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undispersed for a long period after its separation from the other members of the Indo-European stock.
262. But when from the time-forms we proceed to consider the person-forms, then English falls away. These forms appear to have been originally the six personal pronouns, which were suffixed to the verb. They constitute one of the most permanent features of the Aryan or Indo-Germanic languages, from Sanskrit downwards. Thus, the root Dâ meaning to give, the six persons are thus exhibited by Curtius in the way of a scientific restoration: dá-ma give-I, dá-twa give-thou, dá-ta give-he, dá-ma-tvi give-we, dá-tva-tvi give-you, dá-anti give-they. And he asserts strongly that these forms are an indelible feature of all Indo-German tongues? The English has gone further than any of its cognates in dropping these personal inflections. The German says, Ich glaube, du glaubest, er glaubt; wir glauben, ihr glaubet, sie glauben. The Englishman says, I believe, thou believest, he believes; we believe, you believe, they believe. And as thou believest is but rarely used, much more rarely than du glaubest, and perhaps more rarely even than ihr glaubet, we have only the -s of the third singular he believes as the one personal inflection left in ordinary use among us.
Particularly is it to be observed that we have lost the n of the plural present, which is preserved in the German form glauben. We know from the Latin sunt, amant, monent, regunt, audiunt, and from other sources, that nt was anciently a very wide-spread termination for the plural verb. This is boldly displayed in the Mesogothic verb, as may be seen
1 Jene sechs ältesten Personalendungen sind recht eigentlich ein character indelibilis aller indogermanischen Sprachen.—Zur Chronologie der Indogermanischen Sprachforschung, von Georg Curtius, Leipzig 1873: P. 33.
in the following example of the present indicative of GALAUBJAN, to believe :
Plural galaubjam galaubeith galaubjand 263. Here we have nd in the third person plural. In the Old High German it was as in Latin nt. The Germans have dropped the dental t and have kept the liquid n. We dropped the n, or rather we merged it in a thicker vowel before, and a thicker consonant after. The plural termination -âð of the Saxon present indicative is the analogue of the Gothic termination -and. In the same manner an n has been absorbed in the English words tooth, goose, mouth, five, soft, which are in German Zahn, Gans, Mund, fünf, fanft: also in sooth, which is in Danish sand. The following is the present indicative of the Saxon verb GELYFAN, to believe :
gelyfad The written language never had an n in the third person plural of the present indicative, not even in the oldest stage of Saxon literature. For the past tense we retained it, and also for the subjunctive mood in all tenses. The consequence is, that in our early literature verbs abound with N in the third person plural, but never in the present indicative. Thus Mark xvi. 13, and hig him ne gelyfdon,' neither believed they them.' In Exodus iv. 5 we have the plural of the present subjunctive, þæt hig gelyfon, “that they may believe.' In the former of these passages Wyclif has, And thei goynge toolden to othere, nethir thei bileuyden to hem.
264. But by Chaucer's time we have the N-form of the plural even for the present indicative. It had been locally preserved, and was now for the first time seen in cultivated
3rd. gelyft gelyfâ8
English. It is characteristic of transition and the beginnings of a new era, that forms hitherto neglected have a new chance of recognition.
And smale foweles maken melodye,
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrymages. The same thing may be seen in the quotation from Gower, above, 197. This -N was retained as one of the recognised archaisms available only for poetic diction, and it long continued in the heroic or mock-heroic style, as we see in the following, from the eighteenth century.
In every village mark’d with little spire,
And oft times, on vagaries idly bent,
William Shenstone (1714-1763), The Schoolmistress. 265. In the ordinary paths of the language, however, the personal inflections were reduced nearly to their present simplicity before the Elizabethan era.
The tenacity of which we spoke displays itself most conspicuously in the tense-forms; that is to say, the forms used for expressing varieties of time.
The boldest feature which is found among the verbs of our family, is the formation of the preterite by an internal vowel-change, without any external addition. The regulating law of this vowel-change is called Ablaut, and has been explained above, 123. This character supplies a basis for the division of the verbs into three classes,-the Strong, the Mixed, and the Weak.
1. STRONG VERBS.
266. The Strong are of the highest antiquity, are limited in number, are gradually but very slowly passing away, as one by one at long intervals they drop out of use and are not recruited by fresh members. They are characterised by the internal formation of the preterite, and by the formation of the participle in n. This latter feature has however been less constant than the preterite. The following list comprises most of these verbs. Only those forms which are given in the ordinary type are in full use. Those in black letter flourished in mediæval times; those in thick type are chiefly of the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries; and those in italics are curt and negligent forms, many of which belong to the eighteenth century. The few which are in SMALL CAPITALS are Saxon forms. Those in spaced type are from a collateral language or dialect.
267. Only the simple verbs are given, and not their compounds. The list contains come, hold, get; but not become, behold, beget; bid but not forbid, give but not forgive, rise but not arise. On the other hand, those compounds whose simples no longer exist in the language, are here given, as abide, begin, forsake.
abide bake bear beat begin BELGAN
abode beuk * bore, bare beat began BEALH
[a]bidden * baken borne and born beaten, beat begun BOLGEN, bowln * bin, been bidden, bid bounden, bound bitten, bit
bid bind bite
bade, bid *
blow bow break burst
broke, brake brast carf * Coost * chid, chode * chose clove, clave clave clomb clung
cast chide choose cleave (=divide) cleave (= adhere) climb cling come creep
crope *, crap * crew quoth dalfe dug drew drank, drunk drove
CWEÐAN delve dig draw drink drive eat fall fight find fling fly forsake freeze
* gone graven * grunden, ground grown