2013-2014 "Expressive means of applying archaism to the modern English in the novel “SHE” by H.R.Haggard"

Reading the novel "She" by Henry Rider Haggard, written at the end of the 19th century, that is our contemporary English, we met some words missing in the modern English, the meaning of which, to our surprise, it was clear to us from the context. According to the set of syntactic features, we assumed that all these words were pronouns: personal, objective and possessive ones.

We assumed that the pronouns, which we are interested in are archaisms and they may refer to a certain historical period of the development of the English language.

Our goal was to prove our hypothesis and determine the historical period to which the objects of our research belong.

We have identified the following main tasks:

- to study the material on the history of the English language

- to find the confirmation of our hypothesis in the existing works of literature of the determined historical period.

So, the objects of our research were the following lexical units:




Examples of their use in the text of the novel:

“…Thou art my chosen—I have waited for thee from the beginning!

Thou art very beautiful. Who hath hair like unto thee, or skin so white?

Who hath so strong an arm, who is so much a man?

Thine eyes are the sky, and the light in them is the stars.

Thou art perfect and of a happy face, and my heart turned itself towards thee.

Ay, when mine eyes fell upon thee I did desire thee,—

Then did I take thee to me—oh, thou Beloved,

And hold thee fast, lest harm should come unto thee.

Ay, I did cover thine head with mine hair, lest the sun should strike it;

And altogether was I thine, and thou wast altogether mine.

And so it went for a little space, till Time was in labour with an evil Day;

And then what befell on that day? Alas! my Beloved, I know not!

But I, I saw thee no more—I, I was lost in the blackness.

And she who is stronger did take thee; ay, she who is fairer than Ustane.

Yet didst thou turn and call upon me, and let thine eyes wander in the darkness.

But, nevertheless, she prevailed by Beauty, and led thee down horrible places,…”

“And she cast eyes of love upon thy father, Kallikrates, and would have slain me, and taken him to husband, but he loved me and feared her, and would not…”

Who are ye who come hither swimming on the water? Speak or ye die

“Thou hast brought it on thyself, oh Holly; fairly have I warned thee”…

In our work we used the following methods:

- Analysis,

- Matching

- Interpretation

- Practical work on the translation


Studying the textbook "the History of the English Language" by Vladimir Dmitrievich Arakin , and «A History of English by Barbara A. Fennell » we found out the following:

Currently, the most popular periodization of English was proposed by an English linguist Sweet. He identified four periods:

1) The earliest period which is called Old English dates back to the time between the first centuries BC and the 11

2) Middle English period dates from the time between the end of the 11th century and the end of the 15th century.

3) the period of Modern English - the period from the late 15th century to the present day is subdivided into:

A) Early Modern English is characterized by the formation of the norms of the national language.

B) Late Modern English - is characterized by the establishing of the  rules of the national language.


Studying the grammatical structure of different periods, we found the personal pronouns, which we are interested in THOU, THEE, YE in Middle English period:

For better visualization, we again appeal to the examples from the novel "She", where we see the personal pronouns THOU, THEE, YE:

During the Middle English period the system of personal pronouns had been being actively changed, which led to gradual replacement of dative case with accusative case. This process resulted in establishing the case, which combined the functions of these two cases and was called objective case. As a result of these changes the system of four cases, typical of the Old English period, simplified into two-case system which still exists nowadays.

In this table we can see that our hypothesis was right. The objects of our research are really personal and objective pronouns belonging to Middle English.


During the Middle English period, the system of pronouns was replenished with not only personal pronouns. In the 14th century another new type of pronouns appears in the language – they are possessive pronouns in absolute forms. First, there was a difference between the forms of possessive pronouns: mīn - my (my) and thīn - thy (your). Their usage depended on with what sound (vowel or consonant) the next word began. Gradually people started using pronouns my and thy in attributive sense (as the attribute), and the forms mīn and thīn in predicative meaning (as a nominal part of the predicate). So, during the 15th and 16th centuries there were two types of possessive pronouns:

the first row of pronouns my, thy, his, our, your, hire were used only in the predicative function.

the second row of pronouns min (e), thin (e), his, hers, our, yours, theirs were used in the absolute end of the sentence and so were called absolute forms of possessive pronouns.

In Early Modern English the system of pronouns experienced not so many changes. In spite of that in Modern English at the end of the 15th century pronouns: THY, THOU, THEE were often used in everyday life , but in the 16th century pronouns: THOU and THEE step by step started going away from every day oration and changing on the form of the 2nd person plural number in referring to one person( polite You).

Entirely new forms in the pronoun system in Modern English became the forms of reflexive pronouns which developed from the forms of Middle English possessive pronouns: MY, THY and the words SELF( SELVES): MYSELF, THEMSELVES.

So we come to the conclusion that pronouns: THY, THOU, THEE, THYSEFL were actively used in Early Modern English.

We can find the Confirmation of this idea in William Shakespeare`s compositions. The peak of his creativity fell on the frontier of the 16th and the 17th centuries.

In his sonnet №1 we can meet all the investigated pronouns:

From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty's rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory:
But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed'st thy light's flame with self-substantial fuel,
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel. 
Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament
And only herald to the gaudy spring,
Within thine own bud buriest thy content
And, tender churl, makest waste in niggarding. 
Pity the world, or else this glutton be, 
To eat the world's due, by the grave and thee.

Except the pronouns in this sonnet we found other archaic forms: verbs with personal endings, which refers to Old Englsih.

As we see from this table, in Middle English there were very many personal verbal endings, but at the beginning of the 15th century, verbs lost their personal endings, typical of Old English and Middle English periods, which led to destruction of the differences between persons and numbers. The only exception was the endings of verbs in the 2nd person singular. We can see it in Shakespeare`s sonnet

These examples we can find in Haggard`s novel.

Henry Rider Haggard lived in the 19th and 20th centuries, so he wrote in that language, which we study nowadays, we can state it just because within past 100 years English hasn`t undergone significant changes.

Haggard used archaic pronouns and archaic verbal forms very carefully and selectively with the aim of giving the accuracy to the statements of characters, who were representatives of ancient human race, which had been existed apart from our civilization.

Huggard used this stylistic device for strengthening the contrast between the languages of the representatives of ancient people and the characters who were, according to the plot, our contemporaries.

In conclusion we`d like to substantiate the topicality of our research: archaic pronouns, which were the object of our investigation, are not studied within school program. ReadingWilliam Shakespeare in script, most modern readers, studying English have difficulties in understanding nuances of his style because of the presence of the archaisms in his compositions.

Let us express the hope, that our research will make lyrics of great and genius Shakespeare closer and more understandable for a modern reader.

Thank you for your attention!


Literature used:

H. RiderHaggardSHE

Аракин В.Д. «История английского языка»

Barbara A. Fennell «A History of English»