Middle English and New English Vocabulary

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The vocabulary in the ME period shows great instability and constant and rapid changes. Many words became obsolete; a lot of them reflected the ever-changing life of the speakers and were under the influence of contacts with other nations.

1. Internal means of enriching vocabulary.
Internal sources of vocabulary growth became less important in ME. It might have been due to great expansion of foreign words (especially French). Beginning with the 15 century up the 17 c. the role of internal sources became more important though the stream of words from other languages continued. As before, the word formation fell into two types: word derivation and word composition.

Word derivation
Under word derivation we mean affixation which could be of two types: suffixation and prefixation.

The majority of OE suffixes was still preserved in ME but they were becoming less productive. The development of prefixes was uneven. In ME many of them fell into disuse ( such as a-, ӡe-, tō ), in the 15th. And 16th c. the use of native prefixes grew again (such as negative mis-, un- : e.g. ME mislayen- NE mislay; especially with foreign stems e.g. NE misjudge, mispronounce). Some prefixes developed from OE adverbs and prepositions: – ūt >out NE outcome, outlook – ofer>over overload, overlook

– under>under underfeed, undermine
Early NE prefixes could come from foreign sources, French Latin, Greek. French words with re- came into E: ME redressen, reformen. Since the 16th c. re- was applied as a means of word derivation: regret, refill, readjust reopen, reattack. Among other borrowed prefixes there were

– de-, dis-en/in (im-, il, ir,, non-) of the Franco-Roman origin: ME destructuctive, dischargen, discomforten, enablen,enclosen, NE enlist, enrich, inhuman, non-Germanic. Among OE noun suffixes there were some new items, which had developed from root-morphemes: -dom, hād (NE hood) scipe: churchdom, brotherhood, courtship. In Late ME and Early NE there came into use several borrowed suffixes: – the native -estre was replaced by the French ess: goddess, princess, authoress; – -ee: employee, addressee;

– -or: collector, refrigerator;
– -ist: capitalist, structuralist
– -ance / ence: -age, , ment, -ism, tion/sion:
Among borrowed adjective suffixes were:
– - able / ible: capable, eatable
– -ous: tremendous;
– -al,ic,ive: economical, atomic,detective

The ME language witnessed other means of word differentiation such as sound interchange, word stress and there developed a specifically English way of word derivation – conversion which has developed into a productive way of creating new words.

Sound interchange
New vowel alterations in the root could arise as
a) a result of qualitative changes of vowels in Early ME:
wise – wisdom,
clean – cleanse,
wild – wilder (сбиваться с пути, сбивать с толку, заблуждаться),bewildered (сбитый с толку) wilderness( дикая местность, девственная природа) b) as a result of weakening and loss of many suffixes and grammatical endings. (If these elements were dropped, sound interchange turned out to be the only means of distinction between some pairs of words: OE ME NE

sonӡ – sinӡan song – singen song – to sing full – fyllan full – fillen full – to fill talu – tellan tale – tellen tale –to tell In the absence of ending there were cases of consonant interchange: OE ME NE

hūs – hūsanhous – housenhouse [haus] – to house [hauz] mūþ – mūþanmouth – mouthenmouth [s] –to mouth [z]

Word stress
The weakening and loss of final syllables also caused the growth of role of stress in word-building in ME. The shifting of word-stress was commonly used in derivatives of borrowed words: Early NE: con'fide – 'confidence, pre'fer – 'preference, pre'cede – 'precedence It is in full accordance with OE practice, when verb prefixes were not...
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