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Weak and Strong Nouns

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Author Topic: Weak and Strong Nouns  (Read 468 times)

Phyllis

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Weak and Strong Nouns
« on: August 20, 2018, 04:26:04 PM »
This weekend I asked David about distinguishing weak and strong nouns, especially if I am "inventing" nouns form verbs (the -ings, -ungs and so on). He very kindly gave me some tips - which I immediately forgot having consumed a couple of glasses of fermented grape juice and then being distracted by a chocolate chip cookie and a question about planning the evening rendezvous. Sorry!

But perhaps it would be worth sharing it here anyway?

So - how do I make a reasonable stab at working out if a noun is weak or strong, and further, how do I do the same when I start making up nouns when trying to translate something modern where a new word seems needed ("refrigerator", for example)?

ic þoncie þe

Phyllis

David

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Re: Weak and Strong Nouns
« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2018, 08:30:01 PM »
Phyllis has asked about a lot here. It seems to be pointed towards me but I would be happy for anyone else to come in. It is too much for me to deal with in one go so I thought about splitting it into three postings.
1.   -ing and -ung
2.   Other suffixes for making nouns
3.   Weak nouns
Starting with -ing and -ung here.

In Modern English we can often use an -ing ending to make an noun. This came down to us from Old English. However in Old English there was an alternative ending -ung which has since died out. The question is how do we know when we should use -ing and when should we use -ung?

The perceived wisdom is that you use -ung if the infinitive ends in -ian (class Ib and II weak verbs) and you use -ing in all other cases. In all cases the resulting noun is masculine. So for wrītan (to write) we have wrīting (writing)but for ġegaderian (to gather) we have ġegaderung (gathering). You know that because you are ġegaderung now.

For those who are still not sure we can use some magic.
1.   Get together a soft pencil, a piece of paper and a rubber
2.   Write, not print, the normal infinitive on the paper  e.g. wrītan   and   ġegaderian
3.   Rub out the “an” and replace it with “ing”      wrīting     and    ġegaderiing
4.   As the Anglo-Saxons did not dot there i’s rub out dots over the i’s
5.   Hey presto you have the correct noun.

In practice it looks as though all -ian verbs give the -ung nouns but so do several of the other nouns. Some of the other verbs have weak class II counterparts and maybe others do but their recording have not come down to us.

Phyllis

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Re: Weak and Strong Nouns
« Reply #2 on: August 25, 2018, 11:54:49 AM »
Thank you so much, David! I didn't mean to put you on the spot but I do rely on you :)

So in summary the ing/ungs are masculine, and strong? I'm a little confused because my grammar book (Old English Grammar, Joseph Wright) says in para. 615:

"-ung, more rarely -ing, ... used in forming fem. abstract nouns, especially from the second class of weak verbs..."

But I at least understand the formation. I notice that eg -nes words are (also) feminine?

Phyllis

Linden

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Re: Weak and Strong Nouns
« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2018, 02:01:55 PM »
...................
So in summary the ing/ungs are masculine, and strong? I'm a little confused because my grammar book (Old English Grammar, Joseph Wright) says in para. 615:

"-ung, more rarely -ing, ... used in forming fem. abstract nouns, especially from the second class of weak verbs..."


The -ung/-ing suffix is mostly feminine.  The only masculine examples that I can find in Bosworth & Toller are:-
an-bídung  es; m. An abiding, tarrying, awaiting, expectation. 
and-bídung  es; m. Expectation.
andetting  es; m. A confession, profession; confessio, professio. v. andettan.
delfing  es; m. A DELVING, digging, laying bare, exposing
ge-rǽding  es; m. A decree

These appear to be such a random selection that I wonder whether even these were truly masculine - for example - although ge-rǽding  is masculine, rǽding is feminine and vice versa with the masculine an-bídung (an abiding, tarrying, awaiting, expectation) and and-bídung  (expectation) with a feminine ge-anbidung  (expectation).

Cræft biþ betere ðonne æhta

David

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Re: Weak and Strong Nouns
« Reply #4 on: August 25, 2018, 03:15:17 PM »
My error about the gender I meant to say that they are feminine, not masculine.

There are some -ing masculines from a different process. For example hōring (adulterer) is masculine but that comes from the noun hōr (adultery). Similar is ǣϸeling and cyning.
Thank you Linden for your examples which show that language is messy and defies rules.

« Last Edit: August 28, 2018, 08:59:58 AM by David »

David

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Re: Weak and Strong Nouns
« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2018, 04:37:22 PM »
Let’s see if I can get this right this time without the careless slips. I wanted to deal with other endings for making nouns out of verbs.

-a     This gives masculine noun of the weak declension.  E.g. bylda (builder) and dēma (judge)
-end   This gives a masculine noun of the main masculine declension although the nominative and accusative plurals can take the ending -e or no ending at all as well as the ending -as. E.g. hǣlend (saviour) and dēmend (judge)

Then, particularly for the people doing the action we have -ere for men and -estre for women.
-ere   This gives a masculine noun declined like the i-stems such as stede (place) and wine (place). This is just like the main masculine declension but with the nominative and accusative singular endings being -e. In very early Old English the nominative and accusative plural endings were also -e before switching to -as. E.g. bæcere (baker) and leornere (disciple).
-estre   This gives a feminine noun of the weak declension. E.g. bæcestre (female baker) and hlēapestre (female dancer)

I think that these are the main suffixes for making nouns out of verbs. For more such suffixes see Stephen Pollington’s “First Steps in Old English” sections “Word Formation – affixation” and “Word Formation – derivation” These are sections 18.3 and 18.4 in my edtion.

Please correct any errors I made this time.

David

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Re: Weak and Strong Nouns
« Reply #6 on: August 28, 2018, 08:56:32 AM »
Phyllis asks how do we know whether an Old English noun is weak or strong. The weak declension is just one of many declensions  which was given this name because it is the same declension as the weak adjectives. It is also called the an-declension and both the nouns and adjectives built from the Germanic n-stem nouns.

How do we know which of the many declensions an Old English word belongs to. I would ask the same question about Modern English. Yes there are many declensions in Modern English – for example here are some with their plurals
Book                books
Dish                 dishes
Fish                 fish/fishes
Loaf                 loaves
Baby                babies
Ox                   oxen
Child                children
Foot                 feet
Man                 men
Mouse             mice
Podium            podia
Phenomenon   phenomena
Person             people
Notice that fish is in two declensions. Then some nouns change declensions – the plural of stadium used to be stadia but now it is stadiums. These things happened in Old English too.
If you were given a new Modern English word would you be sure which declension to put it into.

For nearly all the weak nouns the case ending are
             Singular                 Plural (all genders)
          Masc.   Fem.   Neuter      
Nom.     -a         -e         -e          -an
Acc.      -an       -an        -e          -an
Gen.     -an       -an       -an         -ena
Dat.      -an       -an       -an         -um
If you find a noun that has -an or -ena in the appropriate case you can be sure it is a weak noun.
I think that the only nouns with the nominative singular ending in a short a, not ā or the diphthong ea, are weak masculine nouns. Let us know if you find exceptions.
I think that the only feminine nouns with the nominative singular ending in e are weak. Let us know if you find exceptions.
I think that there are only 3 neuter weak nouns with their compounds. They are ēaġe (eye), ēare (ear) and wange (cheek). Wange also has various other endings.
You will see o as an alternative to a before n.
There are also nouns in this class where the nominative singular ends in a long vowel or diphthong and that replaces the a in -an, the e in -ena and the u in -um.
I think that all nouns where the nominative singular ends in a long vowel or diphthong are either masculine weak nouns or feminine weak nouns.
Let us know if you find exceptions.
« Last Edit: August 28, 2018, 09:05:55 AM by David »

Phyllis

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Re: Weak and Strong Nouns
« Reply #7 on: August 29, 2018, 07:53:28 PM »
Thanks David

So usually nouns are strong? The particular issue I was having was that if I need to invent a word for a translation I wasn't quite sure how to tell, but this is a really helpful guide to taking an educated guess at what seems right.

In my head I imagine people didn't talk like this but just swallowed endings like now. I was shocked as a teenager going on Exchange to Germany to discover that all my carefully learned declensions were really rather quaint and in conversation people didn't bother much. I don't know if this was just the people I met, or the fact we were mostly teenagers, but so it was and I relaxed quite a bit after that.
Phyllis

David

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Re: Weak and Strong Nouns
« Reply #8 on: September 10, 2018, 09:47:27 AM »
Phyllis, nouns do not come in weak and strong forms as the adjectives do.

One of the main noun declensions declines almost identically to the weak adjectives and has nouns of all three genders. Therefore some people call this the weak declension. In the Anglo-Saxon period nouns tended to migrate from the smaller declensions to the larger ones and new words, including imported ones, tended to be put into the larger declensions