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Is there any evidence that the third person singular -s can be traced back to a lexical item before it became an inflection ? I am trying to see if the theory of grammaticalization applies to its diachronic process. Any information would be most helpful. Thanks so much.

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PIE *-ti --> PGmc *-di / *-ði --> AS -t / -ð --> ME -s (northern) / -th (southern) --> ModE -s is how I've seen it. Late, the northern dialect of Middle English used -s instead of -th, under the influence of Norse -sk. Eventually this displaced the -th altogether. But it seems to be inflectional all the way back to PIE. –  Mark Beadles Jan 23 '12 at 4:47
    
belongs on linguistics –  FumbleFingers Jan 23 '12 at 5:14
    
Yes, linguisticsSE would be more appropriate. Interesting question, though. –  Kris Jan 23 '12 at 5:30
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On topic here. We specifically invite linguists and etymologists to ask and answer questions, and we specifically invite questions about English grammar and etymology. A question about the history of third person singular -s is a question of English etymology and grammar on the face of it. Off topic at linguistics.se. "If you have questions about a single language (if the question only concerns that language), this might not be your place; in such a case, consider visiting the Language related StackExchange sites." –  MετάEd Jan 23 '12 at 16:04

2 Answers 2

Almost certainly not. The usual 3rd person singular inflection in Old English was -th or -eth and it looks as if its replacement by -s came about by a process of sound change.

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Thanks Berrie, all the evidence thus far has pointed me in that same direction. –  marta Jan 23 '12 at 13:13

I will promote my comment to an answer here too.

PIE -ti -> PGmc -di/-ði -> AS -t/-ð/-þ -> ME -th (Southern)/ -s (Northern) -> ModE -s

The Northern -s came from the influence of Norse mediopassive -sk; eventually the Northern usage became standard in Modern English. According to this, the form has been inflectional at least back to late PIE.

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Excellent, thank you Mark. –  marta Jan 23 '12 at 20:35
    
Glad to help :) –  Mark Beadles Jan 23 '12 at 21:11

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