Suffixation: The Old English Period of the English Language

Topics: Noun, Suffix, Inflection Pages: 9 (3343 words) Published: February 25, 2014
1.1 The Old English Period Of The English Language

Like all divisions in history, periods of the English language are matters of convenience and the dividing lines between them purely arbitrary. For the sake of convenience we distinguish three main stages in the history of language, namely Old English (OE), Middle English (ME), and Modern English (MnE). The first period, which lasted from 450 to 1100 (or 1150), and is known as Old English, is the period of full endings. During this period the inflections of the noun, the adjective, the verb are preserved more or less unimpaired. This means that, in principle, any vowel may be found in the ending which is usually unstressed: [a, i, o, u, e]. Old English is an early form of the English language that was spoken and written by the Anglo-Saxons and their descendents. It is a West Germanic language and is closely related to Old Frisian. Old English had a grammar similar in many ways to Classical Latin, and was much closer to modern German than modern English.

1.2 Suffixation

All morphemes are subdivided into two large classes: roots and affixes. The latter in their turn fall into prefixes which precede the root in the structure of the word, as in re-read, and suffixes which are attached to the end of the root. Suffixation was by far the most productive means of word derivation in Old English. Suffixes not only modified the lexical meaning of the word but could refer it to another part of speech. Suffixes were mostly applied in forming nouns and adjectives, seldom - in forming verbs. Etymologically OE suffixes can be traced to several sources: old stem-suffixes, which had lost their productivity, but could still be distinguished in some words as dead or non-productive suffixes; derivational suffixes proper inherited from PIE and PG; new suffixes which developed from root-morphemes in Late PG and OE in the course of morphological simplification of the word. The old stem-suffixes can not be regarded as means of derivation in OE. They must have been productive at earlier stages of history, probably in PG, and had left their traces in the morphological classes of nouns, verbs and adjectives. Their application in word derivation can be best shown in reconstructed, pre-written forms of weak verbs. Weak verbs of class 1st were originally derived from nominal or verbal roots with the help of the stem-forming suffix -i/j-, e.g. *tel-i-an, *mōt-i-an,

OE tellan, mētan - from the roots of OE talu, зe-mot; verbs of class 2nd were formed with the help of the most productive stem-suffix –ō-, or –ōj-, e.g.: *hop-ō-jan,
OE hopian, lufian from corresponding nouns hopa, lufu (NE tell, meet, hope, love). The productivity of –ōj- in verb derivation is confirmed by the fact that class 2nd was the most numerous of all classes; verbs of this class continued to be formed in Early OE. Most stem-suffixes had been lost by the age of writing; the surviving suffixes were dead or non-productive, e.g. –t in OE meant (NE might). We shall consider OE suffixes, grouping them according to the parts of speech which they derive.

1.3 Substantive Suffixes
Here we find a group of suffixes which are added to substantive or verb stems to derive names of the doer. Each of them is connected with a grammatical gender. Thus, the suffix –ere is used to derive masculine substantives: fiscere (fisherman), writere (writer), also prowere (sufferer). The suffix corresponds to the Gothic suffix –areis in laisareis (teacher), bokareis (bookman). The suffix is productive.

-estre is used to derive feminine substantives: spinnestre (spinner), bæcestre (woman baker). -end (connected with the participle suffix –ende) is used to derive masculine substantives: frēond (friend), fēond (hater, enemy), hælend (saviour), dēmend (judge). -inз is used to derive patronymics: cyninз(king), æðelinз (son of a nobleman, prince), etc. It is also used...
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