Forms of possessive pronouns in ME
The forms mīn, thīn are used if the following word begins with the vowel or with h-, e.g. myn elbowe, myn herte ‘my heart’; thīn ooth ‘thy oath’, thīn īre ‘thy anger’, and before a pause: hoolly to be thyn ‘to be wholly thine’. They are also used as predicatives, no matter what the initial sound of the following word is: myn be the travail, and thyn be the glorie ‘mine be the labour, and yours be the glory’.
The forms my, thy are found before a word with an initial consonant (except
h-): my blisse, thy child. Thus, the use of min, thin or my, thy is determined partly by phonetic, partly by grammatical factors.
2.3.2. Demonstrative pronouns
Demonstrative pronouns were adjective-pronouns; like other adjectives, in OE they agreed with the noun in case, number and gender and had a well-developed morphological paradigm. The OE forms of the demonstrative pronoun (or definite article) sē, sēo were changed into þe, þēo on the analogy of the forms derived from the root þ-. In Early ME forms like and þe, þēo, þat functioned both as demonstrative pronoun and as article. Since the 14th c., however, the form þat was only preserved as a demonstrative pronoun form.
Simultaneously, the declension system of the pronoun was undergoing changes. The form þōs (from OE þās, Nom. and Acc. pl. of the OE demonstrative pronoun þes) became the plural of þat.
Declension of the pronoun þe ‘that’ in Early ME
Declension of the pronoun þes ‘this’ in Early ME
In the 13th c. declension of the definite article tends to disappear, and in Late ME the definite article finally becomes invariable. The definite article the and the demonstrative pronoun that, which developed from the pronouns þe, þēo, þat, were no longer declined and had no gender forms.
The other demonstrative pronoun, OE þes, developed in the following way in ME: sg. this (from the OE Nom. and Acc. sg. þis ), plural thise/thes(e); sg. that (from the OE Nom. and Acc. sg. neut. þæt), plural thō, thōs:
Sg this Pl thise/thes(e) (NE this – these)
that tho/thos(e) (NE that – those)
Number distinctions in demonstrative pronouns have survived as an archaic trait in the modern grammatical system, for no other noun modifier agrees now with the noun in number.
Other classes of pronouns
(interrogative, indefinite, relative, reflexive)
The other classes of OE pronouns were subjected to the same simplifying changes as all nominal parts of speech.
The OE interrogative pronouns hwā, hwæt > who, what have three cases in ME:
Nom. whō what > ‘who, what’
Gen. whōs, whōs(e) whōs, whōs(e) > ‘whose’
Obj. whōm what > ‘whom’
The form of the OE Instr. case hwy developed into an adverb why ‘why’.
OE hwelc, ME which, formerly used only with relation to person widened its application and began to be used with relation to things. ME whether (from OE hwæþer) was used as an interrogative pronoun in the meaning 'which of the two' but later was mainly preserved as a conjunction.
Most indefinite pronouns of the OE period simplified their morphological structure and some pronouns fell out of use. For instance, man died out as an indefinite pronoun; OE derived pronouns with the prefixes ā -, æ¥-, ne- were replaced by phrases or simplified: OE æ¥-hwelc, ā¥hwilc, ælc yielded ME eech, NE each; OE þyslic, þuslic, þullic, swelc were replaced by such; nān-þin¥, (from ne+ān+þin¥) became nothing, etc. Eventually new types of compound indefinite pronouns came into use – with the component -thing, -body, -one, etc; in NE they developed a two-case paradigm like nouns: the Comm. and the Poss. or Gen. case: anybody – anybody's.
Reflexive pronouns appeared as a result of combining the form of the objective case of personal pronouns with the form self: himself, themselves, herself, myself, thyself, ourselves, yourselves. However, there were two interpretations as far as the formation of reflexive pronouns is concerned: 1) objective case + self; 2) possessive case + self. The second point of view could arise due to ambiguity of the form herself whose first component might be interpreted as the possessive pronoun. As a result the component self was understood as a noun modified by a possessive pronoun; on this pattern new reflexive pronouns were derived by means of the corresponding possessive ones: myself, thyself, ourself, yourself.
The other direction of the development of the demonstrative pronouns sē, sēo, þæt led to the formation of the definite article. This development is associated with a change in form and meaning.
In OE texts the pronouns sē, sēo, þæt were frequently used as noun-determiners with a weakened meaning, approaching that of the modern definite article.
In the course of ME there arose an important formal differencebetween the demonstrative pronoun and the definite article: as a demonstrative pronoun that preserved number distinctions whereas as a definite article – usually in the weakened form the [ə] – it was uninflected. In the 14th c. the article had lost all traces of inflection and became a short unaccented form-word.
The meaning and functions of the definite article became more specific when it came to be opposed to the indefinite article, which had developed from the OE numeral and indefinite pronoun ān.
In OE there existed two words, ān, a numeral, and sum, an indefinite pronoun, which were often used in functions approaching those of the modern indefinite article. Ān seems to have been a more colloquial word, while sum tended to assume a literary character, particularly towards the end of the period, and soon fell into disuse in this function.
In Early ME the indefinite pronoun ān which had a five-case declension in OE lost its inflection. In the 12th c. the inflectional forms of ān reveal a state of confusion; in the 13th c. the uninflected oon/one and their reduced forms an/a are firmly established in all regions. The use of articles at the age of Chaucer is often similar to what we find in English today.
The system of the declinable parts of speech underwent considerable simplification, at the same time developing new analytical features. The peculiarities of the nominal system in ME and Early NE can be summed up in the following way:
1. Reduction in the number of the declinable parts of speech.
2. Reduction in the number of declensions (whatever is preserved follows the a-stem masculine).
3. Reduction in the number of grammatical categories.
4. Reduction in the number of the categorial forms (the category of number of personal pronouns and case – of all nominal parts of speech).
5. Formation of a new class of words – the article.