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The aim of this paper is to give a descriptive overview of a number of features of the syntax of Old English. Old English syntax was similar in many ways to that of modern English. However, there were some important differences. |
Old English usually has the word order SVO – subject, verb, object, as in Modern English: "I (subject) am baking (verb) a cake (object)". However, since the object is also shown by case, this word order is flexible and can be changed to emphasize different parts of the sentence: "Ċeacan (object) bacie (verb) iċ (subject)" - "It's a cake that I'm baking" .
Also, it is common to change the word order to SOV (subject, object, verb) after many conjunctions, especially dependent ones: "Iċ sæȝde him, þæt ic hine cƿellan ƿolde" - "I told him I wanted to kill him" It's also not uncommon for an infinitive verb to go to the end of a sentence after a modal verb: "Iċ ƿille þone sang singan" - "I want to sing the song".
Adjectives come before a noun - "se grēna mann" - "the green man" unless used after a verb - "hē is grēne" - "he is green". Adjectives always agree with the word they modify in gender, number, and case (after a connecting verb, though, the case is always nominative). Double expression of one and the same member of the sentence by different morphological means is typical of that time.
In the Middle English the structure of the sentence retains the features of the Old English sentence, but word order is still liberal, for example,
He hæfde þa [i.e. Hamtunscire] oþ he ofslog þone aldormon. (OE)
He had it [i.e. Hampshire] until he killed the ealdorman.
Þa geascode he þone cyning (OE)
Then he discovered the king.
hiene þa Cynewulf on Andred adræfde (OE)
Cynewulf then drove him into [the forest] Andred
Some cases of ME syntax are influenced by the French language. Post position of the adjective (after a noun) e. g.with eyen narwe (with narrow eyes) a mantel roialliche (a royally mantle);
The ties between the words in the sentence remain basically the same –agreement. Now the predicate agrees with the subject, repeating the person and the number of the noun or pronoun.
Adjectives and pronouns – partly agree in number with nouns they modify.
ME impersonal sentences are used without formal subject.e.g. as that me thynketh (as it seems to me).
Negation in ME was the same as it was in OE (double negation). e.g. he nolde no raunsoun (he didn’t want any ransom).
In early Modern Syntax the structure of the sentences in EModE is conditioned by the previous development of its morphology. Possessive and demonstrative adjectives sometimes used together (that their opinion); adjectives sometimes allowed to follow noun (faith invincible, line royal); increased use of noun adjuncts (sugar almonds, merchant goods). It makes sense to emphasize a place of adverbial modifiers. In this period there was a tendency to place adverbial modifier before words modified (is again come); double negatives were still acceptable.
There are other syntactical features typical to this period. They are a full-fledged perfect tense, be as auxiliary for verbs of motion (he is happily arrived); have displacing be as auxiliary; reduction of have to schwa in speech (should a return'd); progressive tense use increased; periphrastic use of do (I do weep, doth heavier grow); do as auxiliary in questions and negatives (I doubt it not, why do you look on me?); phrasal quasi-modals: be going to, have to, be about to; some continued use of impersonal constructions (it likes me not, this fears me, me thinks) but former impersonal verbs were more often used personally with a nominative subject [1,с.76].
Syntax in clauses is more flexible than today. For example, SVO order regular in independent and dependent declarative clauses; SOV acceptable for pronoun objects and for emphasis (as the law should them direct, Richard that dead is); VSO in questions and conditional statements (how hast thou offended?, Were he my kinsman ...); imperatives often had expressed subject (go, my servant, to the kitchen; do thou but call my resolution wise); OSV or OVS used to emphasize object.
Thus, syntax of sentences underwent influence of Latin, "elegant English," long sentences featuring subordination, parallelism, balanced clauses; bus also native tradition, parataxis, use of coordinators (but, and, for).As far as the general organization of the sentence is concerned, a new phenomenon arises –the structure of the sentence becomes nominative, that is a subject in the nominative case becomes a necessary part of it. In Early Modern English time impersonal questions, where the doer of the action was indefinite had special structure without the subject, having the predicate and the subject in the dative case, sometimes the object merged with the very verb [2, с.190].The immortal Shakespeare’s lines prove this and motivate to study syntax more profoundly.
1. Бабенко О.В. Історія англійської мови. Навчальний посібник для студентів зі спеціальності 6.020303 «Філологія»:– Видання друге, перероблене і доповнене/ О.В. Бабенко //–К.: ВЦ НУБіП України, 2014. – 334 с.
2. Верба Л.Г. Історія англійської мови. Посібник для студентів та викладачів вищих навчальних закладів/ Л.Г. Верба //. –Вінниця: НОВА КНИГА, 2006.– 296 с.
3. Lesson 10: Syntax [Электронный ресурс]. – Режим доступу до журн.:
Источник: http://Lesson 10: Syntax [Электронный ресурс]. – Режим доступу до журн.: http://oldenglish.wikia.com/wiki/Lesson_10:_Syntax
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