Talk:Old English grammar

Page contents not supported in other languages.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Preterite-Present Verbs[edit]

I'm curious to know why "wit" and "owe" aren't considered to have survived into Modern English.--Jr mints 22:21, 7 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The article says they didn't survive as preterito-present verbs, which is true. "Wit" is a noun and "owe" is a regular verb. —Angr 22:39, 7 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
"Wit" is a verb with preterite-present past tense "wist". "Owe" maintains it's preterite-present past tense "ought" in the modal sense. Even "dow" is listed in my extremely modest collegiate dictionary with the past tense "dought".--Jr mints 17:26, 8 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I think it's a stretch to say those have survived into Modern English. —Angr 19:48, 8 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
They are, perhaps, not widely used in the last hudred years, but isn't it better to edge on the side of teaching something new than leaving something untought?--Jr mints 20:56, 8 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Last four hundred, more like. But perhaps we can hammer something out to make it clear that wit, owe, and dow survived past Middle English as preterite-present verbs, but that nowadays owe is a regular verb, its original past tense ought has been semantically divorced from it, and wit (as a verb) and dow are completely obsolete. —Angr 21:08, 8 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Honestly, if anyone is actually checking out a page entitled "Old English morphology", I doubt they will be greatly discomfitted at seeing some rare words. What's more, I don't think we have to worry about anyone mistaking these words for ones in common use. At best, their inclusion may help someone better understand certain apparent eccentricities in English, and at worst, a reader will have to look over some non-essential information.--Jr mints 17:02, 9 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Also, it occurs to me, if someone wants information on Old English morphology, that the current etymological status of the words is irrelevent and that more examples would be better than less. So, whether we agree to mention modern reletives or not, why don't we include the conjugations of the other preterite-present verbs?--Jr mints 17:13, 9 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Partial move to Old English declension[edit]

I was bold, and moved a lot of text to Old English declension, which seemed like a more appropriate article for it. FilipeS (talk) 18:17, 28 December 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

definite article[edit]

It strikes me that there is apparently no definite article in Old English - at least there is no mention of it here and in the realted wiki articles. Could anyone write something about it? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:44, 10 February 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It's discussed at Old English declension#Determiners. —Angr 22:04, 10 February 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Found it. [11.02.2009, 12:50] —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:50, 11 February 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Strong versus weak nouns[edit]

I have just cited this article in a discussion about linguistics and been lambasted; Wikipedia was referred to dismissively as "wrongopedia". Is the mention of strong versus weak nouns here not the wrong way round? Strong nouns have their own endings and plurals, like strong verbs not following standard conjugation, surely? Liam Proven (talk) 11:19, 19 July 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The paragraph about strong and weak nouns in this article isn't exactly wrong, it just doesn't say anything useful. I'm not sure what "Weak nouns have their own endings" is even supposed to mean, unless all that's meant is that weak nouns have different endings from strong nouns. "In general, weak nouns are easier than strong nouns, since they had begun to lose their declensional system" doesn't make much sense either - how are weak nouns "easier" than strong nouns? Easier for the modern student to learn, probably, but that's not a terribly scholarly way of looking at things, and I don't think it's accurate to say "they had begun to lose their declensional system" either. The weak nouns had a lot of syncretism, but that doesn't mean the declensional system is falling apart. Finally, it isn't clear what "However, there is a great deal of overlap between the various classes of noun: they are not totally distinct from one another" is trying to say. It sounds like it means there's a lot of overlap between the strong endings and the weak endings, and that just isn't true: weak neuters end in -e in the nom./acc. sg., and so do some strong neuters; otherwise the only place where the two declensions are the same is in the dative plural in -um. Or does it mean that many nouns can be declined either weak or strong? That may be true; I don't know. Anyway, we get the facts right at Old English declension#Nouns, so we're not completely "Wrongopedia"! +Angr 11:58, 19 July 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

sindon and wesan[edit]

I am far from being a professional linguist, and I do not know much about the subject, but isn't the classification of sindon and wesan as two distinct verbs? As far as I am concerned, the verb 'to be' as we know it nowadays originates from three distinct PIE verbs: *h₁es-, *er- and bʰew-. Long story short, *h₁es- becomes *wes- in (Pre-)PGmc, giving birth to PGmc *wesanan, from which present English 'am', 'is' come, as well as all the obvious preterite forms, except for the past participle. Regarding OE (and OHG, etc.), the s- forms (seon, sind, etc) are also the same *wesanan verb. Let's consider the 3rd person plural: PIE *h₁sénti -> PRE PGmc *wsénti -> PGmc sindi -> OE sind. These set of sound changes occured mostly on the PGmc period. But what I am trying to say is that there is no separate 'sindon' stem - it is wesanan. The same happens for the 1st person singular: PIE *h₁ésmi -> Pre PGmc wésmi -> PGmc immi -> OE eom. And finally, for the third person singular: PIE *h₁ésti -> Pre PGmc *wésti -> PGmc *isti -> OE is (OHG ist, Latin est).

I am not going to elaborate more because it is out of scope, but PIE *er- developed into PGmc *arun- which originated OE earon/are. And PIE bʰew- mutated into PGmc beunan -> OE beo. So actually, the three PGmc verbs from which OE to be comes from are: wesanan, beo and (at a later point) *arun.

Would this be the case to correct the table on the article? Roquetto (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 15:35, 14 June 2011 (UTC).Reply[reply]

The *wes- stem is not from *h₁es-, but from the PIE root *wes- "to remain" (cf. Sanskrit vasati "stays, remains"). In your derivations above, there's no phonological way for the w to appear and disappear as you show it doing. The root whose existence is uncertain is *er-; some people derive all Germanic er- forms from Vernerized versions of *h₁es-, while others say *h₁er- is a separate root. —Angr (talk) 15:44, 14 June 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
You absolutely are right. I went to look it up again, and I realized I confused *h₁és- with *h₂wes-. My bad. And the right derivations for sindon (according to "From Proto-Indo-European to Proto-Germanic") would be then:
1sg. *h₁esmi > *ezmi > *izmi > *immi
2sg. *h₁esi > *ezi > *izi
3sg. *h₁esti > *isti
3pl. *h₁senti > *senþi > *sendi > *sindi
As for Germanic er-, being a separated root or not in PIE is irrelevant for the discussion, isn't it? Afaik (but again, I know very little) it was already a distinct verb, *arun- (supposing it also derived from *h₁es-) in PGmc state, which gave birth to OE forms eart and earon (cf. ON erun, Swedish är). Is that correct? However, what I have commonly read is that *arun- comes from from the third person plural preterite indicative form of *iranan ("to rise, be quick, become active"). If that is correct, shouldn't we add another column for this root, and move.2sg eart to it, and also add earon? Roquetto (talk) 07:13, 15 June 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Additional remark: In the Netherlandish and German language the verbs 'zijn/sein' en 'wezen/wesen' are blended together. In the Liemers region in the Netherlands on the border to Germany, where I was born and raised, we originally used zin/zint in the present tense: ik zin, gi'j zint, hi'j/'zi'j/'t is, wi'j zin, gillie zint, zillie zint (i'j = ay) and otherwise 'wêzen' (wezen/wesen) is used. In the Liemers region they did not use regular Netherlands 'ik ben' (I am, in German 'ich bin'), nor the modern popular dialect form bun(t), which is nowadays in use for the present tense, where originally zin(t) was used.Amand Keultjes (talk) 20:23, 11 November 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Undiscussed page move[edit]

Why was this page moved without discussion? This article is only about the morphology of Old English, not the entire grammar. The grammar of a language includes not only its morphology, but also its syntax and phonology. Angr (talk) 06:31, 31 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Sorry, I thought this wouldn't be problematic. Nearly all other languages on Wikipedia have a page called "X grammar", not "X morphology". Take a look at Category:Grammars_of_specific_languages. Typically these pages include morphology and syntax (not phonology). There was no page at all on Old English syntax and I went ahead and added some stuff on its syntax, so now it indeed is a page on Old English grammar. Benwing (talk) 22:20, 31 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
And I added a brief summary of the phonology article (actually, I just copied the lead) and added a link. I guess it's okay as long as the article doesn't get too big. But if the article starts approaching 100,000 bytes or something, it should probably be split back up into Old English morphology and Old English syntax. The page move also created a whole mess of double-redirects that need to be fixed. Angr (talk) 22:37, 31 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The double redirects will fix themselves within a day (if they haven't been fixed already), since there's a bot to do this. Formerly some stuff on Old English declension, pronouns, prepositions, etc. was split across a bunch of small articles, and mixed in with stuff that belonged elsewhere (e.g. History of the English language); I unified them. I think it's better to keep this stuff together as long as the size don't get really out of control; otherwise we just end up with lots of duplicated information in inconsistent styles, and the little pages don't get maintained, and people who are browsing are less likely to see the relevant info because of the way it's spread out. Benwing (talk) 05:04, 1 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

relevance of sun/moon gender examples?[edit]

Sunne and mōna appear to be given as examples of Old English words whose grammatical gender does not correspond to their "natural gender". But how can astronomical bodies have gender at all? Is it supposed to be surprising that the sun is feminine rather than an expected masculine? Why would we expect the sun to be either? -- (talk) 13:37, 16 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Does neuter count as a natural gender? Angr (talk) 18:28, 16 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The point is precisely that: the sun and moon have no literal gender, yet in old English sunne and mōna are feminine and masculine respectively. Perhaps the term "natural gender" is a bit misleading, as inanimate objects have no gender in the sense of biological sex, but I think the examples are still relevant precisely because it shows that grammatical gender in Old English was not necessarily semantically related to the object to which it was assigned. As such, the pronoun used for sunne was not hit, but heo (unlike in Modern English, which would describe the sun as an "it"). I hope that clears it up a bit. Latinamnonvoco (talk) 19:26, 30 August 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

article title capitalization?[edit]

is it against guidelines to have "grammar" not capitalized? i'd think the title should be "Old English Grammar". i don't find this in the wikipedia format docs, please let me know whether i'm wrong or i'll do the change. Harlequence (talk) 00:05, 21 June 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

No, because "grammar" is not a proper noun; see WP:TITLEFORMAT for more info. Mild Bill Hiccup (talk) 00:38, 21 June 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]


The comparison between Old English and Latin in morphological terms is pointless. The comparison between the two principal West Germanic languages would be more appropriate, especially since one of them (German), for various reasons, has retained a good deal of its morphology. If one were to quantify morphology, one would soon find that the morphology of Latin is considerably greater than both of the Germanic languages, apart of course from the definite article, which is absent in Classical Latin. Pamour (talk) 20:19, 6 July 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I can't find what comparison between Old English and Latin in morphological terms you are referring to. —teb728 t c 05:01, 7 July 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

This one: 'The grammar of Old English is quite different from that of Modern English, predominantly by being much more inflected, similar to Latin.' I understand the curious construction 'predominantly by being much ...' to mean 'mainly because it is much ...'. The word 'similar' usually indicates a comparison (Pamour (talk) 21:58, 9 July 2013 (UTC)).Reply[reply]

Perhaps the intent was to compare it to a well-known highly inflected language. I see your point with regards to morphology, however. Moreover, the introduction immediately compares Old English to modern Icelandic and German (which are, as you pointed out in the case of German, much more relevant examples), so the reference to Latin is really rather unnecessary for more than one reason. I don't believe the quality of this article would suffer if that brief comparison were removed, so I'll go ahead and do that. Latinamnonvoco (talk) 19:35, 30 August 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Word order[edit]

I think a sentence such 'He gave the men new shoes and the women' is probably understandable, and by the simple addition of 'too' after 'the women' would leave no room for doubt as to the meaning. Inversion: of the various examples provided only the ones with negative words (implicit or explicit) have an invariable 'verb-subject' order; utterances with non-negative adverbs can be, and in my experience usually are, constructed using the standard 'subject-verb' pattern, except perhaps in prose and poetry of indifferent quality.(Pamour (talk) 21:51, 9 July 2013 (UTC))Reply[reply]


"Prepositions may govern the accusative, genitive, dative or instrumental cases - the question of which is beyond the scope of this article." How's that? This article covers Old English grammar, and the property of certain prepositions or the rules by which various cases are used belong to the realm of grammar. Perhaps the author felt a description of this would make the page too long, but I don't think so: Wikipedia is not paper and the article is not so exceptionally long that it can't bear any more expansions. Steinbach (talk) 13:39, 5 May 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Third person pronoun confusion[edit]

I've just tidied up the tables in the Pronouns section a bit. However, I've noticed an anomaly. The third person singular has masculine, neuter and feminine forms. However, the third person plural has only masculine and feminine forms. What happens when one wants to talk of multiple neuter entities, or multiple entities that are of different genders? — Smjg (talk) 15:54, 13 December 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]

External links modified[edit]

Hello fellow Wikipedians,

I have just added archive links to one external link on Old English grammar. Please take a moment to review my edit. You may add {{cbignore}} after the link to keep me from modifying it, if I keep adding bad data, but formatting bugs should be reported instead. Alternatively, you can add {{nobots|deny=InternetArchiveBot}} to keep me off the page altogether, but should be used as a last resort. I made the following changes:

When you have finished reviewing my changes, please set the checked parameter below to true or failed to let others know (documentation at {{Sourcecheck}}).

This message was posted before February 2018. After February 2018, "External links modified" talk page sections are no longer generated or monitored by InternetArchiveBot. No special action is required regarding these talk page notices, other than regular verification using the archive tool instructions below. Editors have permission to delete these "External links modified" talk page sections if they want to de-clutter talk pages, but see the RfC before doing mass systematic removals. This message is updated dynamically through the template {{source check}} (last update: 18 January 2022).

  • If you have discovered URLs which were erroneously considered dead by the bot, you can report them with this tool.
  • If you found an error with any archives or the URLs themselves, you can fix them with this tool.

Cheers.—cyberbot IITalk to my owner:Online 07:47, 31 March 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Prepositions: scholastic remarks voor correction and improvement[edit]

  • 1. The preposition 'and' is not cognate to Netherlandish -I hate the terms Dutch and Holland!- 'aan'. Netherlandish 'aan', with variations 'aon' and 'an', is cognate to English 'on' and German 'an'. The preposition 'and' is nevertheless cognate to the Netherlandish prefix ant-/ont-, like in antwoord (answer) and ontwerp (design) and to German ant-/ent-, like in Antwort (answer) and Entwurf (design) as well as cognate to the well known Greek preposition ἀντὶ/ἀνθ'.
  • 2. The preposition 'andlang' basically is still in use in the German language in its German, cognate form 'entlang'.
  • 3. The proposition 'be'/'bi' is also cognate tot the Netherlandish preposition 'bij', with dialect variations sounding like bay/bee.
  • 4. The preposition 'būfan' is cognate to the Netherlandish preposition/adverb 'boven'.
  • 5. The preposition 'innan' looks definitely like a cognate to the German adverb 'innen'. In both the Netherlandish as well as the German language/dialects adverbs are very often in use as variations on the prepositions they are actually derived from.
  • 6. The preposition 'mid' is cognate to the German preposition 'mit', the Netherlandish preposition 'met' and the (archaic) Netherlandish prefix/adverb 'mede'.
  • 7. The preposition 'neāh' is directly cognate to German nah(e)/nach like in 'Nachbar' (neighbour) and to Netherlandish 'na' like in archaic 'nabuur' (neighbour). The original meaning of these words is near (to).
  • 8. The preposition 'nefne' (except) is cognate to German 'neben' and the Netherlandish prefix 'neven', also a Netherlandish dialect proposition with variation 'nêven'. The German/Netherlandish word has the meaning next to/together with/ except for/compared to.
  • 9. The preposition 'samod' is cognate to the German preposition 'samt' meaning (together) with.

Amand Keultjes (talk) 20:00, 11 November 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Question about the word walan/wala/walu[edit]

I've been trying to figure figure out a grammatical question for the Sutton Hoo helmet#Beowulf article, and wonder if anyone here might have an idea? The article discusses the word wala (or walu), which appears in Beowulf at line 1031 as walan. The manuscript reading is said to offer grammatical problems (e.g., note on lines 1030–1), and has traditionally been emended to wala or walu (e.g., note on line 1031). I would like to add a note to the article on the helmet about this, but am struggling to conceptualize the differences. Reading that one is a "strong feminine" noun, for example, as opposed to a "weak masculine," offers a specific answer that still leaves me confused. Is there a chance you would be able to explain why walan is incorrect; why wala or walu would solve this problem; and what the substantive differences are between wala and walu? Thanks! --Usernameunique (talk) 03:40, 2 October 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Hē ġrētt þone fanan mid būtan āne fingre[edit]

Is that an actual OE sentence from texts, or an original composition? If it's a modern-day joke, it's a bit distracting and I'm not sure it lands. Can we stick to using sentences from texts? Slac speak up! 03:25, 6 November 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Speculation about third person plural dative[edit]

Many of the forms above bear a strong resemblance to the Modern English words they eventually became. For instance, in the genitive case, ēower became "your", ūre became "our", and mīn became "my". However, in stressed positions, the plural third-person personal pronouns were all replaced with Old Norse forms during the Middle English period, yielding "they", "them" and "their". (The Old English dative pronoun is retained as unstressed 'em.)

This statement is unsourced, and I cannot find a source for it. It seems equally likely, if not more likely, that 'em is simply a contraction of Modern English "them", rather than a retention of an archaic Old English dative plural "him". Stian (talk) 19:02, 11 April 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]