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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
A Middle English Vocabulary Challenge -- Nowel Edition
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SirDennisC
Half-elven


Jan 1 2013, 10:36pm

Post #26 of 31 (191 views)
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Often said of Tolkien in the Reading Room - [In reply to] Can't Post

Another morsel of brain food:

It is said here often of Tolkien, that he is deliberately ambiguous (by Curious, FarFromHome and others). Isn't it interesting that the same is said of Sir Gawain: "... ambiguity [is] a hallmark of this elusive romance."


(This post was edited by SirDennisC on Jan 1 2013, 10:37pm)


SirDennisC
Half-elven


Jan 1 2013, 11:09pm

Post #27 of 31 (174 views)
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Speaking of "y" [In reply to] Can't Post

While looking up words alphabetically in Tolkien's glossaries, I've only just noticed that y appears in the same range as i. That is, it is placed between h and k (there is no j, nod to Acheron) rather than x and z... that is unless the word begins with y.

A bit confusing, that. Crazy

So for example the word chylde "child" would appear alphabetically before the word chose "to choose, select."


Ethel Duath
Valinor


Jan 2 2013, 12:12am

Post #28 of 31 (191 views)
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Well, if "i" and "y" were interchangeable at some point [In reply to] Can't Post

like Acheron's examples of i/j and u/v that does make sense--except for how it works when it begins a word. Possibly "y" as a consonant was already in use, making it necessary to differentiate it somehow?

I've enjoyed Bill Bryson's "Mother Tongue" book which, as I remember, addresses to some extent how words (not so much letters) have changed in English over the centuries, (although I don't know if his opinions are controversial at all?), and I'm guessing letters changed in much the same way--especially since spelling wasn't all that standardized, I gather, before Samuel Johnson's dictionary?


Lissuin
Tol Eressea


Jan 2 2013, 6:19am

Post #29 of 31 (184 views)
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i, y, j, u and v in Dutch and English [In reply to] Can't Post

This follows 2 threads on the threaded mode with acheron, Ethel Duath and Sir Dennis, so I hope it works here in flat mode for everybody.

This conversation reminded me of Dutch, which I don't know much about except that the use of these letters has changed over time as well. I found this website http://rabbel.nl/crashcourse.html, and the section "Orthographic Anarchy" talks about it. It says that until 1100 Latin had dominated written language in the Netherlands, but then a vernacular Dutch used by educated people gradually replaced it through 1350.

Quote
The characters of the Latin alphabet served as phonetic examples. The medieval Latin alphabet, however, knew but 23 characters: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, V, X, Y and Z. It has to be said, however, that the K, Y and Z weren't used much in Latin. For this reason we donít see the K, Y and Z characters in early Middle Dutch writing. The same goes for the J and W characters which couldn't be found in the original Latin alphabet. So, the characters J, K, W, Y and Z in early Middle Dutch writing had to be represented by other characters. Differentiation of the U and V Ėwhich couldn'tít be found in the Latin alphabet- also took place in a later period of Middle Dutch spelling. All this resulted in a large freedom of spelling. The same word could be written in several spellings.


As the Latin and French of the English church and aristocracy was also replaced by a vernacular form of English while retaining those influences about that same time (if I recall Bryson's book correctly, it's been a while), this would have been a similar process, right?


acheron
Gondor


Jan 2 2013, 5:36pm

Post #30 of 31 (189 views)
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I think it's a spelling difference [In reply to] Can't Post

Indeed spelling was unstandardized at the time, so words could be written many ways.

Here's a quick note I found.


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For most of the Middle English period (c. 1100-1500) there was no national standard written language of the kind we have now, with a single set of grammatical forms and a fixed spelling.

...

Be prepared for spelling-variation even within the same text.

...

y and i represent the same vowel-sounds (not different ones, as in Old English). Y is often used where we would use i: so lyue 'live'.


For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much -- the wheel, New York, wars, and so on -- while all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man, for precisely the same reasons. -- Douglas Adams


CuriousG
Valinor


Jan 2 2013, 6:42pm

Post #31 of 31 (375 views)
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Spelling anarchy could be fun [In reply to] Can't Post

I lyke tu rede books bi Tolckyenne bekawz hie iz a grait awthir. But aye also liik too reed boeks bye uhther grayte awthers.

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