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alternative approaches to contracted verbs

now superseded by the application of principles 3 & 4

The changes in eME verb paradigms, from their OE WS predecessors, can be summarised in these seven points:

  1. the OE infinitive ending ~(i)an becomes ~en;
  2. the OE present tense plural ending ~(i)at` becomes ~en;
  3. weak classes are reduced to one;
  4. in weak verbs, in the present tense, the 1st person and plural forms are assimilated to the 2nd and 3rd person singular forms;
  5. in strong verbs, in the present tense, the 2nd and 3rd person singular forms, assume the vowel of the 1st person and plural forms;
  6. in strong contracted verbs, the final consonant of the past participle stem, either <g> (G``) or <y%> (j) or <ng>, is extended throughout the infinitive and present tense stems; in classes 1, 6 and 7, the infinitive and present tense forms assume the standard present tense vowel of the respective class;
  7. in the preterite of strong classes 4 and 5, the plural form assimilates to the 1st & 3rd person singular form.

OE contracted verbs are those strong verbs which once had an <h> in the infinitive form, in Primitive Old English, but which had lost this by the 8th century, the era of our earliest surviving records of the written language. That <h> survived in the 3rd person singular preterite form, right up to Chaucer's time. These "h-less" infinitives can be found in 5 different strong classes as well as 1 weak class:

the most recent scheme - retention of <h>

The following section describes a particular scheme which is now superseded. This scheme was the latest of those proposed prior to the application of principles 3 & 4. Also included are background notes for this scheme. The end of the description of this scheme is indicated with '##'.

assimilation of present tense forms

Assimilation in contracted verbs, entails the following:

In the core grammar, assimilation in strong contracted verbs, entails the following:

In the optional grammar, assimilation in strong contracted verbs, entails the following:

As stated above and at basic principles, my goal is to simplify verb paradigms within a related group of eME verbs, wherever a levelling pattern is evident in pre-1250 MED sources. With that in mind, the options for dealing with strong contracted verbs in eME are the following:

  1. drop the <h> from all 2nd and 3rd person present tense forms;
  2. restore the dropped <h> to the 1st person and plural present tense forms, as well as the infinitive;
  3. add <g> to the end of the stem in the infinitive and all present tense forms, replacing <h> in the 2nd and 3rd person forms;

Bear in mind that /h/ ceased to be pronounced between vowels in OE before the surviving texts were written down. As a result, in the present tense of contracted verbs <h> only survived in the 2nd and 3rd person forms, where it immediately preceded <st> and <t`> respectively. In later OE and increasingly in eME, that <h> was occasionally restored to an infinitive or 1st person singular or plural form, but as <g>, since /h/ no longer occurred in that environment. Hence pOE *wrihan > OE se_on, wre_on and also si_gan, wri_ga(n). We see a similar restoration in Orm heh hey%h%e pl where OE had heah he_a m/f nom pl. <h> (/h/) and <g> (/G``/ or /J``/) were often co-dependent sounds and spellings, one substituting for the other depending on context. Consider for example the preterites slo_h slo_gon. So when I talk below about restoring <h> throughout the present tense paradigm of an eME reflex of an OE contracted verb, that <h> will be <g> between vowels. Note that this restoration of <h> could also be seen as an extension of <g> (or <ng>) from the preterite and past participle forms to the present tense.

The verbs affected are OE le_on si_gan/se_on te_on t`e_on wre_on (wri_ga) s1, fle_on te_on s2, g`efe_on se_on s5, fle_an sle_an thwe_an s6, fo_n ho_n s7, sme_agan (sme_an) w:

li_hen s1
to lend, grant
OE le_on inf 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_hen v s1 inf.
OS far-li_han, OHG li_han, Goth leihwan
ti_hen s1
to accuse
OE te_on/ti_on inf ty_hst ti_ht` te_ot` pr te_o sbj pr sg te_ah tugon pt tuge sbj pt sg tygen pt pl;
MED te_n (tegen/teo) inf tyxste pr sg2 tiy%th pr sg3;
Note - the form tyxste is from 1450; the infinitive with <g> is from 1250; in OE this verb seems to have largely shifted to the conjugation of te_on s2 from te_ohan
OS af-ti_han, OHG zi_han, Goth teihan
t`i_hen s1
to thrive, flourish, prosper
OE t`e_on inf 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 (thein) inf d`ihd` pr sg3; Ch then inf theech pr sg1; TH t`ied` pr sg3;
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 class-hopping strong verbs. The normalised eME in this site uses only class 1 forms with t`i_hen.
wri_hen s1
to wrap, cover
OE wre_on (wri_gan) inf wre_o wri_hst wri_gd` pr sg wre_od` pr pl wre_ah (a_) wrigon pt g`ewrigen p ptc;
Lmn wriy%en inf, AW wrihen inf wrihed` pr pl; MED wri_en (wriy%en wrihen) inf wrieth writh wriy%th wrihd` pr sg3 wreth pr pl;
OHG int-ri_han
fle_hen s2
to flee
OE fle_on (fli_on) inf 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 flogen p ptc
Orm fle_(o)n inf fleot` pr sg3 Lmn fle_on inf flict` pr sg3 MED fle_n (fleiy%en/fliy%e/flie) inf fle_nde/fleonde pr ptc fle_th/fleith/fliy%t/vliy%t`/fli_t` pr sg3 flē/fleo/fli_y%/fli_h imp sg fle_/fleo/flei/fli_y%e/fli_e sbj sg
OS fliohan, OHG fliuhan, Goth t`liuhan
te_hen s2
to draw, tow, tug; draw near, approach
OE te_on inf te_o ty_hst tieht` (ti_ht`/te_ht`) te_ot` pr te_oh imp sg te_onde pr ptc te_ah tugon pt g`etogen p ptc
Lmn teon inf tid` pr sg3, AW teon inf teod` pr pl, Owl tiht` pr sg3 teo pr sbj sg, MED te_n (tegh) inf te_d`/tihd` pr sg3 tgen pr pl togen p ptc
OS tiohan, OHG ziohan, Goth tiuhan
(i)fehen s5
to rejoice
OE (g`e)fe_on inf fe_ogad` pr pl feah fae_gon pt (g`e)fegen/faegen p ptc
not found in MED
sehen s5
to see
OE se_on inf se_o siehst sieht` (si_t`) se_od` (si_ot`) pr seh (i/io) imp sg seah sa_won/sae_gon pt sewen/seg`en/segen p ptc
Orm sen (eo) seo sest (eo) set` (eo) pr seo sbj pr sg, Lmn sehste pr sg2, Owl iso(n) inf iso pr sg1 sichst pr sg2 sut` pr sg3 so sbj pr sg sewi imp sg, PC1 sed` (eo) pr sg3, MED se_n (seiy%en/sey%e) inf se_/se_ghe pr sg1 se_xt/sixt/sikst/sicst/sixst/sichst pr sg2 se_th/se_y%t/sihd`/sicd`/sikt`/siy%th pr sg3 se_n/se_th/zyey%/soey% pr pl
OS sehan, OHG sehan, Goth saihwan
flahen s6
to flay
OE fle_an inf *flo_h *flo_gon pt be-flagen p ptc
Lmn flan (flean) inf, StJ flea sbj pr sg, StM flo inf, MED flen (flein) inf flay%st pr sg2 fle_th/fleis pr sg3
ON fla_, MDu vla`en vla`eghen, ProtoG *flahana
slahen s6
to slay, strike
OE (g`e)sle_an (sla_n) inf slehst (sle_s) pr sg2 slieht`/slae_ht`/sle_t` (i/y) pr sg3 sleah imp sg sle_ande pr ptc slo_h slo_gon pt g`eslaeg`en/slagen p ptc
Orm slaen/slan inf slast pr sg2 slaet`/slat` pr sg3, Lmn slaen inf slaed` pr sg3, AW to sleanne inf dat slead` pr sg3, SO slo inf, Ch slee(n) inf, MED sle_n (slay%en/slay%e) inf sle_st/slecst/slas/scalst pr sg2 sle_th/slekth/slay%th/sslay%t/sleihd` pr sg3 sleen/sleiy%/sley%th/slehth/slexth/slage pr pl
ON sla_, OS/OHG/Goth slahan
t`wahen s6
to wash, cleanse
OE t`we_an inf 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 g`et`wagen/t`waeg`en (e/o) p ptc
MED thwen inf t`weh imp sg d`weah pt sg3 it`wey%en p ptc
ON t`va_, OS thwahan, OHG dwahan, Goth t`wahan
fangen s6
to seize, grasp
OE fo_n inf 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 g`efangen/fongen p ptc
Orm fon (on)fanngenn inf fot` pr sg3, Lmn (i)fon inf, AW underued` pr sg3, Owl ifot` pr sg3 fo on pr pl sbj, PH3 foangen inf, Ch fonge inf, MED fo_n/fongen (fangen) inf fo_th/fo_ht`/fe_t`/fongeth/fanges/fengeth pr sg3
ON fa__/fanga, OS fahan/fangan, OHG fa__han, Goth fahan
hangen s6
to hang
OE ho_n inf ho_t` pr pl ho_h imp sg he_ng he_ngon pt hangen p ptc
Lmn hon inf hangest pr sg2, AW hon/hongin inf honged` pr sg3 hongi sbj pr sg2, Owl hongi inf hot` pr sg3, SO honget` pr sg3, Ch honge inf, MED hongen (ho_n) inf hongeth pr sg3
ON hanga, OHG hahan, Goth hahan

regularisation of strong contracted verbs in ME

In the verbs listed above, there are ten examples of an <h> (or <g>) restored to the infinitive, eight cases of <h> (or <g>) restored to plural present tense forms and one case of an <h> (<gh>) restored to a 1st person present tense form:

OE wrigan inf t`i_gat` fe_ogad` pr pl; MED 1250 tegen AW wrihen, Lmn wriy%en, 1400 fleiy%en/fliy%e, 1400tegh, 1300 seiy%en/sey%e, slay%en inf, Lmn sey%e, se_ghe pr sg1, 1250 tgen, 1175 BH sey%en, sleiy%/sley%th/slehth/slexth/slage pr pl

At the same time, we can see examples of the <h> dropped in 2nd and 3rd person present tense forms in OE. We also see that it is common for the <h> to be retained in 2nd and 3rd person present tense forms in ME.

Significantly, there are ten examples of the present tense stem vowel reverting to <a> in class 6 contracted verbs - flay%st slan/slo scalst/slast/slas slay%t`/sslay%t/slat` slage, four of which are in combination with <h> (or <g>). Restoration of <ng> to the infinitive and present tense forms is common in the class 7 verbs fangen hangen.

All of this leads us to three competing schemes for present tense forms in contracted strong verbs:

a scheme for present tense forms based on standard OE forms

  • s1 eME wre_n inf, wre_ wri_hst wri_ht` wre_n pr, wra_h wrigen iwrigen
  • s2 eME te_n inf, te_ te_hst te_ht` te_n pr, tae_h tugen itogen
  • s5 eME se_n inf, se_ sehst seht` se_n pr, sah sae_gen isegen
  • s6 eME slae_n inf, slae_ slehst sleht` slae_n pr, slo_h slo_gen islagen
  • s7 eME fo_n inf, fo_ fehst feht` fo_n pr, fe_ng fe_ngen ifangen
  • w2 eME smae_gen inf, smae_ge smae_gest smae_get` smae_gen pr, smae_de smae_den ismae_d

a scheme for present tense forms based on patterns evident in PC2/Orm

The relevant Orm forms recorded in the MED are: sen sest set` slan/slaen slast slat`/slaet` fon fot`

  • s1 eME wre_n inf, wre_ wre_st wre_t` wre_n pr, wra_h wrigen iwrigen
  • s2 eME te_n inf, te_ te_st te_t` te_n pr, tae_h tugen itogen
  • s5 eME se_n inf, se_ se_st se_t` se_n pr, sah sae_gen isegen
  • s6 eME sla_n (slae_n) inf, sla_ sla_st sla_t` sla_n (slae_ slae_st slae_t` slae_n) pr, slo_h slo_gen islagen
  • s7 eME fo_n inf, fo_ fo_st fo_t` fo_n pr, fe_ng fe_ngen ifangen
  • w2 eME smae_gen inf, smae_ge smae_gest smae_get` smae_gen pr, smae_gede smae_geden ismae_ged

a scheme for present tense forms based on regularisation patterns evident in MED

Key MED forms which indicate restoration of <h> (or <g>) to the infinitive and 1st person and plural present tense forms are AW wrihen, Lmn wriy%en, MED tegen: TODO

  • s1 eME wri_hen inf, wri_he wri_hst wri_ht` wri_hen pr, wra_h wrigen iwrigen
  • s2 eME te_hen inf, te_he te_hst te_ht` te_hen pr, tae_h tugen itogen
  • s5 eME sehen inf, sehe sehst seht` sehen pr, sah sae_gen isegen
  • s6 eME slahen inf, slahe slahst slaht` slahen pr, slo_h slo_gen islagen
  • s7 eME fangen inf, fange fangst fangt` fangen pr, fe_ng fe_ngen ifangen
  • w2 eME smae_gen inf, smae_ge smae_gest smae_get` smae_gen pr, smae_gede smae_geden ismae_ged

Suggested scheme for the conjugation of OE contracted verbs in eME:

Levelling of a verb paradigm is good but levelling which reinstates the <h> is better because it regularises the conjugation, i.e. - brings it into line with the standard pattern, and thus removes both an impediment to the learner and an obstacle for the more experienced user.

So I'm interested not only in Orm/PC2 and ModE forms, but also levelling tendencies and/or regularisation indicated by any pre 1300 MED sources.

Regularisation trumps Orm/PC2. But Orm/PC2 plus ModE (with levelling) trumps regularisation. Given that, my preferred scheme is the following:

  • s1 eME wri_hen (wre_n) inf, wri_he wri_hst wri_ht` wri_hen (wre_ wre_st wre_t` wre_n) pr, wra_h wrigen iwrigen
  • s2 eME te_hen (te_n) inf, te_he te_hst te_ht` te_hen (te_ te_st te_t` te_n) pr, tae_h tugen itogen
  • s5 eME se_n (sehen) inf, se_ se_st se_t` se_n (sehe sehst seht` sehen) pr, sah sae_gen isegen
  • s6 eME slae_n (slahen) inf, slae_ slae_st slae_t` slae_n (slahe slahst slaht` slahen) pr, slo_h slo_gen islagen
  • s7 eME fangen (fo_n) inf, fange fangst fangt` fangen (fo_ fo_st fo_t` fo_n) pr, fe_ng fe_ngen ifangen
  • w2 eME smae_gen inf, smae_ge smae_gest smae_get` smae_gen pr, smae_gede smae_geden ismae_ged

Four of the thirteen contracted verbs listed above have survived to ModE without <h> - fle_n se_n flae_n slae_n. These are the same four verbs for which I prefer the <h>-less forms in eME. That said, flae_n and slae_n are a special case. For a start, there are no recorded forms of flae_n in PC2 or Orm. Then there's the fact that Orm's forms slan slast slat` support the restored <a> vowel in slahen slahst slaht`. With that in mind, some users may prefer forms with <h> in all cases except fle_n and se_n. On a separate note, forms with <h> may prevent confusion, for example - te_ht` pr sg3 (draws) vs te_t` n pl (teeth).

The final choice regarding OE strong contracted verbs in eME, is left to the user.

## End of the latest scheme proposed prior to the application of principles 3 & 4. ##

4 options for dealing with these "h-less" verbs in eME:

These options preceded the approach outlined in the section above.

The question that needs to be asked at this point is this: "Does any of this complexity or inconsistency disappear in eME? In other words - is a pattern of simplifation evident in the eME sources?"

Before we even look at the eME sources to answer that question, it might be an interesting exercise to speculate on some possible paths of development that these contracted verbs might follow in eME, and then compare the forms that arise form that exercise with real eME forms. Here then are four possible paths of development. Note that in each option we would proceed as we do with any other lexical item - each form within a conjugation would be based on the coresponding standard OE form, but additional eME forms would be permitted, if supported by either Orm or PC2 and at least one other eME source:

  1. no regularisation: no pattern of simplification is evident in eME sources; the eME forms are inherited directly from OE, and thus reflect all inconsistencies and deviations from the common pattern of the class to which the verb belongs;
  2. maximum regularisation with 'h': 'h' has lingered in variant forms, perhaps in certain dialects, often in related adjectives and/or nouns, and in the case of the strong verbs - in the 2nd and 3rd person singular foms; eME forms tend to extend this 'h' by anlaogy, to the remaining present tense forms and the infinitve; vowel differences are also smoothed over; so we adapt all infinitive and present tense forms to the normal pattern of their respective verb classes and restore the pOE <h>;
  3. maximum regularisation with 'g': as above, except that 'h' between vowels regularly becomes 'g' in eME; so, we adapt all infinitive and present tense forms to the normal pattern of their respective verb classes and insert a <g> between vowels, where pOE had <h>;
  4. minimum regularisation: adapt all infinitive and present tense forms to the normal vowel pattern of their respective verb classes, but leave out the pOE <h>.

An illustration of the 4 options, for each class:

Weighing up the options

The bottom line is this - in practice, none of the options above is entirely satisfactory. Options 1 and 4, are preferable since they produce results which are closest to actual eME forms. What is noticeable in the actual eME forms is that a simplification did occur but not quite in the direction indicated by the options above. <h> wasn't reinstated (nor <g> in its place) but there was an assimilation of vowels in the 2nd and 3rd person singular to the vowel of the 1st person singular and the infinitive. This vowel however wasn't necessarily the vowel of the predominant pattern within the class concerned. So for example, Orm has fo_t` where OE had fo_ and fe_ht`, but the option 4 form *fa_t` is not attested.

Once eME spelling is applied to the OE forms in the list above, the strong classes 1 and 7 are the only ones in which there is a clear departure from the normal vowel pattern of that class. With respect to class 1, most secondary eME sources support option 4 wri_en rather than option 1 wre_n. However a strict reading of the principles laid down for extracting eME, would disallow wri_en, since a similar form cannot be found in either Orm or PC2. And for class 7, Option 4 would give fa_n which has little if any support in secondary eME sources. Option 1 fo_n on the other hand, is well supported in eME, Orm included.

On reflection, the best way to proceed, the way which produces the forms most likely to have prevailed in the East Midlands circa 1200, is to adopt a mixed approach which borrows from both Options 1 and 4, as follows:

The benefits of this approach are as follows:

Preferred option

Concluding remarks:

Background notes on fo_n/fangen and ho_n/hangen (now superseded):

Orm and Lmn have fon while PH3 has foangen and Ch has fonge. Orm has fot` and Owl ifot` pr sg3. The fact that both Piers and Gaw have fangen in the infinitive indicates that this form probably coexisted in the eME period with fo_n and prevailed after 1300.

MED records the following forms: fon (v.) Also i-fon, von; foth, foht`, fet`; ipv. fo, y`efoh; p. feng, fing, fong, fang; ppl. i-)fonge(n, fangen, i-)fon

It's interesting to compare the forms in related languages: O. Sax. fa__han, fangan : Frs. fean, fangen: O. Frs. fa : Dut. vangen, vaau: Ger. fangen, fahen: M. H. Ger. váhen: O. H. Ger fa__nan: Goth. fanan : Dan. faa, faae: Swed, fa, fanga: Icel. fa__, fanga : Lat. pangore to fasten

ho_n/hangen forms in our eME sources are: Lmn hon inf heng pt sg3, Orm heng pt sg3, Owl hot` pr sg3, StJ hon inf, SO henge pt sg3, Ch he(e)ng pt sg3

The evidence for fangen and hangen as ME reflexes of the OE infinitives ho_n and fo_n, is strong enough to warrant their inclusion in eME, alongside ho_n and fo_n. However the evidence for present tense forms following the "expanded" pattern - fangen and hangen, is patchy. Ch has hongeth/hangeth, probably influened by the ON hengja, but there are no recorded instances of the present tense forms *fang~e *~est *~et` *~en prior to 1300. On the other hand, contracted present tense forms show up in both Orm - fot` and Owl - ifot`. Consequently, eME presents the contracted forms in bold (i.e. as the pre-eminent or default forms), with the "expanded" forms in brackets.

weak "contracted" verbs

The following approach was abandoned when I realised that OE class 2 verbs in which the stem ends in a vowel, e.g. sme_ag`an, fre_og`an, behave no differently to their class II colleagues such as leornian. The only difference is that the <i> of the latter appears as <g(e)> in the former.

assimilation in weak contracted verbs

In both the core grammar and the optional grammar, assimilation of present tense forms in weak contracted verbs, entails the following:

Further notes (now superseded)

changes to verb paradigms OE > eME