LINGUIST List 6.1205

Mon Sep 4 1995

Disc: OE pronouns

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  1. , Disc: OE Pronouns -- Acc. PP

Message 1: Disc: OE Pronouns -- Acc. PP

Date: Sun, 03 Sep 1995 21:24:38 Disc: OE Pronouns -- Acc. PP
From: <>
Subject: Disc: OE Pronouns -- Acc. PP

[Moderator's Note: Mr. Weber's original posting was Vol-6-806
 Mon 12 Jun 1995. TDS]

Reference: Disc: He/She (95-06-28)

 In his original message, Jeffrey Weber posted a question to the list
regarding an anomaly he discovered while translating the _Ayenbite of Inwyt_.
 The question stemmed from the usage of what appear to be pronouns reserved
for NPs that exhibit Feminine Grammatical Gender being used to refer to a
Masculine NP. Jeff's inquiry has subsequently touched off a debate regarding
the relationship between Gender and Sex, but left the original question
unanswered. While this message is not intended as a contribution to the
Gender and Sex issue, for reasons of scientific objectivity, it is intended
as a possible solution to the original problem.

 In a off-list message, Jeff sent the following passage as indicative of
the anomaly, from pages 190-191 of the _Ayenbite_: ([NP] indicates the

And huanne he acsede ate [guode wyfman] THo he hedde [hise] ycleped hou moche
[hi] hedde him y-let, [hi] andzuerede THet uerst [hi] hedde y-write ine
[hare] testement THet [hi] him let a THousend and vyf hondred pounds.

And when he asked [the good woman] when he had [her] summoned how much [she]
had him left, [she] answered that first [she] had written in [her] will that
[she] him left a thousand and five hundred pounds.

In terms of Modern English, case, gender, of number of each NP is as follows:

[guode wyfman] : Singular, Feminine, Dative (ungrammatical usage)
[hise] : Singular, Feminine, Accusative (ungrammatical
[hi] : Singular, Feminine, Nominative
[hare] : Singular, Feminine, Genitive (ungrammatical usage)

 Unlike Modern English, Old English used a system of Grammatical Gender
that was unrelated to the actual Biological Sex of the NP. As a result,
WYFMAN held masculine gender eventhough the sex could only be female. Since
all pronouns must match their referent for number and gender, the use of
these pronouns is ungrammatical. NOTE: Each case uses a single pronoun for
all genders.

A). Solving for [hare]. (_Ayenbite_ lxxvi)
 The first step in solving the problem lies in resolving the
ungrammatical usage of [hare]. As a pronoun, [hare] is reserved for
Genitive-Plural and Dative-Feminine-Singular. Since this is a pronoun
followed by a nominal within the NP compliment of the Preposition INE, [hare]
must be genitive and, therefore, [guode wyman] must be plural. The usage of
[hise], a pronoun reserved for Accusative-Plural, confirms this conclusion.

[guode wyfman] : Plural, Masculine, Dative
[hise] : Plural, Accusative
[hi] : Plural, Nominative
[hare] : Plural, Genitive

B). Classifying WYFMAN. (_Ayenbite_ lxxiii - lxxv)
 The _Ayenbite of Inwyt_ is written in the Kentish Dialect of Middle
English. As a result, the Grammatical Rules are a combination of those from
Old English with a few modern changes. The dialect divides nouns into four
Divisions and five classes for inflection. Assuming that [guode wyfman] is
Dative-Plural and identical to the Nominative-Singular form, listed in the
Glossarial Index, the Division and Class of the noun should be one that
exhibits this declension. However, none of the listed classifications
carries this characteristic, and more data is necessary:

(_Ayenbite_ pages 10-11)
Vor THe grantige to habbe uelaYrede ulesslich mid [wyfmen] THet ne is naYt
his be spouse:
ys zenne dyadlich be THe dome of godes spelle THet zayTH.

For who consent to have communion carnal with [women] that not is not his by
is sinning mortally by which judgement of God's command that says.

 The use of [wyfmen] in this passage demonstrates the true Dative-Plural
form of WYFMAN. Discounting the form contained in [guode wyfman], the
requirement of Nominative-Singular WYFMAN and Dative-Plural WYFMEN
disqualifies Division III, Class 1, and Division IV, Class 1. The use of the
adjective GUODE in the NP [guode wyfman] indicates that the NP is Oblique,
that is Dative or Accusative (Glossarial Index). Having established that the
NP is not Dative, then it must be Accusative. Thus the classification
criteria are:
 1. An identical form in the Nominative-Singular-Masculine and the
 2. The Dative-Plural form of WYFMAN must be WYFMEN.
Division IV, Class 2, is the only classification that meets the first
criteria and, by no coincidence, the second as well. Thus:

[guode wyfman] : Plural, Masculine, Accusative
[hise] : Plural, Accusative
[hi] : Plural, Nominative
[hare] : Plural, Genitive

C). Accusative Prepositions
 In Modern English, the basic assumption is that verbs assign Accusative
Case to Direct Objects, and Prepositions assign Dative Case to Indirect
Objects and Instrumentals. Since both cases are identical in usage and
inflection, they are collectively termed the Object Case. However, in other
languages, the inflections differ. An extremely graphic example is the
Korean Morphological Marking System. Korean syntax requires the Direct
Object to carries the suffix -ul/-rul, while Indirect Objects carry the
preposition itself as a suffix.
 Further, certain prepositions assign the Accusative Case in certain

ENGLISH: He threw a stone at [the door].
KOREAN: Ku-nun [mun-ul] hyang-hae toe-rul tonjio-da.
GERMAN: Er warf einen Stein gegen [die T|r].

 These Richtung Prepositions, to borrow the German term, always assign the
Accusative Case when the Preposition is being used to demonstrate direction.
 In the original passage, the preposition ATE precedes the NP [guode wyfman],
which translates to mean "at". Thus the new updated translation of the
original passage has become:

And when he asked at [(the) good women] when/those he had [them] summoned how
much [they] had given him, [they] answered that first [they] had written in
[their] will that [they] left him a thousand and five hundred pounds.

And further substantiated by: (_Ayenbite_ page 11)

Huo THet ziYTH ane [wyfman] and wylneTH [his] ine herte:
he heTH y-zeneYed ine [hyre]:
ine his herte.

Who that looks on [women] and desires [them] in heart:
he has sinned in [theirs]:
in his heart.

 In this case, the preposition ANE, probably a relative of the German
"an", adds a sense of direction to the verb ZIYTH and assigns the Accusative
Case to the NP [wyfman].

Thank you and please feel free to respond with any comments to:

Sean M. Witty (WittysanAOL.COM)
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