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Personal Pronoun SHE Its derivation and the evolution through the centuries.

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1 Personal Pronoun SHE Its derivation and the evolution through the centuries

2 Where did ‘she’ come from? There’s no shortage of proposed etymologies for she, the third person singular feminine pronoun, but its origins remain uncertain. It appears to have arisen in the 12th century, but how it did so has proved difficult to establish.

3 There are some variants of its derivation The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary says it is probably a phonetic development of Old English hīo, hēo hoo pronoun feminine of he pronoun. Other suggested etymologies include derivation from Old English sēo, sīo feminine adjective... According to the American Heritage Dictionary, she is “probably an alteration of Old English sēo, feminine demonstrative pronoun”. Eric Partridge, in “Origins”: A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English, says it comes through Middle English she (earlier scae), variants sche, scheo, scho:? from Old English sēo, variant sīo, feminine of the article ‘the’, originally a demonstrative pronoun: Old High German siu, Middle High German siu, sie, sī, German sie, Old Saxon siu; also Sanskrit syā, this one. Concise Etymological Dictionary of the English Language: Middle English sche. Anglo-Saxon seó, used as feminine of definite article, but in the Northumbrian dialect as demonstrative pronoun. Feminine of se originally ‘he’; cognate with Mœso-Gothic sa, that.

4 She in Old English Third Person Case Singular Plural Masc.Neut. Fem. Nominati ve hēhit hēo hiē m., hēo f. Accusativ e hinehit hīe hiē m., hīo f. Genitive his hire hiera m., heora f. Dative him hire him

5 Douglas Harper’s Online Etymology Dictionary has a comparatively detailed entry: mid-12c., probably evolved from Old English seo, sio (accusative sie), feminine of demonstrative pronoun se “the”. The O.E. word for “she” was heo, hio, however by 13c. the pronunciation of this had converged by phonetic evolution with he “he”, so the feminine demonstrative pronoun probably was used in its place. The original h- survives in her. A relic of the O.E. pronoun is in Manchester-area dialectal oo “she”. An alternative that’s generally overlooked, as it is by each of the above, is the possible connection with the Irish word sí /ʃi:/. It means “she”, it is pronounced identically to she, and it can be traced back to Old Celtic. Its roots appear, inevitably.

6 Loreto Todd, in Green English: Ireland’s influence on the English language, makes the case for sí: Loreto Todd in the tenth century, there were parts of England where the same pronoun he could mean ‘he’, ‘she’ and ‘they’. The change from he(o) to ‘she’ is much less easy to account for. No dialect of English or Norse had a personal pronoun that would or could have developed directly into ‘she’, although many etymologists have struggled to explain it by invoking combinations of Old English and Old Norse personal pronouns and by suggesting that the demonstrative pronoun seo, probably pronounced like ‘say + o’, can help in explaining the shift from ‘he’ to ‘she’ But the change from he(o) to she might not be so unlikely or unusual. A. H. Smith’s Some Place-Names and the Etymology of “She”** (1925) showed that there are Some Place-Names certain place-names in the north of England and in Scotland which illustrate a peculiar sound development in English. Old English initial he—in these cases shows a tendency to become late Middle English sh-[ʃ].

7 She in Middle English Singular Feminine SubjectObjectPossessive ȝho / scho / sche hire

8 She in standard Modern English Feminine Singular SubjectObjectPossessiveReflexive Sheherherself

9 To sum up, the research I’ve done is very interesting and I found it fascinating. In this presentation I’ve showed the changes of the pronoun SHE from Old English till Modern English and tried to explain the derivation of it. Certainly there is nothing like a consensus on the matter, and it’s easy to see why the OED describes the etymology of she as “difficult”!

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