The development of aspect is linked up with the growth of the continuous forms.
Verb phrases consisting of beon (NE be) plus Participle I are frequently found in OE prose. They denote a quality or a lasting state, characterising the person or thing.
In early ME ben plus Participle I fell into disuse; it occurs occasionally in some dialectal areas: in Kent and in the North. In Late ME it extended to other dialects and grew again.
In the 15th and 16th centuries be plus Participle I was often confused with a phrase - be plus the preposition on plus a verbal noun. The prepositional phrase indicated a process, taking place at a certain period of time. It is believed that the meaning of process may have come from the prepositional phrase.
It was in the 18th century that the Continuous forms acquired a specific meaning of their own - incomplete concrete process of limited duration. Only at that stage the continuous and non-continuous made up a new grammatical category - aspect.
Growth of Analytical forms and new grammatical categories of the verbs.
In ME texts we find different type of compound infinitive: the Passive infinitive; the Perfect infinitive, Active and Passive forms.
The analytical forms of Participle I began to develop later than the forms of the infinitive. It was not until 15 century that the first compound forms are found in the records.
The distinctions of the verbs in the 17th and the 18* centuries are practically the same as in Modem English. The forms of the infinitive, Participle I and Gerund make up grammatical categories similar to those of the finite verb: voice, time-correlation and aspect.
Verbals. The Infinitive and the Participle.
The infinitive lost its inflected form in Early ME. The distinctions between the two participles were preserved in ME and NE: Participle I had an active meaning and expressed a process or quality simultaneous with the events described by the predicate of the sentence. Participle II had an active or passive meaning depending on the transitivity of the verb and expressed a preceding action or its results in the subsequent situation.
The form of Participle I displayed different endings: ing- the southern and Midland forms; inde, -ende, -ande - in other dialects. The first variant became the dominant.
In ME the weak verbs built Participle II with the help of the dental suffix -(e)d, -t, the strong verbs - with the help of vowel gradationand the suffix -en.
The Past Participle and the Past tense of the weak verbs fell together by the end of ME. The Past Participle of the strong verbs coincided with the Past plural stem in ME.
The Late ME period witnessed the growth of a new verbal - the Gerund. The gerund can be traced to 3 sources: the OE verbal noun in -ung and -ing,, the Present Participle and the Infinitive.
The ME the Present Participle and the verbal noun became identical they both ended in -ing.This led to confusion of some of their features. Verbal nouns began to take direct objects like participles and infinitives. This verbal features as well as the frequent absence of article before the -ing-form functioning as a noun - transformed the verbal noun into a gerund.
Development of the syntactic system in ME and Early NE,
The most obvious difference between OE syntax and the syntax of the ME and NE periods is that the word order became more strict and the use of prepositions more extensive. The structure of the sentence and the word phrase., on the one hand, became more complicated, on the other hand, were stabilized and standartised.
The Simple Sentence.
The structure of the simple sentence became more orderly and more uniform. Yet, it grew complicated as the sentence came to include more extended and complex parts: longer attributive groups, diverse subjects and predicates and numerous predicative constructions. In ME and Early NE the relationships between the parts of the sentence were shown by their relative position, environment, semantic ties, prepositions and by a more rigid syntactic structure. Every place in the sentence comes to be associated with a certain syntactic function: in the new structure of the sentence syntactic functions were determined by position.
The use of several negative particles and forms continued throughout the ME. Gradually double negation went out of use. In the age of Correctness (the 18m century) multiple negation was banned an illogical.
In ME and Early NE the word order became fixed and direct: subject plus predicate plus object (S+P+O). In the 17ta and 18lh century the word order was determined by the same rules as in English today. The fixed, direct order prevailed in statements, unless inversion was required for communicative purpose or for emphasis.
In questions the word order was partially inverted - unless the question referred to the subject group.