Edited by Ursula Lenker, Judith Huber and Robert Mailhammer
[Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 314] 2010
► pp. 237–254
In Old English the finite forms of the bLroot for ‘be’ (beo, bist, bið, etc.) were more likely to appear in contexts involving futurity than the sLroot (eom, eart, is, etc). The use of the bLroot for future continues into Middle English. During the compilation of LAEME, we have observed that the complex and variable Old English distinction can become simplified and systematized. In early Middle English the use of bLforms in the present indicative singular is in some text languages1 restricted entirely to future senses. In the areas where the bLroot is the norm for present indicative plural, this system is confined to the singular. But in the North and to a certain extent the North Midlands, where ar-/erLforms are available, the system is extended into the plural. Ilse Wischer’s contribution to this volume offers fascinating and detailed insights into the different forms of the verb ‘to be’ in Old English and their distinctive functions. This paper looks mainly at subsequent developments. It therefore only briefly summarizes the Old English distinctions as background to a micro-dialectal study of three subsystems that emerge during early Middle English. Their identification gives rise to further questions that might reward investigation in the future.