minstrel: Ye Olde Englyshe

Fiona P. bilby at matra.com.au
Sun Apr 27 01:02:43 PDT 1997


[quote about the peevish Dr. Tye]
>>Note several points.  First, this is from a diary, hence the many
>>abbreviations (qu for Queen, chap. for chapel, and so on).  This may
>>explain the use of ye for the and yt for that, but only slightly: the fact
>>is that the old symbol for a "th" sound, commonly called thorn, looked
>>enough like a "y" that they became confused, and one was commonly used for
>>the other for many years.
>But was Anthony Wood writing a thorn or a 'y'?  If he was writing a thorn,
>
>                                        "|/ "              "|/ "
>then it would be wrong to transliterate  | e  into "ye" or  | t  into "yt".
>
>
>They actually mean "the" and "tht".  "Ye" still didn't mean "the", even if
>
> "|/ "
>  | e  did.

before Gregory suddenly realises this may be straying from a minstrelish
topic (although I guess it can refer to how we pronounce and interpret old
poetry, songs and prose), some definitions and their pronunciations from
"Sweet's Anglos-Saxon Primer".  Owing to the limitations of ASCII, the
following letters are pron. thus: "g" = "y". [th] = thorn = "th" (as in
"the"), "e" as in "set", u as in "rude".  I have also simplified
horrendously, as in OE everything was fully conjugated (like modern french
etc), and in particular, the demonstrative and definite article (ie "the)
were be used where we would use personal pronoun (you, I).

OE		Mod. Engish

ge		you or the, depending on context, pron. "ye" ("yet")
[th]u		you or the, depending on context.

I personally think this explains everything up to and including the
"incorrect" Ye Olde Englishe Shoppe" syndrome.  Think about it.  'twas a
shaft of lightning to me when I studied OE at Uni ...

I'm fully expecting to be ripped to shreds any moment now.  Is there a
language discussion list where this might be discussed more fully (without
going to the anglo-saxon list)?  This stuff is _fascinating_, and just one
word can change the whole meaning of an OE song/poem.

A last thyngge (woops)(that's Chaucer, anyway - ME not OE) - I was always
taught that the "y" for [th] came about with the invention of the printing
press, where it was too much effort (or something) to create a true thorn.
Y was used, and created the confusion.  Can anyone confirm or otherwise
this side of the rumour?

Stirring the mud and straying off-topic (it's a hobby)


                      - Fyrean McNeil of Barra -

		@~~~,~~'~~~	********    ~~~,~~'~~~@

	O feminea forma, O soror Sapientie, quam gloriosa es ...



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