Volume 71, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0108-8416
  • E-ISSN: 2212-9715
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes


In addition to the Germanic nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive cases still present in modern German and Icelandic, Old English inherited a fifth case known as the instrumental. This case was marginal and not consistently distinguishable from the dative, with which it had merged by the beginning of the Middle English period. This article establishes the patterns of use of the instrumental and the mechanism of its loss, through analysis of syntactically annotated corpora of Old English texts. It is found that the case survived primarily through probabilistic selection in a set of highly restricted contexts which developed independently of each other, in some cases merging with the dative and in others solidifying into morphologically indecomposable constructions.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Allen, C. L.
    1992 Old English and the syntactician: Some remarks and a syntactician’s guide to the works of Ælfric. In F. Colman (ed.), Evidence for Old English (Edinburgh Studies in the English Language 2), 1–19. Edinburgh: Donald.
    [Google Scholar]
  2. Anderson, G. K.
    1935 Some irregular uses of the instrumental case in Old English. Proceedings of the Modern Language Association50. 946–956. doi: 10.2307/458101
    https://doi.org/10.2307/458101 [Google Scholar]
  3. 1958 The fifth case in Old English. Journal of English and Germanic Philology57. 21–26.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Bammesberger, A.
    2001 -Um (> -on) as marker of the instrumental singular in Old English and Old Frisian. Neophilologus85(2). 287–290. doi: 10.1023/A:1004816411356
    https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1004816411356 [Google Scholar]
  5. Campbell, A.
    1959Old English grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Godden, M. , Irvine, S.
    (eds.) 2009The Old English Boethius: An edition of the Old English versions of Boethius’s De consolatione philosophiae. 2vols.Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Hogg, R. M. , Fulk, R. D.
    2011A grammar of Old English: Morphology. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Kress, J.
    1864Ueber den Gebrauch des Instrumentalis in der angelsaechsischen Poesie. Marburg: Elwert.
    [Google Scholar]
  9. Kroch, A. , Taylor, A.
    2000Penn-Helsinki parsed corpus of Middle English. 2nd edn.Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Mossé, F.
    1968A handbook of Middle English. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. Mitchell, B.
    1985Old English syntax, Vol.1. Oxford: Clarendon. doi: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198119357.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198119357.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  12. Pintzuk, S.
    2001The York-Helsinki parsed corpus of Old English poetry. Oxford: Oxford Text Archive.
    [Google Scholar]
  13. Randall, B.
    2000Corpus search. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Small, G. W.
    1930 The syntax of the and OE þon mā þe . PMLA45. 368–391. doi: 10.2307/457798
    https://doi.org/10.2307/457798 [Google Scholar]
  15. Taylor, A. , Warner, A. R. , Pintzuk, S. , Beths, F.
    2003The York-Toronto-Helsinki parsed corpus of Old English prose. Oxford: Oxford Text Archive.
    [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Research Article
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error