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Compound and Complex Sentences. Connectives

§ 219. Compound and complex sentences existed in the English lan­guage since the earliest times. Even in the oldest texts we find numerous instances of coordination and subordination and a large inventory of subordinate clauses, subject, clauses, object clauses, attributive clauses, adverbial clauses. And yet many constructions — especially in early original prose — look clumsy, loosely connected, disorderly and wanting precision, which is natural in a language whose written form had only begun to grow.

§ 220. Coordinate clauses were mostly joined by and, a conjunc­tion ofa most general meaning, which could connect statements with various semantic relations. The ANGLO-SAXON CHRONICLES abound insuccessions of clauses or sentences all beginning with and, e.g.;

And pāonʒeat sē cyninʒ pæt ond hē, on pa duru ēode, and pā unbēanlice hine werede, op hē on pone æpeling lōcude, and pā ūt rǣsde on hine, and hine miclum ʒewundode; and hie alle on pone cyninʒ wǣron feohtende, op pæt hie hine ofslæʒnne hæfdon, 'and then the king saw that, and he went to the door, and then bravely defended himself, until he saw that noble, and then out rushed on him, and wounded him severely, and they were all fighting against that king until they had him slain' (from the earliest part ofthe CHRONICLES A.D. 755).

§ 221. Repetition of connectives at the head of each clause (termed "correlation") was common in complex sentences:

pā hē pǣr tō ʒefaren wæs, pa ēodon hie tō hiora scipum 'then (when) he came there, then they went to their ship.'

Attributive clauses were joined to the principal clauses by means of various connectives, there being no special class of relative pronouns. The main connective was the indeclinable particle pe employed either alone ortogether with demonstrative and personal pronouns:

and him cӯpdon pæt hiera mǣʒas him mid wǣron, pā pe him from noldon 'and told him that their kinsmen were with him, those that did not want (to go) from him'.

The pronouns could also be used to join the clauses without the par­ticle pe:

Hit ʒelamp ʒio pætte ān hearpere wæs on pǣre ðiode ðe Dracia hātfe, sio wæs on Crēca rice; se hearpere wæs swiðe unʒelrǣʒlice ʒōd, ðæs nama wæs Orfeus; hē hælde ān swiðe ǣnlic wif, sio wæs hāten Eurydice 'It happened once that there was a harper among the people on the land that was called Thrace, that was in the kingdom of Crete; that harper was incredibly good; whose name (the name of that) was Orpheus; he had an excellent wife; that was called Eurydice' (see also § 182for the use of pronouns).

The pronoun and conjunction pæt was used to introduce object clauses and adverbial clauses, alone or with other form-words: oð ðæt 'until', ǣr, pæm pe 'before', pæt 'so that' as in:

Isaac ealdode and his ēaʒan pӯstrodon, pæt hē ne mihte nān pingʒesēon 'Then Isaac grew old and his eyes became blind so that he could not see anything'.

§ 222. Some clauses are regarded as intermediate between coordi­nate and subordinate: they are joined asyndetically and their status is not clear:

'pā wæs sum consul, Boethius wæs hāten 'There was then a consul, Boethius was called' (perhaps attributive: '(who) was called Boethius' or co-ordinate '(he) was called Boethius').

In the course of OE the structure of the complex sentence was con­siderably improved. Ælfric, the greatest writer of the late 10th — early 11th c, employed a variety of connectives indicating the relations between the clauses with greater clarity and precision.

Word Order

§ 223. The order of words in the OE sentence was relatively free. The position of words in the sentence was often determined by logical and stylistic factors rather than by grammatical constraints. In the following sentences the word order depends on the order of presentation and emphasis laid by the author on different parts of the communication: pā Finnas, him pūhte, and pā Beormas sprǣcon neah ān ʒepēode 'the Finns, it seemed to him, and the Permians spoke almost the same language' — direct word order

Fela spella him sǣdon pā Beormas ǣʒper ʒe of hiera āʒnum landeʒe of pǣm landum pe ymb hie ūtan wǣron 'many stories told him (lit. "him told") the Permians either about their own land or about the lands that were around them' — the objects spella, him are placed at the beginning; the order of the subject and predicate is inverted and the attention is focussed on the part of the sentence which describes the content of the stories,

§ 224. Nevertheless the freedom of word order and its seeming in­dependence of grammar should not be overestimated. The order of words could depend on the communicative type of the sentence — question versus statement, on the type of clause, on the presence and place of some secondary parts of the sentence.

Inversion was used for grammatical purposes in questions; full in­version with simple predicates and partial — with compound predi­cates, containing link-verbs and modal verbs:

Hwanon feriʒeap ʒē fǣtte scyldas? 'From where do you bring (lit. "bring you") ornamented shields?'

Eart pū Ēsau, min sunu? 'Are you Esau, my son?'

Hwæt sceal ic sinʒan? 'What shall I sing?'

If the sentence began with an adverbial modifier, the word order was usually inverted; cf. some common beginnings of yearly entries in the ANGLO-SAXON CHRONICLES:

Hēr cuōm sē here tō Rēadinʒum... 'In this year came that army to Reading'.

Hēr on pyssum ʒēare fōr sē micla here... 'in this year went that big army'

with a relatively rare instance of direct word order after hēr:

hēr Cynewulf benam Siʒebryht his rices ond Westseaxna wiotan for unryhtum dǣdum, būton Hāmtūnscire 'In this year Cynewulf and the councillors of Wessex deprived Sigebryht of his kingdom for his wicked deeds, except Hampshire (note also the separation of the two coordinate subjects Cynewulf and wiotan).

§ 225. A peculiar type of word order is found in many subordinate and in some coordinate clauses: the clause begins with the subject following the connective, and ends with the predicate or its finite part, all the secondary parts being enclosed between them. Recall the quo­tation:

Ohthere sǣde hishlāforde, Ælfrēde cyninʒe pæt ealra Norðmonna norpmest būde (see the translation in § 113.) But the very next sentence in the text shows that in a similar clause the predicate could be placed next to the subject:

Hē cwæp pæt hē būde on pǣm lande, norpweardum wip pā Westsǣ 'He said that he lived on the land to the North of the Atlantic ocean'.

In the following passage the predicate is placed in final position both in the subordinate and coordinate clauses:

Æfter pǣm pe hē hie oferwunnen hæfde, hē fōr on Bretanie pæt iʒlond, and wið pā Brettas ʒefeaht, and ʒefliemed wearð 'After he had overcome them, he went to Britain, that island, and against those Brit­ons fought and was put to flight'. (Note also the place of the object hie — objects were often placed before the predicate or between two parts of the predicate.)

§ 226. Those were the main tendencies in OE word order. They can­not be regarded as rigid rules, for there was much variability in syntactic patterns. The quotations given above show that different types of word order could be used in similar syntactical conditions. It appears that in many respects OE syntax was characterised by a wide range of varia­tion and by the co-existence of various, sometimes even opposing, tend­encies.


1.Explain why OE can be called a "synthetic" or "inflected" lan­guage. What form-building means were used in OE?

2. Speak on the differences between the categories of case, number and gender in nouns, pronouns and adjectives.

3. Why are noun declensions in OE referred to as "stems"? Point out relics of the stem-suffixes in the forms of nouns.

4. Explain the difference between the grouping of nouns into declen­sions and the two declensions of adjectives.

5. Which phonetic changes account for the alternation of consonants in the following nouns: mūp — mūpa (Nom. sg, Gen. pl N. -a); hūs — hūsunt (Nom. sg, Dat. pl N. -a); wif — wife (Nom., Dat. sg N. -a); (NE mouth, house, wife). Were these consonant interchanges confined to cer­tain declensions? Decline ʒlōf (F. )and ʒōs (F. -root-stem) according to the models to confirm your answer (NE glove, goose).

6. Account for the vowel interchange in hwæl — hwalas (Nom. sg and pl, M. -a); pæp — papum (Nom. sg, Dat. pl, M. -a)(NE whale, path).

7. Determine the type of noun declension and supply the missing forms:

  Sg Pl Sg Pl
Nom. word word earm earmas
Gen. wordes ? earmes ?
Dat. ? ? ? ?
Acc. ? ? ? ?
Nom. bōc bēc cuppe ?
Gen. bēc, bōce ? ? ?
Dat. ? ? ? ?
Acc. ? ? cuppan ?
(NE word, arm, book, cup)      

8. Point out instances of variation in the noun paradigms. From which stems were the new variants adopted?

9. Which forms of the nouns originated due to palatal mutation? Describe their history in Early OE.

10. Prove that suppletion is an ancient way of form-building that can be traced to PIE.

11. Which forms of adjectives, weak or strong, should be used in the following contexts? Fill in the blanks with appropriate endings:

and pā pone hālʒ — mann ātuʒon ūt of his hūse 'and they drove that holy man out of his house...'; Ic eom ʒōd — hierde 'I am a good shepherd'.

12. Account for the interchange of vowels in the forms of the degrees of comparison:

smæl smælra smalost 'slender'
hēah hierra hiehst NE high
brād brādra brādost NE broad
  brǣdra brǣdest  

13. In what respects was the OE verb system "simpler" than the Mod E system?

14. Would it be correct to say that the strong verbs formed their principal parts by means of root-vowel interchanges and the weak verbs employed suffixation as the only form-building means? Make these de­finitions more precise.

15. Build the principal forms of the verbs for lēosan (str. 2), weorpan (str. 3) and drifan (str. 1) and explain the interchange of vowels and consonants (NE lose, 'throw', drive).

16. Determine the class of the following strong verbs and supply the missing principal forms:

Pres. Tense stem. Past sg. Past pl. Part. II NE
stelan ? ? ? steal
? scān ? ? shine
? ? ǣton ? eat
? ? ? sunʒen sing
ceorfan ? ? ? carve
? wearð wurdon worden 'become'
? sanc ? ? sink
? ? ? ʒliden glide
? wōc ? ? wake
? ? ? bacen bake

17. Find instances of "breaking" in the principal forms of strong and weak verbs.

18. How was gemination of consonants and the loss of reflected in the forms of weak verbs?

19. What traces of palatal mutation can be found in the weak verbs?

20.Prove that the non-finite forms in OE had more nominal fea­tures than they have today.

21. Define the form and class of the verbs and nouns in the follow­ing phrases and reconstruct their initial forms: Nom. sg of nouns and the Infinitive of the verbs:

... wiciað Finnas ... fōr hē...pā Beormas sprǣcon... Ōhthere mētte ...he bad... his ēaʒan pӯstrodon... hē clypode... wē willað secʒan...

Chapter X

Preliminary Remarks

§ 227. The full extent of the OE vocabulary is not known to present-day scholars. There is no doubt that many words have not been recorded in the extant texts at all. The evidence of the records has been supple­mented from other sources: from the study of the words of closely related OG languages and from later, more extensive ME texts.

Modern estimates of the total vocabulary of OE range from about thirty thousand words to almost one hundred thousand (A. I. Smirnitsky, M. Pei), — the latter figure being probably too high and unreal­istic. (Among other causes the differences in the estimates depend on the treatment of polysemy and homonymy. But even the lowest esti­mates show that OE had already developed about as many words as used by a present-day cultured English speaker.) Despite the gaps in the accessible data, philological studies in the last centuries have given us a fairly complete outline of the OE vocabulary as regards its etymology, word structure, word-building and stylistic differentiation.

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