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Nominal and Verbal Derivation in Old English*

: The Case of Ge-words


Yoo-kang Kim
(Hankuk University of Foreign Studies)

Yoo-kang Kim. 2007. Nominal and Verbal Derivation in Old English: The Case of
Ge-words. Language and Linguistics 40, 21-45. This paper is concerned with
morphological derivation in Old English, specifically nominal and verbal
derivation without affixation. Non-affixational derivation, which is
traditionally called conversion, has been controversial in Old English
word-formation. Morphologists' claims differ in the issues of the
directionality of derivation and the postulation of a zero-morpheme.
For example, Kastovsky (1968, 1992, 1996) argues for zero-derivation,
postulating a zero-morpheme in Old English morphology while Dalton-
Puffer (1992, 1993), Ritt (1993) and Lass (1993) give evidence against
the assumption of zero-derivation in favor of affixless derivation (cf.
Plag 2003). Concerning the directionality of affixless derivation, any
principles or criteria for determining the directionality has not been
offered in Old English morphology. Aiming to give alternative solutions
to these two morphological problems, this article provides a morphological
analysis of Old English ge-words. It is shown that the derivation of
various derivative forms is accounted for by the interplay of Word-
Class Marking and the Zero-Constraint without having the directionality
problem. Furthermore, the non-occurrence of some derivatives is explained

Keywords: Old English, Prefix, Word-formation, Conversion, Zero-morpheme, Derivation

* This work was supported by the 2006 Research Grant from Hankuk University
of Foreign Studies.
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1. Introduction

Old English (OE) word-formation has been examined by a number

of articles and monographs (Marchand 1969, Fisiak 1980, Kastovsky
1968, 1985, 1992, 1996, 2002, Colman 1985, Anderson 1998, among
others).1) In particular, Kastovsky has published many papers on a
variety of OE  morphological phenomena (inflection, derivation and
compounding). Based on Marchand's (1969) extensive empirical study
of Present-day English (PE) word-formation and his morphological
theory, Kastovsky postulates a zero-morpheme (ø) in order to account
for non-affixational word-formation (traditionally-called, conversion):
V > [V+ø]N: [gief+an]V 'to give' vs. [gief+ø+a]N 'someone who gives'.
The postulation of a zero-morpheme has been controversial in
morphological theory. For example, Plag (2003) argues against the
assumption of zero-derivation in favor of non-affixational conversion.
Dalton-Puffer (1992, 1993), Ritt (2003) and Lass (1993) also provide
evidence against the postulation of a zero-morpheme in OE derivation,
arguing for zero-less derivation.
Another controversial issue involved in derivation without overt
marking is the directionality of derivation. Since there is no overt
nominal or verbal affixes attached with a base, there is no apparent
way of determining which one is the base of the other between two
derivatives: a noun from a verb or a verb from a noun. Kastovsky has
not suggested any principles or criteria for the determination of base.
He just stipulates that morphological base can be chosen based on
the historical or the semantic relationship between derivatives.
Addressing these two derivational issues (the postulation of a zero-
morpheme and the directionality of derivation), this paper aims to provide
a morphological analysis of ge-nouns and their related derivative forms.

1) The following abbreviations are used throughout the paper: Indo-European

(IE), Old English (OE), Middle English (ME), Present-day English (PE).
Nominal and Verbal Derivation in Old English▪Yoo-kang Kim 23

I argue that the directionality problem can be avoided by assuming

that a base is marked for word-category by Word-Class Marking. In
addition, it is shown that the presence or the absence of derivatives
related with ge-nouns can be predicted and explained by the Zero-
Constraint which requires a base to be affixed either by a zero- morpheme
or by an overt affix in order to appear as a word at the surface.
The organization of this paper is as follows. Section 2 provides a
historical survey of typological change in OE word-formation and discusses
main controversial issues. In section 3, I present 6 types of ge-nouns
and pose main questions concerning their derivation. The following
section gives main morphological algorithm and attempts to offer a
morphological analysis of the data. Section 5 concludes this paper.

2. Typological Change in OE Word-formation and

Controversial Issues

In this section, I discuss some important issues in OE word-formation

with special attention to morphological derivation of words. The first
half of the section begins with a brief historical survey of typological
change in word-formation from IE to OE because the structure of OE
derivational morphology cannot be understood without some knowledge
of its IE and Germanic antecedents. Then, I turn to the main issues
of this paper, namely, the directionality of derivation and the postulation
of a zero-morpheme in OE, reviewing how these issues have been
handled by the previous literature.

2.1 Typological Change in Word-formation from IE to OE

According to the morphological status of the input to the morphological

processes, namely, the status of the base form, derivational morphology is
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typologically subdivided into three types: word-based, stem-based,

or root-based morphology (Kastovsky 2006: 157, cf. Kastovsky 1996,
1992).2) In word-based morphology the inputs to the morphological
processes are free lexical items, which have at least one word-form
that can appear without any inflectional endings in an utterance (e.g.,
boy vs. boys). This is typically the case in PE. Stem-based morphology is
characterized by the fact that the input to the morphological processes
is always bound so it cannot occur as a word in an utterance unless it is
accompanied by an inflectional ending (OE ner- in nerjan 'to save', ox-
in oxa 'ox, singular, nominative'). This is true of OE verb morphology,
and partly also of OE noun morphology. Finally, root-based morphology
begins from an abstract lexical element which may or may not be word-
class-specific, and which had to first undergo certain stem-formative
processes in order to be combined with the inflectional system proper.3)
IE morphology is root-based: the root usually being represented as
a consonantal skeleton and the vowel being supplied by ablaut
alternations (e.g., *Vd- 'eat' (cf. OE etan), *mVd- 'measure' (cf. OE
metan), *trV- 'tremble' (cf. OE þrēat)) (Kuryłowicz 1968: 200ff,
Szemerényi 1996: 102ff).4) The actual paradigms are derived by first

2) "A word in this sense is basically a free form, and can occur in an
utterance without additional material such as inflectional or derivational
morpheme" (e.g., cat in cats); "a stem is a bound, word-class-specific
lexeme representation stripped of any inflectional endings, but potentially
containing derivational affixes or stem-formatives, which determine the
inflectional category of the lexeme in question" (e.g., scient- in scientist);
"a root is the element that is left over when all derivational, stem-forming,
and inflectional elements are stripped away." (e.g., IE *Vd-, OE etan 'to
eat') (Kastovsky 2006: 157)
3) Bauer (1983: 16) defines a stem formative as a "distributional segment
of a word-form independent of whether or not it is also a morph." This term
sometimes called as theme is used to denote an element which, when
added to a root, forms a stem to which inflections may be added. Thus,
Germanic *luf-ōj-an 'love' consists of root + stem formative (theme) +
inflectional ending. See Colman (1985) for the discussion of some morphological
formatives in OE.
Nominal and Verbal Derivation in Old English▪Yoo-kang Kim 25

adding stem-formatives and then inflectional endings: Root + Stem-

formative + Inflectional endings. Since word-class-specific properties
are added to the roots by the various morphological processes which
derived word-class-specific stems, many of IE roots are word-class-
neutral (Kastovsky 1996: 110). The addition of stem formatives and
of the appropriate endings (case, number, aspect, person) produces
primary nouns or primary verbs. This means that at this stage there
is no direct derivational connection between a verb and its derived
noun or a noun and its derived verb; both are only related via their
common root (Kastovsky 2006: 162). Put differently, the stem-formatives
are added to roots, producing verb-stems or noun-stems, to which
finally the appropriate inflectional endings are added.
The evolution of the Germanic language family is characterized by
a transformation of its phonological and morphological system. In
Germanic, stress came to be fixed on the first syllable and the stress
shift eventually led to a weakening and ultimate loss of medial and final
unstressed syllable, which in turn resulted in a growing loss of stem-
formatives and inflectional endings. This development brings about a
gradual shift from root-based to stem-based morphology in OE (Kastovsky
2006: 163). This typological change is exemplified below in (1).

(1) The basic structure of weak verbs in Germanic and OE (Hogg

1992: 157, Kastovsky 1996: 104, Kastovsky 2006: 164)
Germanic OE
Infinitive *trum + j + an-az trymm + ø + an
Present *trum + j + is trym + ø + is
Preterite *trum + i + d + a trym + ed + e

As shown in (1), the Germanic root *trum- is followed by a stem-

formative *-j-/*-i- by which the root is derived into a causative verb

4) V indicates the ablaut vowel. Ablaut is a variation in the root vowel

according to tense and number. The symbol "*" indicates an unattested form.
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and then inflectional endings occur. However, in OE the stem formative is

no longer segmentable because they have either fused with the inflectional
endings, or they syncopated leaving the i-umlaut trace in the stem
(*trumj- > *trümj- (i-umlaut) > *trüm (syncopation of *-j-)> OE trym-).5)
With nouns, the development is similar. In Germanic the original
stem-formatives have begun to merge with the case/number exponents,
losing their class-marking function: e.g., a-stem: *dag+a+z > OE
dag+as (plural nominative), *dag+a+ns > OE dag+as (plural accusative). The
stem-formative *-a- became a thing of the past, and the form (root (*dag)
+ stem-formative (*-a-) + inflectional ending (*-z)) came to be reanalyzed
as stem (dag-) + case/number endings (-as) in OE morphology.
Clearly this implies a shift from root-based to stem-based inflection.
The next stage of typological change is the loss of some inflectional
endings in OE. For example, the nominative/accusative singular ending
*-as of a-stem nouns is lost, resulting in uninflected forms (*dagas >
OE dag). Consequently, OE noun morphology comes to allow some
uninflected forms in morphological paradigms and the uninflected forms
(words) can be interpreted as unmarked base forms. This is the case
where we speak of word-based morphology. Namely, the OE endingless
nominatives/accusatives like cyning, stān, function as unmarked base-
forms with word-status. Here, inflection and derivation become word-
based, and it is this type that will eventually prevail in ME. Since
there are also many weak nouns and strong feminines like gum+a
and tung+e which are still stem-based, it can be stated that OE is
"in a stage of transition from stem-based to word-based inflection
and derivation" (Kastovsky 1992: 397).

5) In Germanic, there are four different stem-formatives for the formation

of weak verbs: Class 1: -j-/-i- (Gothic satjan, OE settan), Class 2:
-ōi-/-ō- (Gothic salbôn, OE sealfian), Class 3: -ē(j)- (Gothic haban, OE
habban), Class 4: -nō- (Gothic fullnan, OE beorhtnian) (Kastovsky 1996:
102). With the exception of Class 3, these are still recognizable in Gothic
but for OE only the first two classes are relevant.
Nominal and Verbal Derivation in Old English▪Yoo-kang Kim 27

2.2 Controversial Issues in OE Word-formation

In the previous section 2.1, I have provided a brief historical survey

of typological change in word-formation from IE to OE. The typological
change results in a shift of morphological patterns in OE synchronic
morphology, which, in turn, causes a morphological problem. The
following section discusses the relevant problems.

2.2.1 The Directionality of Morphological Derivation

As described above, OE morphology became stem-based due to the

loss of stem-formatives or the fusion of stem-formatives with the
following inflectional endings. The loss of stem-formatives which produced
word-specific stems (e.g., noun-stems, verb-stems) in the previous
periods results in the indeterminacy of directionality of morphological
derivation. The relevant examples are given below in (2).

(2) The derivational relationship between nouns and strong verbs in

OE (Kastovsky 1992: 392)
nouns verbs
cum+a (-an, -ena, -um) 'guest' cum+an (-e, -est-, -eþ) 'to come'
gief+end 'someone who gives' gief+an 'to give'
brec+ung 'act of breaking' brec+an 'to break'

As shown in (2), there is no overt stem-formative between a root

and the following inflectional ending so the base is unmarked for word-
class. For example, the base stems cum-, gief-, brec- are class-
neutral because they do not have any word-class markers. Their word-
categories are overtly determined only after the following inflection
endings occur.
Historically, the stems cum-, gief-, brec- of the strong verbs in (2)
are verbal so the nouns (cuma, giefend, brecung) may be viewed as
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derived nouns (verb → noun). Kastovsky (1968: 84-89) claims that strong
verbs are always basic, and nouns related to them with or without
ablaut alternations must be regarded as deverbal derivatives. However,
in a synchronic analysis of OE morphology this can no longer be
maintained as a general principle because from a purely synchronic
point of view, there is no overt marker for word-class in the input
(stems in OE) to morphological operations.
Plag (2003: 108-111) presents four possible ways of determining the
directionality of conversion. The first is to look at the history of the
language and see which word was first. However, simply looking at
earliest attestations does not solve the directionality problem. As
described above, according to Kastovsky (1996: 99, cf. Kastovsky 1968),
strong verbs are always basic and the nouns related to strong verbs
are typically deverbal. However, these deverbal nouns, in turn, often
served as the basis for secondary verbal derivatives (e.g., faran 'to
go' (strong verb) > fōr 'going, journey' (derived noun) > fēran 'go, come,
depart') (weak verb). Consequently, from a synchronic point of view, the
directionality problem remains unsolved: the base stem fVr (where V
indicates an ablaut vowel) can be either nominal (considering the
historical relationship between fōr and fēran) or verbal (considering
the relationship between faran and fōr.
The second criterion is to investigate the semantic dependency between
a base and its derived word. Plag (2003) states that, in general,
derived words are semantically more complex than their base. Kastovsky
(1996: 95) also argues for the basis of semantic dependency, demonstrating
that the item which is required for the definition of the other pair is
regarded as the basis (cf. Marchand 1969): PE ring (noun) > ring
(verv) 'to provide with a ring', OE huntian 'to hunt' > hunta 'one
who hunts'. However, the semantic information alone cannot solve the
directional problem because there are many cases where the semantic
relationship between base forms and derived forms cannot be clearly
Nominal and Verbal Derivation in Old English▪Yoo-kang Kim 29

determined (e.g., hwistlian 'to whistle' vs. hwistle 'whistle', cnyllan

'to strike, knock, ring a bell' vs. cnyll 'clang, stroke of a bell').6)
The next criterion proposed by Plag is the inflectional behavior of
forms. He states that the regularly inflecting word is derived from
the irregularly inflecting word. For instance, the irregular inflectional
behavior of verbs like to drink, to hit, to shake, or to sleep, he claims,
is a strong argument for the deverbal nature of the nouns such as
drink, hit, shake, and sleep. However, this criterion cannot be used for
derivational relationship between OE nouns and verbs because in OE
noun morphology there is no way of determining regularity of nouns.
Since OE has several noun declensions (a-stem, o-stem, n-stem, z -stem,
etc.) which contain various inflected forms according to class, number and
gender, it is not possible to tell which one is more regular than the others.
The last property relevant for the determination of directionality is
frequency of occurrence. Plag states that there is a strong tendency
for derived words being less frequently used than their base words.
This criterion may also end up with difficult cases in OE because there
are many derived words in OE whose base words are less frequently
words than them or even lost. According to Kastovsky (1996: 99),
there are many instances where the nominal base was lost and only
the verbal derivative survived in OE.
I have discussed the issue regarding the determination of directionality
by citing Plag's four criteria. The criteria are not successful for OE
derivational morphology because many equivocal cases occur in OE. I
argue that this directionality problem can be avoided by assuming

6) Even in PE, there are many cases where the semantic criterion does not
lead to a clear result. For example, forms such as love (N.) and love (V.)
are hard to decide upon because both have existed since OE times, and
that neither of them seems to be semantically primary. Namely, to love
could be paraphrased as 'being in a state of love', which would make
the noun primary. However, the opposite direction can also be argued
for because the noun could be paraphrased as 'state of loving', which
makes the verb primary (cf. Plag 2003: 111).
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that OE base is not marked for word-category, thus being word-class

neutral at the initial stage of morphological derivation. Word-category
can be specified by a separate morphological process before inflection
or derivation takes place. I will turn to this issue again in section 3.

2.2.2 Conversion or Zero-Affixation?

Conversion is a morphological process referring to "the change in

form class of a form without any corresponding change of form" (Bauer
1983: 32). For instance, the form napalm, which had been used exclusively
as a noun, came to be used as a verb (They decided to napalm the
town) is a case of conversion. Conversion is frequently called zero-
derivation, a term which many scholars prefer (Jespersen 1942, Marchand
1969). Kastovsky (1968, 1992, 1996, 2006) also strongly argue for
the role of a zero-morpheme in the OE derivational morphology. Some
relevant examples are given below in (3).

(3) OE derived Class 2 weak verbs (Kastovsky 1996: 93)

ādlian 'to become ill' < ādl 'illness'
endian 'to end' < end 'end'
fiscian 'to fish' < fisc 'fish'

According to Kastovsky, the infinitive ending -ian of the derived

weak verbs functions as an inflectional ending just as inflectional suffixes
(-ie, -aþ, -ode) in fiscie, fisciaþ or fiscode so the denominal derivation
involved in such instances was affixless due to the existence of a zero
morpheme (e.g., end (base) + ø (denominal derivational morpheme)
+ ian (infinitive inflectional morpheme).
The postulation of a zero-morpheme has been controversial and the
question remains open in which particular cases it is justified to postulate
a zero-morpheme. Most morphologists think that a zero-form can be
justified only in those cases where there is also an overt (non-zero)
Nominal and Verbal Derivation in Old English▪Yoo-kang Kim 31

form that expresses exactly the same meaning or function as a zero-

morpheme does (Sanders 1988, Plag 1999, cf. Plag 2003: 112-113).
This constraint has also been called the overt analogue criterion.
This means that for each type of conversion we would have to find at
least one affix that expresses exactly the same range of meanings as
conversion. If so, we can safely assume the existence of a zero-morpheme,
if not, we have to reject it.
Let us take an example of OE deverbal suffixation to see what types
of semantic types they represent and to determine whether they can
express the same range of meanings as deverbal conversion. Kastovsky
(1985) examines the semantic types of OE deverbal suffixes including
those of deverbal conversion. According to him, the following suffixes
are involved in the derivation of OE deverbal nouns: -(e)d/-(o)þ/-t,
-(e)l/-ol, -els, -en, -end, -ere, -estre, -ett, -icge, -ing/-ung, -ness, -ø.
The semantic types he considers include action, agentive, experiencer,
objective, factitive, goal/benefactive, instrumental, and locative. He
argues that a ø-derivative is the most productive among the deverbal
nouns and that it has a wide range of semantic types: action, agentive,
objective, factitive, goal, instrumental, and locative. However, he adds
that overt suffixes also produce a variety of semantic types of nouns. For
example, the nominal suffix -end, according to him, produces a deverbal
nouns whose semantic types include action, agentive, experiencer,
objective, goal, and instrumental. All semantic types represented by
a zero-morpheme are also expressed by other overt affixes even though
there is the relative strength of each suffix in terms of their productivity
(cf. Kastovsky 1985: 254). This means that in OE there are overt
suffixes which can express the same range of semantic meanings as
a zero-morpheme so it can be said that the overt analogue criterion
is satisfied in OE deverbal noun morphology and that the postulation
of a zero-morpheme in OE can be justified.
In conclusion, in line with Kastovsky's argument for the postulation
32 언어와 언어학 제40집

of a zero-morpheme, I assume that a zero-morpheme exists in OE.

Furthermore, I claim that the zero-morpheme plays an active role in
OE morphology. It is shown in section 4 that whether a derivative
form appears at the surface or not (i.e. attested or unattested) depends
on the presence or the absence of the zero-morpheme.
In sum, this section has discussed the two issues concerning OE
derivational morphology, providing a critical review of some relevant
previous works: the directionality of derivation and the postulation
of a zero-morpheme. To handle these two issues and to provide a
morphological analysis of derived words in OE, I examine the derivation
of OE ge-nouns. The following section presents some relevant data
and poses main research questions.

3. Data and Main Questions

In order to investigate OE derivational process, I chose the OE prefix

ge- because the prefix is very productive both when preverbal and
when prenominal.7) In particular, ge- is affixed both to nouns and to verbs
having derived from the same base, resulting in various morphological
forms: ge-noun (ge+feoht 'battle'), underived noun (feoht 'fight, battle'),
ge-verb (ge+feohtan 'to fight'), underived verb (feohtan 'to fight').
As a way of providing an answer to the two morphological questions
(the directionality of derivation and conversion), I attempt to show
how the affixation of ge- occurs, and how and when the word-category
of the base is marked in OE.
As a point of departure, I collected 38 ge-nouns found in Beowulf
using Mitchell & Robinson's (1998) edition. The ge-nouns are listed

7) The prefix ge - is also used before pronouns (e.g, gehwer 'whoever'),

adjectives (e.g, gecynde 'natural'), and adverbs (e.g, genoh 'enough') even
though it is much less productive than before verbs and nouns.
Nominal and Verbal Derivation in Old English▪Yoo-kang Kim 33

below in (4).

(4) 38 Ge-nouns in Beowulf

gebedda, gebrōþor, gebyrd, gedræg, gedryht, gefēa, gefeoht,
geflit, gehygd, gehyld, gelād, gemēde, gemet, gemēting, gemynd,
genip, gesacu, gescād, gescæphwīle, gesceaft, gesceap, geselda,
gesīð, geslyht, getrum, geþinge, geþōht, geþonc, geþræc, geþring,
geþyld, gewǣde, gewealc, geweald, geweorc, gewidre, gewif,

Then, I collected nouns (without ge-) and verbs (both with and
without ge-) which are morphologically related to the ge-nouns (e.g.,
feoht, gefeohtan, feohtan related to gefeoht) by referring to Toller's
An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary (1973). Finally, the ge-nouns and their
related words are classified according to 6 categories shown below in
Table 1.

<Table 1> 6 categories for morphological analysis

simplex simplex
ge-noun ge-verb Examples
noun verb
gefea, gefeoht, gehyld, gesacu,
getrum, geþinge, geþoht,
0 0 0 0
Type 1 geþonc, geþring, gewǣde,
(gefea) (feoh) (gefeohan) (feohan)
gewealc, geweald, geweorc,
gewidre, gewrixle
0 X 0 0 gemet, gemynd, genip,
Type 2
(gemet) (gemetan) (metan) gesceap, gewif
0 0 0 geflit, gesīð, geslyht, geþræc,
Type 3 X
(geflit) (flit) (flitan) geþyld
0 0 gebedda, gebroþor, gelad,
Type 4 X X
(gebedda) (bedd) gesceaft, geselda
0 0
Type 5 X X gedræg
(gedræg) (dragan)
Type 6 X X X gehygd
(0 = attested, X = unattested)
34 언어와 언어학 제40집

Each type differs according to the presence or the absence of attested

forms: type 1 having all possible attested forms (ge-noun, simplex noun,
ge-verb, simplex verb) to type 6 having only ge-nouns. Historically
speaking, the absence of attested forms may be considered as the
results of the loss of the forms or simply as accidental gaps. From a
synchronic point of view, the distribution of attested forms of each
type poses a number of questions concerning their morphological
derivation. For example, in the case of type 6 where only ge-nouns
are attested, what is their morphological source? Are they derived
from unattested simplex nouns (or unattested simplex verbs) (Base
→ *N → ge + N / Base → *V → *N → ge + N) or directly from a base
(Base → ge + Base)? In addition, in type 6 where all possible forms
are attested, where do nominal derivatives (ge-nouns) come from?
Are they derived from simplex nouns (Base → N → ge-N) or ge-verbs
(Base → V → ge-V → ge-N)? These questions regarding morphological
derivation are closely related with the morphological issues discussed
in the previous section and have to be taken into consideration in a
morphological study. Providing an answer to the questions can give
an understanding of OE derivational morphology as well as provide a
solution to the long-standing problems (the directionality of derivation
and conversion). Main relevant questions are summarized below.

(a) What is the morphological status of the input to morphological

derivation of ge-nouns? (the status of base)
(b) What is the morphological source of simplex nouns or verbs?
Are they directly derived from base or from the other by zero-
derivation? (zero-morpheme)
(c) How can the occurrence of lexical gaps (unattested derivatives)
be accounted for in a morphological theory? Is it possible to
predict the presence or the absence of a specific morphological
Nominal and Verbal Derivation in Old English▪Yoo-kang Kim 35

4. A Morphological Analysis of OE Ge-nouns

In this section, I attempt to provide a morphological analysis of

each type of ge-nouns with the assumption that a zero-morpheme exists in
OE morphology. Let us first present how OE morphological operations
take place and then begin to analyze the data.

4.1 Assumptions and Morphological Framework

The OE Morphological algorithm used in this paper is provided below

in (5) with a sample derivation.

(5) Morphological operations in OE8)

feoht Base (B)
↓ ↓ ↤Word-Class Marking
{feoht}N {B}Word Class (WCl)

↓ ↓ ↤Zero-derivation(optional)
{feoht} +{ø}
N {B} +{ø}

↓ ↓ ↤Derivation(optional) 9)

{ge}+[{feoht}N+{ø}] {ge}+[{Base}WCl+{ø}]
↓ ↓ ↤Inflection(optional)
[{ge}+[{feoht}N+{ø}]]+{es} [{ge}+[{Base}WCl+{ø}]]
+Inflectional ending

8) The notation "{ }" indicates an individual morpheme; "[ ]" morphological
structure; "+" a morphological boundary.
9) According to Lexical Phonology (Kiparsky 1982, Mohanan 1986), there are
two levels or strata in English derivational morphology and affixes belong
to one of the two. Affixes belonging to one level are distinguished from the
affixes of the other level by a number of properties (e.g,, stress shift,
morpho-phonological alternations). In addition, level 1 affixes are generally
less productive than level 2 affixes. In the theory, irregular inflection
occurs at level 1 while regular inflection takes place at level 2. In this paper,
I do not treat this leveling issue because it is not directly relevant of the
main purpose of this paper.
36 언어와 언어학 제40집

As shown in (5), OE derivation begins with a base, which is not

marked for word-class. The word-category of the base becomes specified
at the next step by Word-Class Marking so derived stems (nominal
or verbal) are produced, being ready for further morphological process
(derivational or inflectional). This means that simplex nouns or verbs
are directly derived from a word-class neutral base, not by conversion
(from a noun to a derived verb or from a verb to a derived noun). As
a consequence, the directionality problem of conversion can be avoided
in this analysis because nouns and verbs directly come from a word-
class neutral base. Put differently, there is no need to determine which
one is the base of the other. The word category of a noun or a verb
is specified by Word-Class Marking at this point of morphological
derivation. This class-marking process producing a word-class specified
stem can be interpreted as a historical relic of the Germanic stem-
formative having been lost before OE (cf. section 2.1).
The following step is the occurrence of a zero-morpheme, which is
optional in morphological derivation. If an overt suffix occurs after
the class-specified stem, the zero morpheme does not take place because
there is no morphological motivation of the zero-derivation. The stem is
already marked for word-class by Word-Class Marking and other
morphological functions (person, case, number, tense) can be represented
by the overt affix. By contrast, in cases where such an overt suffix does
not occur, the zero-morpheme must take place in order to play a
morphological function (e.g., {bāt}N+ø (singular nominative)). If the
zero-morpheme is not attached with a stem, the stem cannot surface,
which means the form is not attested in OE (e.g., *{bāt}N).
The prohibition of occurrence of affixless stems without having a zero-
morpheme can be justified by the consideration of the typological stage
of OE. As discussed in section 2, OE is at the transitional stage between
stem-based morphology and word-based morphology. This ambivalent
typological status of OE can be well characterized by the postulation
Nominal and Verbal Derivation in Old English▪Yoo-kang Kim 37

of the zero-morpheme. Since OE is partly word-based, stems can

occur as a word. However, the surface occurrence of OE stems must
be restricted under a certain condition because OE morphology still
remains stem-based. The OE morphological condition for the occurrence
of affixless stems is to require the stems to acquire a zero-morpheme
which can represent inflectional functions. In short, OE stems can
appear as a word at the surface under one of the following two conditions:
either with a zero-morpheme or with an overt affix. Therefore, it is
assumed in this analysis that all uninflected forms (masculine/neuter
a-stem nominatives/accusatives (e.g., bāt 'boat'), some neuter plural
nominatives/accusatives (e.g., word 'words')) are marked by a zero-
morpheme at this stage of morphological derivation. The OE  morphological
requirement can be formalized as in (6).

(6) OE Zero-Constraint
OE stems can appear as a word at the surface only if either of
the following conditions is satisfied:
(a) an overt affix is attached to them
(b) a zero-morpheme is attached to them

Finally, additional derivation and inflection take place in sequence,

producing a final output. The application of these operations are also
optional so that a number of affixless stems can appear (with a zero-
morpheme) at the surface without being attached to any affixes.
Now, we are ready for morphological analysis of each type of
ge-nouns. The following section attempts to provide a morphological
analysis using the morphological algorithm presented in this section.

4.2 Morphological Analysis

Let us begin with type 1 in which all possible derivatives are attested.
The derivation of the derivative forms are exemplified below in (7).
38 언어와 언어학 제40집

(7) Type 1 (ge-noun/simplex noun/ge-verb/simplex verb)

Nouns: gehyld 'protector', hyld 'protection',
Verbs: gehyldan 'to keep', hyldan 'to recline'

hyld → {hyld} → {hyld}

N N+{ø} → hyld

{ge}+[{hyld}N] → gehyld
{hyld}V → [{hyld} ] {an} → hyldan
V +

{ge}+[{hyld}v] → [{ge}+[{hyld}v]]+{an} → gehyldan

The base hyld becomes specified for word-category by Word-Class

Marking in the beginning of the derivation so the nominal stem ({hyld}N)
and the verbal stem ({hyld}V) are produced. Then, in order to appear
as words at the surface, the stems must satisfy the OE Zero-Constraint
formulated in (6), which requires them to be affixed either by an
overt-affix (cf. (6a) or a zero-morpheme (cf. (6b)). The noun hyld
becomes a word by being connected with a zero-morpheme and the other
derivatives (gehyld, hyldan, gehyldan) by being attached with overt
affixes (ge-, -an). In this way, the attestation and the derivation of all
derivative forms can be explained without having directionality problem.
Since the nominal stem and the verbal stem are separately derived
by the base, not by their counterpart (noun from a verbal stem or
verb from a nominal stem), there is no need to determine which one
is the base of the other. In addition, the constraint in (6) shows why
all the derivative forms are attested in this type. The stems of the
words belonging to this type satisfy the derivational conditions, and
thus can surface as words.
Let us turn to type 2 where all derivatives forms are attested with
the exception of simplex nouns. The sample derivation is provided
below in (8).
Nominal and Verbal Derivation in Old English▪Yoo-kang Kim 39

(8) Type 2 (ge-noun/*simplex noun/ge-verb/simplex verb)

Noun: gemet 'measure of strength'
Verbs: gemetan 'to measure', metan 'to measure'

met → {met} (no zero-derivation) *met


{ge}+[{met} ] → gemet

{met} → [{met} ] {an} → metan

V V +

{ge}+[{met}v] → [{ge}+[{met}v]]+{an} → gemetan

The only difference between type 1 and type 2 is that the simplex
nominal form of type 2 words is not attested while all derivative
forms appear in the case of type 1. The absence of simplex nouns in
type 2 can be interpreted as the result of the violation of the Zero-
Constraint in (6). As a zero-morpheme does not occur to the nominal
stem ({met}N), the stem cannot appear as a word. Instead, the
stem is affixed with the prefix ge- and becomes a part of the noun
Type 3 includes ge -nouns whose corresponding ge -verbs are not
attested. Their derivation are exemplified below in (9).

(9) Type 3 (ge-noun/simplex noun/*ge-verb/simplex verb)

Nouns: geflit 'strife, discussion', flit 'scandal, strife'
Verb: flitan 'to compete, to strive'

flit → {flit} → {flit}

N N+{ø} → flit

{ge}+[{flit} ] → geflit

→ [{flit} ] {an} → flitan

{flit}V V +

(no prefixation) *geflitan
40 언어와 언어학 제40집

The absence of ge-verbal form *geflitan can be simply seen as the

result of no application of prefixaton. Let us move on to Type 4 where
verbal forms are not attested at all.

(10) Type 4 (ge-noun/simplex noun/*ge-verb/*simplex verb)

Nouns: gelād 'a course, a path', lād 'passage, voyage'

lād → {lād} → {lād}

N N+{ø} → lād

{ge}+[{lād}N] → gelād
No Verbal Marking (*lādan, *gelādan)

As shown in (10), the absence of verbal derivatives is due to

the non-application of Word-Class Marking (verb marking). By
contrast, the base is marked as a noun so nominal derivatives are
The choice of whether Word-Class Marking applies or not to a specific
base in OE may be determined based on OE native speakers' morphological
knowledge. Synchronically, verbal derivatives related to ge-nouns in
this type do not exist in the OE lexicon while nominal derivatives do.
This morphological information can be learned by OE speakers and their
knowledge has an effect on morphological derivation. If speakers know
there are derivatives from a certain word-class, Word-Class Marking
applies to make the word-class stem.
Ge-nouns of the type-5 category have only affixless verbal forms.
Their corresponding simplex nouns and ge-verbs are not attested in
OE. Relevant sample derivation is given below in (11).

(11) Type 5 (ge-noun/*simplex noun/*ge-verb/simplex verb)

Noun: gedræg 'dragging, band'
Verb: dragan 'to drag, to draw'
Nominal and Verbal Derivation in Old English▪Yoo-kang Kim 41

drag → {drag} (no zero-derivation) *drag


{{dræg} } → {ge}+[{{dræg} }] gedræg

{drag} → [{drag} ] {an} → dragan

V V +

(No prefixation) *gedragan

The simplex nominal form *drag and the ge-verbal form *gedragan
cannot occur as words due to the absence of zero-derivation and
prefixation, respectively. One thing I should mention about this case is
the derivation of umlaut forms: {drag} → {{dæg}}. Historically speaking,
the phonological modification of roots was produced by i-umlaut which
occurred in the pre-OE period. The OE residue of the phonological
vocalic change is the variation of root vowels as shown in (11). From
a synchronic point of view, this issue is involved in the interaction
between morphological operations and phonological change. As this
topic is not directly related with the purpose of this paper, I simply
assume that a modified root form is represented by "{{ }}" (e.g.,
{drag} → {{dæg}}) without providing further relevant discussion.
Last, type 6 only consists of ge-nouns. Simplex nouns and verbal
forms are not found in OE. The derivation of the type-6 ge-nouns is
exemplified below in (12).

(12) Type 6 (ge-noun/*simplex noun/*ge-verb/*simplex verb)

Noun: gehygd 'thought, meditation'

hygd → {hygd} N (no zero-derivation) *hygd

{ge}+[{hygd}N}] gehygd

No Verbal Marking (*gehygdan, *hygdan)

42 언어와 언어학 제40집

As shown in (12), the simplex nominal form cannot occur because

its nominal stem is not attached with a zero-morpheme. The verbal
forms also do not appear at the surface because the base is not marked
as a verbal stem.

5. Conclusion

In sum, this paper has provided a morphological analysis of 6 types

of ge-nouns, addressing the controversial issues: the directionality of
affixless derivation and the postulation of a zero-morpheme. The
directionality problem could be avoided in my analysis because unlike
traditional morphological accounts assuming that a noun is derived
by a verb or vice versa, a base is marked for word-category by Word-
Class Marking. Namely, nominal or verbal stems were produced
directly from the base by means of the application of Word-Class Marking,
not from the other stem by conversion.
Furthermore, the Zero-Constraint in (6) successfully accounted for
why some derivative forms were not attested in OE even though they
were morphologically possible forms. It is very significant to attempt
to explain the absence of some derivatives at a specific period of a
language because there have been no formal treatments of this issue
at all. Derivative forms have been simply considered as lexical gaps
or as the result of historical loss. By contrast, this analysis clearly
has showed how some derivatives appear at the surface while others do
not. The presence or the absence of a derivative form were determined
by the Zero-Constraint.
Nominal and Verbal Derivation in Old English▪Yoo-kang Kim 43


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[449-791] 경기도 용인시 모현면 왕산리 산 89 한국외국어대학교 영어학부

E-mail: ykim@hufs.ac.kr

논문접수 : 2007년 7월 15일

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