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Babenko O.V., PhD in Philology, |
National university of life and environmental sciences of Ukraine
GRAMMATICAL FEATURES OF ADJECTIVES IN OLD, MIDDLE AND EARLY MODERN ENGLISH PERIODS
The article deals with some grammatical features of adjectives in Old, Middle and Early Modern English periods. The adjectival categories, examples of word-formation in a diachronic way are illustrated in the article.
Keywords: adjective, grammatical categories, periods, changes, development
Most historians agree that the number of adjectives in Old English is not very significant. There are primary adjectives, dating back from the very old times and derivative adjectives made by adjective-forming suffixes from nouns. The adjectives of those times are similar to Slavic adjectives. This part of speech agrees with the noun it modifies in number, gender and case [1, с.54].
The adjective in OE had the following categories:
• two numbers (singular, plural);
• three genders (masculine, feminine, neuter);
• five cases (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, and partly instrumental).
Besides, the adjectives had two declensions, strong and weak (cf. in Ukrainian зелений гай/ зелен клен, in Russian красная лента/красна девица). The weak form of the adjective is used after a demonstrative pronoun, a personal pronoun or a noun in the genitive case. When the adjective is not so accompanied it is declined strong.
Adj used predicatively & attributively without any determiners
• Weak (indefinite):
Adj preceded by a demonstrative pronoun, a personal pronoun or a noun in the genitive case.
The following table summarizes the adjective endings. A strong adjective for a strong noun, a weak adjective for a weak noun, the rule is as simple as that.
For example, here are two paradigms for the adjective gōd "good" with the feminine noun cwen "queen." First the strong:
Table 1. The Strong Adjective Declension
nominative gōd cwen gōde cwena
accusative gōde cwene gōde cwena
genitive gōdre cwene gōdra cwena
dative gōdre cwene gōdum cwenum
Table 2. The Weak Adjective Declension
nominative seo gōde cwen þa gōdan cwena
accusative þa gōdan cwene þa gōdan cwena
genitive þære gōdan cwene þara gōdra cwena
dative þære gōdan cwene þam gōdum cwenum
• Like in other IE languages, most OE adjectives are distinguished between three degrees of comparison: positive, comparative, superlative.
• The typical suffixes –ra and –est/ost, e. g. earm (poor)-earmra-earmost, blæc (black) - blæcra - blacost
• Many adjectives changed the root vowel – another example of the Germanic ablaut, e.g.
• eald (old)-ieldra-ieldest,
• strong - strengra - strengest
• long - lengra - lengest
• geong (young) - gingra - gingest
• The most widespread and widely used adjectives always had their degrees formed from another stem, which is called "suppletive" in linguistics. Many of them are still seen in today's English:
Table 3.Suppletive degrees of comparison of OE adjective
Degrees of Comparison
Positive Comparative Superlative
ᵹ ōd (good) betera
yfel (bad) wiersa wierrest, wierst
lȳtel (small) lǣssa lǣst
mycel (much) māra mǣst
In the process of development a paradigm of the adjective in ME is simplified drastically. The endings become scarce. The category of gender is lost, for the nouns no longer have it. The adjective no longer agrees with the noun in case, the only remaining endings being – the plural form having the ending-e and the remains of the weak declension, the weak form (the one preceded by an article) –e:
Young kniht/the younge kniht
Younge knihtes/ the younge knihtes (In the plural the strong and the weak forms coincided).
The forms of the suffixes of the degrees of comparison were reduced to –er, est.
Some adjectives, especially of foreign origin, are found in a form moore/most which may be associated with the adverb.
In OE the adjective was declined to show the gender, number and case of the noun it modified: it had a five-case system and two types of declension, weak and strong, often serving, together with the preceding pronoun or alone, to present a thing as “definite” or “indefinite”.
The most important innovation in the adjective system in the ME period was the growth of analytical forms of the degrees of comparison.
The adjective in EModE lost the form of plural and weak forms and acquired its present-day qualities. The degrees of comparison are formed by means of the suffixes -er and -est. The forms elder/older, eldest/oldest and further/farther, furthest/farthest are distinguished in use.
The new way of forming the degrees of comparison: the use of the adverbs more and most before the adjective came into practice.Double comparatives and superlatives are also found (more wider, the most unkindest).
At the same time more and most are used as comparative and superlative degrees of the adjective much (they are adjectives of full semantics) [2, с.72].
To sum up, we may say that among all the parts of speech the adjective has undergone the most profound grammatical changes. In the course of time it has lost all its grammatical categories except the degrees of comparison.
1. Верба Л.Г. Історія англійської мови. Посібник для студентів та викладачів вищих навчальних закладів/ Л.Г. Верба //. –Вінниця: НОВА КНИГА, 2006.– 296 с.
2. Бабенко О.В. Курс лекцій з історії англійської мови. Навчальний посібник для студентів зі спеціальності 6.020303 "Філологія (Переклад)", Частина 1: / О.В. Бабенко //. –К.: Вид-но НУБіП, 2011.– 156 с.
Источник: http://References 1. Верба Л.Г. Історія англійської мови. Посібник для студентів та викладачів вищих навчальних закладів/ Л.Г
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