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simplification of verb paradigms in eME

some complexity falls from the OE verbal system

The changes to verb paradigms in the late OE and early ME periods, in the East Midland dialect, can be summarised as follows:

changes complete by 1150

unstressed short vowels > /ə/ e

Before the end of the OE period, unstressed short vowels merged to /ə/ (schwa). This sound is spelled e in eME (and occasionally in late OE texts as well), which produces the following:

  1. the OE infinitive ending ~an becomes ~en; e.g. singan > singen;
  2. the OE preterite plural ending ~on becomes ~en; e.g. sungon > sungen;
  3. in the OE weak class II preterite stem, ~od~ becomes ~ed~; e.g. lufode > lufede;

The third change above removes an anomaly in weak preterites in eME. Note that OE Class I preterites were formed with ~ed~ (unless syncopated to ~d~).

present plural ending ~en

The OE present tense plural ending ~at` becomes ~en in the East Midland dialect; e.g. singat` > singen.

Note that:

  • in the South Western (formerly West Saxon) and West Midland dialects (at least in the southern part thereof), the OE present tense plural ending is retained as ~et`, e.g. singet`; while in the Northern dialect the ending is ~is, e.g. singis, caused by a retraction of the tongue from an interdental /t`/ to a postdental /s/; in these dialects the plural and 3rd person singular present tense forms, are identical in early Middle English;
  • the East Midland ~en ending was probably taken from the subjunctive; it also aligns with the plural preterite endings - ~(e)den (weak) and ~en (strong).

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class II weak verbs lose <i> or <g`>

OE class II weak verbs lose the <i> or <g`> which had immediately followed the stem in the infinitive, the 1st person and plural present tense forms, and the present participle; e.g. wandrian, sme_ag`an > wandren, smaen. These changes were restricted to the East Midland and Northern dialects.

The infinitive and present participle as well as the 1st person and plural present tense forms of these weak verbs, are assimilated to the preterite and 2nd and 3rd person singular present tense forms, like so:

  • OE class II ~ian ~ie ~iat` ~iende endings become ~en ~e ~en ~ende; e.g.
    lufian lufie lufest lufet` lufiat` lufiende lufode >
    lufen lufe lufest lufet` lufen lufende lufede1;
  • OE class II stems that end in a vowel have <g`> rather than <i>: ~g`an ~g`e ~g`at` ~g`ende; however the assimilation is identical e.g.
    sme_ag`an (ponder) sme_ag`e sme_ast sme_at` sme_ag`at` sme_ag`ende sme_ade >
    smaen smae smaest smaet` smaen smaende smaede
    (note that when the stem ends in a vowel, that vowel merges with the vowel of the inflectional ending);

East Midland sources are fairly conclusive on the loss of <i> in the stem of class II weak verbs. There are numerous examples in East Midland sources like Orm lufenn and Ch love(n), and none to the contrary. We see assimilation as far back as OE itself in class II weak verbs with <g`> dropped between the stem and inflectional ending, e.g. sme_an alongside standard sme_ag`an15. That trend continues in eME with PC1 freon (< fre_og`an).

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gemination in class I weak verbs part 1

This section deals briefly with class I weak verbs which have gemination in <tt>, <dd>, <ss>, <cc> or <gg> at the end of the stem. This topic is covered in more detail below at gemination in class I weak verbs part 2.

Verbs with stems ending in the gemination types listed above, displayed stem alternation in the present tense in OE, e.g.:

  • cwec`c`an cwec`c`e cwec`est cwec`et` cwec`c`at` pr, cwec`c`e cwec`c`en sbj, cwec`e cwec`c`at` imp, cwec`c`ende pr ptc, cweahte cweahton pt g`ecwaht p ptc
  • cnyssan cnysse cnysest cnyset` cnyssat` pr, cnysse cnyssen sbj, cnyse cnyssat` imp, cnyssende pr ptc, cnysede cnysedon pt g`ecnysed p ptc

Note that the 2nd and 3rd person singular, and the imperative singular, had a single consonant at the end of the stem, while all other present tense forms had a double consonant.

With two exceptions, all verbs concerned belonged to the OE sittan, cwec`c`an and cwellan groups. The exceptions are cnissen and waggen which belonged to the fremman group. Note that the fremman group had a single consonant at the end of the stem in the preterite and past participle as well, together with the regular weak preterite formation in <-ed>.

By 1150 levelling has taken place. In a nutshell, the 2nd and 3rd person singular present tense forms listed in the MED for these verbs, tend overwhelmingly to gemination. We also see gemination extended to the imperative singular and the preterite. The extension of gemination throughout the paradigm, begins in OE and is well represented in the familiar eME sources, including Orm, Lmn and AW.

The pre-1250 instances are: cnysset` cnyssed cnyssedan; waggid`, Waggestaf, Waggespere; settest, setted; cnytted, knittet`; hredde imp sg; lettet`t` letted`; sprutted`; quecched`; rec`c`est, recched`; recket`t` recchest recchet`; weccet`, wecched`; cwellet`t`; dwellest dwellet`t`; sellet`, sulled`, sylle imp sg; telle imp sg, tellet`t` tellet`

By contrast, examples of the retention of single consonant in the stem of the 2nd and 3rd person singular present tense forms, the imperative singular and the preterite forms, are rare.

As a result, all present tense stems end in a double consonant in the following verbs, in both the core and optional eME grammar. These are drawn from four distinct groups of class I weak verbs :

  1. cnissen cnisse cnissest cnisset` cnissn pr, cnisse cnissen sbj, cnisse cnisset` imp, cnissende pr ptc, cnissede cnisseden pt icnissed p ptc
    • similarly: waggen
  2. setten sette settest settet` setten pr, sette setten sbj, sette settet` imp, settende pr ptc, sette setten pt iset p ptc
    • similarly: atredden, cnitten, hwetten, letten, redden, setten, spritten
  3. cweccen cwecce cweccest cweccet` cweccen pr, cwecce cweccen sbj, cwecce cweccet` imp, cweddende pr ptc, cwahte cwahten pt icwaht p ptc
    • similarly: dreccen, leccen, reccen, recken, streccen, t`eccen, weccen
  4. cwellen cwelle cwellest cwellet` cwellen pr, cwelle cwellen sbj, cwelle cwellet` imp, cwellende pr ptc, cwa__lde cwa__lden pt icwa__ld p ptc
    • similarly: dwellen, sellen, tellen, stellen

class I weak verbs with stem ending in <rw>

OE sierwan and g`ierwan behaved similarly to class I weak verbs with gemination. According to Wright3, the 2nd and 3rd person singular present forms and all preterite forms, dropped the <w>, e.g.: gierest, gieret`, gierede.

That is true to an extent. However, in Bosworth's4 entry for sirwan, preterites with <w> outnumber those without 8 to 6. Bosworth lists a sample of preterites in the headline of the entry: sirwde, sirwede, sirede, sirewede, sirwode. The MED entry sirwen contains just two quotations. One has a preterite - VH 1150 syrewde, crucially with <w>. Given the outcome of the setten, cweccen and cwellen groups, the likelihood that <w> was present throughout the paradigm of serwen in the (east) Mercian dialect before the close of the OE period, is high. Accordingly, in eME the <w> is retained throughout the paradigm.

It's a different tale for g`ierwan. This form was eclipsed by the variant g`earwian in late OE. Bosworth has no preterites under g`ierwan but has g`earwode (2) ~odest ~odon under g`earwian. All the pre-1250 quotations under the related MED entry, reflect the latter form, e.g Lmn y`aerwen y`arewede y`arweden. (After 1300, forms influenced by the related adjective yare, appear. Hence the headword yaren.) The upshot is that y%arwen without stem alternation, replaces y%erwen in both the core and optional grammar of eME.

class I weak verbs which retain stem alternation

The eME reflexes of lec`g`an from the settan group, byc`g`an from the cwec`c`an group and most of the fremman group, retain stem alternation in the optional grammar. See gemination in class I weak verbs part 2 below, for more detail.

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i-mutation in the 2nd and 3rd person present forms of strong verbs

In OE, the stem vowel of the second- and third-person singular forms of the present tense of strong verbs often differed from the stem vowel in the infinitive. Most OE grammars list strong verb paradigms which show only forms with i-mutation: lu_can s2 ly_ct`, helpan s3 hilpt`, stelan s4 stilt`, sprecan s5 sprict`, flo_wan s7 fle_wt` etc. This is the early West Saxon standard.

OE strong verbs - present tense
inf pr sg1 pr sg2 pr sg3 pr pl
class 1 wri_tan wri_te wri_tst wri_tt wri_tat`
class 2a c`e_osan c`e_ose c`i_est c`i_est c`e_osat`
class 2b lu_can lu_ce ly_cst ly_ct` lu_cat`
class 3a singan singe singst singt` singat`
class 3b helpan helpe hilpst hilpt` helpat`
class 3c hweorfan hweorfe hwierfst hwierft` hweorfat`
class 4a stelan stele stilst stilt` stelat`
class 4b niman nime nimst nimt` nimat`
class 5 sprecan sprece spricst sprict` sprecat`
class 6 bacan bace baecst baect` bacat`
class 7a ha_tan ha_te hae_tst hae_tt ha_tat`
class 7b flo_wan flo_we fle_wst fle_wt` flo_wat`

We can see in the table above that in the standard West Saxon dialect, i-mutation affected all strong classes except 1, 3a and 4b. However, i-mutation of the second- and third-person singular of strong verbs was by no means universal. Bosworth-Toller 4 cites the following examples, (in addition to mutated forms): D`u__ monegum helpst...He__ helpet` t`earfan parcet...d`u__ bru__cest... he bru__cet`... Gif frigman fre__um stelt`... sprecet`... flo__west... flo__wet`. The extent of the variation is perhaps most starkly illustrated by sle__an: slehst slieht` sliht` slaeht` are all recorded in Bosworth-Toller 4.

C. Alphonso Smith 15, in his discussion of the present indicative endings of strong verbs in OE, explains the variation: "In the Northumbrian and Mercian dialects, as well as in the dialect of Late West Saxon, the 2d and 3d singular endings were usually joined to the present stem without modification either of the stem itself or of the personal endings. The complete absence of umlauted forms in the present indicative of Mn.E. is thus accounted for."

Accordingly, this complexity is altogether absent by the beginning of the ME period in the East Midlands, but can still be seen here and there in the early 13th century in the West Midland and Southern dialects. Thus, while AW still has kimet`, Orm has cumesst cumet`t`. The assimilation of 2nd and 3rd person present tense forms is widespread in pre-1250 texts: 1225 helpet`, 1250 helpest and Orm beresst, beret`t`, bruket`t`, dellfet`t`, fallet`t`, hatet`t`, speket`t` to cite just a few more examples.

The table below reveals a simpler present tense paradigm for all strong classes in eME. In contrast to the dual stem of the OE strong classes, there is a single stem (a single vowel) throughout the present tense paradigm of each verb.

eME strong verbs - present tense
inf pr sg1 pr sg2 pr sg3 pr pl
class 1 wri__ten wri__te wri__test wri__tet` wri__ten
class 2a ce__sen ce__se ce__sest ce__set` ce__sen
class 2b lu__ken lu__ke lu__kest lu__ket` lu__ken
class 3a singen singe singest singet` singen
class 3b helpen helpe helpest helpet` helpen
class 3c hwerfen hwerfe hwerfest hwerfet` hwerfen
class 4a stelen stele stelest stelet` stelen
class 4b nimen nime nimest nimet` nimen
class 5 speken speke spekest speket` speken
class 6 baken bake bakest baket` baken
class 7a ha__ten ha__te ha__test ha__tet` ha__ten
class 7b flo__wen flo__we flo__west flo__wet` flo__wen

Note that class 3c has effectively merged with 3b. Note also Orm biddet`t`, bitet`t`, ridet`t`, singet`t` where OE often had syncope, especially after a dental consonant: bitt, bi_tt, ri_tt, singt`.

In fact the simpler paradigm in which the vowels of all present tense forms match their respective infinitives, is so firmly entrenched in early ME sources that there is no need to call on principle 4. Since i-mutation of 2nd and 3rd person forms is missing in all relevant strong verbs in both Orm and PC2, this grammatical feature doesn't pass to the optional grammar.

Note that the assimilation of the present tense forms works in different directions for strong and weak verbs. In strong verbs, the 2nd and 3rd person forms assimilate to the infinitive, while the reverse is true of weak verbs.

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strong contracted verbs part 1 - changes

OE contracted verbs are those strong verbs characterised by a stem-final <h> in Primitive OE, but which had lost <h>between vowels by the 8th century, e.g. *sehan > se_on. These sixteen "h-less" strong verbs belonged to five different strong classes.

When <h> was lost, the vowel of the stem coalesced with the vowel of the inflectional ending, and was lengthened (if short).

Let se_on s5 illustrate the evolution of the paradigm (conjugation) of a strong contracted verb:

*sehan - se_on - se__n
inf *sehan se_on se__n
pr ptc *sehende se_onde se__nde
p ptc *sewen/*segen sewen/segen segen
indicative present
sg1 *sehe se_o se__
sg2 *sehst siehst sehst
sg3 *seht` sieht` seht`
pl *sehat` se_ot` se__n
indicative past
sg1 *sah seah sah
sg2 *sawe/*sage sawe/sage sage
sg3 *sah seah sah
pl *sawon/*sagon sawon/sagon sagen
subjunctive present
sg *sehe se_o se__
pl *sehen se_on se__n
subjunctive past
sg *sawe/*sage sawe/sage sage
pl *sawen/*sagen sawen/sagen sagen
sg *seh seoh seh
pl *sehat` se_ot` se__t`

These are the present tense forms for each of the five affected class in the early West Saxon dialect:

OE strong contracted verbs - present
inf pr sg1 pr sg2 pr sg3 pr pl
class 1 wre_on wre_o wri_hst wri_ht` wre_ot`
class 2 te_on te_o ti_ehst ti_eht` te_ot`
class 5 se_on se_o siehst sieht` se_ot`
class 6 sle_an sle_a sliehst slieht` sle_at`
class 7 fo_n fo_ fe_hst fe_ht` fo_t`


  • class 1: le_on, si_gan/se_on, te_on, t`e_on
  • class 2: fle_on
  • class 5: g`efe_on, ple_on
  • class 6: fle_an, le_an, t`we_an
  • class 7: ho_n

By 1150, the corresponding forms in the East Midland dialect are:

eME strong contracted verbs - present
inf pr sg1 pr sg2 pr sg3 pr pl
class 1 wri__en wri__e wri_hst wri_ht` wri__en
class 2 te__n te__ te__hst te__ht` te__n
class 5 se__n se__ sehst seht` se__n
class 6 slaen slae slahst slaht` slaen
class 7 fo__n fo__ fo__st fo__t` fo__n


  • class 1: li__en, si__gen/si__en, ti__en, t`i__en
  • class 2: fle__n
  • class 5: ife__n, ple__n
  • class 6: flaen, laen, t`waen
  • class 7: ho__n

The following changes to strong contracted verbs have taken place by 1150 in the East Midland dialect (or its predecessor Mercian):

  • in class 1, the stem vowel of the infinitive and 1st person and plural present forms is assimilated to the stem vowel of the 2nd and 3rd person forms, which is the standard stem vowel for that class:
    • OE s1 wre_on wre_o wri_hst wri_ht` wre_ot` > eME wri__en wri__e wri__hst wri__ht` wri__en;
      similarly: li__en, ti__en, t`i__en
  • in class 7, in the 2nd and 3rd person present forms, the <h> is dropped:
    • OE s7 fo_n fo_ fe_hst fe_ht` fo_t` > eME fo__n fo__ fo__st fo__t` fo__n
      similarly: ho__n

Additional eME forms

  • <h>-less: fle__t`, se__t`, slaet`
  • vowel change: sla__n, sla__t`

Class 1 forms are based on the expected Anglian form arising from primitive OE <i_h>. OE WS <e_o> appeared as A <i_>. See Wright 14 § 127: "i_ was broken to i_o before h and ht in WS. But already at an early period the i_o mostly became e_o (= Anglian i_)". Examples cited by Wright include: WS we_oh = A wi_h (idol), le_oh (lend) imp sg = A li_h and with loss of medial h after breaking had taken place: WS fe_ol = A fi_l (file), WS le_on = A li_on (to lend), WS se_on = A si_on (to strain), WS t`e_on = A t`i_on (to thrive), WS wre_on = A wri_on (to cover). Note that wri__en would qualify as an additional eME form via ModE obs. wry and 1250 wrien. Compare also Ch wryen wrien.

Orm, Lmn, AW & Owl all support the dropping of <h> in the 3rd person forms of class 7 - Orm fot`, hot`, AW underued`, Owl ifot`. Thus these h-less variants qualify as additional eME forms via principle 2a. Given the complete lack of counter examples with <h> in the MED, it also seems reasonable to assume the dropping of <h> in the 2nd person forms of these two verbs in the optional grammar.

Orm, Lmn and AW also support the dropping of <h> in the 2nd and 3rd person forms of class 6 slaen - Orm slaet`, Lmn slaest slaed`, AW slead`. On the other hand we see <h> (or its variant spelling) as late as 1340 in South-Eastern Ayenbite slay`t`. With both MED's pre-1350 examples from the other class 6 contracted verbs exhibiting retention of <h> - 1175 d`weahd` pr sg3, 1333 flagy`st pr sg2, the best approach for the optional grammar seems to be an acceptance of the h-less variant slaet` as an additional eME form via principle 2a, but to retain the forms slahst slaht`, flahst flaht`, lahst laht`, t`wast t`waht` for the standard paradigm of class 6 verbs in the optional grammar of eME.

The evidence for the dropping of <h> is not as conclusive in other classes. Orm has sest set` and PC1 sed` but Lmn has sehste and Owl sichst. Similarly <h> is dropped in Orm flet`, Lmn tid`, flet` but retained in Owl tiht`, flyhst fliy`ste fliy`t, Lmn flict`, for te__n, fle__n s2. Nevertheless, fle__t`, se__t` emerge as additional eME forms.

Note that alternation of the stem vowel wasn't a feature of strong verbs in the OE Anglian dialects and thus isn't found in either the core or optional grammar of eME, for strong verbs, contracted or otherwise. See the related discussion above on i-mutation in the 2nd and 3rd person present forms of strong verbs.

Orm slan slat`, AW slad` and SO slo support additional eME forms sla__n sla__t`. Orm also has sla slast, but neither of these forms is supported by any of the other eME sources. The sla__n forms appear to be derived from ON sla__.

The eME form derived from the standard OE form slieht` pr sg3 is not sleht`, but rather - slaht`. Wright 16: "§ 69. ea became ie (later i, y) by i-umlaut, as hliehhan (Goth, hlahjan), to laugh; mieht (Goth, mahts, stem-form mahti-), power, might; miehtig, mighty; nieht, night; sliehst (Goth, slahis), thou slayest; slieht` (Goth, slahit), he slays; slieht, stem-form slahti-, slaughter; wiext` (OHG. wahsit), it grows. Note. - The corresponding vowel in Anglian is ae, as hlaehha(n), maeht, maehtig, &c." By extension then, Mercian had slaeht` pr sg3, which is recorded in Bosworth-Toller 4. Note that ae here is a short vowel which retracted to a in lOE, giving *slaht`. The long eME vowel ae (derived from OE e_a) in slaen slae was caused by the lengthening of the stem vowel after the loss of <h> between vowels in OE (*slahan > sle_an).

Present tense forms with stem hang- are recommended for ho__n. See the discussion at optional grammar

For more detail, see levelling of strong contracted verbs.

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unstressed <e> in verbs

Elision of the unstressed <e> in the 3rd person singular present and both 3rd person preterite forms, is optional:

  • wrey%en wrey%e wrey%est wrey%et` wrey%ede wrey%d (or wrey%st, wrey%de etc)
  • say%en say%e say%est say%et` say%ede say%ed (or say%st, say%de etc)

changes underway in eME

In the early stages of learning a language, the key is to offer the simplest route. This is where principles 3 & 4 come into play. These allow us to generalise a levelling trend that is underway in eME. For example, while the present tense of OE strong contracted verbs have a dual stem, their reflexes in the core grammar of eME, have a single stem. In the following section I look at the process in more detail and provide some background:

strong contracted verbs part 2 - levelling

OE contracted verbs are those strong verbs characterised by a stem-final <h> in Primitive OE, but which had lost <h>between vowels by the 8th century, the era of our earliest surviving records of the written language. That <h> survived in the 1st and 3rd person singular preterite form, right up to Chaucer's time. These "h-less" infinitives can be found in 5 different strong classes:

  • s1 - pOE *wri_han, wra_h > OE wre_on (wri_ga), wra_h (cover/wrap)
  • s2 - pOE *te_han, tae_h > OE te_on, te_ah (draw)
  • s5 - pOE *sehan, saeh > OE se_on, seah (see)
  • s6 - pOE *slahan, slo_h > OE sle_an, slo_h (strike/slay)
  • s7 - pOE *fa_han, fe_ng > OE fo_n, fe_ng (seize/grasp)

OE strong verbs - standard vs contracted

OE contracted verbs present a couple of anomalies or complexities which are not found in the standard paradigms of their respective classes, as the following comparisons attest. Note that the i-mutation of the 2nd and 3rd person present tense forms in both standard and contracted types, is dealt with above:

class 1
ri_dan s1
inf. ri_dan
pr sg1 ri_de
pr sg2 ri_tst
pr sg3 ri_tt (ri_det`)
pr pl ri_dat`
pt sg3 ra_d
pt pl ridon
p ptc riden
wre_on s1 (contracted)
inf. wre_on
pr sg1 wre_o
pr sg2 wri_hst
pr sg3 wri_ht` (wri_gt`)
pr pl wre_ot`
pt sg3 wra_h
pt pl wrigon
p ptc wrigen

In the class 1 strong contracted verbs, we see two anomalies:

  1. <h> is missing from the end of the stem in the infinitive, present 1st person singular and present plural forms;
  2. the stem vowel in the infinitive, present 1st person singular and present plural forms, is <e_o> rather than <i_>;
classes 2 & 5

The class 2 and class 5 strong contracted verbs can be treated together:

be_odan s2
inf. be_odan
pr sg1 be_ode
pr sg2 by_tst (be_odest)
pr sg3 by_t (be_odet`)
pr pl be_odat`
pt sg3 be_ad
pt pl budon
p ptc boden
te_on s2 (contracted)
inf. te_on
pr sg1 te_o
pr sg2 ti_ehst
pr sg3 ti_eht`
pr pl te_ot`
pt sg3 te_ah
pt pl tugon
p ptc togen
sprecan s5
inf. sprecan
pr sg1 sprece
pr sg2 spricst (sprycst/spricest)
pr sg3 sprict` (spryct`/sprect`/sprecet`)
pr pl sprecat`
pt sg3 spraec
pt pl sprae_con
p ptc sprecen
se_on s5 (contracted)
inf. se_on
pr sg1 se_o
pr sg2 siehst
pr sg3 sieht` (sit`)
pr pl se_ot`
pt sg3 seah
pt pl sa_won (A sae_gon)
p ptc sewen (A segen)

In the class 2 and class 5 strong contracted verbs, we see a single shared anomaly:

  1. <h> is missing from the end of the stem in the infinitive, present 1st person singular and present plural forms;
class 6
bacan s6
inf. bacan
pr sg1 bace
pr sg2 bae_cst (bacest)
pr sg3 bae_cet` (bacet`)
pr pl bacat`
pt sg3 bo_c
pt pl bo_con
p ptc bacen
sle_an s6 (contracted)
inf. sle_an
pr sg1 sle_a
pr sg2 sliehst
pr sg3 slieht` (A slaeht`/slae_t`)
pr pl sle_at`
pt sg3 slo_h
pt pl slo_gon
p ptc slagen (slaeg`en)

In the class 6 strong contracted verbs, we see two anomalies:

  1. <h> is missing from the end of the stem in the infinitive, present 1st person singular and present plural forms;
  2. the stem vowel in the infinitive, present 1st person singular and present plural forms, is <e_a> rather than <a>;
class 7
gangan s7
inf. gangan
pr sg1 gange
pr sg2 gangest
pr sg3 ganget`
pr pl gangat`
pt sg3 ge_ng
pt pl ge_ngon
p ptc gangen
fo_n s7 (contracted)
inf. fo_n
pr sg1 fo_
pr sg2 fe_hst
pr sg3 fe_ht`
pr pl fo_t`
pt sg3 fe_ng
pt pl fe_ngon
p ptc fangen

In the class 7 strong contracted verbs, we see three anomalies:

  1. <h> is missing from the end of the stem in the infinitive, present 1st person singular and present plural forms;
  2. the stem vowel in the infinitive, present 1st person singular and present plural forms, is <o_> rather than <a>;
  3. the <n> of the preterite and past participles stems, is missing in the infinitive and present tense stems;

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levelling begins in OE

As we have just seen, there are anomalies in the paradigms of contracted strong verbs, which involve both the stem vowel and the absence of a stem-final consonant.

The question is - to what extent is levelling of these anomalies in the paradigms of contracted verbs, supported in ME?

As it turns out, there is considerable evidence of levelling of contracted verbs in pre-1250 sources. Already in OE (probably more so in the Anglian dialects), <h> is dropped at times from 2nd and 3rd person present tense forms. That is increasingly evident in ME. On the other hand, <g> is occasionally inserted at the end of the stem in infinitives and in 1st person and plural present tense forms. This begins in OE and continues in ME where <y`> (or <h>) often replaces the <g> spelling. We'll examine this in more detail below.

<h>, <g> and <y`>

Bear in mind that <h> doesn't occur between vowels in OE or ME 5 (unless doubled). When <h> existed between vowels in verbs like *ti_han in Primitive OE, it was probably pronounced /h/, the same value it had in later OE at the begining of words like hi_eran (and in ModE hear). However <h> before a consonant (ti_ht`) or at the end of a word (ne_ah) in OE was /x/, an unvoiced velar fricative like the <ch> in Scottish loch. <h> in those positions survived in OE, but intervocalic <h> didn't. So when I talk below about extending <h> throughout the present tense paradigm of an eME reflex of an OE contracted verb, that extension can only be via a related sound. As we'll see in the examples below, <h> is generally restored with a <g> or <y`> spelling 6 which probably represents /G``/, a voiced velar fricative. The voiced velar fricative, unlike its unvoiced counterpart, did survive between vowels in OE and ME, e.g. boga, boge.

restoration of <h> or extension of <g>?

The levelling of the paradigms of formerly contracted verbs in eME could also be seen as an extension of <g> (or <ng>) from the preterite and past participle forms to the present tense. This may be a more accurate portrayal of the process than an extension and adaption of the <h> from the 2nd and 3rd person present tense forms to their 1st person and plural companions. Perhaps the two acted in concert.

selection of MED entries for each OE contracted strong verb

In the following selection of entries drawn from the MED, you'll see a range of verb forms for each of the sixteen strong contracted verbs, with a focus on pre-1250 sources. Among them is a fair smattering of <g> (or <h>), in both infinitive and present tense stems.

The OE strong verbs affected are:

  • class 1: le_on, si_gan/se_on, te_on, t`e_on, wre_on (wri_ga)
  • class 2: fle_on, te_on
  • class 5: g`efe_on, ple_on, se_on
  • class 6: fle_an, le_an, sle_an, t`we_an
  • class 7: fo_n, ho_n
le_on s1 ligen p ptc
to lend, grant
li_h imp sg la_h pt sg3 ligen p ptc;
The MED has lenen v w inf from lae_nan v w inf, but not *le_n/*li_en/*li_gen v s1 inf.
OS far-li_han, OHG li_han, Goth leihwan
si_gan (se_on/si_on) s1 sigen p ptc
I to sink, descend; II to strain, filter, ooze, trickle
sa_h sigon pt sigen p ptc
MED si_en inf; 1200 syht`, 1381 seth pr sg3; AW siy`et`, 1225 seiy`eð pr pl; 1225 seh pt
Note - both Clark Hall 1 and Bosworth & Toller 4 list si_gan with the two definitions above, and se_on with the latter definition only, while Wright 3 identifies se_on (strain) as one of the contracted class 1 strong verbs, separately from si_gan (sink).
te_on (ti_on) s1 tygen/togen p ptc
to accuse
ty_hst ti_ht` te_ot` pr te_o sbj pr sg te_ah tugon pt tuge sbj pt sg tygen/togen p ptc;
MED te_n (1250 tegen) inf; 1450 tyxste pr sg2, 1300 tiy`th pr sg3, 1150 teo sbj pr sg;
Note - in OE this verb seems to have largely shifted to the conjugation of te_on s2 (from pOE *te_ohan)
OS af-ti_han, OHG zi_han, Goth teihan
t`e_on s1 t`igen/t`ogen p ptc
to thrive, flourish, prosper
t`i_hd` pr sg3 t`e_ot`/t`i_gat` pr pl t`e_o sbj pr sg t`e_onde pr ptc t`a_h/t`e_ah t`igon/t`ugon pt t`igen/t`ogen p ptc;
MED the_n (1250 d`en) inf; 1175 d`ihd` pr sg3; Ch then inf theech (thee ich) pr sg1; TH 1200 t`ied` pr sg3; 1150 t`eah pt s3, 1250 d`ogen pt pl/p ptc
OLG/OS thi_han.
Note - this verb has a foot in at least two camps. Forms consistent with classes 1, 2 and class 3 are recorded. For more detail, see footnote below. The normalised eME in this site uses only class 1 forms with this verb.
wre_on (wri_ga) s1 wrigen p ptc
to wrap, cover
wre_o wri_hst wri_gd` pr sg wre_od` pr pl wre_ah (a_) wrigon pt;
MED wri_en (Lmn wriy`en, AW wrihen, 1250 wrihe) inf; AW wrihe pr sg1; AW wrihd` pr sg3, SO 1330 writ`, Ayb 1340 wriy`t`; AW wrihed`, Ayb 1340 wret` pr pl; 1175 wriy`en pt pl; Lmn iwriy`en, 1300 wriy`e p ptc
OHG int-ri_han
Note - the MED cites an alt OE infinitive form wri_gan, which Clark Hall 6 doesn't list; however Bosworth & Toller 7 has an entry for wri_ga verb (to cover).
fle_on (fli_on) s2 flogen p ptc
to flee
fli_onde pr ptc fle_o fli_hst/fly_hst fli_ht`/fly_ht` pr sg fle_ot`/fli_ot`/fly_t` pr pl fle_ah fluge flugon pt
MED fle_n (Orm fle(o)n, Lmn fleon, AW fleo, 1325 fle, 1400 fleiy`en) inf; Owl flyhst/fliy`ste pr sg2; Orm fle(o)t`, Lmn flet`/flict`, Owl fliy`t, 1250 flet` pr sg3; Lmn fle(o)nde, 1175/1200 fleonde pr ptc; Lmn fliy`/fle(o), AW flih imp sg; 1250 fledde, 1300 fle(d)de, 1325 fled, Ch 1375 fledde pt sg3; Lmn floy`en pt pl; Lmn 1300 ifloy`e, 1325 fled, Ch 1395 fled p ptc
OS fliohan, OHG fliuhan, Goth t`liuhan
te_on s2 togen p ptc
to draw, tow, tug; draw near, approach
te_o ty_hst ti_eht` (ti_ht`/te_ht`) te_ot` pr te_oh imp sg te_onde pr ptc te_ah tugon pt
MED te_n (Lmn teon, AW teon, 1400 tegh) inf; Lmn tid`, Owl tiht`, 1200 ted`, 1300 ted` pr sg3; AW teod`, 1250 tgen, SO 1330 tet` pr pl; Owl teo pr sbj sg; Lmn taeh pt sg3; 1150 tugen, Lmn tuy`en, AW tuhen pt pl; 1250 togen p ptc
OS tiohan, OHG ziohan, Goth tiuhan
(g`e)fe_on s5 fegen (faegen) p ptc
to rejoice
feogad` pr pl feah fae_gon pt
not found in MED
ple_on s5 *plegen p ptc
to risk, expose to danger
pleah pt
not found in MED
se_on s5 sewen/segen p ptc
to see
se_o siehst sieht` (si_t`) se_od` (si_ot`) pr seh (i/io) imp sg seah sa_won/sae_gon pt
MED se_n (Orm sen/seon, Owl ison) inf; Orm seo, Owl iso, 1335 se pr sg1; Orm sest (eo), Lmn sehste, Owl sichst, 1275 sixst, 1300 sext/sixt/sicst pr sg2; PC1 sed` (eo), Orm set` (eo), 1175 sihd`, 1225 sicd`, Owl sut`, 1250 sikt`, Ch seth, 1396 sey`t pr sg3; Orm seo, Lmn sey`e, Owl so sbj pr sg; Orm sen, 1250 sen, 1300 seth, Ayb 1340 zyet` pr pl; Lmn isaeh pt sg3; 1200 segen, 1250 sey`en, 1275 seghen, 1300 seiy`en pt pl; 1335 seiy`en p ptc
Note - the MED lists seiy`en and sey`e as infinitive forms, seghe as pr sg1, and say`e, saghe, sauy`en as pt pl, at the top of its article on se_n.
OS sehan, OHG sehan, Goth saihwan
fle_an s6 flagen p ptc
to flay
*flo_h *flo_gon pt
MED flen (Lmn flan/flean, 1275 flo, 1300 flon, 1300 fleye) inf; AW flea sbj pr sg, 1333 flagy`st pr sg2; 1390 fleth pr sg3; 1300 Hav flowe, 1350 flogh pt sg3; Lmn iulay`ene, 1300 yflawe, 1340 Ayb vlay`e, Ch flayn p ptc
ON fla_, MDu vla`en vla`eghen, ProtoG *flahana
le_an s6 *lagen p ptc
to blame, reproach
lyht` le_at` pr lo_h lo_gon pt
not found in MED, but Wikt. cites lough pt sg3
ON la_, OS/OHG lahan, Goth laian
sle_an s6 slaeg`en/slagen p ptc
to slay, strike
slehst (sle_s) pr sg2 slieht`/sliht`/slaeht`/sle_t` (i/y) pr sg3 sleah imp sg sle_ande pr ptc slo_h slo_gon pt
Orm slaen/slan inf slast slaet`/slat` pr sloh sloy%h`enn pt slay%enn p ptc, Lmn slaen inf slaest slaed` pr sloh sloy`en pt, AW to sleanne inf dat slead`/slad` pr sg3 sloh slohen pt slein/slayn p ptc, SO slo inf slouy` pt sg3, Ch sleen inf sleest sleeth sleen pr slough/slow slowen pt slayn/slawen p ptc, MED sle_n (1300 sla, 1325 slan, 1340 Ayb slay`e, 1390 slawe) inf; 1325 slecst, 1325 slas, 1340 Ayb slast, 1372 slest pr sg2; 1225 sleihd`, 1303 slekt`, 1340 Ayb slay`t`/sslay`t, 1325/1340 slas, 1380 slet` pr sg3; 1225 LH slage, 1300 slext`, 1357 sla pr pl; 1350 slay` sbj sg pr?; 1340 Ayb slay`et` imp pl; PC2 sloghen pt pl; 1200 TH slaine, 1250 slagen, 1307 slaye, 1300 slan, 1325 slain, 1340 slayne, 1350 sleyn/slaw, 1393 Gower slawe p ptc
Notes - the spelling <y`> in Ayenbite of Inwyt (1340 Ayb) represents /G``/, e.g. foly`en, while <y> represents /j/, e.g. yeve, daye; the MED lists A sla_ inf, lOE slagen p ptc and slay`en inf at the top of its article on sle_n, the latter perhaps based on Ayb slay`e.
ON sla_, OS/OHG/Goth slahan
t`we_an s6 g`et`wegen 7 p ptc
to wash, cleanse
t`we_a d`wehst/t`wyhst d`weht` pr t`weh/d`uah t`we_ad` imp t`we_a t`we_an sbj pr t`wo_h t`wo_gon/d`wo_gan pt
MED thwe_n inf; 1175 d`weahd` pr sg3; 1200 t`weh imp sg; 1175 it`wey`en p ptc
ON t`va_, OS thwahan, OHG dwahan, Goth t`wahan
fo_n s7 fangen/fongen p ptc
to seize, grasp
fo_ fe_hst fe_(h)th/fo_hth fo_th pr fe_ng fe_nge fe_ngon pt fo_h fo_t` imp fo_ fo_n sbj pr fe_nge fe_ngen sbj pt
MED fongen/fo_n (Orm fon, fanngenn, Lmn fon, AW underuongen, Owl/1225/1250/1300/1303/Ch fonge, 1275 fong, PH3 foangen, 1300 fange) inf; Orm fot`, 1150 fot`, 1200 TH fod` fohd`, AW underued`, Owl ifot`, 1333 fanget`, 1393 Gower fonget` pr sg3; Owl fo pr pl sbj; Orm unnderrfanngenn, 1390 fongen, 1393 Gower fonge pr pl; PC2/AW underfeng, PC1/1175/Lmn feng pt sg3; Orm onnfengenn, Lmn on-fengen pt pl; PC1 gefangen p ptc
ON fa__/fanga, OS fa_han/fangan, OHG fa_han, Goth fa_han
ho_n s7 hangen p ptc
to hang
ho_t` pr pl ho_h imp sg he_ng he_ngon pt
MED hongen (Lmn hon, AW hon/hongin, Owl hongi, Ch hangen/honge) inf; Ch hange pr sg1; Lmn hangest pr sg2, AW hongi sbj pr sg2; Owl hot`, AW honged`, 1250/1307/1325/SO 1330/Ayb 1340 honget`, 1303/Ch hanget` pr sg3; Ch hangen pr pl; Orm/Lmn/Ch heng pt sg3; PC2 hengen pt pl; Ch hangen p ptc
Note - there is no record in the OE corpus of present tense singular forms for ho_n. OE also had hangian w intr (to hang, be hanged).
ON hanga, OHG hahan, Goth hahan

levelling of paradigms for strong contracted verbs in ME

In the following discussion, <g/y`> represents either /G``/ or /J``/, the former following a back vowel and the latter following a front vowel. It is a voiced fricative (either velar or palatal), and not the palatal semivowel (approximant) /j/ which is also sometimes represented by <y`> in ME, and by <y> in ModE.

As mentioned above, there are several examples of the dropping of <h> in 2nd and 3rd person present tense forms in early ME. The dropping of <h> will be touched on but the main focus below will be on the retention of <h> and more importantly - the extension of <g/y`> to the infinitive as well as first person and plural present tense forms. The reason - the result is in line with the standard paradigm of the respective verb class, in which the stem-final consonant of the present tense forms reflects the stem-final consonant of the preterite and past participle forms.

From the pre-1250 sources in the verbs listed above, there are:

  • five examples of a <g/h/y`> extended to the infinitive: OE si_gan, wri_ga, 1250 tegen, AW wrihen, Lmn wriy`en
  • seven cases of <g/h/y`> extended to plural present tense: OE t`i_gat`, feogad`, AW siy`et`, 1225 seiy`ed`, 1250 tgen, 1225 LH slage, AW wrihet` pr pl
  • one case of an <h> extended to a 1st person present: AW wrihe
  • six cases of <ng> extended to the infinitive, or a present tense form (class 7): Orm fanngenn, AW underuongen, hongi, Lmn hangest, AW honged`, 1250 honget`

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normalising strong contracted verbs in ME

As mentioned in the introduction above, principles 3 & 4 allow us to generalise a levelling trend that is underway. The upshot is that while the present tense of OE strong contracted verbs have a dual stem, their reflexes in the core grammar of eME, have a single stem.

The approach is as follows:

  1. we start with a verb paradigm that exhibits stem alternation in OE, e.g. wre_on wre_o wri_ht` iwrigen;
  2. in pre-1250 texts we look for forms which remove the stem alternation by inserting <g/h/y`> (/G``/) in either the inf or pr sg1 or pr pl; e.g. Lmn wriy`en inf;
  3. via principle 3 the stem levelling of one form (e.g. inf) is extended to the remaining forms (e.g. pr sg1 and pr pl) within the paradigm; so wri__gen inf is extended to wri__ge pr sg1 and wri__gen pr pl;
  4. courtesy of principle 4, the paradigm levelling of the majority of strong contracted verbs is extended to the remaining verbs in that group; e.g. the wri__gen wri__ge wri__get` iwrigen pattern is extended to li__gen li__ge li__get` iligen;

Thus we have:

pre-1250 insertion of <g/h/y`> in a verb form:
OE si_gan, wri_ga, 1250 tegen (< *ti_han), AW wrihen, Lmn wriy`en inf; OE t`i_gat`, feogad`, AW siy`et`, 1225 seiy`ed`, 1250 tgen (< *te_ohan), 1225 LH slage, AW wrihet` pr pl; AW wrihe pr sg1; Orm fanngenn, AW underuongen, hongi, Lmn hangest, AW honged`, 1250 honget` class 7 inf or pr
via principle 3 - extend <g> (/G``/) throughout a verb's paradigm:
wri__gen8, ti__gen, t`i__gen s1; te__gen s2; fegen s5; *slagen s6; fangen, hangen s7
via principle 4 - extend simplified paradigm to remaining verbs in group:
li__gen s1; plegen s5; lagen, t`wagen s6
special cases - contracted forms that have survived to ModE:
fle__n s2, se__n s5, slaen, flaen s6


  1. with few exceptions, all forms of the special cases - fle__n, se__n, slaen, flaen qualify individually as additional eME forms:
  2. Orm flen flet`, Lmn fleon flet`, 1250 fledde pt sg3 presage forms we are familiar with in ModE flee flees fled;
  3. h-less infinitive forms are well supported in pre-1250 sources for se__n, slaen and flaen: Orm sen slaen, Lmn slaen flean, AW seon sleanne, Owl ison;
  4. similarly, h-less 2nd and 3rd person singular forms are well supported in pre-1250 sources for se__n and slaen: Orm sest set` slaet`, Trinity Homilies 1200 sest, Lmn slaest slaed`, AW slead`
  5. it seems most likely that ModE slay, flay continue the Midland h-less forms of Orm slaen, Lmn slaen, AW sleanne and Ch sleen rather than the Southern (South-Western) and Kentish forms Lambeth Homily 1225 slage, Ayenbite 1340 slay`e /G``/, which would have resulted in the ModE form slawe; the addition of a palatal glide or dipthongisation from /E``/ to /ei/ giving sleye sleyth sleyn i.a., doesn't appear in the infinitive and present tense forms until around 1390; hence the core eME forms slaen, flaen;
  6. Orm slay%enn , AW/Ch slayn p ptc establish islay%en as an additional eME form;

which leads us to:

removal of stem alternation in strong contracted verbs in eME

Stem alternation is removed in all related verb paradigms in the core grammar of eME.

The final consonant of the preterite plural stem - <g>, is extended to the present tense forms. The only exceptions are the four special cases, which are familar to ModE speakers:

  • s1 eME wri__gen inf (wrap, cover), wri__ge wri__gest wri__get` wri__gen pr, wra__h wrigen iwrigen
    • similarly: li__gen (lend, grant), si__gen (sink; strain), ti__gen (accuse), t`i__gen (thrive)
  • s2 eME te__gen inf (draw, tow), te__ge te__gest te__get` te__gen pr, taeh tugen itogen
  • s5 eME fegen inf (rejoice), fege fegest feget` fegen pr, fah fagen ifegen
    • similarly: plegen (risk, endanger)
  • s6 eME t`wagen inf (cleanse), t`wage t`wagest t`waget` t`wagen pr, t`wo__h t`wo__gen it`wagen/t`way%en
    • similarly: lagen (blame)
  • s7 eME fangen inf (seize, grasp), fange fangest fanget` fangen pr, fe__ng fe__ngen ifangen
    • similarly: hangen

Four contracted verbs which have survived to ModE, depart from the patterns above in eME. They retain the contraction of their respective OE forms and extend the dropping of <h> at the end of the stem throughout the present tense. Note also that fle__n has weak past tense forms:

  • s2 eME fle__n inf (flee), fle__ fle__st fle__t` fle__n pr, fledde fledden ifled (fled)
  • s5 eME se__n inf (see), se__ se__st se__t` se__n pr, sah sagen isegen (saw seen)
  • s6 eME slaen inf (slay), slae slaest slaet` slaen pr, slo__h slo__gen islagen/slay%en (slew slain)
    • similarly: flaen (flay)


  1. si_en s1 (OE WS se_on) is not included here as si_gan covers both meanings - sink/descend and strain/filter in Clark Hall;

See also changes to strong contracted verbs complete by 1150.

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gemination in class I weak verbs part 2

Gemination occurs in both strong and weak verbs in OE. For both strong and weak verbs it entails the doubling of the stem-final consonant in the infinitive and present participle as well as the first person and plural forms of the present tense, the subjunctive forms and the plural imperative form. The following section deals with gemination in class I weak verbs.

Take for exmple the OE verb fremman. The consonant at the end of the stem is m. In the infinitive this consonant is doubled, hence - fremman. Similarly, the first person present tense form is ic` fremme. This is gemination. But the third person present tense form is he_/he_o/hit fremet`, in which the stem-final consonant isn't doubled. The same applies to all preterite forms - fremede fremedest fremedon.

The tables and verb listings below are taken from Wright 11:

class I weak verbs with gemination

inf. fremman
pr sg1 fremme
pr sg2 fremest
pr sg3 fremet`
pr pl fremmat`
pr ptc fremmende
sbj sg fremme
sbj pl fremmen
imp sg freme
imp pl fremmat`
pt sg3 fremede
pt pl fremedon
p ptc g`efremed
inf. settan
pr sg1 sette
pr sg2 setst
pr sg3 set(t)
pr pl settat`
pr ptc settende
sbj sg sette
sbj pl setten
imp sg sete
imp pl settat`
pt sg3 sette
pt pl setton
p ptc g`eseted/set(t)

The difference between these two class I verb types is that syncope (dropping of <e>) and assimilation (of <d> to <t>) occurs in the preterite and past participle of verbs with stem-final <tt> in the infinitive. Thus *setede becomes sette.

Like fremman are conjugated aswebban to kill, clynnan to sound, cnyssan to knock, dynnan to make a noise, gremman to anger or provoke, hlynnan to roar, hrissan to shake, scet`t`an (also strong) to injure, swet`t`an to swathe, temman to tame, trymman to strengthen, t`ennan to stretch, t`ic`g`an† (in poetry also strong pt t`eah, t`ah) to receive, wec`g`an† to agitate, wennan to accustom, wret`t`an to support.

Like settan are conjugated atreddan to search out, cnyttan to bind or knit, hreddan to rescue or save, hwettan to whet or incite, lettan to hinder, spryttan to sprout, lec`g`an† to lay.

Treated apart by Wright 18 is another group of class I weak verb displaying gemination, which includes cwec`c`an, cwellan and byc`g`an†. As he explains: "A certain number of verbs belonging to class I formed their preterite and past participle already in prim. Germanic without the medial vowel -i-, as bycgan (Goth. bugjan), to buy, pret. bohte (Goth. baúhta), pp. geboht (Goth. baúhts)...".

The latter group conjugates similarly to fremman in the present tense, displaying gemination in the same forms. However the <e> of the 2nd and 3rd person present tense endings is often omitted. The preterite forms differ substantially from both the fremman & settan groups, as indicated below. There are two different preterite stems - <-eaht-> (or <-oht->) and <-eald->:

inf. cwec`c`an
pr sg1 cwec`c`e
pr sg2 cwec`(e)st
pr sg3 cwec`(e)t`
pr pl cwec`c`at`
pr ptc cwec`c`ende
sbj sg cwec`c`e
sbj pl cwec`c`en
imp sg cwec`e
imp pl cwec`c`at`
pt sg3 cweahte
pt pl cweahton
p ptc g`ecweaht
inf. cwellan
pr sg1 cwelle
pr sg2 cwelst
pr sg3 cwelt`
pr pl cwellat`
pr ptc cwellende
sbj sg cwelle
sbj pl cwellen
imp sg cwele
imp pl cwellat`
pt sg3 cwealde
pt pl cwealdon
p ptc g`ecweald

Like cwec`c`an to shake (cweahte g`ecweaht) are conjugated: drec`c`an to afflict (dreahte g`edreaht), lec`c`an to moisten (leahte g`eleaht), rec`c`an to narrate (reahte g`ereaht), strec`c`an to stretch (streahte g`estreaht), t`ec`c`an to cover (t`eahte g`et`eaht), wec`c`an to awake (weahte g`eweaht), and byc`g`an to buy (bohte g`eboht) .

Like cwellan to kill (cwealde g`ecweald) are conjugated: dwellan to hinder (dwealde g`edweald), sellan to sell (sealde g`eseald), stellan to place (stealde g`esteald), and tellan to count (tealde g`eteald) .

† Note that in the case of <g`> /j/, the doubling is represented by <c`g`> /dZ`/; hence - byc`g`an inf byg`t` pr sg3.

Note also the similarity between class I weak verbs with gemination and class II weak verbs: the gemination of the former and the <i/g`> of the latter, are absent in the 2nd and 3rd person singular present tense forms and in the preterite forms.

OE variants and ME developments

Wright 11 lists twenty five class I weak verbs with gemination in the fremman & sittan groups. That's a substantial number. However, with four exceptions, all of these verbs had a variant form in OE without gemination. In fact Clark Hall 12 lists the variant without gemination as the main entry in eight cases. As we enter the Middle English period we see increasing instances of forms without gemination, in this group of verbs.

The following list provides variants to the geminate verbs above, listed under the corresponding OE verb. The variants comprise entries from two OE dictionaries - Clark Hall 12 and Bosworth-Toller 13 as well as extracts from the MED. The MED examples focus on East Midland entries up to and including Chaucer. I've highlighed entries which display gemination either missing or applied where not expected. Note that in the list below, CH refers to Clark Hall 12 and BT to Bosworth-Toller 13.

fremman group

fremman, fremian, framian 14
avail, benefit, advance; perform, accomplish
fremian, framian; note also - fremu n f, freme adj frem~sum ~lic`
AW fream~ien ~et` pr sg3, StK frem~ien ~ede pt sg3, PH3 freme, HA frem~ed` ~ad` pr, BH frem~aet` ~iaet` pr ~ode pt sg3, Lmn fremmen (v), HA to y`efremmenne, BH fremmaen fremede pt sg3 ifremed p ptc, TH fremen, MED fremmen, fremen, framen.
all three OE variants < Proto-Germanic *framjaną; cognate with OS fremmian, OFris frema, fremma
pre-1250 missing gemination: fremian, framian, fremen fremien freamien fremad` fremiaet`
put to sleep, lull; † kill
g`eswefian put to sleep, lull, appease; note also - swefan v w intr 'sleep, slumber, rest'; † 'sleep in death', swefn (swefen) n nt 'dream'
MED has 3 quotations for 'sweven' and 3 for 'isweven', none with 'swebb-': VH 1225 sweued` pr sg3 y`eswefede, 1225 swefede, Lmn sweuede pt sg3 isweued, MED sweven put to sleep; become calm, isweven put to sleep, stupefy
pre-1250 missing gemination: g`eswefian, sweued`, swefede
† lull, soothe, set at rest; put to death, destroy
MED has 1 quotation: Ch asweved p ptc, MED asweved
pre-1250 missing gemination: -
(make a) sound
clynnan CH, clynan BT
MED - no entries
pre-1250 missing gemination: clynan
cnyssan CH & BT cnysest cnysset`/cnyset` pr sg3 cnyssat` cnysad` imp pl cnyste pt sg3 cnyssed p ptc cnyssedan/cnysedon/cnysdan pt pl BT
MED has 1 quotation: BH 1175 cnysed`, MED knissen
pre-1250 missing gemination: cnysad`
pre-1250 added gemination: cnysset`, cnyssed, cnyssedan
dynian CH & BT
make a noise
[dynnan = dynian] CH, dynet`; note also - dyne n m
Lmn dunien dunede pt sg3, AW dunede pt sg3, Owl adunest pr sg2, MED dinen
pre-1250 missing gemination: dynian, dunien
gremian CH & BT
irritate, provoke
[gremman = gremian] CH, gremiad`
PC1 to gremienne, Lmn graemende, AW gremien gremed` pr sg3 gremede pt sg3, MED gremen anger, provoke, offend
pre-1250 missing gemination: gremian, gremienne, graemende, gremien
sound, make a noise, shout
[hlynian = hlynnan] CH, hlynnet` pr sg3 BT
MED - no entries; homonym in ME with linnen 'cease, desist'
pre-1250 missing gemination: hlynian
pre-1250 added gemination: hlynnet`
hrisian CH & BT
shake, move; be shaken, clatter
hryse imp sg hrisiendis pr ptc? hrisedon; hrissan? Wright/MED/Wikt.
Lmn rusien riseden, AW risede, Ch rese inf, MED resen tremble, shudder, quake
> ModE rese obs. 'shake; quake; tremble'
pre-1250 missing gemination: hrisian, rusien
sc`ed`d`an w/s6?
scathe, injure, hurt, crush, oppress, disturb
sc`et`t`e sc`et`et`/sc`et`t`at` pr sg3 sc`et`ede pt sg3 BT; sc`(e)o_d pt sg3 Wright; sceat`ian injure, spoil, steal, [sceat`an = sc`et`t`an] CH; sc`ead`~a n m ~e f
Orm skat`esst pr sg2 skat`edd p ptc, Cl 1380 scat`ed pt pl, HA 1200 scet`t`es imp sg?, VH 1125 scad`ied` pr pl, MED scathen (k) (17) < ON skad`a, shathien (1), scet`t`en (2)
pre-1250 missing gemination: sceat`ian, sceat`an, scad`ied`
pre-1250 added gemination: sc`et`t`at`, scet`t`es?
swad`ian CH
wrap, swathe
swet`ian swet`ede BT, beswed`ian CH & BT, swet`t`an? Wright
VH 1125 swad`ede pt sg3, MED swathen, swat`elen
pre-1250 missing gemination: swat`ian, swet`ian
temian CH & BT
temige temet` temat` temede temedon temma BT
1333 y-tamed p ptc, Gow tamed, MED tamen
pre-1250 missing gemination: temian temat`
trymian CH
strengthen, fortify, comfort
trymman/trimian BT, trymman trymmend trymmung trymnes trymd` CH
1250 trimen trimede, VH 1150 trymede, BH 1150 trymmen, MED trimmen exhort, encourange, strengthen
pre-1250 missing gemination: trymian trimian, trimen
stretch, extend; prostrate
t`ennan/t`enian d`enige BT, t`ennan (stretch) t`ynnian (thin, dilute) CH
MED has 2 quotations: 1400 thinne, 1450 thyn pr sg1, MED thinnen < OE t`ennen; extend
pre-1250 missing gemination: t`enian
receive, consume; beg
t`icgan CH & BT, t`ah t`eah and t`igde t`igede pt sg t`ae_gon t`e_gon and t`i_gdon t`igedon pt pl t`egen and t`iged p ptc BT
VH 1150 to t`ycgene inf t`ycge sbj sg t`ycgden pt pl (/j/?), 1175 to t`icgene, 1200 HA t`iy%ean/t`icy%an inf t`iy%est d`iy%t` pr t`icy%e (/j/?) t`ey%e imp sg, 1225 LH t`igge sbj sg, 1300 Hav t`igge inf, MED thiggen (25)
pre-1250 missing gemination: t`iy%ean
pre-1250 added gemination: t`ycgden pt pl, t`icy%e imp sg
wec`g`an, wagian 17
move, agitate, shake, wag, move backwards and forwards
wecgan CH & BT, wagian CH & BT, weget` wecgat` wecge wagiat` wagat` BT;
1425 weged, 1440 wedge (wegge), MED weggen to wedge into place, tighten; 1187 Wagetail, 1219 Waggestaf, 1226 Waggespere, AW waggid`, Hav 1300 wagge, 1330 wagge, Ayb 1340 wagget`, Ch waggen, MED waggen tr/intr move back and forth or up and down, shake, flutter, swing
both OE variants < Proto-Germanic *wagjaną
pre-1250 missing gemination: wagian wagende NB - no 'i'
pre-1250 added gemination: waggid`, Waggestaf, Waggespere
wenian CH & BT
accustom, habituate, inure, train; entertain, treat; break off, wean from
[wennan = wenian] CH, wenian wenede BT (accustom oneself, be accustomed)
AW iwenet, p ptc, MED wenen wean; entertain
pre-1250 missing gemination: wenian
wred`ian CH & BT
support, sustain, uphold
wred`ian CH, wret`ian wret`et` wret`iat` wret`edon BT (prop, stay, support, sustain)
MED - no entries
pre-1250 missing gemination: wret`ian

settan group

set, deposit, place, fix
settan CH & BT, sette setst/settest - settat` pr sette setton pt sete settat` imp BT
PC2 sette pt sg3, Orm setten sett be~ p ptc, Lmn setten set/sette/saette pt sg3 iset p ptc, AW setten pt sg3, Owl sette sbj sg, SO sett pt pl, Ch sett~e(n) ~est ~eth ~e(n) pr ~e ~e(n) pt (y)set(t) p ptc, TH setted pt sg3, MED setten
pre-1250 missing gemination: -
pre-1250 added gemination: settest setted
atreddan 18
search out, examine, investigate
atreddan CH & BT, atredde pt sg3 BT
MED - no entries
fasten, tie, bind, knit
cnyttan CH & BT, ic` cnytte pr sg1 cnyte imp sg cnytted/cnyt p ptc BT
AW cnut (knittet`) pr sg3, HA 1200 cnite imp sg, 1300 knetten knut pr sg3 knette pt sg3, Ch 1390 knytte inf knyttest knytteth pr knyt imp sg/p ptc, Gow 1393 knette pt sg3, MED knitten (knit/knitteth pr sg3) fasten, tie, bind; form a noose, loop, ligature or web
pre-1250 missing gemination: -
pre-1250 added gemination: cnytted knittet`
recover, rescue, save, free from
hreddan CH & BT, hrede/hredde imp sg BT
Orm reddenn redde pt sg3, Lmn readde pt sg3, AW redd pt sg3 readre 1300 n, TH 1200 redde pt sg3, MED redden
pre-1250 missing gemination: -
pre-1250 added gemination: hredde
whet, sharpen, incite, encourage
hwettan CH & BT, hwette pr sg1 hwetet`/hwaet pr sg3 hwettat` pr pl hwetton pt pl BT
Lmn whaette pt sg3 iwhaet p ptc, 1300 ywhett p ptc, Ch whette/ywhet/whetted p ptc, MED whetten (whetteth 1382 pr sg3 whette whettid pt)
pre-1250 missing gemination: -
hinder, delay, impede
lettan CH & BT, lett/let/laet pr sg3 lettat` pr pl letton pt pl lette sbj sg BT
Orm lettet`t` pr sg3, Lmn letted` pr sg3 laetten pt pl, AW letten letted` (let) pr sg3 lette sbj pr sg let imp sg ilet(te) p ptc, PH3 ilet p ptc, SO y-let p ptc, Ch lette(n) inf/pt pl lettest pr sg2 letteth (let) pr sg3 let lette(d) pt sg3 lette sbj pr sg let p ptc, PC1 laet pr sg3 laette pt sg3, MED letten
pre-1250 missing gemination: -
pre-1250 added gemination: lettet`t` letted`
sprout, spring, germinate
spryttan CH & BT, sprit/spryt/sprytt pr sg3 spryttad` pr pl sprytte pt sg3 spritte sbj pr sg spryttende pr ptc BT
VH 1150 sprytt pr sg3 sprytted` pr pl sprytte pt sg3, Ancr 1225 sprut pr sg3, Ancr 1250 sprutted` pr sg3, MED spritten
pre-1250 missing gemination: -
pre-1250 added gemination: sprutted`
lay, place, put
lec`g`an CH & BT, lec`g`g`ean inf leg`t`/leg`et` pr sg3 lec`g`eat` pr pl le_dest laeg`de/leg`de/le_de laeg`don/leg`don/le_den pt leg`e imp sg lec`g`e sbj pr sg BT
PC2 laeide(n) pt, Orm leggenn ley%y%~esst ~et`t` pr ley%y% imp sg ley%y%de pt sg3 ley%d p ptc, Lmn leggen (on) legg~e pr sg1 ~ed` pr pl/imp leide (ae) laiden (e/ae) pt, AW legge leist leid` pr leide ~n pt, Owl alegge inf leie/legge sbj sg leide pt sg3, SO leyd pt sg3, Ch leye/leggen/laye inf leye leyth (a) pr leyde/layde pt sg3, 1175 leged` pr pl, 1200 leiy`en inf, MED leien
pre-1250 missing gemination: leiy`en leged`

cwec`c`an group

shake, vibrate, quitch (obs/dial)
cwecest/cwecst pr sg2 cwecet`/cwect` pr sg3 cweccende pr ptc
Lmn quecchen inf quecched` pr sg3 cuahte/quehte quahten/quehten pt, AW cwich (queiy`tte) pt sg3, MED quecchen
pre-1250 added gemination: quecched`
vex, irritate, dretch; injure, afflict; to postpone, delay
dreccan/dreccean inf **drece** pr sg1 drecest/drecst pr sg2 drecet`/drect` pr sg3 dreccat`/drecceat` pr pl drecce sbj sg
Lmn idraht/idrecched (a/ae) p ptc, AW drecched` pr pl idrechet p ptc, Ch drecche inf drecched p ptc, PC1 gedreht p ptc, HA y`edreht p ptc, VH 1150 idrecched p ptc, LH 1225 dreched` pr pl, 1250 drechen inf, 1300 drecched` pr sg3, 1350 drecchet` pr sg3, Gow dreccheth pr sg3, MED drecchen (dreccen draihte pt idraht p ptc)
pre-1250 missing/added gemination: -
lecce pr sg1 leccat` pr pl leccende pr ptc
no entry; but > ModE leach (2)
pre-1250 missing/added gemination: -
rec`c`an reahte
reccan/reccean/**rechen** to_ recceanne recce reccest/recest recet`/rect` recce sbj sg rece imp sg (as expected) reccende pe ptc
AW recched` pr sg3, MED recchen
pre-1250 added gemination: rec`c`est, recched`
rec`c`an (re_c`an) ro_hte
care, care for, heed
rec`c`an (re_c`an) re_cce re_cst re_ct`/re_ccet` re_cc(e)at` pr
PC1 rohton, Orm rekkenn recket`t` rohhte, Lmn recche recchest rohte, Owl recchet`/rect` roy`te, SO me no reche, Ch recche rekke rekkest rekketh roghte recheles, PM 1175 rechd` [rekt`/recke], MED recchen (2) (recke/rekken)
pre-1250 added gemination: recket`t`, recchest, recchet`
strecst strece imp sg streccende pr ptc
1300 strecchet` pr sg3, MED strecchen
pre-1250 missing/added gemination: -
t`eccan/t`eccean t`ecce t`ecest t`eceþ t`eccat` t`ecce sbj sg
nothing before 1350; no reflex of t`eahte; MED thacchen (thacched, thacked)
pre-1250 missing/added gemination: -
waken, rouse
weccan/weccean/**wecean** wecce wecd`/wecet`/weccet` pr sg3 weccat` wec imp sg wecce sbj sg
Lmn wecched` pr sg3, TH 1200 wecchen wecched` pr sg3, MED wecchen
pre-1250 added gemination: weccet`, wecched`
byc`g`an CH & BT, bic`g`an/byc`g`ean inf byc`g`e/bic`g`e pr sg1 byg`est pr sg2 byg`et` pr sg3 byc`g`at`/bic`g`at` pr pl bohte bohton pt byg`e/big`e imp sg byc`g`at` imp pl boht p ptc
PC2 bohton pt, Orm biggenn bigget`t` pr sg3 bohhte pt sg3, Lmn bohte pt sg3, AW buggen bud` pr sg3 bugget` (d`) pr pl, Owl buggen, Ch bye inf byeth pr sg3 bo(u)ght pt sg3, PM buggen, Hav 1300 beye inf, MED bi_en
pre-1250 missing gemination: -

cwellan group

kill, quell
cwellan cwelle cwelst cwellat`
Orm cwellet`t` pr sg3, 1250 cwelled p ptc, MED quellen
pre-1250 added gemination: cwellet`t`
note: in Orm's spelling, a double letter between vowels indicates doubled pronunciation, i.e. /cwE`ll@`T``/ here
dwelle dwelet`
Orm dwellet`t` pr sg3 dwalde pt sg3 dwelledd p ptc, 1225 dwellest pr sg2, Ch dwelleth pr sg3, MED dwellen
pre-1250 added gemination: dwellest, dwellet`t`
note: in Orm's spelling, a double letter between vowels indicates doubled pronunciation, i.e. /dwE`ll@`T``/ here
give, sell
sellan/syllan sylle/sello pr sg1 sylest/sylst/selest pr sg2 sylt`/sylet`/selet`/sellet` pr sg3 sille/sylle sbj sg sile/syle/sylle imp sg syllat` imp pl Ða syllendan pr ptc
AW sulled` pr sg3, MED sellen
pre-1250 added gemination: sellet`, sulled` pr sg3, sylle imp sg
stelet` pr sg3 styllat` pr pl stellende pr ptc
no -est/-et` forms in MED; MED stellen
pre-1250 missing/added gemination: -
tell, count
tellan telle/**taelige** pr sg1 telet`/telt` pr sg3 tellat` pr pl telle imp sg telle sbj sg
Orm tellet`t` pr sg3, Lmn tellet` pr sg3, 1200/1250 tellet` pr sg3, MED tellen
pre-1250 added gemination: telle imp sg, tellet`t` tellet` pr sg3

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While the loss of <i> in the class II weak verbs in the East Midand dialect by 1150 is conclusive, Orm and PC2 lack examples that might shed some light on the loss of gemination in class I verbs. The evidence for the absence or loss of gemination in class I verbs comes either from OE or from outside the familiar eME sources. To pick just the first verb in the list, a text that dates from 1200 - Homilies in Cambridge (Trinity College), has fremen, note - without the expected gemination, in the sense 'perform, accomplish'.

Where Orm does provide relevant verb forms, these are in the setten, cweccen and cwellen groups and exhibit extension, rather than loss, of gemination. Perhaps they indicate that gemination had always been spread throughout the paradigm in these groups, in the (east) Mercian dialect.

We know then that the assimilation we see in class II weak verbs, also existed to a large degree, in class I verbs with gemination, around the year 1150. In fact, we can see that variations without gemination existed for all but one of the fremen group of class I verbs listed above, for all but two of the setten group, for half of the cweccen group and for all but one of the cwellen group.

On that basis, I've applied principle 4 of the four basic principles. That is - I've extended a levelling pattern evident in the majority of the class I weak verbs with gemination, to the few remaining verbs in that group.

An interesting trend emerges. While the fremen group tends to drop gemination altogether, the setten group, with double <d> or <t>20, as well as the cweccen and cwellen groups, tend to extend the gemination throughout the paradigm.

Parsing the entries listed above and applying the principles step by step, we find:

excluded (CH headword has no gemination):
dinen, gremen, risen, swat`en, temen, trimen, wenen, wret`en
pre-1250 loss of gemination in a verb form (inf, pr sg1, pr pl, pr ptc etc):
fremian framian, fremen fremien freamien fremad` fremiaed`; g`eswefian; clynan; hlynian; sceat`ian, sceat`an, scad`ied`; t`enian; t`iy%ean; leiy%en leged`
pre-1250 addition of gemination to a verb form (pr sg2, pr sg3, pt, p ptc etc):
cnysset` cnyssed cnyssedan; waggid`, Waggestaf, Waggespere; settest, setted; cnytted, knittet`; hredde imp sg; lettet`t` letted`; sprutted`; quecched`; rec`c`est, recched`; recket`t` recchest recchet`; weccet`, wecched`; cwellet`t`; dwellest dwellet`t`; sellet`, sulled`, sylle; telle, tellet`t` tellet`
via principle 3 - extend loss of gemination throughout a verb's paradigm:
fremen/framen, swefen, clinen, linen, skat`en, t`enen, t`iy%en, ley%en
via principle 3 - extend addition of gemination throughout a verb's paradigm:
cnissen, cnitten, letten, redden, setten, spritten, waggen, cweccen, reccen, recken, weccen, cwellen, dwellen, sellen, tellen
via principle 4 - extend simplified paradigm to remaining verbs in group:
aswefen, atredden, hwetten, dreccen, leccen, streccen, t`eccen, biy%en, stellen

Note that because there is no explicit support for the dropping of gemination in either Orm or PC2, gemination in class I weak verbs remains in the optional grammar for the fremen group. Given the strength of support in early ME and the paucity of counter-examples, gemination throughout the paradigm is recommended, even in the optional grammar, for the setten, cweccen and cwellen groups, except for those verbs which had stem alternation in <g`/c`g`> in OE - t`icy%en, lecy%en and bicy%en. Stem alternation persisted in these three verbs in eME sources, including Orm.

The outlier is biy%en/bicy%en. Eight OE verbs, both weak and strong, had stem alternation in <g`/c`g`> in the present tense - byc`g`an, fric`g`an, hyc`g`an, lec`g`an, lic`g`an, sec`g`an, t`ic`g`an and wec`g`an. All of these show evidence of assimilation to a single stem throughout the paradigm, prior to 1250. (See their respective verb classes above and below.) Two are replaced in eME by reflexes of an OE variant with a stem ending in <g> - hogen, waggen. With one exception, the rest show assimilation to <y%/y`/i> /j/ throughout the paradigm, prior to 1250 - friy%en, ley%en, liy%en, say%en and t`iy%en. The exception is biy%en/bicy%en. Hav 1300 has beye and Ch has bye inf byeth, presaging ModE buy, but the only evidence of assimilation prior to 1250 is Orm bigget`t` /dZ`/. This is a rare case in which an instance of assimilation is ignored and the dominant trend in a group of similar verbs is applied. In makes more sense to consider biy%en/bicy%en as a member of the group which had stem alternation in <g`/c`g`> in OE. Since five of that group of eight show assimilation to <y%/y`/i> /j/, prior to 1250, I've adopted biy%en as the form for the core grammar in eME, via principle 4. The optional grammar has bicy%en with stem alternation.

In the core grammar of eME, the paradigms of these four groups of weak verbs become:

  1. fremen freme fremest fremet` fremen pr, freme fremen sbj, freme fremet` imp, fremende pr ptc, fremede fremeden pt ifremed p ptc
    • similarly: swefen, clinen, linen, skat`en, t`enen, t`iy%en
    • gemination extended throughout: cnissen, waggen
  2. setten sette settest settet` setten pr, sette setten sbj, sette settet` imp, settende pr ptc, sette setten pt iset p ptc
    • similarly: atredden, cnitten, hwetten, letten, redden, setten, spritten
    • gemination removed throughout: ley%en
  3. cweccen cwecce cweccest cweccet` cweccen pr, cwecce cweccen sbj, cwecce cweccet` imp, cweddende pr ptc, cwahte cwahten pt icwaht p ptc
    • similarly: dreccen, leccen, reccen, recken, streccen, t`eccen, weccen
    • gemination removed throughout: biy%en
  4. cwellen cwelle cwellest cwellet` cwellen pr, cwelle cwellen sbj, cwelle cwellet` imp, cwellende pr ptc, cwa__lde cwa__lden pt icwa__ld p ptc
    • similarly: dwellen, sellen, tellen, stellen

In the optional grammar of eME, the paradigms of the fremmen group of weak verbs, as well as lecy%en and bicy%en, show gemination and stem alternation:

  1. fremmen fremme fremest fremet` fremmen pr, fremme fremmen sbj, freme fremmet` imp, fremmende pr ptc, fremede fremeden pt ifremed p ptc
    • similarly: swebben (swef~), clinnen, linnen, scet`t`en, t`ennen, t`icy%en (t`iy%~)
  2. lecy%en lecy%e ley%est ley%et` lecy%en pr, lecy%e lecy%en sbj, ley%e lecy%et` imp, lecy%ende pr ptc, ley%de ley%den pt iley%d p ptc
    • similarly: bicy%en (biy%~ bohte)

Note that wec`g`an appears to have been eclipsed by its variant wagian in lOE in the sense "agitate, shake, wag, move backwards and forwards". The MED has more than sixty instances of waggen in that sense, but only two instances of weggen, both of which have the ModE sense "to wedge". Thus wecy%en is omitted from the fremmen group in the optional grammar.

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class III weak verbs

OE class III consisted of four verbs: habban to have, libban to live, sec`g`an to say, hyc`g`an to think about, consider. These four verbs characterised by stem alternation in the present tense - either <bb/f> or <c`g`/g`>.

While the infinitive, 1st person singular and plural indicative present, singular and plural subjunctive present, plural imperative and present participle all contained either <bb> or <c`g`>, the 2nd and 3rd person singular indicative present, singular imperative, all preterites and past participle, had either <f> or <g`> in their place:

  1. bb/f: habban haebbe haefst haeft` habbat` pr, haebbe haebben sbj, hafa habbat` imp, haebbende pr ptc, haefde haefdon pt g`ehaefd p ptc
  2. bb/f: libban libbe leofast leofat` libbat` pr, libbe libben sbj, leofa libbat` imp, libbende pr ptc, lifde lifdon pt g`elifd p ptc
  3. c`g`/g`: sec`g`an sec`g`e saeg`st saeg`t` sec`g`at` pr, sec`g`e sec`g`en sbj, saeg`e sec`g`at` imp, sec`g`ende pr ptc, saeg`de saeg`don pt g`esaeg`d p ptc
  4. c`g`/g`: hyc`g`an hyc`g`e hyg`st/hogast hyg`t`/hogat` hyc`g`at` pr, hyc`g`e hyc`g`en sbj, hoga/hyg`e hyc`g`at` imp, hyc`g`ende pr ptc, hogde hogdon pt g`ehogod p ptc

Levelling of these paradigms began in OE and was well underway in eME. OE Anglian had a variant class II form lifian beside libban. hyc`g`an also had a class II relation - hogian19 with the same meaning and a shared preterite stem. The latter appears to have displaced hyc`g`an in late OE, given that only reflexes of hogian are found in the MED (under houen).

PC2 emerges as more progressive than its fellow East Midland source Orm, in reflexes of these class III OE verbs. More importantly, levelling to a single stem is found for each of the four verbs in a pre-1250 MED source:

  1. PC2 hauen, Orm hafenn/habbenn hafe, AW habben habbe, SO have inf, Ch ha(ve)n
  2. PC2 liuen, Orm libbenn, Lmn libben/liuien libbe/liuie, AW liuien/libben liuie/libbe, SO live inf, Ch live(n)
  3. PC2 saein, Orm seggenn/sey%y%enn
  4. Lmn hoy`ede pt sg3, Owl hoy`et` pr sg3, VH 1150 hoged` pr sg3

In the core grammar of eME, the paradigms of these four verbs become:

  1. f: hafen hafe hafest hafet` hafen pr, hafe hafen sbj, hafe hafet` imp, hafende pr ptc, hafde hafden pt ihafed p ptc
  2. f: lifen life lifest lifet` lifen pr, life lifen sbj, life lifet` imp, lifende pr ptc, lifde lifden pt ilifed p ptc
  3. y%: say%en say%e say%est say%et` say%en pr, say%e say%en sbj, say%e say%et` imp, say%ende pr ptc, say%de say%den pt isay%d p ptc
  4. g: hogen hoge hogest hoget` hogen pr, hoge hogen sbj, hoge hoget` imp, hogende pr ptc, hogede hogeden pt ihoged p ptc

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a single class of weak verbs

Syncope (or dropping) of the unstressed vowel in the preterite suffix was common in OE weak verbs, particularly in certain environments. The exception was the class II group of weak verbs.

This distinction falls away in eME when syncope appears in the preterite of class II weak verbs. For example, OE lufode becomes lufde in Lmn.

With the loss of gemination in class I weak verbs, the levelling of the dual present stem in class III weak verbs, and the appearance of syncope in class II weak verbs, the three OE weak classes effectively collapse into a single class.

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gemination in strong verbs

Two OE class 5 strong verbs had gemination in <c`g`> - lic`g`an, fric`g`an. Like sec`g`an w1 (see above), the infinitive, first person and plural present tense forms, had a stem ending in <c`g`> while the second and third person present tense forms had a stem ending in <g`>, i.e. without gemination:

lic`g`an lic`g`e lig`st lig`t` lic`g`at` pr, lic`g`e lic`g`en sbj, lig`e lic`g`at` imp, lic`g`ende pr ptc, laeg` lae_g`on pt g`eleg`en p ptc

Forms with <c`g`> were also found in the present participle, the subjunctive and the plural imperative.

Levelling of the stems ending in /dZ`/ to /j/ is evident in PC2 lien, but /dZ`/ (usually written <gg>) persists in the East Midland dialect until Chaucer's time - SO ligge inf ligget` pr pl liggeand pr ptc, Ch lye(n)/ligge(n). Both Lmn and AW have liggen /dZ`/ and Owl has ligge subj pr sg.

Orm has no inf or pr sg1 forms, but does have list pr sg2 & lit` pr sg3, forms echoed by Lmn and AW, which indicate that the reflex of OE <g`> /j/ was absorbed by and lengthened the preceding vowel in the pr sg2 & sg3 forms in eME. The alt eME spelling reflects that sound change, e.g. li_et`. In the default spelling I have retained the /j/ glide as <y%>, e.g. liy%et`.

We can be reasonably confident that if liy%en was spoken by East Midlanders around the year 1150, then the same applies to its class 5 companion friy%en 12. In fact the MED sources, under the entry fri_en, reflect that: Orm friy%y%enn, Hav frie inf. Note the likely influence of ON fry_ja on these forms. See also ley%en, say%en in the sections on gemination in class I and class III verbs, above.

Thus, alongside the forms derived from OE - licy%en fricy%en which enter the optional eME grammar, we have the levelled forms - liy%en friy%en, in the core eME grammar. These give us simpler verb paradigms without stem alternation in the core grammar, while the optional grammar retains the stem alternation of OE:

  • core: liy%en liy%e liy%est liy%et` liy%en pr, liy%e liy%en sbj, liy%e liy%et` imp, liy%ende pr ptc, lay% lay%en pt iley%en p ptc
    • similarly: friy%en friy%et`
  • optional: licy%en licy%e liy%est liy%et` licy%en pr, licy%e licy%en sbj, liy%e licy%et` imp, licy%ende pr ptc, lay% laey%en pt iley%en p ptc
    • similarly: fricy%en friy%et`

Note that gemination of other consonants did not lead to stem alternation in eME. Whereas the <dd> of OE biddan was often reduced to a single consonant in the 2nd and 3rd person present tense forms in the early West Saxon dialect: bit, this was not the case in the Anglian dialects, which tended to biddet`. Hence Bosworth-Toller 17: He_ ne bidded` u_s na_nes t`inges and Orm biddet`t`.

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double consonant becomes single in preterite

This affects ll, mm, nn, pp, rr.

Example: OE fyllan fylde g`efylled

Similarly: OE cennan, c`ierran, clyppan, cyssan, fiellan, mierran, spyllan, stillan, wemman

With one exception - the variant preterite spilt (alongside spilled), this change to the root in the preterite is not reflected in ModE.

This degemination is evident in PC2 fylden, Lmn fulde, AW fulde and persists to Ch fild p ptc. Ch also has kiste together with the less common variant kissed.

On the other hand, retention of the double consonant begins early. BT provides fyllde. HA 1200 has y%efullede pt sg3. And alongside custe we find cussede in Lmn and cussed in AW.

Given that the retention of the double cononsant in preterite forms is evident in pre-1250 texts, this rule - double consonant + <ed> = single consonant + <t> in preterite forms, can be considered moribund in eME and for that reason has been shifted to the optional grammar.

Note that syncope of <e> in the <ed> ending of the preterite, is less frequest in ME than it had been in OE, especially in the East Midland dialect.

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ferien, herien

We saw above that in ME, the infinitive and 1st person and plural present tense forms of class II weak verbs, are assimilated to the preterite and 2nd and 3rd person singular present tense forms. OE verbs with infinitives ending in ~ian/~g`an, lose the <i/g`> in ME. Their ME reflex has an infinitive ending in ~en, and all forms in the paradigm follow suit.

The same levelling applies to a handful of class I verbs ending in ~ian, e.g. swerian > sweren. The two exceptions to this rule are ferien (to transport, carry) and herien (to praise). In their case, assimilation takes place in the reverse direction: the preterite and 2nd and 3rd person singular present tense forms are assimilated to the infinitive form, which ends in ~ien. All forms - preterite included, have the <i> in their stem.

In other words, where OE has herian herie herest heret` heriat` pr, herie herien sbj, here heriat` imp, heriende pr ptc, herede heredon pt g`ehered p ptc, eME has herien herie heriest heriet` herien pr, herie herien sbj, herie heriet` imp, heriende pr ptc, heriede herieden pt iheried p ptc.

ferien and herien sit outside the criteria on which the eME normalisation principles rest. Principle 3 requires a text dated before 1250. Lmn has herey`ede pt sg3 but this is from a text dated around 1300 rather than the earlier Lmn source dated 1200 approx. The MED has a quotation from St.Kath. (?c1200), one of the Katherine group of texts, which I generally place under the 'AW' umbrella: He..hereð [vr. herieð] & hersumeð.. seheliche shaftes... The date is right but the bracketing makes it unclear whether or not this constitutes evidence of the extension of <i> to the pr sg3 stem. The second issue lies with Principle 4 which can be invoked for a group of verbs with similar features. A pair doesn't normally constitute a group.

There is a reason for the exceptional treatment of ferien and herien in the core grammar of eME. These two verbs have <i> in all their stems because <i> appears throughout the paradigm in Ch and ModE. Ch has herie inf heriest pr sg2 heryed pt sg3 iheryed p ptc, while ModE has herry (obs.) and ferry ferries ferried 13. Two East Midland sources from 1380 approx. - Pearl and Cleanness, also show the extension of <i>: feryed p ptc. In fact a plethora of MED quotations show a similar extension of <i>: Doomsday 1275 [h]iheriet, SLeg.Prol.CV 1280 yheried, Spec.Guy 1300 heriede, I-hereþ nv one 1300 heryeden iheried, 1335 heriy`eden, Ichot 1350 yheryed, MPPsalter 1350 herieden, Nou skrynkeþ 1350 heried. Moreover, the MED lists the two verbs under the headwords ferien and herien. All this does suggest that the levelling process we see in these two verbs in Ch and ModE, was underway in eME.

Note that the optional grammar retains stem alternation for both verbs, like so: herien herie herest heret` herien pr, herie herien sbj, here heriet` imp, heriende pr ptc, herede hereden pt ihered p ptc.

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assimilation of preterite forms in class 4 and class 5 strong verbs

The vowel of the preterite plural in OE class 4 and class 5 strong verb was a long version of its preterite sg1/3 counterpart. The vowel pairs were either <ae_> vs <ae> or <e_a> vs <ea>. (See the OE table below.) Where this distinction survives in eME, the difference becomes qualitative - <ae> /E`:/ vs <a> /a/. At the same time, these distinct vowel sounds are being merged.

This process is already evident in PC2: OE g`ae_fon, bae_ron, drae_pon, stae_lon > PC2 iafen/iauen, baren, drapen, stalen. However, there are counter-examples in PC2 - eten, undergaeton, braecon (note - the last is most likely subjunctive), in Orm - saey%h`enn (saw), and in Lmn - y`efven. Since support for this assimilation pattern isn't attested in Orm and is mixed even in Ch - beden/bade, beren/baren, ete(n), gatt, sete(n)/sate, speeke(n)/spake(n), yeve/yave(n), broke, the preterite forms of class 4 and class 5 strong verbs merge in the core eME grammar but diverge in the optional grammar.

In other words, the 2nd person singular and plural forms have a different stem vowel from that of the 1st and 3rd person singular forms - ae vs a in the optional grammar. In the core grammar, both preterite forms have the stem vowel a.

The process of assimilation can be followed in this series of tables:

class infinitive past sg1/3 past pl past part.
4 stelan stael stae_lon g`estolen
5 g`iefan g`eaf g`e_afon g`eg`efen
eME (optional)
class infinitive past sg1/3 past pl past part.
4 stelen stal staelen istolen
5 y%efen y%af y%aefen iy%efen
eME (core)
class infinitive past sg1/3 past pl past part.
4 stelen stal stalen istolen
5 y%efen y%af y%afen iy%efen
class infinitive past sg1/3 past pl past part.
4 steal stole stole stolen
5 give gave gave given

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  1. with two exceptions - ferien and herien (see last section above)
  2. also - OE byc`g`an > Ch byen
  3. Ch has leye as well as leggen
  4. Clark Hall 2 indicates that (g`e)t`e_on belongs to both class 1 and class 3. The Wiktionary page on t`e_on indicates class 3 above its conjugation, and gives the etymology as: "From an earlier (unattested) form *þīhan, from Proto-Germanic *þinhaną, from Proto-Indo-European *tenk-. Cognate with Old Saxon thīhan, Old Dutch thīon (Dutch gedijen), Old High German dīhan (German gedeihen), Gothic 𐌸𐌴𐌹𐌷𐌰𐌽 (þeihan)." The present tense forms are shown as: t`ig`e t`i_st t`i_ht` t`i_g t`i_gat`. The past tense forms are shown as: t`a_h t`ugon g`et`ogen/t`ig`en. The Wiktionary page on Proto-Germanic *þinhaną, tells us that the verb is strong class 3 and that "After -inh- had become -į̄h-, this verb was shifted to the first strong class by analogy in most daughter languages, but not in Old English. Old English also shows a secondary formation with leveling of Verner's alternation, probably back-formed to the lexicalized original past participle ġeþungen (grown, thrived)." Apparently this Wiktionary information is taken from Kroonen, Guus (2013) Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Germanic (Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series; 11), Leiden, Boston: Brill. The Cambridge Old English Reader 5 lists g`et`e_on in its glossary with the indication "I/II", i.e. strong classes 1 and 2. Back to t`e_on »
  5. <h> is found between vowels in AW but represents /G``/
  6. conceivably levelling could have been via <hh> (/x/), since the <h> of the 2nd and 3rd person forms precedes a consonant, and in that context is pronounced /x/ rather than /h/; cp hliehhan, pohhe
  7. Bosworth-Toller lists four different p ptc forms for t`we_an - t`wagen, t`waeg`en, t`wegen, t`wogen near the top of the article; however, of these only g`et`wegen can be found in the examples themselves;
  8. wri__gen s1 (wrap, cover) has a near homonym in wriy%en w intr (turn, twist, bend); note that while Clark Hall has wri_gian Bosworth-Toller lists the latter as wrigian and it may have been wrig`ian (> ModE wry); similar near homonyms are liy%en s5 (lie)/adj (flaming), t`iy%en (t`icy%en) w (thrive), tey%en w (tie), fe__gen (fe__n) w (hate, persecute)
  9. pr sg2/3 forms with <h> prevent some confusion, for example - te__ht` pr sg3 (draws) vs te__t` n pl (teeth)
  10. PM leged` probably represents /lei@`T``/ since in PM /dZ`/ is generally spelt <gg>, e.g. buggen seggen, and intervocalic <y`> usually stands for /G``/, e.g. fuy`eles, ay`en
  11. bi(y`)en is not found in the MED prior to 1300; early instances include: 1300 beye, 1325 bij, 1330 bien, 1372 byy`e, 1378 bie, 1390 byen, Ch bye (all inf)
  12. Orm has friy%y%en and Hav (1300) has frie, but both in the sence of taunt, find fault rather than ask; see MED frien which gives the source as ON fryja (question, taunt, find fault)
  13. cp ModE bury buries buried; birg`an w1 > Orm birry%enn, but is treated like a class II weak verb at times: Lmn burede, ibured, bibured and 1300 burede, i-bured, alongside PC2 bebyried, Lmn biburiyede and AW iburiet; Ch has buryen inf burieth pr sg3 yburyed p ptc
  14. three verbs or one? Clark Hallref 1 lists separately fremman 'to further, advance, support; frame, make, do, accomplish, perfect, perpetrate, commit, afford', fremian 'to avail, benefit, do good' and framian 'to avail, benefit'; the sense of 'perform' is evident in OE fremman (Bosworth-Toller ref 4); the MED distinguishes fremen 'aid, advance, benefit', framen 'benefit, profit' and fremmen 'perform, accomplish'; TH 1200 fremen (listed under MED fremmen) has the sense 'perform, accomplish'; in Shakespeare frame has the sense 'execute, perform': All have sworn him an oath that they should frame his will on earth; some users may prefer to separate framen avail, benefit from fremen perform, accomplish;
  15. similar OE class II weak verbs are fe_og`an (fe_on) fre_og`an (fre_on) twe_og`an (twe_on) t`re_ag`an (t`re_an);
  16. if Orm had an instance of fremmenn, the <mm> would indicate a doubled consonant (rather than a short vowel) since Orm only used the doubling of a consonant after a short vowel in a closed syllable which was final or preceded a syllable starting with a consonant, e.g. godd, follgenn; cp Orm witenn pt pl in which the <i> is short, but doesn't trigger a doubling of <t> because the following syllable starts with a vowel;
  17. for wec`g`an CH gives 'move, agitate, drive hither and thither; be moved' while BT has 'wag, move, shake'; for wagian CH gives 'move, shake, swing; totter', while BT has 'wag, wave, shake, move backwards and forwards; totter; be loose'; Wikt. has conflicting etymologies: ModE wedge secure using a wedge; drive into a narrow gap < OE wec`g`an move, agitate, drive hither and thither and OE wec`g` wedge, mass of metal, lump; note the significant difference in meaning between the two OE sources; it seems that OE wec`g`an and wagian were variants descended from one PG verb *wagjaną, and initially covered a related set of meanings but gradually diverged and specialised to produce ME wedge and wag; that differentiation is already evident in ME;
  18. related to OE tredan v s5 tr/intr traed trae_don pt g`etreden p ptc - tread, step on, trample; traverse, roam through; treddan v w - tread on, trample; investigate; treddian (tryddian) v w - tread, step, walk > Orm tred~enn ~edd p ptc, Ch treden tret(et`) trede(n) pr trad pt sg3 treden p ptc, VH traeden pt pl; cp atredan v s5 - extract, extort; atreddan v w - search out, investigate
  19. hogian < PG *hugōną (think about, consider) rel MLG/MDu/MHG hogen, ON huga; hyc`g`an < PG *hugjaną (think, consider) rel OS huggian, OHG huggen, ON hyggja; Wikt re *hugōną: "Many descendants became conflated with the descendants of PG *hugjaną"; Wikt re hyc`g`an: "These are the normal forms in Early West Saxon. In the other dialects and Late West Saxon, it was often inflected as a weak class II verb hogian"; rel Scots huik (regard, pay attention to); Bosworth-Toller 4 has two examples of hyc`g`et` pr sg3 where we would expect hyg`t`; cp hyg`e (thought, mind, intention) with it's numerous derivations, which becomes eME hiy%e (MED hie)
  20. Gemination can still be observed in the ModE reflexes. This may not be evident at first glance in verbs like sit but whenever the stem is followed by a vowel we see the doubling, e.g. in sitting and sitter. This is also true for reflexes of some verbs in the fremen group, e.g.wag wagging
  1. Clark Hall J.R., A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, 4th edn (Cambridge, 1960)
  2. Clark Hall ibid.
  3. Wright, Joseph & Wright, Elizabeth Mary, Old English Grammar, London : H. Milford, Oxford University Press, 1914, pp. 255
  4. Bosworth, Joseph. "se_on." In An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary Online, edited by Thomas Northcote Toller, Christ Sean, and Ondřej Tichy. Prague: Faculty of Arts, Charles University, 2014.
  5. Richard Marsden, Cambridge University Press, 2004
  6. Clark Hall op. cit. p. 364
  7. Bosworth, op. cit. "wre_on"
  8. Bosworth, ibid. "t`we_an"
  9. Bosworth, ibid. "wrigian"
  10. Clark Hall op. cit. p. 364
  11. Wright op. cit. pp. 267-9
  12. Clark Hall op. cit.
  13. Bosworth, op. cit.
  14. Wright op. cit. p. 63
  15. Smith C.A., Old English Grammar And Exercise Book, New edn, Allyn and Bacon (Boston and Chicago, 1903)
  16. Wright op. cit. p. 44
  17. Bosworth, op. cit. "biddan"
  18. Wright op. cit. p. 274 §534