#946. 名詞複数形の歴史の概要[plural][number]


 名詞複数形の発展(主として初期中英語期)を長らく研究しているのだが,入れ込みすぎているためか,かえってブログ記事として概要を書きづらい.しかし,概要くらいは書き留めておくとやはり便利なので,以下に教科書的な記述を与えておく.2つ引用を挙げるうち,先のものは簡易版要約として拙著論文 (Hotta, "Review") から,後のものは詳細版要約として Baugh and Cable のものからである.

The s-plural was fairly quickly generalised at the expense of other plural formations such as an n-ending, a vowel-ending, a zero-ending, and an i-mutation, first in the northern/eastern dialects of England in Late Old English (LOE). In the course of Early Middle English (EME), the trend was followed slowly but surely by the southern/western dialects. Although there long persisted older plural formations such as n- and vowel-endings and even unchanged forms, the s-form finally dominated the plural system by the end of ME, with the exception of a handful of "irregular plurals" that have survived to this day. (95)

In early Middle English only two methods of indicating the plural remained fairly distinctive: the -s or -es from the strong masculine declension and the -en (as in oxen) from the weak . . . . And for a time, at least in southern England, it would have been difficult to predict that the -s would become the almost universal sign of the plural that it has become. Until the thirteenth century the -en plural enjoyed great favor in the south, being often added to nouns which had not belonged to the weak declension in Old English. But in the rest of England the -s plural (and genitive singular) of the old first declension (masculine) was apparently felt to be so distinctive that it spread rapidly. Its extension took place most quickly in the north. Even in Old English many nouns originally of other declensions had gone over to this declension in the Northumbrian dialect. By 1200 -s was the standard plural ending in the north and north Midland areas; other forms were exceptional. Fifty years later it had conquered the rest of the Midlands, and in the course of the fourteenth century it had definitely been accepted all over England as the normal sign of the plural in English nouns. Its spread may have been helped by the early extension of -s throughout the plural in Anglo-Norman, but in general it may be considered as an example of the survival of the fittest in language. (160)

 本当はこの記述のように簡単に説明しきれないからこそ突っ込んだ研究が成り立つのだが,概略としてはこの理解で間違いない.ただし,Baugh and Cable の引用の末尾に見られる,Anglo-Norman が英語の -s の発展に影響を与えた可能性があるという説は,今ではほぼ否定されており,私も否定されるべきと考える (Hotta, Development 154, 268 [Note 66]) .

 ・ Hotta, Ryuichi. "Review of The Development of the Nominal Plural Forms in Early Middle English." Studies in Medieval English Language and Literature 25 (2010): 95--112.
 ・ Baugh, Albert C. and Thomas Cable. A History of the English Language. 5th ed. London: Routledge, 2002.
 ・ Hotta, Ryuichi. The Development of the Nominal Plural Forms in Early Middle English. Hituzi Linguistics in English 10. Tokyo: Hituzi Syobo, 2009.

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