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#131791 - 08/19/04 01:44 PM What hath English wrought?
CarlAdler Offline
newbie

Registered: 11/12/00
Posts: 33
Loc: Eastern North Carolina, US
In Sundays Parade Magazine Marylin Vos Savant (the worlds "smartest person") had a bunch of words like "buy, seek, wreak, ... " and asked what they had in common. The answer was their past tense (presumably: bought, sought and wrought) rhymed. I got to thinking about it and looked it up and discovered that the present tense of "wrought" was "work". So far I have asked about a dozen people (including several editors) if they knew what the present tense of the word "wrought" was without looking it up and not a one (including me) got it right. My question is how did "wrought" get to be the past tense of "work"? (In addition to "worked".)
Carl



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#131792 - 08/19/04 02:15 PM Re: What hath English wrought?
birdfeed Offline
member

Registered: 11/19/02
Posts: 180
Loc: Atlanta, GA
Looks as if metathesis played a role. Some letters swapped places at some point, back when verbs wanted to sound remarkably different in the past tense.

Just on a whim I once looked up "freight" to see whether "fraught" was its past participle and it looks as if maybe it was, once upon a time.


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#131793 - 08/19/04 08:04 PM Re: What hath English wrought?
Faldage Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/01/00
Posts: 13803
This gets a little rough, so y'all might want to fasten your seatbelts and return your seatbacks and trays to the upright position.

In Modern English we classify verbs as regular or irregular. In Old English they were classified as strong or weak. There is a rough correspondence of weak to regular and strong to irregular but this gets a little confused by verbs that have switched teams in the middle of the stream. Nuncle can probably give us some examples off the top of his head but I'll leave them be for now. This correspondence is not one-to-one. Some examples of weak verbs that we would call irregular are seek/sought, think/thought, and work/wrought. This last is one that has become regularized, the past tense usually being worked. The other changes, the vowel changes, the loss of the n in think/thought, and the change of k to gh (the gh eventually becoming completely unpronounced in Standard English), are the result of other linguistic forces. The postion shift of the r in wrought is, as fredbide has explained, metathesis. But it's the final t that lets us know that the verb is weak.


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#131794 - 08/19/04 08:38 PM Re: What hath English wrought?
Father Steve Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/06/00
Posts: 2788
Loc: Seattle, Washington, USA
The first message ever sent over a telepgraph was tapped out on 24 May 1844 by Samuel F.B. Morse. It was "What hath God wrought?" This was based on a verse from the Old Testament, Numbers 23:23.

But you all knew all that, didn't you.





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#131795 - 08/19/04 10:11 PM Re: What hath English wrought?
jheem Offline
veteran

Registered: 01/06/04
Posts: 1474
Loc: California
Marylin Vos Savant

And who the heck is she when she gets home at night? Some thing else? Wrought is the past tense, or was, of work. You see related words in shipwright, wheelwright, playwright, etc. Not to be confused with "write".


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#131796 - 08/19/04 11:42 PM The smartest person in the world
Father Steve Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/06/00
Posts: 2788
Loc: Seattle, Washington, USA

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#131797 - 08/20/04 05:56 AM Re: What hath English wrought?
jheem Offline
veteran

Registered: 01/06/04
Posts: 1474
Loc: California
In Modern English we classify verbs as regular or irregular. In Old English they were classified as strong or weak.

Nicely put, Faldage. The thing about strong and weak verbs (which runs throughout Germanic languages) is that they both started out a regular phonological processes that have been obscured by other changes. Strong verbs like sing change the quality of their vowel to differentiate between forms, e.g., sing ~ sang, but weak verbs like love simply make due with a suffix, love ~ loved (spelled -t in some verbs). This process is related to an earlier one in Proto-Indoeuropean (the hypothetically reconstructed mother language of most of the European and some of the Iranian and Indian languages) called ablaut. And that had to do with the accentuation of words (and perhaps the movement from a tone system (like Lithuanian) to a stress system (like English).

Verbs like bring ~ braught, think, thought, are sometimes called mixed, because they involve a vowel change and a suffix. But their vowel changes are due to other influences.

Dive is a weak verb that recently people have been treating like a strong one: dive ~ dived vs dive ~ dove. Wear and spit also were originally weak verbs, but are now strong. That having been said, almost any new verbs that come into the language are put in the weak category and made pretty regular.


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#131798 - 08/20/04 04:32 PM Re: What hath English wrought?
wordminstrel Offline
enthusiast

Registered: 10/20/01
Posts: 247
This gets a little rough, so y'all might want to fasten your seatbelts and return your seatbacks and trays to the upright position.

Well, you did warn us, Faldage. But having read your dissertation, I think the title should read "What English hath over-wrought".



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#131799 - 08/20/04 04:58 PM Re: What hath English wrought?
of troy Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 10/17/00
Posts: 5400
Loc: rego park
gee word mintral, were did you get your PHD? if you think 2 paragraphs is a dissertation, i want to do my dissertation at the same place!

remimds me of the joke about USNews--did you hear it was hoping to win a pulitzer prize?--They were hoping to win in the "world best written paragraph" catagory!

its easy to dis.. but faldage and jheem added to our basic knowledge of the history of english.. what do you have to offer?

_________________________
my other obsession

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#131800 - 08/20/04 05:34 PM Re: What hath English wrought?
wordminstrel Offline
enthusiast

Registered: 10/20/01
Posts: 247
faldage and jheem added to our basic knowledge of the history of english.. what do you have to offer?

I was just funnin', de Troy. Faldage added to my basic knowledge of english, too ... quite true.

Sometimes I find myself playing the Fool when the Fool is playing it straight.

Only goes to show that playing "the Fool" is a precarious occupation.

We, all of us, like to be enlarged, de Troy, without being belittled. Faldage has provided a good example.




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