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Early Middle English for today

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Pronouns & Demonstratives

At a glance

The key differences between Early Middle English (eME) and Modern English (ModE):

  1. the third person plural pronouns are hi_ hem here (ModE they them their);
  2. there are separate second person singular pronouns - t`u_ t`e_ t`i_n (dialectal/archaic ModE thou thee thy/thine);
  3. there is a separate nominative form for the second person plural pronoun - y`e_ (archaic ModE ye);
  4. the genitive form of it is his (ModE its);
  5. the plural form of t`at is t`a_ (ModE those);
  6. the plural form of t`is is t`ise (ModE these);

pronouns

eME pronouns are close in form to the ModE pronouns. The notable exceptions are the third person plural forms.

There are other differences however. ModE does not distinguish between the singular and plural in second person pronouns. you is used for both. eME had separate forms for the singular. eME also had a separate second person plural form in the nominative. These forms survived to early ModE as thou, thee, thy, ye and still exist in certain dialects. They are familiar to many more through Shakespeare and the King James Bible. Finally there is the possessive form for it. its didn't appear until the end of the 16th century.

These key differences are highlighted below in yellow:

pronouns in eME and ModE
eME ModE
nom acc/dat gen nom acc/dat gen
1 sg ic me_ mi_n I me my/mine
2 sg t`u_ t`e_ t`i_n thou thee thy/thine
3 sg he_ him his he him his
3 sg sce_ hire hire she her her(s)
3 sg it it his it it its
1 pl we_ u_s u_re we us our(s)
2 pl y`e_ y`ow y`owre you (ye) you your(s)
3 pl hi_ hem here they them their(s)

about case - nominate, accusative, genitive and dative

Pronouns were used the same way in eME as they are in ModE. Most ModE pronouns have two separate forms - I/me, he/him, she/her, we/us, they/them. The first form in each of these pairs is known as the nominative. This is the form used when the pronoun is the subject of the verb, e.g. - I see the traitor. Here I is the subject of the verb.

The second form in each of the pairs above is known as the accusative. This is the form used when the pronoun is the object of the verb, e.g. - the traitor sees me. Here me is the object of the verb. Note the change in form - I to me

eME pronouns have two separate forms as well. In fact each eME pronoun has two forms. That is not the case for all ModE pronouns. ModE has you for both the subject and the object of the verb - you see the traitor and the traitor sees you, whereas eME has y`e_ se_n t`e swike and t`e swike se_t` y`ow.

NB - in eME, as in ModE, there is no separate form for pronouns in the dative case, i.e. - the indirect object. This is the form which follows prepositions, e.g. - to me, with him, after her etc. The same applies in eME: to_ me_, mid him, after hire etc. The indirect object form (dative) is the same as the direct object form (accusative).

The possessive forms - my, his, her, our, your, their are also known as the genitive. In ModE these forms differ slightly depending on context, i.e. whether they qualify a noun or stand alone. For example, that is my dog contrasts with that dog is mine. In eME on the other hand, there is only one form for both contexts, e.g. t`at is mi_n hund 1 and t`at hu_nd is mi_n.

demonstratives

The key differences are highlighted in yellow:

eME ModE
sg pl sg pl
prox t`is t`ise this these
dist t`at t`a_ that those
  1. occasionally the final n of the genitive may drop before a noun beginning with certain consonants in eME