A History of the English Language by N. F. Blake (auth.)

By N. F. Blake (auth.)

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After all, in the preterite we are perfectly happy to say He came where the verb has the same form in the third-person singular as in all the other persons. The relationship of the words in a sentence in Modern English is determined by their order and not by their endings. This has meant that the subjects of verbs must be expressed, unlike other languages which maintain verbal inflections through which the subject can be understood. Julius Cesar could write in Latin Veni, vidi, vici, in which the subject is understood from the verb form; and although in some modern Romance languages like Italian or Spanish it is possible to do the same thing, in English we cannot imitate him by adopting an equivalent expression **Came, saw, conquered, since we must write I came, I saw, I conquered.

In so far as standardisation took place, it was a standardisation of the written language and there were, as far as we can tell, no attempts to alter people's pronunciation, though it would not be surprising in view of human nature if some pronunciations were regarded as less elegant or even less acceptable than others. And certainly present dialect evidence suggests that regional pronunciations differed considerably throughout the country, though whether they also differed on a class basis we cannot tell for this early period.

That example also shows another new feature of English, the use of what are sometimes called phrasal verbs, that is a verb which is made up of the verb element itself, in this case bottles, and a preposition acting adverbially, in this case up, with a meaning which is different from that of the constituent parts. In this instance bottles up must mean something like 'surrounds, prevents from moving or taking any action'. In earlier English this type of verb was very rare, since the use of prefixes was the norm.

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