Theme: Syntax in Old English

Noun + Participle Constructions

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Noun + Participle Constructions

Such constructions also form a predicative group, e.g. ¥edeþ him swa ¥ewealdene (PII) worolde dælas (Acc.)‘he will make parts of the world so subdued to him’.

Noun + Adjective Constructions

An absolute participle construction is occasionally found in OE, with the noun and participle in the Dative case,

e.g. forlætenre (Dative) þære ceastre,(Dative) he com ‘the camp having been left, he came’ (= leaving the camp, he came).

  5. Peculiarities of OE syntax

1. The syntactic structure of a sentence in OE was characterized by relative simplicity. Coordination of clauses prevailed over subordination; complicated syntactical constructions were rare.

2. The prevailing type of sentence structure was the simple (extended) sentence, with no definite, grammatically distinct connections between the sentence members.

3. There was considerable freedom in the sphere of word order in OE. Morphological means make the dependence of words on one another clear enough, so that words syntactically connected need not stand close together in the sentence. Varieties of word order can therefore be used for stylistic purposes. This was to undergo radical changes in later periods of language history.

4. Negation could be multiple in a sentence, unlike Mod E.

5. Subjunctive was widely used not only to express volition, doubt, probability, uncertainty, but also in sentences with indirect speech in the subordinate clause.

6. Infinitive and participle / gerund constructions of Mod E developed from syntactic structures with the infinitive and participle in OE.

The evolution of English syntax was tied up with profound changes in morphology; the decline of the inflectional system was accompanied by the growth of the functional load of syntactic means of word connection. The most obvious difference between OE syntax and the syntax of the ME and NE periods is that the word order became more strict and the use of prepositions more extensive. The growth of the literary forms of the language, the literary flourishing in Late ME and especially in the age of the Renaissance, the differentiation of literary styles and the efforts made by 18th c. scholars to develop a logical, elegant style — all contributed to the improvement and perfection of English syntax.

The structure of the sentence and the word phrase, on the one hand, became more complicated, on the other hand — were stabilised and standardised.

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