Revived Pronouns

From The Anglish Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

These are pronouns one could use in Anglish. Many of these pronouns died off at sundry times in English's history, but here they are put forth as if they had never died.

Mind that some of these spellings are modernised and not necessarily attested. Others are attested but were arbitrarily picked instead of alternative spellings.

The Pronouns[edit]

Nominative Accusative Dependent genitive Independent genitive Reflexive
1st singular I / ich1 me / metch2 my / mine3 mine me / myself4
1st dual5 wit unk / unkit2 unker unkers unk / unkselves4
1st plural we us / usich2 our ours us / ourselves4
2nd singular thou thee / thetch2 thy / thine3 thine thee / thyself4
2nd dual5 yit ink / inkit2 inker inkers ink / inkselves4
2nd plural ye you / youtch2 your yours you / yourselves4
3rd singular masculine he him / hin2 his his himself
3rd singular feminine she / hoo6 her her hers herself
3rd singular neuter it it its / his7 its / his7 itself
3rd plural (native English)8 hy hem hir hirs hemselves
3rd plural (borrowed Norse)8 they them their theirs themselves

1 Ich is what the pronoun (OE ic) would have regularly become, but in many dialects, the pronoun had been reduced to a single i, having lost its consonant sound. The reduced form was then later lengthened, whence the standard pronoun I. Ich was present in some dialects in Shakespeare's time, however; in King Lear, a character trying to sound rustic says chill, a contraction of ich will. It seems that ich is now obsolete, as the last recorded instance of its use was made in the middle of the 20th century.

2 Originally, in Old English, mec, þec, hine, incit, uncit, ūsic, and ēowic were accusatives, and , þē, him, inc, unc, ūs, and ēow were datives. In short, mec and corresponded to German mich and mir, respectively. Over time, however, for the first and second persons, the dative pronouns began to be used as accusatives, and so in the West Saxon dialect, the original accusative pronouns for the first and second persons were seldom found, but were commoner in other dialects. In the end, those accusative forms had died out by the start of the Middle English period; hine lasted a bit longer, but it soon died out.

3 Mine and thine were the original forms, but in Middle English, they lost their last n, and so my and thy came to be, whence rose the modern distinction between the two sets: my and thy are used dependently (i.e., they act as modifiers), and mine and thine independently. In Early Modern English, mine and thine were also used dependently, however, when foregoing words beginning with vowel sounds, e.g., mine eyes, thine ax; in short, it was the same distinction between a and an.

4 Strictly speaking, the compound reflexive forms are utterly needless for the first and second persons, since it is clear in those cases that the subject and the object are the same. For example, I saw me is as clear as I saw myself. It is only in the third person that the reflexives are truly needed, since the object may refer to either what the subject refers to or another, e.g., he saw him may not necessarily be the same as he saw himself. Therefore, the simple accusative forms are listed in the column of reflexive pronouns for the first and second persons.

5 Like the other Germanic tongues in their early stages, Old English had a set of dual pronouns for the first and second persons. There were no special grammatical forms for the dual in verbs, however; the plural forms were used instead. In theory, since there was a dual, the plural pronouns would have been used only in reference to three or more. However, the dual was not always used, and whenever it was used, it was to show that only two people were referred to. The dual pronouns later died out sometime in the early 14th century.

6 Hoo is a dialectal variant of the feminine pronoun, which was hēo in Old English and developed into he in some Middle English dialects. The standard pronoun, she, appears to be a variant that became widespread in Middle English likely because the masculine and the feminine came to have the same nominative form in some dialects. Thus, a need was felt that the nominative for the masculine and that for the feminine be differentiated formally.

7 The old genitive for the neuter was his, and so the masculine and the neuter had the same genitive forms; likewise, in Dutch and German, the same form for the possessive adjective and the genitive is used for the masculine and the neuter. An example of neuter his is if the salt have lost his savour from a line in the King James Bible. Its was formed in the Early Modern English period as a form distinct from his, and it was quickly accepted into the speech.

8 In the Middle English period, the native third-person plural pronouns (from OE heora) came to sound like those for the masculine and feminine singular in many instances. A borrowing from Old Norse, they was first adopted in areas showing great Scandinavian influence, and it gradually spread to other dialects. Chaucer used they as the nominative, but he kept the native forms for the accusative and the genitive. By the Early Modern English period, the Norse set had displaced the native set wholly. The only remnant of the native set is 'em, an unstressed form of hem, but this is often thought by modern speakers to be a contraction of them instead.

Possessives[edit]

In Middle English, there was a set of genitive forms made by analogy of mine and thine. These forms are as etymologically good as the -s forms, but nonetheless, the latter set became the standard in the end, and the -n set is now found only in some regional dialects.

Independent genitive
1st singular mine
2nd singular thine
3rd singular masculine hisn
3rd singular feminine hern
3rd singular neuter its
1st dual unkern
2nd dual inkern
1st plural ourn
2nd plural yourn
3rd plural (native English) hirn
3rd plural (borrowed Norse) theirn

Of course, because the dual number became obsolete very early on in Middle English, unkern and inkern (neither of which is attested in Middle English) are simply what the dual pronouns' -n forms would have become. The -n form for the native third-person plural form is attested, but since the native form became obsolete, unsurprisingly, the -n form is also no longer used.

Note that the neuter genitive is still its; not only did its begin to appear in the Early Modern English period, but the absolute use of the neuter genitive is also uncommon, so no such form as itsn has ever appeared and blossomed.

In Old English, there was also the adjective sīn, which, interestingly, was the only English remnant of the Germanic reflexive and acted as a reflexive possessive. What exactly is a reflexive possessive? Look at the following sentence:

  • Bob speaks with John and goes to his house.

Whose house does Bob go to? If it is John's, then his refers to John and is thus not reflexive; inversely, if it is Bob's, then his refers back to Bob and is thus reflexive. In other words, a reflexive possessive refers to the subject of the clause that it is found in. This distinction is found in the North Germanic tongues as well as a few other tongues like Latin. If sīn had survived, it would have become sy and sine, which respectively would be used as my and mine are.

  • Bob speaks with John and goes to his house. (John's house)
  • Bob speaks with John and goes to sy house. (Bob's house)
  • Harry and Tom lost their books, but Harry found his the next day. (Tom's book)
  • Harry and Tom lost their books, but Harry found sine the next day. (Harry's book)

In Old English, the reflexive possessive was an adjective and thus was inflected. It was used for the third person, regardless of the subject's gender or number, and it is cognate to German sein (now the masculine and neuter possessive adjective and genitive). But sīn was already uncommon, found mainly in non-West Saxon dialects, and it did not live up to Middle English, so it is wholly optional to use sy/sine.

Conjugation[edit]

Verb conjugation has much changed since the Old English period. For instance, the plural ending -en is now obsolete, and the first-person singular has no ending at all. The conjugation for be is particularly special, as there are many disused forms:

Present indicative Past indicative Present subjunctive Past subjunctive
I am / be was be / sie were
we / wit are / be / sind were be / sie were
thou art / beest wast be / sie wert
ye / yit are / be / sind were be / sie were
he / she / it is / beeth was be / sie were
they / hy are / be / sind were be / sie were

One can see that there is a variety of forms for the present indicative and subjunctive, as the conjugation for be is historically made up of those of two Old English verbs: wesan and bēon:

  1. Am, art, is, and are come from the wesan conjugation. Are (Old English earon) was not used in the West Saxon dialect (which used sind and its variants instead), but was present in the Anglian dialects. Are began to be used more in Middle English and eventually drove out be in the standard speech.
  2. Sind, also from wesan, died out very early on in the Middle English period.
  3. Sie (si in Middle English) was the singular present subjunctive from wesan and died out very early on in the Middle English period. The plural subjunctive was sīen in Old English, and if it had been kept, it would have become sie, the same as the singular (as the plural suffix would have been dropped like in are and be).
  4. Be, beest, and beeth come from bēon, from which also come the infinitive be, the present participle being, the past participle been, and the present subjunctive be. All present indicative forms are now archaic or dialectal, and in the standard speech, the plural present indicative be is found only in the phrase the powers that be.
  5. Both wesan and bēon shared the same past tense forms, and from those verbs come was and were.
  6. Wast and wert for the second-person singular are innovative forms that first appeared in the latter half of the Middle English period. The original form was were (both indicative and subjunctive). The past indicative is commonly wast, but wert is sometimes used therefor. In Shakespeare, wast is consistently indicative, and wert is occasionally used in the indicative, but is mainly subjunctive. In the King James Bible, the distinction is tidy, wast being indicative, wert being subjunctive only.

Note that use of the subjunctive forms has lessened over time, and so most constructions that historically take the subjunctive are commonly found with the indicative forms or made with other verbal constructions instead (see here for more information about the subjunctive).

Theoretical Third Person Pronouns[edit]

The following table shows a theoretical development of the native, southern Old English 3rd-person plural pronouns, based on the pronouns Chaucer wrote with in his Middle English writings.

Nominative Accusative Dative Pos. Adjective Pos. Pronoun Reflexive
Old English
3rd Sin. Masc. hine him his his hine, him
3rd Sin. Fem. hēo hīe hire hire hire hīe, hire
3rd Plural hīe hīe him heora heora hīe, him
Middle English (Chaucer)
3rd Sin. Masc. he hym hym his his hymself
3rd Sin. Fem. she(e)1 hir(e) hir(e) hir(e) hir(e)s2 hir(e)self3,4
3rd Plural †they hem hem hir(e) hirs5 hem(self)6, 7
New English
3rd Sin. Masc. he him him his his himself
3rd Sin. Fem. she her her her hers herself
3rd Plural they hem hem her hers hemselves

† Chaucer almost always bore they for the Nom 3rd Plural; he never bore “she” as the Nom 3rd Plural.
1. https://chaucer.fas.harvard.edu/pages/man-laws-introduction-prologue-tale-and-epilogue
Line 159: “Nas nevere swich another as is shee. / There was never such another as is she.”
2. https://chaucer.fas.harvard.edu/pages/man-laws-introduction-prologue-tale-and-epilogue
Line227: “I moot been hires; I may noon oother chese. / I must be hers; I can choose no other.”
3. https://chaucer.fas.harvard.edu/pages/millers-prologue-and-tale
Line 3543: “That she hadde had a ship hirself allone. / That she had had a ship for herself alone.”
4. https://chaucer.fas.harvard.edu/pages/squires-introduction-and-tale
Line 384: “Up riseth fresshe Canacee hireselve, / Up rises fresh Canacee herself”
5. https://chaucer.fas.harvard.edu/pages/summoners-prologue-and-tale
“Or hirs that swymmen in possessioun. / Or theirs who swim in possessions.”
6. https://chaucer.fas.harvard.edu/pages/squires-introduction-and-tale
7. https://chaucer.fas.harvard.edu/pages/clerks-prologue-tale-and-envoy