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sentence, and by an influx of new constructions. There was also some alteration in the pronunciation of words, arising partly from the change in the sound of some letters, and the introduction of new sounds, as j and ch, and partly from a shifting of accent and emphasis.
In the Anglo-Saxon there was a complete declension of the noun, pronoun, article, and adjective. The adjective especially had several forms, according to its various uses, as definite or indefinite. We find all this now gone except only the possessive and plural ending in the noun, and the objective case in the pronoun. In the verb, the only inflections retained are those of the second and third persons singular, and of course the preterit and participle endings. The origin of these changes in the verb is ingeniously and plausibly set forth in a note by the author, and we give it in his own language:
"The origin of changes in inflection can very seldom be traced, because they originate in popular speech, and are not adopted by the written tongue until the mode and occasion of their introduction is forgotten; but in cases where the native has been brought into contact with a foreign language, we can often see how a new tendency might have been created, or an existing one strengthened, towards a revolution in a particular direction. Let us take the case of the old verbal plural in -en. The Anglo-Saxon plural indicative present, as we have already seen, ended in th, so that instead of we love, or we loven, the Saxons said we lufiath, with the same consonantal ending as in the singular, he lu f-ath. The past tense of the indicative, as we luf-odon, we loved, and of both tenses of the subjunctive, as we luf-ion, that we may love, we luf-odon, that we might love, always ended in -on. But though the present indicative plural of all regular verbs ending in th, all the semi-auxiliaries, except willan, to will, made the plural in on, and the Anglo-Saxons said we willath, we will, but, at the same time, we scealon, we magon, we cunnon, we moton, for we shall, we may, we can, we must.
"The Norman-French, like modern French, made the first person plural, in all cases, in ons-the s being probably silent as it now is--and said no us aimons, we love. This termination, though a nasal, bore a considerable resemblance to the Saxan plural in on. There was, then, a common point in which the two languages concurred. The Frenchman could not pronounce the th, and as the two nations had agreed to adopt s, the nearest approximation a Norman could make to the sound of th, as the sign of the third person singular of the verb, it was very natural that they should employ the sign on, which was common to both, as the sign of the plural.
"The Saxon ending on was not accented, and the vowel was probably somewhat obscurely articulated, like the e, in the modern termination en, in the verb harden and others of that ending. These circumstances tend to explain why we find the plural of the indicative present in the Ormulum with the ending in en
instead of th. This soon became the regular form in English, and this was the first step of progress to the modern dialect, in which we have dropped the plural ending altogether, giving it, in all the persons, the same form as the first person singular. Thus we say, I love, and we love, you love, they love, while early English writers said, I love, but we loven, you liven, whey loven.
In modern French, and there is every reason to beat we in Old NormanFrench also, the three persons of the singular and the third person of the plural of the verb, though the latter has an additional syllable in writing, are pronounced alike, the terminal syllable being silent in speech; for the plural aument is pronounced aime, just like the singular, aime. Of the six persons, singular anta plural, the French pronounce four alike, rejecting the plural ending ent altogether, and this fact probably contributed to facilitate the dropping of the New English plural ending in en, which did not long remain in use."
The structure of an English sentence has a much closer resemblance to that of a French than of an Anglo-Saxon one. A comparison of the same sentence in Anglo-Saxon, German, English, and French, will show at once the difference.
"Thâ he restedagum thurh äceras eóde.
Als er am Sabbat durch die Felder ging.
As he went through the fields on the Sabbath day.
"That thu thaer nåne myrthe ne häfdest.
Dass du keine Freude davon hättest.
That thou hadst no pleasure thereof.
The phraseology of legal documents is an example which may be adduced of changes in construction. Here we find the effects of French influence to a greater extent than in our ordinary language. The qualifying words, both adverbs and adverbial phrases, as also the objective pronoun, precede the verb. The adjective is frequently placed after the noun to which it belongs. This is not only the case where the old forms of the Common Law, which were originally translated from the Norman, are followed, but also where they have been abolished; and even acts of legislature are couched in the same traditional dialect. Here is an example from Chitty:
"And for the due performance of the said agreement, each of the said parties did bind himself, well and truly to observe and perform all the agreements therein mentioned, and in default of any one article, well and truly to pay such penalty, forfeiture, sum, and sums of money, to the other, as in and by said agreement as
mentioned to be paid, as by the said articles of agreement, reference being thereunto had, will more fully and at large appear.
"So by him made.'
"At all times peaceably and quietly to have, hold, &c.'"
The use of the participle and noun absolute, corresponding to the Latin ablative absolute, is also to be noticed as being Thus, "living the father," "pending the suit." The words pending and during, which now have the effect of prepositions, were originally participles absolute, and they were both introduced into the language from the law.
The time while these changes were going on, is what is called the Semi-Saxon period. The language here seems to be falling to pieces, and no rules appear to govern. After this reconstruction begins, and the language becomes distinctively English.
"The language thus far was substantially Anglo-Saxon, but modified in its periodic structure, and stripped of a certain number of inflections, the loss of which was compensated by newly developed auxiliaries, and by a more liberal use of particles and determinatives. Philologists have found it impossible to fix, on linguistic grounds, a period when Anglo-Saxon can be said to have ceased and English to have begun; and this is one of the reasons why some are disposed to deny that any such metamorphosis ever took place, and to maintain the identity of the old speech and the new. The change from the one to the other was so gradual, that if we take any quarter, or even half of a century, it is not easy to point out any marked characteristic difference between the general language of the beginning and the end of it, though particular manuscripts of the same work, differing not very much in date, sometimes exhibit dialects in very different states of resolution and reconstruction."
The two great works of this period are Layamon's Brut and The Ormulum. The Brut or Chronicle of Britain was written by one Layamon or Lagamon, a nonk residing in Ernley, in North Worcestershire, and was completed about A. D. 1155. It treats of the adventures of the fabulous Brutus, who settled and named Britain, and of the subsequent history of that state. It is mainly a translation of a rhymed French chronicle by Wace, but is much enlarged and improved. Its importance, philologically, is very great. We can here clearly see some of the steps in the transition from Anglo-Saxon to English. The Saxon had already begun to crumble away by the rubbing upon it of the Norman, and so
here, though Anglo-Saxon grammar and phraseology form the groundwork, the diction generally falls in with the forms then common among the people. Among other peculiarities may be noticed the use of a as an article ;--the confusion of the definite and indefinite declensions of adjectives;--the plural in 8-the use of the preposition to before the infinitive ;—and especially the distinction in the employment of will and shall, as technical auxiliaries.
One thing is very remarkable, that in this poem of more than thirty-two thousand lines, there are so few—not fiftywords of Latin origin. And one-half of these had been previously in use among Saxon writers. When we consider that the work was a translation, and that in many places it was done couplet by couplet, we should expect many more foreign words, especially in the rhymes; and we admire the art of a poet who could so dexterously use a language which was very hard to manage in the strict forms of the romance metre. But yet, in these restrictions of a verse strange to the language, we find that he has not only used the language of the old Anglo-Saxon poets, but even caught the spirit of their style. A celebrated Danish scholar has declared, "that tolerably well read as he is in the rhyming chronicles of his own country, and of others, he has found Layamon's beyond comparison the most lofty and animated in its style, at every moment reminding the reader of the splendid phraseology of the AngloSaxon verse."
The other work, "The Ormulum," is also of a rythmic character. It consists of a series of paraphrases of the Gospel for the day, with homilies suggested by each passage. Its author, Orm or Ormin,-for he named the book after himself— was somewhat of a reformer, and was evidently of the opinion that the gospel was neither preached nor practiced as it should be. It may be on account of the way in which he inveighs against the corruptions of the church, that the book was not much read; for we have reason to believe that the only manuscript which is in existence is the original. It is remarkable both for its versification and its spelling. The verse consists of long lines of fifteen syllables, or, as printed by Dr. White,
of two lines alternately of eight and seven syllables. There is no rhyme as in French, and no alliteration as in Anglo-Saxon. It is, in fact, a species of true blank verse.
The orthography is very peculiar. It is at once evident that it was regulated by some rule with the design of improving the language, by making the spelling conform to the pronunciation. The author's address to the copyists shows that he deemed his system of great importance.
"Annd whase whilenn shall thiss boc
Efft otherr sithe writenn,
Himm bidde icc thatt het write rihht
Swa summ thiss boc himm taechethth,--
All thwerrt ut afterr thatt itt iss
Uppo thiss firrste bisne,
Withth all swille rime alls her iss sett
Annd tatt he loke wel thatt he
Loke he well thatt het write swa,
Forr he ne magg nohht elless
Onn Ennglissh writenn rihht te word
Thatt wite he wel to sothe."
As will be seen, the chief peculiarity is in doubling the consonant after every vowel that does not have the long sound. We thus ascertain that the majority of words were pronounced nearly the same then as now, though with some notable exceptions; thus, yet was pronounced yeet, and well, weel; and have has also a long a. This poem, therefore, presents us with an index to the pronunciation of our ancestors, a thing which few languages possess, and is for that reason the more valuable. Pronunciation is constantly fluctuating, and varies not only at different times, and in different localities, but even in different individuals. For not all are able to produce the same sounds, and the pronunciation of a single person, if he is prominent, will often affect the speech of a neighborhood. It is very difficult, therefore, to discover, even approximately, the method of pronouncing at any particular time. The orthography of old English seems, at first sight, to have been at the