Subject and Aims of the History of English. Its Ties with Other Disciplines. Germanic Language in the System of Indo-European Family of Languages

History of English in the systemic conception of English. Connection of the subject with other disciplines. Synchrony and diachrony in the language study. The Formation of the English National Language. Periods in the History of the English Language.

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Lecture 1. Subject and Aims of the History of English. Its Ties with Other Disciplines. Germanic Language in the System of Indo-European Family of Languages

1. History of English in the systemic conception of English

Learning one's mother tongue (first language, native language) is a natural process. When a child acquires first knowledge of his or her mother tongue, s/he usually takes all its peculiarities for granted as s/he has no other language to compare with. Things are quite different with mastering a foreign language: when learning it the student compares it to his/her mother tongue and is often astonished to find great differences in the way ideas are expressed in the two languages, and if the learner is an adult person, he or she will often be struck by inconsistencies in the foreign language, illogicalities, and contradictions in its structure. Thus, any student of English is well aware of the difficulties of reading and spelling English. The written form of the English word is conventional rather than phonetic. The values of Latin letters as used in English differ greatly from their respective values in other languages, e.g. French, German or Latin. Cf.:

bit - [bit] full correspondence between Latin

three letters - three sounds letters and English sounds

bite - [bait] no correspondence between the vowels

four letters - three sounds and their graphic representation: the

final e is not pronounced, but

conventionally serves to show that the preceding letter i has its English alphabetic value which is [ai], not [i] as in other languages

knight - [nait] the letters k and gh do not stand for

six letters - three sounds any sounds but gh evidently shows

that i stands for [ai]

This illogicality can be explained by the history of English sounds and spelling. Without going into details, suffice it to say that at the time when Latin characters were first used in Britain (7th c.) writing was phonetic: the letters stood, roughly, for the same sounds as in Latin. Later, especially after the introduction of printing in the 15th c., the written form of the word became fixed, while the sounds continued to change. This resulted in a growing discrepancy between letter and sound and in the modern peculiar use of Latin letters in English. Many modern spellings show how they were pronounced some four or five hundred years ago, e.g. in the 14th c. knight sounded as [knix't], root as [ro:t], tale as ['ta:l?].

In the sphere of vocabulary, there is considerable likeness between English and German. Thus, for example, the German for summer is Sommer, the German for winter is Winter, the German for foot is FuЯ, the German for long is lang, the German for sit is sitzen, etc. On the other hand, in certain cases English has something in common with French, as the following examples will show: English autumn - French automne, English river - French riviиre, English modest - French modeste, etc. These similarities are easily observed by anyone having some knowledge of German or French. But we cannot account for them if we remain within the limits of contemporary English; we can only suppose that they are not a matter of chance and that there must be some cause behind them. These causes belong to a more or less remote past and they can only be discovered by going into the history of the English language.

As far as grammar is concerned, it can only be noted that the history of the language will supply explanations both for the general, regular features of the grammatical structure and for its specific peculiarities and exceptions. It will explain why English has so few inflections; how its “analytical structure” arose - with an abundance of compound forms and a fixed word order; why modal verbs, unlike other verbs, take no ending -s in the 3rd; why some nouns add -en or change the root-vowel in the plural instead of adding -s (e.g. oxen, feet) and so on and so forth.

All the above-mentioned phenomena are traced back to a distant past and they cannot be accounted for without a study of history.

Thus knowledge of the history of English should be an integral part in the training of a teacher of the language.

1.1 The aims and the purpose of the study of the subject

The purpose of this course is a systematic study of the language's development from the earliest times to the present day. Such study enables the student to acquire a more profound understanding of the language of today. Besides, history of English is an important subsidiary discipline for history of England and of English literature.

Another important aim of this course is of a more theoretical nature. While tracing the evolution of the English language through time, the student will be confronted with a number of theoretical questions such as the relationship between statics and dynamics in language, the role of linguistic and extralinguistic factors, the interdependence of different processes in language history. These problems may be considered on a theoretical plane within the scope of general linguistics. In describing the evolution of English, they will be discussed in respect of concrete linguistic facts, which will ensure a better understanding of these facts and will demonstrate the application of general principles to language material.

One more aim of this course is to provide the student of English with a wider philological outlook. The history of the English language shows the place of English in the linguistic world; it reveals its ties and contacts with other related and unrelated languages.

1.2 Connection of the subject with other disciplines

History of the English language is connected with other disciplines. It is based on the history of England, studying the development of the language in connection with the concrete conditions in which the English people lived in the several periods of their history. It is also connected with disciplines studying present-day English, viz., theoretical phonetics, theoretical grammar, and lexicology. It shows phonetic, grammatical, and lexical phenomena as they developed, and states the origin of the present-day system.

2. Sources of Language History

The history of the English language has been reconstructed on the basis of written records of different periods. The earliest extant written texts in English are date in the 7th c.; the earliest records in other Germanic languages go back to the 3rd or 4th c. A.D. However, we have relatively few texts from that time, and the texts we do have do not cover all types of language. For example, we do not have many examples of everyday speech, domestic language or the dialects of particular areas. This means that whatever generalization we do make about Old English, we always have to bear in mind the gaps in our data, and the fact that we are interpreting the past, not objectively describing it.

The development of English, however, began a long time before it was first recorded. In order to say where the English language came from, to what languages it is related, when and how it has acquired its specific features, one must get acquainted with some facts of the pre-written history of the Germanic group.

Certain information about the early stages of English and Germanic history is to be found in the works of ancient historians and geographers, especially Roman. They contain descriptions of Germanic tribes, personal names and place-names. Some data are also provided by early borrowings from Germanic made by other languages, e.g. the Finnish and the Baltic languages. But the bulk of our knowledge comes from scientific study of extant texts.

2.1 Writings in early English

Both poetry and prose have survived in manuscript form since Old English times, though hardly huge amount of either. One must bear in mind that at that time literacy was a scarce facility, confined mostly to clerics. The copying of books was carried out by hand, and producing and owning any manuscript was a costly business reserved for the privileged few. Moreover, it was not self-evident that works should be written in English at all, since Latin was the language of learning.

English was the first of the European languages of the time to develop a respectable written prose tradition. Much of the Old English prose that survives is translated from Latin, such as King Alfred's translations of Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People (completed around 731 AD), Pope Gregory the Great's Cura Pastoralis, Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy, and Orosius' history. Parts of the Old Testament, some of the Psalms and the Gospels were translated into Old English. Thus, most of the prose we have from this period is religious in nature. However, a few fragments of prose fiction do survive, including Apollonius of Tyre, Alexander's Letter to Aristotle and Wonders of the East.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was also most likely instigated by King Alfred. It survives in seven manuscript versions and is a continuous record of annual events, starting with the first landing of Julius Caesar (55 BC) and ending with the coronation of Henry II in 1154. But no one knows exactly when, or by whom, it was started, though the oldest chronicle, the Parker Chronicle, indicates that it may have been started in 891.

There is also a considerable body of religious prose writing from Abbot Жlfric and Bishop Wulfstan.

There also survive a number of genealogies, glossaries to Latin works, laws, charters, letters, leech books and herbal catalogues.

The 30,000 lines of Old English poetry that survive today come down to us from the tenth and eleventh centuries, and are for the most part contained in four manuscripts:

1) The British Museum manuscript of Beowulf and Judith which is part of the 17th-century (Robert) Cotton manuscript collection, and which is referred to as MS Vitellius A 15. It also contains several prose texts.

2) The Bodleian manuscript, called Junius XI after Franz Junius, who gave the manuscript to Oxford University in the 17th c. This manuscript includes Genesis, Exodus, Daniel, and Christ and Satan.

3) The Exeter Book or Codex Exoniensis at Exeter Cathedral, which contains a large collection of Anglo-Saxon poetry dating approximately from 970 to 990; there are also two later editions. The main text contains 123 pages with the originals of Phoenix, Julian, The Wanderer, The Seafarer, Widsith, Deor, Wulf and Eadwacer, The Wife's Lament and The Husband's Message. It also contains a number of maxims, Maxim I, and The Cotton Gnomes (Maxims II).

4) The Vercelli Book, Codex Vercellis, from the cathedral library of Vercelli, Italy. This manuscript contains The Dream of the Rood, Elene, The Fates of the Apostles, and Address of the Soul to the Body. In it are also found a number of prose homilies and the Life of Guthlac.

3. General notes on the language study

3.1 The definition of the language

At first sight, it seems to be very easy to give the definition of the language. According to Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, language is a system of communication by written or spoken words, which is used by the people of a particular country or area. From the linguistic perspective, language is a semiotic system. It is a system of communication units and rules of their functioning.

Language is a social phenomenon. It originated in the society, serves the society, is one of the most important features of the society and cannot exist without the society.

3.2 The functions of the language

It should be mentioned that there is no exact number of the language functions. Taking into consideration all the functions named in different linguistic works, it is possible to single out 25 functions of the language. But mainly, the functions of the language are divided into nominal and functional. Among the functional functions, we can name communicative, cultural, and so on. Yu. Stepanov, in his turn, singles out three functions of the language: nominative (semantics level), syntactic (syntactics level), and pragmatic (pragmatics level).

3.3 The structure of the language

The evolution or historical development of language is made up of diverse facts and processes. In the first place, it includes the internal or structural development of the language system, its various subsystems and component parts. The description of internal linguistic history is usually presented in accordance with the division of language into linguistic levels. The main, commonly accepted levels are: the phonemic level (phoneme), the morphemic (morpheme), the lexemic level (lexeme), the sememic level (sememe), the syntaxemic level (syntaxeme), the textemic level (texteme), and the discoursemic level (discourse).

3.4 The language classification principles

Within the field of linguistics, three different approaches to language classification are used.

Genetic (genealogical) classification categorizes languages according to their descent. Languages that developed historically from the same ancestor language are grouped together and are said to be genetically related. This ancestor may be attested (that is, texts written in this language have been discovered or preserved, as in the case of Latin), or it may be a reconstructed protolanguage for which no original tests exist (as is the case for Indo-European).

Although genetically related languages often share structural characteristics, they do not necessarily bear a close structural resemblance. For example, Latvian and English are genetically related (both are descended from Indo-European), but their morphological structure is quite different. Of course, Latvian and English are very distantly related, and languages that are more closely related typically manifest greater similarity.

On the other hand, it is also necessary to recognize that even languages that are totally unrelated may be similar in some respects. For example, English, Thai, and Swahili, which are unrelated to each other, all employ subject-verb-object word order in simple declarative sentences.

For this reason, another approach to language classification is useful. Known as linguistic typology (typological classification), it classifies languages according to their structural characteristics, without regard for genetic relationships. Thus, typologists might group together languages with similar sound patterns or, alternatively, those with similar grammatical structures.

Finally, areal (geographical) classification identifies characteristics shared by languages that are in geographical contact. Languages in contact often borrow words, sounds, morphemes, and even syntactic patterns from one another. As a result, neighboring languages can come to resemble each other, even though they may not be genetically related.

Thus, according to the genetic classification, the English language can be described like this:

Family Indo-European

Branch West Indo-European

Group Germanic group

Sub-group West Germanic

Language English

According to the typological principle, languages are classified into synthetic, analytic, and agglutinating languages. A synthetic language is characterized by many inflectional affixes. An analytic language would contain only words that consist of a single (root) morpheme. In such a language there would be no affixes, and categories such as number and tense would therefore have to be expressed by a separate word. An agglutinating language has words that can contain several morphemes, but the words are easily divided into their component parts (normally a root and affixes). In such languages, each suffix is clearly identifiable and typically represents only a single grammatical category or meaning.

3.5 Synchrony and diachrony in the language study

A language can be considered from different angles. In studying Modern English we regard the language as fixed in time and describe each linguistic level - phonetics, grammar or lexis - synchronically, taking no account of the origin of present-day features or their tendencies to change. The synchronic approach can be contrasted to the diachronic. When considered diachronically, every linguistic fact is interpreted as a stage or step in the never-ending evolution of language. In practice, however, the contrast between diachronic and synchronic study is not so marked as in theory: we commonly resort to history to explain current phenomena in Mod E. Likewise in describing the evolution of language we can present it as a series of synchronic cross-sections, e.g. the English language of the age of Shakespeare (16th - 17th c.) or the age of Chaucer (14th c.).

4. The comparative-historical method

The comparative-historical method is widely used to study the history of the language. It helps to reconstruct language phenomena of the past, which are not recorded in the earliest extant written texts. If two or more languages contain words with the same root, it is possible to assume that these words are of the same origin. Thus, at the beginning of the 19th century it was proved that there was a remarkable likeness between certain languages now called Indo-European. These languages have much in common both in the vocabulary, phonetic, and grammatical structure. For example,

English brother

German Bruder

Latin frater

Ukrainian брат

4.1 The stages of the comparative-historical method

Dr. Yuriy O. Zhluktenko distinguishes the following stages of the comparative-historical method:

1. Comparison of sounds and morphemes in the related languages. It is supposed that these units are of the same origin.

2. Determination of natural correspondences between the compared elements.

3. Determination of approximate chronological correlations between the compared phenomena.

4. Reconstruction of the archaic form, so-called “archetype”. At this stage, the phonetic peculiarities of the language development and the possible effect of analogy are taken into account.

4.2 The principles of the comparative-historical method

The principles of the comparative-historical method are as follows:

1. The compared language units should be genetically related.

2. The compared units should be meaningful. It means that a comparison is made not between separate sounds, but between meaningful words or morphemes, which contain these sounds.

3. One should ascertain that the sound similarity in the compared words is not accidental, but regular.

4. It should be proved that the sound correspondences, which we trace as regular, could be really caused by the development of one archaic sound.

5. Semantic correspondence. Even if the sound correspondences are natural, the semantic correspondences between the compared words or morphemes should be analyzed.

4.3 The drawbacks of the comparative-historical method

Despite all the merits, the comparative-historical method has its drawbacks:

1. It is impossible to precisely date the phenomenon reconstructed with the help of the comparative-historical method.

2. This method cannot completely reconstruct the language under study.

3. This method can be used only to analyze those phenomena, which are similar in the compared languages, but it is not good for different phenomena.

4. This method makes it possible to explain only the results of the language divergence, but it does not explain the results of the language convergence.

5. This method cannot be used to study languages with amorphous structure or isolating languages, that is, languages, which have no affixes, case or number conjugation, etc.

6. This method does not apply data of other sciences.

5. The Germanic group of languages

The late 18th-century discovery that Sanskrit (an ancient language of India) was related to Latin, Greek, Germanic, and Celtic revolutionized European linguistic studies. This discovery led to several decades of intensive historical-comparative work and to important advances in historical linguistics during the 19th century. By studying phonetic correspondences from an ever-increasing number of languages, linguists eventually ascertained that most of the languages of Europe, Persia (Iran), and the northern part of India belong to a single family, now called Indo-European.

The vast Indo-European family of languages, to which most of the languages spoken in Europe belong consists of several branches, of which the Germanic languages are one. Nowadays Germanic languages are spoken in many countries: German (in Germany, Austria, and partly in Switzerland), Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, and Icelandic, English.

In ancient times the territory of Germanic languages was much limited. Thus, in the 1st c. AD Germanic languages were only spoken in Germany and in territories adjacent to it, and also in Scandinavia.

Germanic languages are classified into three groups: (1) East Germanic, (2) North Germanic, (3) West Germanic.

East Germanic languages have been dead for many centuries. Of the old East Germanic languages only one is well known, namely, Gothic.

All North Germanic and West Germanic languages have survived until our own time.

Lecture 2.The Formation of the English National Language. Periods in the History of the English Language

One of the most characteristic features of a nation is the national language, which rises above all the territorial and social dialects and unites the whole nation. Usually a national language develops on the basis of some territorial dialects, which under certain historical, economic, political, and cultural conditions become generally recognized as a means of communication.

The English national language has developed on the basis of the dialects of London, which can be easily explained by the fact that after the Norman Conquest London became the political, cultural center of England and its economic center as well.

1. Territorial dialects of the period of the Anglo-Saxon invasion

The Germanic tribes who settled in Britain in the 5th and 6th century spoke closely related tribal dialects belonging to West Germanic subgroup. Their common origin and their separation from other related languages as well as their joint evolution in Britain transformed them eventually into a single language, English. Yet, at the early stages of their development in Britain the dialects remained disunited. Thus, Old English was not entirely uniform language. Not only are there differences between the language of the earliest written records and that of the later literary texts, but the language differed somewhat from one locality to another. We can distinguish four dialects in Old English times: Kentish, an offshoot of the Jutes who settled in Kent; West Saxon, spoken south of the Thames; Mercian, spoken from the Thames to the Humber (except in Wales, of course, where (Brythonic) Celtic was still spoken); and Northumbrian, spoken north of the Humber (hence the name), excluding Scotland, where, again, (Gaelic) Celtic was spoken. Since Mercian and Northumbrian share common features not found in West Saxon and Kentish, they are sometimes spoken of together under the name Anglian, because most of the Germanic tribes north of the Thames were the Angles. Unfortunately we know less about them than we should like since they are preserved mainly in charters, runic inscriptions, a few brief fragments of verse, and some interlinear translations of portions of the Bible. Kentish is known from still scantier remains and is the dialect of the Jutes in the southeast. The only dialect in which there is an extensive collection of texts is West Saxon, which was the dialect of the West Saxon kingdom in the southwest. Nearly all of Old English literature is preserved in manuscripts transcribed in this region. The dialects probably reflect differences already present in the continental homes of the invaders. There is evidence, however, that some features developed in England after the settlement. With the ascendancy of the West Saxon kingdom, the West Saxon dialect attained something of the position of a literary standard, and both for this reason and because of the abundance of the materials it is made the basis for the study of Old English. Such a start as it had made toward becoming the standard speech of England was cut short by the Norman Conquest, which reduced all dialects to a common level of unimportance. And when in the late Middle English period a standard English once more began to arise, it was on the basis of a different dialect, that of the East Midlands.

2. The dialects of the period of the Norman Conquest

The Norman Conquest put an end to the supremacy of Wessex and its dialect. With the Norman Conquest French became the official language of the country, and those dialects spoken during the Germanic invasion were of local importance.

Traditionally we isolate five major dialects of that time: Northern, Midland, East Anglian, South-Eastern, South-Western. The Northern dialect area of Middle English extends from the middle of Yorkshire to Scotland. The Midlands area, which extends from London to Gloucestershire, is traditionally split into East Midlands and West Midlands. East Anglian is posited as a separate dilect area, as a number of texts display markedly different forms from those found in East Midlands dialects. The South-Eastern dialects cover an area that is closely related to the extent of Kentish in the Old English period, while the South-Western dialect area correlates with the OE West Saxon region, and dialectologists occasionally also separate out a Middle South dialect area.

3. The development of the dialect of London into a national language

The history of the London dialect reveals the sources of the literary language in Late ME and also the main source and basis of the Literary Standard, both in its written and spoken forms.

The history of London extends back to the Roman period. Even in OE times London was by far the biggest town in Britain, although the capital of Wessex - the main OE kingdom - was Winchester. The capital was transferred to London a few years before the Norman conquest. London eventually became the commercial and cultural capital, and it clearly had a central role to play in the emergence of a standard dialect in Britain. However, the dialect that developed into standard is not simply the London dialect. It had both East Midlands elements and southern elements. But gradually East Midlands elements took the upper hand, so that the London dialect had comparatively few elements from other dialects.

There were some other factors that contributed to the development of the English national language. The popularity of Geoffrey Chaucer helped a great deal in the development of the London dialect into a literary language. Chaucer's literary language, based on the mixed (largely East Midland) London dialect, is known as classical ME; in the 15th and 16th c. it became the basis of the national literary English language.

Of greatest linguistic consequence was the activity of John Wycliff. His most important contribution to English prose was his translation of the Bible completed in 1384. It was coped in manuscript and read by many people all over the country. Written in the London dialect, it played an important role in spreading this form of English.

A major reason for the standardization of the London dialect was the introduction of printing by William Caxton in 1476. Caxton probably did more to standardize English in his time than any other individual, since it was expedient for him to edit the works he printed to resolve the dialect variants in order to gain the broadest readership possible for his publications. Strong dialectal traits disappeared from written works by the mid-15th c. and by the end of the 17th c. most orthographical variants had been standardized.

Periods in the History of the English Language

1. Henry Sweet and his division of the history of English

Each of the periods is marked by a set of specific features of phonology, grammar, and vocabulary, and may be also defined in these terms. Henry Sweet classified them as the Period of Full Endings, which means that any vowel may be found in an unstressed ending (e.g. OE sunu), the Period of Levelled Endings, which means that vowels of unstressed endings were leveled under a neutral vowel [?] represented in spelling by the letter e (e.g. OE sunu - ME sune), and the period of Lost Endings (e.g. NE sun).

2. Historical periodization as offered by B. Khaimovich

According to B. Khaimovich, the history of the English language is divided into three periods: Old English, Middle English, and New English. As landmarks separating the three periods, he uses very important events, which had a great influence on the history of English:

· The Anglo-Saxon invasion of the 5th century is taken as the beginning of the Old English period.

· The Norman Conquest of the 11th century is regarded as the beginning of the Middle English period.

· The introduction of printing in the 15th century is the beginning of the New English period.

3. T. Rastorguyeva's periodization of the English language

According to T. Rastorguyeva, the history of English is divided into the seven periods:

I Early OE (also: Pre-written OE) c. 450 - c. 700

II OE (also: Written OE) c. 700 - 1066

III Early ME 1066 - c. 1350

IV ME (also: Classical ME) c. 1350 - 1475

V Early NE 1476 - c. 1660

VI Normalization Period c. 1660 - c. 1800

(also: Age of Correctness,

Neo-Classical period)

VII Late NE, or Mod E c. 1800 . . . . . .

(including Present-day English) since 1945 . . . .

4. The division of the history of English as suggested by V. Arakin

Arakin's periodization is a traditional one because it is based on the extra linguistic, which means that periodization connotes the character of the society speaking the language. So, he divided the history of English into the following periods:

· the Ancient English Period dated between the first centuries AD and the 7th - 8th c. This is the period of the languages of the Old English tribes;

· the Old English Period dated between the 7th and 11th c. This is the period of the language of the establishing English nationality. The end of this period is marked by the Norman Conquest of England;

· the Middle English Period dated from the beginning of the 12th c. to the 15th c. This is the period of the language of the established English nationality transforming gradually into the nation. The end of this period is marked by the Wars of Roses (1455-1485);

· the New English Period dated from the end of the 15th c. to present. It is subdivided into two periods: a) the Early New English Period - the period of establishing standards of the national language; and b) the Late New English Period - the period of the established standards of the national language.

5. The periods of the development of English as offered by A. Markman and E. Steinberg

The American linguists A. Markman and E. Steinberg also admit that it is not possible to precisely divide the history of the English language into periods. In their periodization they use the dates of written documents. As it is impossible to determine the exact date of the earliest Old English texts, the beginning of the Old English is recognized as 450 AD, when the Germanic tribes landed on the island. The year of the last chapter of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 1154, is regarded as the end of the Old English Period. The end of the Middle English Period coincides with the death of the famous writer Thomas Malory - 1471, which is also the time of the introduction of printing in England and Caxton's activities. The Early New English Period (1500 - 1700) is the period of England's two prominent poets - William Shakespeare and John Milton. The year of 1700, which is the year of John Dryden's death, is recognized as the end of the Early New English Period.

6. David Burnley's periodization of the history of English

According to David Burnley, the history of English is divided into:

· Old English (700 - 1100)

· Early Middle English (1100 - 1300)

· Later Middle English (1300 - 1500)

· Early Modern English (1500 - 1800)

· Modern English (1800 - 1920)

Lecture 3. Common Linguistic Features of Germanic Languages

1. Phonetic peculiarities of the Germanic languages

Although the history of the English language begins in the 5th century (with the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Great Britain) and the earliest written documents belong even to a later date, the comparative-historical method makes it possible for us to reconstruct some of the phonetic features which characterized the speech of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes before the invasion.

1.1 The First Consonant Shift

On the basis of observations made by Rasmus Rask in 1818, Jakob Grimm codified the correspondences between certain consonants in the Germanic languages and those in Sanskrit, Latin, and Greek in 1822. Following the genealogical classification of languages, the Germanic languages diverged from the other Indo-European languages as a result of the operation of the First Consonant Shift (“First Germanic Sound Shift”), which is often called Grimm's Law. The essence of Grimm's law is that the quality of some sounds changed in all Germanic languages while the place of their formation remained unchanged.

As proved by Grimm, all the Indo-European stops seem to have gradually changed in Old Germanic. Correspondences between Indo-European and Germanic consonants may be grouped under three categories:

1) The Indo-European voiceless stops [p, t, k] and their aspirated parallels [ph, th, kh] changed to corresponding spirants, i.e. the labial [p] and [ph] changed to the labial [f], the dental [t] or [th] changed to the dental [и], and the velar [k] or [kh] changed to the velar [h] (originally pronounced as [x] in the Ukrainian хата).


p (ph) > f U п'ять, Gk pente, G fьnf, E five

t (th) > и U три, L trзs, Gt Юrija, E three

k (kh) > h Gk kunos, L canis, G Hund, E hound

2) The Indo-European voiced stops [b, d, g] became voiceless [p, t, k].


b > p U слабий, E sleep; U болото, E pool

d > t U два, E two; U вода, E Water

g > k U іго, E yoke

3) The Indo-European aspirated voiced stops [bh, dh, gh] correspond to Germanic voiced stops without aspiration [b, d, g].


bh > b Skt bhrвtar, E brother

dh > d Skt vidhavв, E window

gh > g Skt vвhanam, E wagon

There are some exceptions to Grimm's law. For example, the Indo-European [p, t, k] remained unchanged after the sound [s]. E.g. U стояти, E stand.

Certain apparent exceptions to Grimm's law were explained by a Danish linguist Karl Verner in 1877.

Let us compare the Latin words frвter, mвter, pater with their Old English equivalents broюor, modor, fжder. In accordance with Grimm's law the sound [t] in all the Latin words should have corresponded to the sound [и] (written ю) in all the Old English words. As it was, only the word broюor showed the regular consonant-shift [t > и]. In the two other words we find the voiced stop [d].The explanation given by K. Verner is that if an Indo-European voiceless stop was preceded by an unstressed vowel, the voiceless fricative which developed from it in accordance with Grimm's law became voiced, and later this voiced fricative became a voiced plosive (stop). That is p, t, k > b, d, g. Latin pater has a Germanic correspondence fжder because the stress in the word was on the second syllable, and so voiceless plosive was preceded by an unstressed vowel.

Verne's law explains why some verbs in Old English changed their root consonant in the past tens and in Participle II - originally, these grammatical forms had the stress on the second syllable. Hence the basic forms such as sniрan (to cut) and weorрan (to become) were sniрan - snaр - snidon - sniden; weorрan - wearр- wurdon - worden.

1.2 Vowels

The Germanic languages are also marked by some peculiarities in the development of vowels as compared with other Indo-European languages.

a) Stressed vowels.

1) The IE. в (long [a]) > Gc. ф (long [o])

E.g. L mвter, OE mфdor; U брат, OE brфюor.

2) The IE short [o] > Gc. short [a]

E.g. R гость, Gt Gasts.

Thus, the Indo-European vowels [a] and [o] got mixed in the Germanic languages. The IE long vowels [ф] and [в] were both reflected as [ф] in the Germanic languages. The IE short vowels [o] and [a] were both reflected as [a].

b) Unstressed vowels.

Unstressed vowels underwent a gradual process of shortening and slurring until many of them were lost altogether. This process has continued with different intensity in different Germanic languages during all the investigated part of their history. Its results can be seen even in the oldest Germanic record.

1.3 The doubling of consonants

All the consonants, except [r], were doubled (in spelling) or lengthened (in pronunciation) between a short vowel and the sound [j] (sometimes [l] or [r]),

E.g. Gt saljan, OE sellan, E sell Gt bidjan, OE biddan

But: Gt fфdjan, OE fзdan

1.4 Rhotacism

In the final position the Germanic [z] was lost in the West-Germanic languages while it changed to [s] in the East-Germanic, and to [r] in the North-Germanic ones.

E.g. Gt dags, OE dжg, G Tag

In the middle position of the word Germanic [z] remained in Gothic and changed to [r] in the West-Germanic and North-Germanic languages. The change [z > r] is called rhotacism.

E.g. Gt maiza, OE mara, G mehr Gt batiza, OE betera

1.5 Germanic fracture (or breaking)

This is the process of formation of a short diphthong from a simple short vowel when it is followed by a specific consonant cluster. Thus,

a + r+cons., l+cons. => ea

ж + h+cons. => ea

e + h final => eo

Gt hargus, OE heard (hard)

Gt nachts, OE neaht (night)

Old Frisian herte, OE heorte (E heart)

1.6 The second consonant shift

The Germanic consonant shift is called the first to distinguish it from a second consonant shift, which occurred in High German dialects (that is, dialects of Southern Germany). This second shift may be illustrated by the following examples:

Common Germanic High Germanic

Gt badi (bed) Bett

OE bedd

OE dфn (do) tun

OE pфl (pool) Pfuhl

OE hopian (hope) hoffen

Gt taihun (ten) zehn

Gt itan (eat) essen

The full table of correspondences would appear to be the following:

Common Germanic High Germanic

Initially and after a After a vowel


b p p

d t t

g k k

p pf f

t z [ts] s

k kh ch [x]

The second consonant shift occurred between the 5th and 7th centuries AD, gradually spreading from South to North. A few hundred years later, between the 8th and 12th centuries, one more change took place, which gave the German consonants system its present shape. As we have seen, the common Germanic d developed into t in High German; as a result the German consonant system had no d-sound. Now a new d appeared, coming from the common Germanic ю.

Common Germanic High Germanic

Gt юreis (three) drei

Gt юu (you) du

Gt broюar (brother) Bruder

english language diachrony period

2. Some common grammatical features of Germanic languages

2.1 Form-building Means

Like other old IE languages, both PG and the OG languages had a synthetic grammatical structure, which means that the relationships between the parts of the sentence were shown by the forms of the words rather than by their position or by auxiliary words. In later history all the Germanic languages developed analytical forms and ways of word connection.

In the early periods of history the grammatical forms were built in the synthetic way: by means of inflections, sound interchanges and suppletion.

The suppletive way of form-building was inherited from ancient IE, it was restricted to a few personal pronouns, adjectives, and verbs.

The principle means of form-building were inflections.

The wide use of sound interchanges has always been a characteristic feature of the Germanic group. This form-building (and word-building) device was inherited from IE and became very productive in Germanic. In various forms of the word and in words derived from one and the same root, the root-morpheme appeared as a set of variants. The consonants were relatively stable, the vowels were variable.

2.1.1 Ablaut

Ablaut or vowel gradation is an independent vowel interchange unconnected with any phonetic conditions; different vowels appear in the same environment, surrounded by the same sounds.

Vowel gradation did not reflect any phonetic changes but was used as a special independent device to differentiate between words and grammatical forms built from the same root.

Ablaut was inherited by Germanic from ancient IE. The principal gradation series used in the IE languages - [e ~ o] - can be shown in Russian or Ukrainian examples: нести ~ ноша. This kind of ablaut is called qualitative, as the vowels differ only in quality. Alternation of short and long vowels, and also alternation with a “zero” (i.e. lack of vowel) represent quantitative ablaut.

The Germanic languages employed both types of ablaut - qualitative and quantitative - and their combinations.

2.1.2 Word-structure

Some changes in the morphological structure of the word in Late PG account for the development of an elaborate system of declensions in OG languages, and for the formation of grammatical endings.

Originally, in Early PG the word consisted of three main component parts: the root, the stem-suffix, and the grammatical ending. The stem-suffix was a means of word derivation, the ending - a marker of the grammatical form. In Late PG the old stem-suffixes lost their derivational force and merged with other components of the word, usually with the endings. The word was simplified: the three-morpheme structure was transformed into a two-morpheme structure. The original grammatical ending, together with the stem-suffix formed a new ending.

The simplification of the word structure and the loss of stem-suffixes as distinct components was facilitated or, perhaps, caused by the heavy Germanic word stress fixed on the root.

2.1.3 Types of Stems

Most nouns and adjectives in PG and also many verbs had stem-forming suffixes; according to stem-suffixes they fell into groups or classes: a-stems, i-stems, ф-stems, etc. This grouping accounts for the formation of different declensions in nouns and adjectives, and for some difference in the conjugation of verbs.

Thus, in OG languages there are the following types of substantive stems:

1) Vocalic stems: -a-, -ф-, -i-, -u- stems. Declension of these substantives has been called strong declension.

2) n-stems. Declension of these is called weak declension.

3) Stems in other consonants: -s- and -r- stems.

4) Root-stems. This is a peculiar type: these substantives never had a stem-building suffix, so that their stem had always coincided with their root.

2.1.4 Strong and Weak Verbs

The verb system of OG languages consists of different elements. The main mass of verbs are strong verbs and weak verbs. Besides these two large groups, there are also the preterite-present verbs, with a peculiar system of forms, and a few irregular verbs, which do not belong to any of the preceding groups.

The terms strong and weak were proposed by J.Grimm. The strong verbs built their principal forms with the help of root vowel interchanges plus certain grammatical endings; they made use of IE ablaut with certain modifications due to phonetic changes and environment.

The weak verbs are a specifically Germanic innovation, for the device used in building their principal forms is not found outside the Germanic group. They built the Past tense and Participle II by inserting a dental suffix -d- (-t-) between the root and the ending.

3. Germanic Vocabulary

Germanic vocabulary has inherited and preserved many IE features in lexis as well as at other levels. The most ancient etymological layer in the Germanic vocabulary is made up of words (or more precisely roots) shared by most IE languages. They refer to a number of semantic spheres: natural phenomena, plants and animals, terms of kinship, verbs denoting basic activities of a person, some pronouns and numerals; in addition to roots, the common IE element includes other components of words: word-building affixes and grammatical inflections.

Words which occur in Germanic alone and have no parallels outside the group constitute the specific features of the Germanic languages. Semantically, they also belong to basic sphere of life: nature, sea, home, life. Like the IE layer the specifically Germanic layer includes not only roots but also affixes and word-building patterns.

In addition to native words the OG languages share some borrowings made from other languages. Some of the early borrowings are found in all or most languages of the group; probably they were made at the time when the Germanic tribes lived close together as a single speech community, that is in Late PG. A large number of words must have been borrowed from Latin prior to the migrations of West Germanic tribes to Britain. These words reflect the contacts of the Germanic tribes to Britain. These words reflect the contacts of the Germanic tribes with Rome and the influence of the Roman civilization on their life; they mostly refer to trade and warfare.

Lecture 4. Phonetic Changes in the Old English Period

1. The Main Features of Old, Middle, and Modern English

Old English is said (technically) to begin in 449 AD with the invasion of Kent by Hengest and Horsa, although we place its start at 500 AD, since it must have taken one or two generations - at least - for it to develop its distinctive character; we do not have the first manuscript attestations of English until about 700 AD. We know that the Anglo-Saxons spoke West Germanic, a sister dialect to Old High German, Old Frisian, Old Low German, Low Saxon, and Old Low Franconian.

Several very important features characterize OE:

1) Old English was synthetic, or fusional, rather than analytic or isolating.

2) The noun, verb, adjective, determiner and pronoun were highly inflected. Consequently, word order was not as rigid as in Present-Day English.

3) There were weak and strong declensions of nouns and adjectives.

4) There were also weak and strong conjugations of verbs.

5) The vocabulary of OE was overwhelmingly Germanic in character (approximately 85 per cent of the vocabulary used in OE is no longer in use in Modern English).

6) Word formation largely took the form of compounding, prefixing, and suffixing; there was relatively little borrowing from other languages.

7) Gender was grammatical (dependent on formal linguistic criteria), not logical or natural (contingent on sex).

During the Middle English period a number of very significant changes became more and more visible in the English language. The major changes from Old to Middle English are the loss of inflections, and with it the development of more fixed word order. As in the Old English period, language contact led to borrowing, but its scale was far greater during this period than it had been before.

By the Early Modern Period the structure of the standard language was very close to its structure in Present-Day English. There were still some significant changes to come, such as the Great Vowel Shift, but with regard to short vowels, consonants, morphology and syntax, changes were slight. What is noticeable to a present-day reader of Early Modern English is its comparative variability. In the period of 1500 to 1700, there was considerable free variation of forms in comparison with Present-Day English. This is hardly surprising in a language that was only just beginning to be accepted as a legitimate medium of communication in science, the arts, and administration. By 1700, however, English had stabilized and texts written after that period are remarkably easy for a modern reader to comprehend. Since that time, while some changes in the structure have indeed occurred, they are comparatively minor in nature. Unlike in the Early Modern English period, in Present-Day English, there are few changes in phonology and even fewer in morphology and syntax, with major changes taking place in the lexical stock of English.

2. Old English Phonetics

OE is so far removed from Modern English that one may take it for an entirely different language; this is largely due to the peculiarities of its pronunciation.

The survey of OE phonetics deals with word accentuation, the systems of vowels and consonants and their origins. The OE sound system developed from the PG system. It underwent multiple changes in the pre-written periods of history, especially in Early OE.

2.1 OE Consonants

From the following chart we see that the consonants of Old English were very similar to those of Modern English:







Voiceless stop




Voiced stop




Voiceless affricate


Voiced affricate

















The differences between this set of consonants and that of modern English are essentially orthorgraphic in nature, as some graphemes can represent a variety of sounds:

1) The consonants w, b, d, m, l, t and p were all similar to their counterparts in Modern English.

2) OE r was not like retroflex /r/ of British or American English, but was trilled.

3) sc and cg were pronounced [ ] and [ ] respectively: disc `dish' was pronounced [ ] and ecg `edge' was pronounced [ ]. Since /sk/ becomes [ ] in OE, all OE words that pronounce sc as [sk] are clearly loans from Scandinavian.

4) The fricatives f, ю, р and s each represented two separate sounds:

f ю,р s

f v и р s z

Voicing was predictable by context; that is to say whenever the sound in question was between voiced sounds it was itself voiced: ceosan - [ ] `choose'. Elsewhere it was unvoiced.

5) The sound spelled with the letter <n> was either [n] or, before [g] and [k], the velarized nasal [ ]: singan - [ ] `to sing'.

6) The sounds represented by the letter <h> were: [h] initially, including the clusters /hl-/, /hr-/, /hw-/, [x] after back vowels, and [x'] after front vowels: ham -

[ ] `home'; leoht - [ ] `light'; hlaf - [ ] `loaf'; miht - [ ] `might, could'.

7) The sound spelled with the letter <c> was either [k] before a consonant or back vowel or [ ] next to a front vowel: ceosan - [ ]; clжne [ ] `clean'.

8) Similarly, <g> was either [j] before or between front vowels and finally after a front vowel: ; or [g] before consonants, back vowels and front vowels resulting from umlaut.

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