How did OE æ (stæl) / ǣ (stǣle) tranform into ME ō (stole)?

1 Answer 1


It wasn’t a regular sound change. The vowel in stole was influenced by analogy with other strong past forms like drove and the past participle stolen.

By sound laws, Old English æ gives Middle English /a/ (or sometimes /aː/ in an open syllable) and Old English ǣ gives Middle English /ɛː/.

A lot of strong verbs had ā in the past tense, which regularly became Middle English /ɔː/.

Another source of Middle English /ɔː/ was lengthening of Old English /o/ in open syllables in certain contexts. This occurred in the past participle stolen.

A related question on ELU: Why has "sware" become "swore", "bare" "bore", etc?

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