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I've been Googling for a little while tonight, but I can't seem to find any rules on this.

Irregular ("strong") verbs seem to be pretty set in their endings: goest, dost. But when I get to something like "bring", it seems almost like "bringst" and "bringest" are equally valid, and I can't find any examples to lead me to one sort of rule or another. If anyone could shed some light on this, I'd appreciate it.

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(1) spelling was still pretty irregular and personal in EME. (2) there is no real difference between -est and -st endings in EME; the vowel is placed there at the whim of the speller, since the e was unstressed and often not pronounced at all. (3) the 2sg verb inflection was /-st/ after vowels and resonants, with an epenthetic vowel inserted to break up unruly clusters with some verbs. Thus bring ends in a resonant, and /brɪŋst/ is not hard to pronounce, while a verb like cost probably needs epenthesis. (4) there was a lot of variation -- often political -- about using 2sg suffixes. –  John Lawler Jul 11 '13 at 2:21
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@JohnLawler Please post as answer. –  MετάEd Jul 11 '13 at 4:54
    
It's not spelling irregularity, per se, it is verb tense. –  Cyberherbalist Aug 23 '13 at 19:55

3 Answers 3

John Lawler posted this answer as a comment:

  1. Spelling was still pretty irregular and personal in EME.

  2. There is no real difference between -est and -st endings in EME; the vowel is placed there at the whim of the speller, since the e was unstressed and often not pronounced at all.

  3. The 2sg verb inflection was /-st/ after vowels and resonants, with an epenthetic vowel inserted to break up unruly clusters with some verbs. Thus bring ends in a resonant, and /brɪŋst/ is not hard to pronounce, while a verb like cost probably needs epenthesis.

  4. There was a lot of variation — often political — about using 2sg suffixes.

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I would agree that spelling would be erratic, kinda like, you don't spell it, son, you just say it! But in the case of bring I think it's more about they type of resonant that allows for the variation of the two endings. The fact that it ends in a nasal and therefore no occlusion in the oral cavity, both endings are easily pronounced.

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I am not an expert in Older English.

That being said, it is not a matter of irregular spelling, it's a matter of verb conjugation.

  • First person singular: I bring my sword and a potato salad!
  • Second person singular: Bringest thou my sword, Dudley?
  • Third person singular: He bringeth my sword, Dudley.

Where you see -st instead of -est, this is merely a shortened form, a contraction, if you will.

Unless you are allergic to the Bible as literature, I suggest you do some reading in the King James Version. You will see how that venerable volume uses conjugation properly.

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Inflectional differences between persons (1st vs 2nd vs 3rd) are not matters of “tense”. –  tchrist Aug 24 '13 at 4:40
    
OK, conjugation then. –  Cyberherbalist Aug 24 '13 at 22:13
    
Don't use the word "properly". The language has simply gotten rid of those endings, and it would now be improper to use them unless you were attempting to imitate eMnE or Biblical English. –  siride Aug 25 '13 at 16:49
    
What? You think I use EME in my daily walk? I don't. If one wants to use it, properly as opposed to sloppily, then what I wrote is the proper use of it. –  Cyberherbalist Aug 26 '13 at 4:14

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