Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter April 7, 2011

Morphological Reanalysis and the Old English u-Declension

Elżbieta Adamczyk
From the journal


The focus of the present paper is the process of morphological reanalysis which extensively affected the Old English minor paradigms, contributing to their subsequent complete restructuring. The development is manifested in a marked inclination of the nouns considered minor (i.e. unproductive) to adopt the inflectional endings of the expansive types (such as a-stems, ō-stems or n-stems). The tendency can be particularly well seen in the formations containing the original u-stems, which constituted a separate group in Germanic, known in the standard historical grammars as the u-declension. The available textual material proves that members of this relatively small group of nouns tend to fluctuate between the inherited and innovative paradigmatic patterns, testifying thus to a growing instability of this declensional type. The fluctuation between the two competing types can be seen in forms of the nominative/accusative plural of the masculine paradigm, where alongside the expected -a ending, forms in -as, extended from the productive a-paradigm, are attested (suna ~ sunas, wuda ~ wudas). Similarly, the inherited genitive and dative singular ending -a regularly alternates with the innovative -es and -e markers (felda ~ feldes [gen.], felda ~ felde [dat.]). Traces of this progressing tendency can also be detected in feminine stems, where the competition takes place between the inherited inflection and the expanding strong feminine inflection (ō-stems). Aimed at presenting a systematic account of the newly emerging tendency, this investigation will seek to determine the extent and the pattern of dissemination of the productive inflectional endings in the original u-stems. Due attention will be paid to the niceties of the process of gradual reorganisation of the u-stem paradigm, its consequences in the later inflectional system of English, as well as its theoretical implications.

Published Online: 2011-04-07
Published in Print: 2011-April