The Subject of the History of the English Language

The subject of the History of the English language is a systematic description of the language development, of the changes of its phonetic structure, spelling, word stock, grammatical system and the historical conditions causing these changes. This course will help you to understand the peculiarities of the English language and its ties with other Germanic languages and languages of other groups of the Indo-European family.

There are two approaches to the language analysis. When we compare the use of the same word or grammar form in different periods of time or try to understand how the expression of the same meaning changed in the course of time, we use the diachronic method. Diachronic study is the study of the historic development of separate linguistic phenomena and of the whole system of a language. But when we analyse language phenomena at some definite time, we use the synchronic method. Synchronic study is the study of a language at a definite stage of its development as a system of lexical, grammatical and phonetic elements. In the study of a language these methods are combined. Traditionally the English language is divided into three cross-sections or it is regarded through three stops: Old English (OE), Middle English (ME), and New English (NE). This division is not as strict as it seems because every change takes time.

Language development means changes of the language. These changes occur under the influence of different factors. They are divided into two groups – internal and external.

Internal or structural factors exist within the language itself. They are the necessity to improve the language technique, for example – to express different meanings by distinct means and identical meanings by identical means. Thus the plural forms of the borrowed nouns acquire the forms typical of native nouns.

The language evolution is also influenced by the external or extra-linguistic factors – those which exist beyond the language. Among these factors we can mention geographical and social spread of the language, its contacts with other languages, changes in the life of the language speakers. So the language development is closely connected with the history of a speech community. That’s why we have to know the people’s history, geographical expansion of the community, contacts with other peoples and nations, development of literature, science and culture.

A language is a system of different elements. A system is an organization of elements which are connected and form a unity. The characteristics of a system are not those of the elements; it means that an element of a system possesses qualities which it doesn’t possess out of this system. As an example we can take borrowed words (café, formulas,) – they acquire qualities typical of the English language. A system develops according to its laws and it imposes these laws on its elements.

Changes, from the point of view of their result, can be characterized as merging and splitting which means loss or appearing of opposition. The opposition is a general correlation of two or more units of the same class by means of which a certain meaning is expressed. The members of the opposition possess common and differential features (nouns – singular and plural).

Splitting (a new opposition develops): in OE [k] split into [k] and a palatalized variant [k’].

Merging (loss of opposition): unification of plural forms of nouns.

The evolution of the English language is studied at different linguistic levels:

-the phonetic and phonological level;

- the morphological level;

- the syntactic level;

- the lexical level.

Changes are not equally intensive at different levels. The vocabulary is subjected to linguistic changes more than other levels. The phonetic system can’t change rapidly as phonemes distinguish morphemes and that’s why phonemic opposition is meaningful. The slowest to change is the grammatical system. But in the English language the grammatical system underwent very significant changes and as a result the English language became analytical though it used to be a synthetic language. Sometimes changes at one level can cause changes at some other level too. Thus the shift of the stress to the beginning of a word and weakening of unstressed vowels caused homonymy of grammatical endings.

Morphologically we classify the English language as an analytical language. Genealogically it is an Indo-European language belonging to the Germanic group.

The changes are not always evident because the oral language existed before the written records appeared. Sometimes it is necessary to compare how other relative languages developed in order to have an idea about the OE situation, to restore the OE phenomena. That’s why it is important to know what the Old Germanic languages were like.

The development of a language has both static and dynamic character. Historically the process of the language development can be regarded as permanent. But there are some constant features which do not or almost do not alter (the most commonly used part of the vocabulary, ways of word-formation, grammatical categories). Linguistic changes are temporal transformations of the same units, which can be registered as distinct steps. A new feature becomes a linguistic change when it is accepted in the most varieties of the language or in the literary standard.


Germanic languages constitute one of the 12 groups of the Indo-European linguistic family. When we distinguish the group of Germanic languages we base on historical and genealogical classification of languages and take into consideration their origin from a common linguistic ancestor.

All the Germanic languages are related through their common origin and the joint development at the early stages of their history. This common language is called Proto-Germanic or Common, Primitive, Proto-Teutonic. It split from related Indo-European languages between the 15th and 10th centuries BC. It belonged to the Western division of the Indo-European speech community. Germanic tribes mixed with other European tribes who spoke other unknown languages and so some Germanic roots are not Indo-European.


The classifications of Old Germanic dialects and modern languages do not coincide. Some of the old languages gave origin to a number of modern languages, some intermixed and others disappeared.


Old Germanic dialects are classified into three groups according to the territories they occupied in Europe. That’s why they are divided into North Germanic, East Germanic and West Germanic sub-groups. The languages that belonged to the East Germanic group are dead now.

North Germanic West Germanic East Germanic
Swedish Danish Norwegian Icelandic Faroese   Anglian Frisian Jutish Saxon Franconian High German Bavarian English Gothic Vandalic Burgundian Lombardic  

The Franconian dialect gave origin to the Dutch and Flemish languages; the Dutch language developed into the Dutch language and Afrikaans.


Modern Germanic languages are spoken in a great number of countries. The English language is the most widely spread one among them. In some countries it is the national language, in others it is used as the official language. The Germanic languages can be classified in the following way:

Norwegian Icelandic Faroese Danish Swedish English German Dutch Flemish Afrikaans Yiddish Frisian



When we speak about the pre-historic Britain we mean the period before the English language began to develop and before the Germanic tribes settled on the British Isles. First Britain was peopled by the Iberian or Megalithic men in 3000 and 2000 BC. The Iberian people moved along the coast from the Iberian Peninsula and settled in Cornwall, Ireland and along the coast of Wales and Scotland. Probably Britain was a part of the continent or situated very close to it. They represented the New Stone Age and their main occupation was agriculture.

Soon after 2000 BC in the epoch of Bronze Age a new race of Alpine people entered Britain from the South-East and East. The newcomers spread along the eastern coast through modern East Anglia and up the Thames valley. Tin, copper and lead were mined on the territory of modern Cornwall and Wales and exported at that time. However they occupied a small part of Britain. The mountain areas were thinly populated and much of the lowland area covered with thick forests was untouched. Prehistoric people kept to the dry chalk uplands because they were the best they could occupy with the tools they had at their disposal.

Soon after 700 BC the first wave of Celts entered Britain coming from the upper Rhineland. The first Celts in Britain were Gaels [geilz].

Two centuries later they were followed by Brythons. They used iron and so they drove their kinsmen out of the South and East into modern Wales, Scotland, Ireland and the hilly Pennine and Devon areas.

A third wave of invaders was Belgae [belgi:] from Northern Gaul. They arrived about 100 BC and occupied the South-East of the country. The Belgae kept up close relation with Gaul where they had come from and a regular trade developed, the earliest native coined money appeared. It was due to close relation of Britain with Gaul that Caesar learned about it. When he conquered Gaul he heard tales of the island rich in pearls and corn. However Caesar’s invasion was dictated by strategic rather than economic motives. The British Celts supported their Gaulish kinsmen in their resistance to Julius Caesar.

Roman conquest

Caesar’s first invasion was made in the summer of 55 BC with two legions and a body of cavalry, making a total of about 10 000 men. The operation wasn’t successful and in the following year an army of about 25 000 landed on the island. They crossed the Thames and stormed the capital (Cassivellaunus) and then Caesar departed. The real conquest of Britain began about 90 years later in 43 AD [ænou ′ dominai] under Emperor Claudius. The Roman occupation lasted nearly 400 years. During the period of Roman occupation much had changed. Trade with European countries grew, many towns were built. Roman Britain was divided into two parts (map –): the civil district and the military district. The latter included the territory of modern Wales and territories to the North of York and to the West of Chester. The Roman Wall or the Hadrian [′heidrien] Wall separated Roman Britain from unconquered areas. There were military camps in the military district and the native population was hostile and little affected by the Romans. They frequently revolted and kept to their tribal organization. The whole area was poor and hilly and there was nothing to attract the conquerors.

In the civil district the situation was different. Towns grew up along the Roman roads. Some of them – Verulamium (St. Albans), York, Lincoln, Colchester, Gloucester had civic self-government and the inhabitants had rights of Roman citizenship. London at that time became one of the most important trading centers in Northern Europe. The Celtic upper classes were completely romanized and became Roman landowners and officials.

In the 4th century AD a series of migrations brought Germanic tribes to the borders of the Roman Empire. At first these Germanic tribes were allowed to enter the Empire and they even served in the Roman army. Later they became a real threat to the Roman Empire as they often attacked the outlying provinces and set up independent kingdoms. Britain as the most remote colony was among the first to fall away. The troops stationed in Britain were needed at home and so they departed, called by Emperor Constantine. Meanwhile the Germanic tribes crossed the Rhine moving westward, entered Gaul and cut Britain off the Roman world.

Consequences of the Roman Conquest

The effect of the Roman rule was not lasting. The Romanized Celts had to defend themselves against their unconquered kinsmen. No help came from Rome in their fight against Celtic tribes living in the North – picts. The king of Britons Wyrtgeorn appealed to two Germanic chiefs – Hengest and Horsa – to help him in the war. The first Germanic teams came to Britain and settled in Kent. They were Jutes. Later the raids of the Germans were replaced by migration. The Germanic invasion was described by Bede (a scholar and writer, 673-735) in the book “History ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum”. According to him the first wave started in 449. It consisted of Jutes (coming from Jutland, Rhineland or the South of Gaul). Their origin is not known exactly. They were culturally higher than Angles and Saxons who followed (map – p.15). They occupied Kent, Surrey and the Isle of Wight.

Anglo-Saxon tribes came from the coast around the mouth of the Elbe and the South of modern Denmark. These tribes were close in speech and customs. Their social organization was tribal. By the end of the 5th century the North-East coast and much of the Midlands were occupied by the Angles. The Saxons entered the country by the river Wash and disembarked somewhere near modern Cambridge. They moved south-west into the East Midlands and the Thames valley. Britons who didn’t surrender were killed, enslaved and driven into the west and north. They remained in three mountainous regions – Devon, Cornwall (West Wales), Wales proper and Cumberland (Strathclyde).

After the invasion of Anglo-Saxon tribes and Juts to Britain these tribes are called English. They settled down into a number of small kingdoms whose boundaries changed constantly during never ending wars. The names of some of these kingdoms survive in the names of the modern shires. In the North, Northumbria stretched north from the river Humber to the river Forth. East Anglia covered modern Norfolk, Suffolk and part of Cambridge shire. Essex, Kent and Sussex correspond roughly to the modern counties. Wessex lay south of the Thames. Mercia occupied most of the Midland shires.

Though there was a fall in population after the invasion, the evidence of language shows that the Britons were not completely wiped out. Early English laws provided for their living alongside their conquerors and much intermarriage took place. The Celtic languages survived: Gaelic – as Irish in Ireland, Scotch-Gaelic in the Highlands and the Manx language on the Isle of Man. Welsh is spoken in Wales, and Cornish was spoken in Cornwall until the end of the 18th century.


The English had settled down into a number of small kingdoms whose boundaries changed constantly during never ending wars. Some of these kingdoms survive in the names of modern English shires; others vanished so utterly that we hardly know their names. In the North Northumbria stretched from the North to the Humber. East Anglia covered Norfolk, Suffolk and part of Cambridge shire. Essex, Kent and Sussex correspond roughly to the modern counties. Wessex lay south of the Thames. Mercia occupied most of the Midland shires.

The relation of the English to the conquered native population has been a subject for dispute among historians. There was a catastrophic fall in the total population. English settlements stretched along the rivers and British rural population was slaughtered or they migrated north and west. Towns built during the Roman occupation were destroyed and only London was a partial exception. The evidence of language shows that the invaders were not a minority. In England Celtic words and place names are few except in the West. But there is equally no reason to suppose that the Celts were completely wiped out even in the East. Early English laws provided for Welshmen living alongside their conquerors. And in Suffolk today, the shepherd calling to his sheep still uses the Welsh word for “Come here”. The English wedded women and much intermarriage must have taken place from the start. The further West we go the greater becomes the proportion of Britons in the population. The Britons who survived were probably of the lower class and villagers. They were the least romanized and between them and the English the narrowest cultural gap existed.

The story of the invasion was told by Bede (673-735) who wrote the first History of England- “Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum”.





The word stress in OE was dynamic or force. Besides, it became fixed; in disyllabic and polysyllabic words it fell on the root morpheme or on the first syllable. It didn’t change its position in word forms. There were two types of word stress: verbal and nominal – in verbs the root was stressed while in nominal parts of speech the first syllable which could be a prefix was stressed. In this way the stress started to distinguish between verbs and nouns.

The stress greatly influenced the development of the vowel system. As the unstressed vowels were weaker they changed differently from stressed vowels.


Vowels in the English language underwent qualitative and quantitative, dependent (assimilative) and independent (spontaneous) changes; every change was a gradual process and began with the growth of variation in pronunciation. This variation was manifested in a number of allophones, and then one of them prevailed and replaced the others. Different allophones could prevail in different dialects.

There were some tendencies in the development of the vowel system:

1. The stressed and unstressed vowels changed in different ways.

2. Long monophthongs became closer and some were diphthongized.

3. Short monophthongs became more open.

4. Diphthongs which in Proto-Germanic were sequences of monophthongs rather than diphthongs were monophthongized or turned into diphthongs with different glides. Most of the new diphthongs developed as a result of assimilative changes under the influence of preceding or following consonants.

5. If we compare the vowel systems of different periods we can observe some systematic changes. The OE vowel system is symmetric basing on the feature of length. There are short and long vowels and diphthongs which differ only in length. There is no qualitative difference between long and short vowels. In ME this symmetry is lost though some monophthongs still have short and long counterparts. There are no more long diphthongs and there are some long monophthongs which don’t have short counterparts. In Modern English long and short monophthongs have qualitative differences: they have place of articulation, they differ as tense and lax.

6. In the cause of time diphthongs proved to be not very stable. They were monophthongized while new diphthongs developed as a result of new assimilative changes.

7. The modern rules of vowels pronunciation began to develop in the ME when the length of the vowel began to depend on the position. They became long before certain clusters of consonants and remained or became short before other clusters. In the same period the difference in pronunciation between vowels in open and closed syllables developed.

8. The 3rd and 4th types of reading developed in the NE period; these were assimilative changes influenced by the consonant [r].

9. There were other qualitative assimilative changes with the influence of preceding or following consonants in the NE period.

10. The biggest independent qualitative change of vowels was the Great Vowel Shift which lasted during several centuries. It influenced all long monophthongs and even several diphthongs.

11. When speaking about vowel changes we should keep in mind that spelling did not necessarily change together with the pronunciation and that’s why it seems so complicated now.

12. The unstressed vowels developed in a different way. In OE the number of unstressed vowels reduced and no long monophthongs or diphthongs were used in the unstressed position. In ME the number of unstressed vowels reduced even more to [i], [e], [a] and shwa [ə]; in NE we should distinguish between native and borrowed words because the status of unstressed vowels in them is different. Thus in native and completely assimilated words there are the following unstressed vowels [i], [e] and[ə], while in borrowed words there is practically no restriction – both long monophthongs and diphthongs can be used in the unstressed position.




Splitting of [a] and [a:]

The PG short [a] and long [a:] were fronted and in the process of fronting they split into several sounds. The change of [a] > [æ] and [a:] > [æ:] is fronting or palatalisation of [a, a:]. But this process had a restriction: before a nasal consonant [a] changed to [ɔ] or [ã] and [a:] changed to [o:].

Development of Proto-Germanic Diphthongs

The PG diphthongs underwent regular independent changes in Early OE. The diphthongs with i-glide were monophthongized while those with u-glide changed to long diphthongs [ea:], [eo:] and [io:].



Stressed vowels underwent assimilative changes under the influence of succeeding or preceding consonants.

If a front vowel stood before a velar consonant there developed a glide between them. The glide together with the original monophthongs formed a diphthong. Breaking produced short diphthongs [ea] and [eo] – counterparts to long diphthongs which had developed from the PG ones. Short diphthongs are a specific OE feature.

Diphthongization – (6th century)

after sk’, k’, j

Diphthongization was caused by preceding consonants – a glide appeared after a palatal consonant as a transition to a vowel.

After palatal consonants [k’], [sk’] and [j] short and long [e] and [æ] turned into diphthongs with a more front close vowel as their first element. At first the initial element of these diphthongs was unstressed but later the stress shifted.

Palatal Mutation – (7th century)

Palatal mutation is the fronting and raising of vowels through the influence of [i] or [j] in the immediately following syllable

Practically all monophthongs and diphthongs were palatalized in this phonetic condition. It led to the growth of new vowel interchanges and the variability of root-morphemes increased – many related words and grammatical forms acquired a new root. Vowel interchanges

The mechanism of palatal mutation: the sounds [i] or [j] influenced the preceding consonant causing its palatalisation; the palatalized consonant caused the palatalisation of the vowel.

Velar mutation

Velar mutation is a transformation of a root vowel into a diphthong through the influence of a back vowel in the succeeding syllable:

Velar mutation took place in some of the OE dialects.


short a æ e i o u y long a: æ: e: i: o: u: y: ea eo io ie ea: eo: io: ie:

ЛЕКЦИИ 4 – 5


The parts of speech in Proto-Germanic are traditionally divided into Substantives and Verbs. In OE Substantives had already differentiated into distinct parts of speech, such as Noun, Adjective, Pronoun, and Numeral, but they differed from what they are like now. There were other parts of speech – Verb, Adverb, Preposition, Conjunction, and Interjection; there were also participles and infinitives. But the OE language lacked some parts of speech. There were no articles, no gerunds; besides some classes of pronouns were missing.

In ME a new part of speech appeared - an article which developed from the pronouns. Besides new classes of pronouns and a new group of adjectives developed.

In the ME period the English language began to turn into an analytical type of. Many grammatical forms in ME were formed in analytical way with the help of auxiliary verbs. If to speak about means of word-building we should mention that suppletive form-building and sound interchanges were not productive. Inflections were still used but they were less varied. This gave reason to H. Sweet to call this period “a period of leveled endings”. The most important way of form-building was now the analytical way. Free word phrases became analytical grammatical forms. But this way affected the verbs.

Concerning nominal parts it should be mentioned that the main direction of their development was morphological simplification.

These changes of morphology influenced the English syntax: new patterns of the word phrase and the sentence appeared.


The peculiar morphological feature of the parts of speech in OE was that they had a system of synthetic forms. Due to phonetic developments (changes of unstressed vowels) many of them were homonymous. There was still another factor that influenced the development of morphological forms – Scandinavian influence which became obvious in the ME period. The languages were close and very often the words differed only in grammatical endings. As a result they were further neutralized and this process began in the North where the Scandinavian influence was stronger and gradually spread to the south and south-west.

Many grammatical forms in ME were formed in analytical way with the help of auxiliary verbs. If to speak about means of word-building we should mention that suppletive form-building and sound interchanges were not productive. Inflections were still used but they were less varied. This gave reason to H. Sweet to call this period “a period of leveled endings”. The analytical way of form-building was becoming more important. Free word phrases became analytical grammatical forms. This development influenced the verb. The verb paradigm became more complicated while the nominal parts of speech underwent morphological simplification.

These changes of morphology influenced the English syntax: new patterns of the word phrase and the sentence appeared.

The tendencies of the ME continued in NE. The border between ME and NE is very obscure as they are two stages of the same process. With the introduction of printing and the appearance of grammar books the changes which had been spontaneous to some extent and allowed the use of parallel forms, became fixed and predetermined.


When speaking about the nominal parts of speech, that is noun, adjective, pronoun and numeral, we should say that the tendency of their development was simplification. It means that the paradigms of these parts of speech were simplified. They lost some of the categories and those which remained consist of fewer members.

THE NOUN: The OE noun had the category of case and number. Besides they had masculine, feminine and neuter gender and there were several types of declension. Already in the OE period there were many homonymous case forms within each declension and through the whole system of declensions.

There were 25 declensions but only 10 distinct endings. The type of the declension depended upon the following features:

- the stem-suffix,

- the gender of nouns,

- the phonetic structure of the word, the phonetic changes in the final syllable.

The system included the following declensions:

Vocalic stems (strong declension): a - stems, ja - stems, wa - stems; ō - stems, jō - stems, wō - stems; i - stems; u - stems;
Consonantal stems: n - stems (weak declension); root - stems; r - stems, s - stems, nd - stems

Declension of Nouns in OE

The category of case consisted of 4 cases – Nominative, Genitive, Dative and Accusative.

The Nominative case was the case of the subject and the predicative. It denoted the active agent – the doer of the action.

The Genitive case showed that a noun was an attribute to another noun. According to its use the Genitive case was divided into Subjective Genitive and Objective Genitive. Subjective Genitive had possessive meaning or the meaning of origin (Ʒrendles dǣda- Grendel’s deeds). Objective Genitive had partitive meaning (sum hund scipa - a hundred of ships). It could be also used as an object to the verbs but then it was interchangeable with other cases.

The ending -es of the Genitive singular and -as of the Nominative and Accusative Masculine began to be added to the nouns of different stems and were the basis of the modern plural form and Possessive Case.

The Dative case was used with prepositions (on morʒenne); it could also denote the passive subject of a state expressed by the predicate (him ʒelicode heora peanas- he liked their customs).

The Accusative case indicated a relationship to a verb; it was used as a direct object of the verb and denoted the object of an action the result of an action.

According to the gender nouns divided into masculine, feminine and neuter. Some derivational suffixes referred nouns to a certain gender and semantic group. Grammatical gender didn’t always correspond to sex. Thus OE nouns wif (wife) and mæʒden (maiden) were Neuter, while wifman (woman) was Masculine. That’s why we can say that gender was a grammatical and not a semantic distinction. It was connected with the stems: nouns with a - stems were Masculine and Neuter; nouns with ō - stems were Feminine; i - stems included nouns of all three genders; u - stems included Masculine and Feminine nouns; n - stems included nouns of all three genders; root - stems were Masculine and Feminine; other consonantal stems included nouns of all three genders.

According to the phonetic structure there were monosyllabic and polysyllabic words which formed different declensions.

Declension of Nouns in ME and NE

In ME the number of cases reduced to 2. The Genitive case was no longer used as an object; it was used attributively to modify a noun. Together with the Genitive case noun phrases with the preposition ‘of’ were widely used, the former was used with animate nouns, the latter with inanimate. The decay of the grammatical endings began in the 10th century and spread from north to south. In the 11-12th centuries the category of gender was lost. It became purely lexical and was defined with nouns denoting animate beings, while inanimate things were referred to as ‘it’. As for the number the ending ‘-es’ became the most common marker. The ending ‘-en’ was also used but less and less often. The number of nouns having homonymous forms of the singular and plural reduced (horse, thing).

In NE the plural number marker ‘-es’, which had already dominated in ME, extended to more nouns and underwent some phonetic changes. Other ways of building plural forms became exceptions: oxen, brethren, children. From the words having the same form in singular and plural only three remained: sheep, deer, swine. Vowel gradation remained in a very small group of words: man, tooth and several others. Some nouns had plural forms built in a different way, but these were borrowed nouns which were not completely assimilated and retained their original forms:

Lat: datum - data; nucleus - nuclei

Gr: phenomenon - phenomena; formula - formulae -> formulas.

The Genitive case in ME was expressed by the ending ‘-es’ which coincided with the plural form. So very often a possessive pronoun was put after the noun in the Common case to show the meaning of possessiveness: Noun (common case) + Possessive Pronoun + Noun. As the possessive pronoun of the 3d person singular, masculine and neuter were homonymous (his) it was used more often than others. The sound [h] was often lost and the Genitive case sounded the same way as the Common noun + possessive pronoun. In the second half of the 17th century the apostrophe began to be used, probably, instead of the vowel and to distinguish it from the plural form. In the 18th century the apostrophe became the regular marker of the genitive case for plural too. Those nouns which had plural forms other than with the ending ‘-es’, built the form of the Genitive case with the apostrophe and the ending ‘-s’.

The Mod E noun consists of two sets:

1) those which have homonymous case forms;

2) and those which have distinctive case forms.


The characteristic feature of pronouns as a separate group of words is not only their lexical meaning but also their use. Some are used only in the function of a noun; others are used similar to adjectives, the pronouns of a third group are used in both functions.

In the course of time some pronouns turned into form words, i.e. they practically lost their own meaning and serve to define other words in a sentence. Possessive and some indefinite pronouns are often used as noun determiners.

In OE there were the following groups of pronouns: personal, demonstrative, interrogative and indefinite. They had some peculiarities:

1. The forms of Genitive and Dative masculine and neuter are the same (the same is characteristic of nouns as well)

2. In these cases singular there is particular likeness between different classes of pronouns:

Gen - -s;

Dat. - -m.

3. Interrogative pronouns have no forms of feminine gender or plural.

Personal Pronouns in OE had the following morphological categories: the category of person, the category of number, the category of case and the category of gender. Not every personal pronoun had all the categories. Besides OE personal pronouns had some peculiarities. Personal pronouns of the 1st person singular and plural had suppletive paradigm: the nominative case is formed from the root different from that of the objective cases (The same phenomenon is observed in Russian and Latin: ego-mihi). The pronouns of the 1st and 2nd persons singular have correspondences in IE languages while plural pronouns of the 1st and 2nd person have correspondences only in Germanic languages. The pronouns of the 1st and 2nd persons had 3 numbers – singular, dual and plural. Personal pronouns of the 3rd person singular and plural originated from demonstrative pronouns The category of gender was manifested only in the 3rd person singular. This category was not grammatical, because the gender of the pronoun depended upon the object referred and not the grammatical gender of the noun – the noun “wifmann” was masculine, but it was replaced by the feminine pronoun ‘heo’, while inanimate objects were replaced by the neuter pronoun.

In ME and NE the personal pronouns underwent some significant changes:

The OE pronoun ‘heo’ was replaced by ‘sho’ or ‘she’ from the OE demonstrative ‘seo’ used in the North-East; oblique case form was retained: OE heo – ME hir – NE her.

OE ‘hie’ (heo) (3rd person plural) was replaced by the Scandinavian borrowing ‘they’; the oblique case form was ‘them’.

The form of the 2nd person plural ‘ye’ and ‘you’ began to be used both for singular and plural; the form ‘thou’ became obsolete. The form ‘ye’ (the Nominative case) was used in elevated speech and later became obsolete.

The Category of Case: Already in OE personal pronouns began to lose their case distinctions. The Genitive case of the personal pronoun was used as an object and as an attribute and its attributive function gave origin to the modern possessive pronoun. The forms of the Dative and Accusative cases merged into one form used as an object. Personal pronouns ‘it’ and ‘you’ lost all case distinctions.

The Category of Number: The forms of the dual number of the 1st and the 2nd person went into disuse.

Demonstrative pronouns: in OE there were two of them. They distinguished three genders in the singular and had one plural form for all the genders. One of them was the future pronoun that. The forms of the masculine and feminine were suppletive. The other pronoun was the prototype of the modern pronoun this.

They were used as noun determiners and indicated the number, gender and case of the noun they modified. The pronoun se, þæt, seo, þā had a very weak demonstrative meaning and their use was close to the use of modern definite article. But they can’t be regarded as proper articles because they could be used anaphorically. In the ME they would develop into the definite article.

In ME demonstrative pronouns no longer agreed with the noun in case and gender but retained the category of number.

In ME new classes of pronouns appeared – possessive and reflexive.

Possessive pronouns developed from the Genitive case of personal pronouns. The pronoun ‘his’ was both with ‘he’ and ‘it’. The forms ‘my’ and ‘mine’ were both used; ‘my’ was used before a noun beginning with a vowel, while ‘myne’ was used before a noun beginning with a consonant.

Reflexive pronouns were compounds consisting of the oblique case of a personal pronoun and the adjective ‘self’ (сам): myself, themselves etc.




The basis of a word phrase as a syntactical unit is the syntactical relations, existing between the notional words of the phrase (agreement, government, parataxis). The development of phrases was characterized by the following changes:

a) syntactical relations between the members of a phrase changed;

b) the members of the phrase changed.

Agreement is a type of connection in which a dependent form repeats the grammatical form of the head word. In OE words modifying a noun agreed with it in gender, number and case. In ME and NE, when agreement practically disappeared, the connection between an adjective and a noun was shown by placing an adjective immediately before or after a noun; an adjective could be preceded by a determiner - an article or a demonstrative pronoun. The Genitive case was also used as an attribute as well as prepositional phrases.

Government is a type of connection in which a dependent word takes the form determined by the head word. In OE verbs demanded a certain oblique case of a noun or pronoun. Nouns and pronouns were used in oblique cases with or without prepositions. In ME and NE a verb could govern a pronoun in the oblique case and a noun in the Nominative (Common) case. It couldn’t govern a noun in the Genitive case. The meaning of prepositions became more specific as they began to fulfill the functions of former case forms. The use of nouns as adverbial modifiers became more restricted.

Parataxis is a word connection which is expressed lexically, with the word order or intonation. In ME and NE the role of parataxis grew.

In OE verb and substantive phrases were used; they were phrases in which a verb or a noun was the head word. Adjectival or adverbial phrases were not often.

A noun phrase consisted of a noun as the head word and a pronoun, an adjective, a numeral, used as an attribute or a determiner. As a rule, the words modifying a noun agreed with it in gender, number and case. If a noun was modified by a noun, the latter had the form of the Genitive case.

Verb phrases included a verb as a head word and dependent words that were nouns, pronouns or adverbs. Nouns and pronouns were used in oblique cases with or without prepositions. As there were many homonymous case forms, prepositions were widely used to specify the meaning of the case. The prepositions were lexically motivated; there were no purely grammatical ones. Infinitives and participles could also enter verb phrases as dependent words. The development of phrases was characterized by a) changing syntactical relations between the members of a phrase (parataxis was gaining momentum), b) changing the members of the phrase.

The verb ‘habban’ was losing its meaning of possession in some phrases as its meaning was becoming more abstract. Among the nouns used as direct objects of the verb ‘habban’ there appeared verbal nouns, nouns expressing feelings, abstract nouns: habban rest, habban sorʒe, habban cyppe

In the ME period the changes in syntax were connected with the changes in morphology. As the nominal system was simplified and the inflections didn’t any longer denote the connections between the words, the structure of phrases and sentences became more standard and the OE variety was lost.

In noun phrases agreement was practically no longer used and the connection between an adjective and a noun was shown by placing an adjective immediately before or after a noun; an adjective could be preceded by a determiner – an article or a demonstrative pronoun. The Genitive case and prepositional phrases were also used as attributes.

Verb phrases became less varied in form. The verb could govern a pronoun in the oblique case and a noun in the Nominative case. It couldn’t govern a noun in the Genitive case. The meaning of prepositions became more specific as they fulfilled now the functions of former case forms. The use of nouns as adverbial modifiers became more restricted.



In OE word order as a way of expressing syntactic relations was of minor importance. The syntactical function of a word was already manifested in its form. That’s why agreement and government played an important role. The subject could be omitted as the predicate showed who fulfilled the action.

If there was no secondary member of the sentence at the beginning of a statement, the word order was usually direct. If a sentence began with a secondary member the word order was usually indirect. The word order was obligatory inverted if the sentence began with adverbs of time þa, nu, þonne and place þær, hēr, and negative particle ne. The word order was easily changed for stylistic purpose and it reflected the manner of thinking. Also it was typical of OE to have secondary parts of a sentence between the subject and the predicate.

In the interrogative sentences the word order was indirect – the predicate came first: Hwæt sceal ic sinʒan? – What shall I sing?

A very significant change in the sphere of word order can be seen in ME. Most of the positions of parts of a sentence have become fixed – it is a consequence of morphological development: as the declension system was reduced in ME - new ways of expressing the same relations and dependences had to be found.

In ME the relations of words in the sentence began to be shown by position and semantic connections. The place of a noun before or after a verb showed whether it was the subject or an object; a preposition showed that a noun was an adverbial modifier, an attribute or a prepositional object. In those cases when the syntactic function was shown in some other way (by a case form, for example) the word order was relatively free. The word order was traditionally inverted after some adverbs of place and time.

In Early NE the role of the word order grew even more and it became fixed. The inversion was still used in some cases but it was partial inversion (as it is now in most cases). One member sentences were falling into disuse and the subject became a necessary member of the sentence. The structure of the sentence became more complicated.

In OE there was no structural difference between the exclamatory sentences and statements. In ME they got a specific structure with the inverted word order and it remained through Early NE. By the end of the Early NE period the word order became direct as in Modern English.



The Vocabulary of OE has three layers: Common Indo-European words, Old Germanic words, specifically English words and a few loan words. They constituted the nucleus of the OE vocabulary which is called the basic vocabulary. The basic vocabulary has the following characteristics:

1) The words have common use;

2) They are stable and remain in the vocabulary for centuries;

3) They are stylistically neutral;

4) They are often used for derivation and composition;

5) They are used in set expressions, idioms and proverbs.

Common Indo-European words included nouns denoting kinship, parts of the human body, animals and plants; adjectives denoting colors and size; numerals from 1 to 100; some pronouns; verbs denoting basic activities.

Common Germanic words included nouns denoting parts of the human body, animals, plants, natural phenomena, time division, metals, lodgings, and means of transportation; adjectives denoting colors and size; verbs of perception, speaking and some other activities.

Specifically English words are not found in other Germanic languages. Most of them are compounds. Loan words were not numerous and most of them entered Germanic languages at early stages of their development. When the English language began to develop some Celtic words were borrowed/

OE Other Indo-European Languages NE words
mann mōdor sunu nosu ʒos beorc twā thū sittan L. mās (mans) L. mater R. мать R. сын L. nasus R. нос R. гусь R. береза L. duo R. два L. tu R. ты L. sedere R. сидеть man mother son nose goose birch two thou sit
hēaford hānd cealf sǣ reʒn dæʒ winter ʒrēne sēon drincan Gt. haubiþ Germ. Haupt Gt. handus Germ. Hand Gt. kalbō Germ. Kalb Gt. saiws Germ. See Gt. rign Germ. Regen Sw. regn Gt dags Germ. Tag Sw. dag Gt. wintrus Germ Winter Sw. vinter Germ. grün Sw. gron Gt. saihwan Germ. sehen Sw. se Gt. drinkan Germ. trinken head hand calf sea rain day winter green see drink
wifman hlāford < wīf – жена + man - человек > hlāf – хлеб + weard – хранитель > woman lord
pund strǣt bete munuc L. pondo L. strāta L. beta L. monachus pound street beet monk

The vocabulary stock changed during the period of OE. These changes reflected the historical development of English people. New activities appeared, their knowledge about surrounding world grew, and new notions developed. The vocabulary increased in two ways: 1) through coining new words from already existing ones by means of word-building (derivation) and word-composition; 2) through borrowing words from other languages.


ЛЕКЦИЯ 8. Диалекты и варианты английского языка



There are two tendencies in the development of dialects and variants – integration and differentiation. Now the English language is a unity of all variants of this language. The national variants influence each other and interact.

Whatever period of the English language history we explore, we are to find a number of variants, overlapping each other, mixing and merging with each other.

In OE there were a number of Germanic tribal dialects, then there were local dialects, then the national language developed and it was opposed to dialects. It was followed by the division into written and oral standards within the literary norm, while dialects were mostly used in oral communication undergoing their own integration and differentiation processes. Later styles developed and at last national variants enriched this variety.

Now we can speak of a hierarchy of English variants: Global English, National variants, local and social dialects.

The English language began to develop as a number of tribal dialects which gradually became regional in the OE period.

The Anglian dialect gave origin to the Northumbrian dialect spoken to the North of the river Humber and Mercian (South Anglian) spoken between the Thames and the Humber.

The Saxon dialects developed into West Saxon spoken south of the Thames, East Saxon and London dialects.

The Jutish (Frisian) dialect was spoken in Kent and is known as the Kentish dialect.

In the ME period the dialects became provincial.

Northern (Northumbrian) dialects were spoken in Northern Yorkshire, Northern Lancashire, Cumberland and in Scotland.

Mercian dialects became Midland dialects which were further subdivided into Central, West Midland, North-West Midland, South-West Midland, East Midland, South-East Midland and North-East Midland. They were spoken in Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Worchestershire, Lancashire, Cambridge, Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. The dialects of Norfolk and Suffolk together with dialects that had originated from the Saxon dialects served the basis for the London dialect.

Saxon dialects developed into the dialects of Wessex, Essex, Glouster and London.

Together with the Kentish dialect they form the group of Southern dialects spoken in Cornwall, Devonshire, Somerset, Sussex, Glouster, Oxford shire and Kent.

In NE the principal dialects are the following:

Northern: the Scottish dialect, dialects of Cumberland, Lancashire and Yorkshire;

Southern: the dialects of Lincolnshire, Cambridge shire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Sussex, Glouster shire, Oxford.

Old English dialects were first tribal dialects. Anglo-Saxon dialects were very close while the Kentish (Jutish) dialect differed as it belonged to the Frisian group. The OE period is the period of their transition into regional dialects.

ME dialects are regional and greatly separated as it was the period of feudalism when the contacts among different regions were limited. Besides, the dialects were influenced by different extra linguistic factors. Economic and political development of the society could draw dialects together or move them apart. The Northern dialects were greatly influenced by the Scandinavian languages, while the Southern dialects were more influenced by the Norman (French) language. The English language never rejected foreign influence. On the contrary it freely borrowed from other languages and successfully assimilated these borrowings.

Dialects mainly differed in phonetics and morphology, but there were some differences in the vocabulary too. These differences were determined by original peculiarities of the Anglian, Saxon and Jutish dialects in OE and by the Scandinavian and French influence in the ME period.

In NE some dialectal peculiarities disappeared but others developed. Intensive migration of population caused by the industrial development of England and the developing literary language influenced the development of the dialects. To some extent this influence neutralized the differences among the dialects.

The London dialect which comprised the features of the Kentish, South-Western, North-Eastern and Central dialects, replaced local ones to the South and South-East of London.

The Essex dialect became the rural dialect of the agricultural areas in the East.

Local dialects survived in industrial Central and Northern England, though in some places they merged as in Birmingham.

Local dialects may retain some of their peculiarities. In general, dialects are less subjected to changes than the literary speech. The following process is more common – speakers use literary language but add some local dialectal elements, preferably lexical. Grammatical deviations from the norm make the speech sound illiterate.

Yorkshire speech has survived from Anglo-Saxon times and Scandinavian occupation. Cornwall preserves much of its Celtic heritage. Lincolnshire was influenced by Scandinavian languages and retains these features together with original peculiarities.

There were dialects used on a very limited territory (islands) which did not change a lot. The dialect of the Orkney Islands is one of them. It keeps much of the Norwegian dialect once spoken there. The Norwegian dialect died out in the 17th century and now they speak the Scottish dialect of Lowlands with local peculiarities.



№ п/п   Ф.И.О. полностью   Какое образова- тельное учреждение профессионального образования закончил (ла), специальность по диплому Ученая степень, ученое звание   Стаж научно-педагогической рабо- ты, годы Основное место рабо­ты, долж­ность   Условия привлечения в РГЭУ «РИНХ» (штатный, внутренний совместитель, внешний со­вместитель, почасовик) Повышение квалификации  
Всего     В т.ч.
Педагоги- ческий По дисцип- лине
Николаева Елена Сергеевна РГПУ преподаватель английского и немецкого языков к.ф.н. РГЭУ «РИНХ», ст. преподаватель штатный Защита к.диссертации 2006г.





Ablaut (vowel gradation) – an alternation of vowels in one and the same root or suffix – чередование гласных

Affixes – morphemes used in word-building and changing the meaning of the word – аффиксы

Analytical languages – those languages, in which grammatical relations between words in a sentence are expressed by auxiliary words, word order, and intonation – аналитические языки

Agreement – the type of syntactical connection in which the subordinate word takes a form similar to that of the word to which it is subordinate (e.g. agreement in number, gender and case) – согласование

Anomalous verbs – the verbs whose principal forms do not correspond to those of the strong, weak or preterit-present verbs – неправильные, аномальные глаголы

Assimilative change – a change, which happens under the influence of the consonantal environment (succeeding or preceding consonants) – ассимилятивное изменение

Breaking (fructure) – a change, in which a diphthong develops from a monophthong under the influence of the succeeding consonant – преломление

Back-formation – away of word-building based on analogy in which a simple verb is formed from a noun coinciding in form with a derivative – восстановление по аналогии

Category – see Morphologic category

Combinative change – see: Dependent change

Contraction – a change of a diphthong into a monophthong – стяжение

Conversion – a way of word-building in which the word changes its paradigm without changing its initial form; a new word belongs to a different part of speech – конверсия

Dependent (positional, combinative) change – a change which takes place under certain phonetic conditions – обусловленное (позиционное) изменение

Derivation – the way of word-building by means of adding affixes (suffixes and prefixes) to the word stem – словообразование

Diachronic study – the study of the historic development of separate linguistic phenomena and of the whole system of the language – диахроническое изучение

Diacritic – a sign showing that a letter should be pronounced differently – диакритический знак

Diphthongisation – a change, in which a diphthong develops from a monophthong under the influence of the preceding consonant – дифтонгизация

Doubling – see: Gemination

External – something existing beyond a language – внешний, экстралингвистический

Extralinguistic – see: external

Fructure – see: Breaking

Gemination (doubling) – lengthening of consonants after a short vowel before [j] – удвоение согласных

Government – the type of syntactical connection in which the head word requires the use of a certain form of the subordinate word, but this form does not coincide with the form of the head word – управление

Gradation, vowel – see: Ablaut

Hardening – a consonant change in which a fricative transforms into a plosive – отвердение

Independent (spontaneous, regular) change – a change taking place irrespective of phonetic condition – независимое, самостоятельное (спонтанное) изменение

Internal - belonging to a language – внутриязыковой

Irregular verbs – see: Anomalous verbs

Morphological category – Common features of words belonging to a certain part of speech – морфологическая категория

Merger, merging – a change in which two or more units are replaced by one – слияние

Independent (spontaneous, regular) change – a change taking place irrespective of phonetic condition – независимое, самостоятельное (спонтанное) изменение

Mutation – is a change of one vowel into another under the influence of a vowel in the succeeding syllable. See: Palatal mutation, Velar mutation – перегласовка

Opposition – a correlation of forms or units that possess both common and differential features. Common features serve as the basis of contrast, while differential features express the meaning – Оппозиция – “различие двух (или более) однородных единиц языка, способных выполнять семиологическую функцию, т.е. быть семиологически релевантным – оппозиция” - Ахманова О.С. Словарь лингвистических терминов - М, 1969; (see also: semiologically relevant)

Palatal mutation – a change, in which vowels are fronted and raised through the influence of [i] or [j] in the succeeding syllable – перегласовка на i

Parataxis – the type of syntactical connection in which the head word and the subordinate word are connected by position – примыкание

Positional change – see: Dependent change

Preterit-present verbs – the verbs whose present tense forms corre­spond in formation to the past forms of the strong verbs — претерито-презентные глаголы



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