On the decline of simple preterit in Middle Low German

2015. №1, 79-86

Elisaveta A. Vlasova
Institute for Linguistic Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg, 199053, Russia; kealis@gmail.com


The paper deals with peculiarities of Präteritumschwund phenomena in Middle Low German. Präteritumschwund is understood as a comprehensive system of elimination of the simple past forms. Instead of simple past, perfect forms or analytic past are found. I show that Middle Low German not only has developed such phenomena, but also reveals a wide usage of it. My data come from a prayer book of the late XVth century (F. 955 op. 2 No. 51), which was put together presumably in Lübeck and consists of nine blocks revealing a wide range of dialect features. It is assumed that reasons of evolvement of Präteritumschwund in the Middle Low German should be found not in the morphology aspects of the verbs, but in the system processes existing in the West European community. This thesis is supported by the examples from the prayer book, where even evidence of Doppelt-Perfekt phenomena is found, which is strongly connected with Präteritumschwund.

Präteritumschwund is traditionally examined on the basis of South German dialects. That is why the present work based on Middle Low German manuscripts seems to be essential for understanding of German system processes.