The Case of Old English N-stem Masculine Derivatives: A typological contribution to categorization in English word-formation


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The paper redefines the Old English formative -a, marking n-stem masculine derivatives, both as a derivational and inflectional marker. It surveys its derivational functions in Proto-Germanic and Old English, demonstrating that it had not given up its double function, which was fully in keeping with the inflectional typological tenor of the earliest English, until the Early Middle English period. The paper goes then on to suggest a tentative typology of suffixes from Proto-Germanic to Old English along a cline connecting the agglutinating and inflectional pole, with an increasing diachronic predominance of suffixes of the latter type. This tendency, exemplified by the history of the formative -a, is seen as one of the ways in the Old English system to establish homological derivation as the dominant principle of word-formation, against the background of a gradual reorientation of the language from stem-based to word-based morphology.


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