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Quantitative and qualitative changes of vowels in ME.

Old English vowels.

A large number of vowels were distinguished in OE spelling.

Monophthongs short – I e ae, a a0, o, u, y long – I,e,ae,a,o,u,y

Diphtongs – ea,eo,io,ie long ea,eo, io, ie

ME – the period of great change.

OE had both short & long v phonemes & each of these could occur in any phonetic env-ment, they were absly independent phonetic units.

In ME quantity of v-s becomes dependent on their env-ment – to be exact, on what follows.

In MnE the [∂] of unstr.endings was lost: likes, tables

The Greate vowel shift –the changed in the sys-m of long v.

In the Middle English period a great change affected the entire (полный) system of Vowel phonemes. As a result of important changes coming into the vowel system in the 10-12 c., the ME V system was basically different.

While in OE quantity (length/ shortness) was a distinctive phonetic feature, in ME (by the 13-th c.) this is no longer so. Quantity of Vs becomes dependant on their environment – to be exact, on what follows. With several exceptions the situation in ME is as follows: in some phonetic environments only short vowels can appear, while in other phonetic environments only long vowels can appear. The quantity of the V is predetermined by the environment. Thus, quantity ceases, (сокращения), being a phonemically relevant feature and becomes a merely phonetic peculiarity of a V sound.

  1. Shortening

A long V before 2 Cs is shortened:

# c’epan (Inf) – cepte (Past tense)

The Vs are shortened before 2 Cs but remain long in other environments.

# long V+ ld, nd, mb= long V (w’enan (Inf. think) – w’ende (Past tense)

  1. Lengthening

Affected the short Vs a,o,u

# caru (OE) – c’are (ME) ‘care’

# talu (OE) – t’ale (ME) ‘tale)

  1. Levelling of unstressed Vs

All unstressed Vs weakened and reduced to a neutral vowel, something like [¶], which was denoted by a letter ‘e’.

Thus; the infinitive suffix –an was reduced to –en(bindan – binden, tellan – tellen)

Tendencies of vowel development.

I-E had the fol. V-s: long: e,o,a,I,u. short: e,o,a, neut, I,u. E,o,a – basic v-s as they mainly occur in stressed syllables. I,u have originated from reduced diphtongs & ocuured in unsteressed syl-s.

The change in the system of v-s were determined by the fol.reasons:

1. Breaking
a > ea before combinations of "r, l, h +cons.", and also before h final: arm > earm,

 e > eo:  herte > heorte

2. Palatalization
This is the process which went under the influence of g, c, sc before vowels in the beginning of the word:
e > ie (gefan > giefan); o > eo (scort > sceort)
 3. mutation or umlaut
This interesting feature changed many of Old English words on a very early stage of the language's history. It is caused by vowel in the next syllable, it affects all vowels, except i and e. Vowels move from their back position to the new front one.

4.Contraction of vowels due to a dropped h: v +h, vv+h= long v.

ME – the period of great change.

OE had both short & long v phonemes & each of these could occur in any phonetic env-ment, they were absly independent phonetic units.

In ME quantity of v-s becomes dependent on their env-ment – to be exact, on what follows.

In MnE the [∂] of unstr.endings was lost: likes, tables

The Greate vowel shift –the changed in the sys-m of long v.

The Unification of the ways of building the plural forms of nouns in the history of English

In the coarse of time the category of number proved to be the most stable of all the nominal categories. The Noun preserved the formal distinction of two numbers through all the historical periods. Increased variation in Early Middle English did not obliterate (cтереть) number distinctions. On the contrary, it showed that more uniform markers of the plural spread by analogy to different morphological classes of nouns and thus strengthened the formal differentiation of number.

In late Middle English the ending –es was the prevalent marker of nouns in the plural/ In Early New English it extended to more nouns – to the new words of the growing English vocabulary and to many words which built their plural in a different way in Middle English or employed –es as one of the various endings.

The plural –es underwent several phonetic changes: the voicing of fricatives and loss of unstressed vowels in final syllables. It has different pronunciation variants under certain phonetic conditions.

In Middle English plural ending –en used as a variant marker with some nouns lost its former productivity. So that in Standard Modern English it is found only in oxen, brethren (братья) and children. (the two latter words originally did not belong to the weak declension and were formed by means of a root-vowel interchange), OE cild, an s-stem, took the ending –ru: cild-cildru, -en was added to the old forms of the plural in Middle English, both words have two markers of the plural.

The small group of Middle English nouns with homonymous forms of number (middle English deer, hors, thing) has been further reduced to 3 exceptions in Modern English: deer, sheep, swine. The group of former root-stems has survived only as exceptions: man, tooth and the like. (It must be noted that not all irregular forms in Modern English are traces of OE declensions, forms like data, nuclei, antennae have come from other languages together with the borrowed words.)

The process of eliminating (устранение) survival plural forms went on in the 15th and 16th centures. Forms like eyen, fon were now superseded by the regular forms eyes, foes (Противники).

In several substantives with final [f] or [Q] alternation of the voiceless fricative with its voiced counterpart was eliminated. This is the case with roof (pl roofs) and other words in 0oof, also with belief (beliefs), death (deaths), hearth (hearths).

However, with other substantives the alternation has been preserved, as in wife (wives), life (lives), half (halves), calf (calves), wolf (wolves), bath (baths), path (paths), youth (youths). With a few words 2 variants are possible: scarf (scarves, scarf), truth (truths [s], [z]).

The substantive staff split into 2 separate words: staff, pl staffs; and stave, pl staves.

The alternation [f-v] begins to extend to the word handkerchief, whose second part is of French origin, alongside the plural form handkerchiefs a new form handkerchiefs is occasionally used.

A few substantives have preserved their plural forms due to the weak declension or to mutation: ox (oxen), child (children), man (men), woman (women), foot (feet), goose (geese), tooth (teeth), mouse (mice), louse (lice), dormouse (dormice).

Here also belong the forms brethren (alongside brothers). Another type of plural has been preserved in the forms of the words sheep (sheep), deer (deer), swine (swine), cf.: fruit (fruit), fish (fish), and names of several kinds of fish: trout, salmon, cod, etc., which usually take no –s in the plural. This peculiarity appears to be due to the meaning of these words. Most of them are names of animals (ox, goose, mouse, louse, dormouse, sheep, deer, trout, salmon). The plural of these nouns is used to denote a mass (a flock of sheep, a herd of swing, a shoal of fish, etc.), rather than a multitude of individuals. This semantic peculiarity appears to have influenced the plural forms of these words.

Isolated pl. forms have also been preserved in a few phrases which coalesced into compound words: twelvemonth, fortnight.

New English General Characteristics

The language in New English is growing very rapidly, the amount of actually existing words being impossible to estimate. Though some of the words existing in Old English and Middle English are no longer used in New English, the amount of new words exceeds the number of obsolete ones manifold.

Both internal means and external means are used for the purpose of enriching the vocabulary, and the importance of either of them is hard to evaluate.

Internal means of enriching vocabulary

The principal inner means in New English is the appearance of new words formed by means of conversion. Usually new words are formed by acquiring a new paradigm and function within a sentence. Thus, book(a noun) has the paradigm book— books. Book (a verb) has the paradigm book — books — booked —booking, etc. (The bookis on the table - He bookeda room.) Similarly:

man (n) — man (v), stone (n) — stone (v) — stone (adj), (as in "a stone bench"), etc.

External means of enriching vocabulary

Very many new words appear in New English due to borrowing. It is necessary to say here that the process of borrowing, the sources of loan words, the nature of the new words is different from Middle English and their appearance in the language cannot be understood unless sociolinguistic factors are taken into consideration.

Chronologically speaking, New English borrowings may be subdivided into borrowings of the Early New English period — XV—XV11 centuries, the period preceeding the establishment of the literary norm, and loan words which entered the language after the establishment of the literary norm — in the XVIII—XX centuries, the period which is generally alluded to as late New English.

Early New English borrowings (XVXVII centuries)

Borrowings into the English language in the XV—XVlI centuries are primarily due to political events and also to the cultural and. trade relations between the English people and peoples in other countries. Thus , in the XV century — the epoch of Renaissance, there appeared in the English language many words borrowed from the Italian tongue: cameo, archipelago, dilettante, fresco, violin, balcony, gondola, grotto, volcano; in the XVI century — Spanish and Portuguese words, such as: armada, negro, tornado, mosquito, renegade, matador and also Latin (the language of culture of the time), for instance:

verbs, with the characteristic endings -ate, -ute: aggravate, abbreviate, exaggerate, frustrate, separate, irritate, contribute, constitute, persecute, prosecute, execute, etc.,

adjectives ending in -ant,-ent, -ior,-al: arrogant, reluctant, evident, obedient, superior, inferior, senior, junior, dental, cordial, filial. As a result of numerous Latin borrowings at the time there appeared many ethymological doublets.

Latin Strictum - (direct) strict+ strait (through French)

In the XVII century due to relations with the peoples of America such words were borrowed as: canoe, maize, potato, tomato, tobacco, mahogany, cannibal, hammock, squaw, moccasin, wigwam,

etc. French borrowings — after the Restoration: ball, ballet, billet, caprice, coquette, intrigue, fatigue, naive.

Late New English borrowings (XYII1XX centuries)

German: kindergarten, waltz, wagon, boy, girl

French: magazine, machine, garage, police, engine, nacelle, aileron

- Indian: bungalow, jungle, indigo

Chinese: coolie, tea

Arabic: caravan, divan, alcohol, algebra, coffee, bazaar, orange, cotton, candy, chess.

Australian: kangaroo, boomerang, lubra


Before the October Revolution the borrowings from the Russian language were mainly words reflecting Russian realia of the time; borzoi, samovar, tsar, verst, taiga, etc. After the Revolution there entered the English language such words that testified to the political role of this country in the world, as: Soviet, bolshevik, kolkhoz.

Cultural and technical achievements are reflected in such borrowings as: sputnik, lunnik, lunokhod, synchrophasotron and recently such political terms as: glasnost, perestroika.

In New English there also appeared words formed on the basis of Greek and Latin vocabulary. They are mainly scientific or technical terms, such as: telephone, telegraph, teletype, telefax, microphone, sociology, politology, electricity, etc.

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