Related: Grammaticalization of third person singular -s in English

According to responses to this question, there was a dichotomy between northern -s and southern -th in Middle English.

What I am wondering is:

  1. When and how was the vowel dropped in the ending, such as "makes" /meiks/? I can imagine a number of scenarios, including:

    • Some northern (-es) dialects dropped the vowel; some southern dialects (-eth) dropped the vowel. The going standard had been a southern dialect with the vowel retained, but a northern dialect with the vowel dropped gained predominance.

    • The vowel was never pronounced in northern dialects, even right when they borrowed the ending from Norse. It was never dropped in -eth dialects. (I find this unlikely, since it seems that the vowel would not be written if it was never present.)

    • The vowel was dropped contemporaneously in northern and southern dialects of English. However, whenever we read old texts, we are only aware of an era before the dropping of the vowel, so we (sometimes inaccurately) always pronounce the ending /eþ/.

  2. What were the rules on voicing of the consonant in third-person singular -eth in Old/Middle/Early Modern English?

  3. Did the rules for retention/deletion of the vowel in the ending always apply equally to "thou" -est forms as long as they were productive?

  4. Anything worthy of note regarding the presence of the vowel in past tense second-person endings?

  • 1
    This is a really big question. Do you think it might be better to break it down into a series of separate questions? You might get more (and better) answers, as someone who has an answer for one element might not want to tackle all the questions you put?
    – Berthilde
    Commented Nov 14, 2012 at 18:39
  • 1
    Hello Daniel. I think Berthilde makes a good point. Remember that it's absolutely legit to post multiple questions (there is a daily limit but don't worry about it). I think that it might be better for the answerers but also for you, as you'll get much more specific answers. :) I also think each one of those questions deserves to stay alone, except maybe the question #4...
    – Alenanno
    Commented Nov 20, 2012 at 10:28


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