I'm wondering what some possible catalysts/ reasons for loss of final -e /ǝ/ in Middle English might have been (For instance, OE /tɑlu/ > ME /taːlǝ/ > MnE tale /teɪl/).

I'm wondering because to my knowledge, all other Germanic languages have retained final shwa as part of their inflectional system (Dutch "een klein meisje, het kleine meisje").

I'm interested in social as well as linguistic factors.

  • Why are you comparing English nouns with Dutch adjectives? Dutch has done the same thing with its nouns: the Middle Dutch tale is taal today. Jun 1, 2015 at 8:38
  • Wasn't English profoundly influenced by French? I'd suppose French was a softer language than original Germanic ones.
    – xji
    Jun 5, 2015 at 11:42

1 Answer 1


David Crystal (ref. 1995:32) suggests a possible explanation why such reduction may have occurred:

  1. the articulatory stress started to fall on the first syllable;
  2. such stress pattern has introduced difficulties to the audibility of the inflectional endings;
  3. therefore, inflectional endings -en, -on, and -an first reduced to schwa;
  4. and subsequently disappeared.

There are more details in this answer.

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