OE was largely a
it possessed a system of grammatical forms, which could indicate the
connection between words; consequently,
the functional load of syntactic ways of word connection was
relatively small. It was primarily a spoken
language, therefore the written forms
of the language resembled oral speech - unless the texts were literal
translations from Latin or poems with stereotyped constructions.
Consequently, the syntax of the sentence was relatively simple;
coordination of clauses prevailed over subordination; complicated
syntactical constructions were rare.
structure of a language can be described at the level of the
phrase and at the level of the
sentence. In OE texts we find a
variety of word phrases (also: word groups or patterns).
between the parts of the sentence was shown by
the form of the words as they had
for gender, case, number and person. The presence of formal markers
made it possible to miss out some parts
of the sentence which would be
obligatory in an English sentence now.
The formal subject
was lacking in many impersonal
sentences (though it was present in others).
was multiple negation
within a single sentence or clause. The most common negative particle
was "ne", which was placed before
the verb; it was often accompanied by
other negative words, mostly "naht" or "noht",
these words reinforced the meaning of negation.
complex sentences existed in the
English language since the earliest times. Even in the oldest texts
we find numerous instances of coordination
and a large inventory of subordinate clauses, subject clauses, object
clauses, attributive clauses adverbial clauses.
connectives at the head of each clause
(correlation) was common in complex sentences.
The Phrase. Noun,
Adjective and Verb Patterns.
A noun pattern
consisted of a noun as the head word and pronouns, adjectives,
numerals and other nouns as determiners and attributes. Most noun
modifiers agreed with the noun in gender, number and case.
ōðrum ðrīm daзum ‘in those other three days’ – Dat. pl
pattern could include adverbs,
nouns or pronouns in one of the oblique cases with or without
prepositions, and infinitives.
manna ðearf ‘he was in need of man’.
included a great variety of dependant components: nouns and pronouns
in oblique cases with or without prepositions, adverbs, infinitives
ðīnз ‘bring those things’.
The word order of
Old English was not important because of the aforementioned
morphology of the language. As long as declension was correct, it did
not matter whether you said, "My name is..." as "Mīn
nama is..." or "Nama mīn is..."
Because of its
similarity with Old Norse, it is believed that the word order of Old
English changed when asking a question, from subject-verb-object to
I am... becomes Am I...?
Ic eom... becomes Eom ic...?
prepositions often come after their
object; that is, an Old English
prepositional phrase can consist of a noun or noun phrase followed by
E.g: God cwæð him
ðus to (God
said thus to him).
In the example the object
of the preposition is a personal pronoun. Prepositions usually
precede their objects when the object is a noun, but they often
follow the object if the object is a pronoun.