impolite “thou” form, so it was replaced with the polite “ēow” form). ēow (Pl, Dat)(you)
Pl ζē à ye à Coincided phonetically with à was dropped


Thus in NE the category of Number disappeared in the 2nd person of the personal pronouns.

Lecture 18

The Development of the Verb

See Lecture 14 for the categories of the Verb in OE.


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