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Author Topic: i for modern English y  (Read 9574 times)

David

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i for modern English y
« on: August 17, 2014, 09:39:34 AM »

I have come across i being used for modern English y sound at the beginning or words, mainly in names, as in Iācōb, Iōhannes, Iōsēþ and Iūdith. However I am not so sure about Iūdith with that “th”, maybe it was a late copy. Then there is also Iotan and Iūdeas. Also in northern dialects we get iūla for ġēola and iung for ġeong etc.

However, the other day I read that herian should be pronounced as herġan whereas I have been pronouncing it as three syllables her-i-an. If that is so then, presumably, the same happens in nerian. Then where else does that happen? Does it happen in class 2 weak verbs? Can anyone enlighten me?

Linden

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Re: i for modern English y
« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2014, 06:00:11 PM »
.................. However I am not so sure about Iūdith with that “th”, maybe it was a late copy. .................
Given that Lot occurs both as 'Loth' and 'Loð' in the OE Corpus, why shouldn't Judith have similar variants?  It certainly seems to be spelt both ways in 'Judith' the poem.  There also seem to be the variants 'Juditþe' and 'Judithe' in the acc/dat forms.

However, the other day I read that herian should be pronounced as herġan whereas I have been pronouncing it as three syllables her-i-an. If that is so then, presumably, the same happens in nerian. Then where else does that happen? Does it happen in class 2 weak verbs? Can anyone enlighten me?
I get quite suspicious of anything that seems that (over)confident about how OE may have been pronounced - where did you read this?  I once asked an OE expert why 'hard' and 'soft' g's could alliterate in OE verse and the answer that I got was that the audience equated the two sounds in their heads.  Now this may, I suppose, be true but is it the only explanation? 
So - to my mind - there are certainly more questions than answers about the various sound values of OE 'g'.

Personally, I intend to go on pronouncing each variant as they are spelt - but that's just my opinion.
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David

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Re: i for modern English y
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2014, 08:53:53 PM »

I was reading Peter Baker’s “Introduction to old English”. He was dealing with gemination in some class 1 weak verbs like fremman and sceþþan.

He said that in the case of “f” we get “bb” as in habban and swebban.
For “g” we get “cg” as in bycgan, and, I assume, hycgan and secgan.

He says that in the case of “r” we get “rġ” or “ri” which he suggests are just variant spellings of the same sound.

Linden, don’t you pronounce the initial “I” in the names and other examples I gave as “ġ”?

Linden

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Re: i for modern English y
« Reply #3 on: August 19, 2014, 01:44:39 PM »

I was reading Peter Baker’s “Introduction to old English”. He was dealing with gemination in some class 1 weak verbs like fremman and sceþþan.

He said that in the case of “f” we get “bb” as in habban and swebban.
For “g” we get “cg” as in bycgan, and, I assume, hycgan and secgan.

He says that in the case of “r” we get “rġ” or “ri” which he suggests are just variant spellings of the same sound.

Linden, don’t you pronounce the initial “I” in the names and other examples I gave as “ġ”?

Hi David

Since we don't have any 'native speakers' of OE (and even if we did they might speak a peculiar 'dialect' of OE) everyone is entitled to their own argued opinion as to how OE was pronounced.  Personally I take an approach of pronouncing the words according to the range of probable values of the letters used in their spelling and so I would not pronounce 'iula' exactly the same as I would if it were written 'geola'.  My reasons for this include being able to find alternative spellings for the same word in the same manuscript and written by the same scribe. It is my personal opinion that the scribe would have spelt the words exactly the same if there was not some difference in the way they were to be read aloud.  But as I say - that is just my opinion.
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David

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Re: i for modern English y
« Reply #4 on: August 19, 2014, 04:06:50 PM »

Linden,

For me the difference between the pronunciation of  iūla and ġeola is not in “i” and “ġ” but in “ū” and “eo”. I thought that the Saxons always went for the “ġ” spelling whereas the Angles sometimes used “i” as a consonant with the same sound.

I would pronounce all the variants for nominative of Judith as “Ġūdiþ”. I am still not clear how you would pronounce the initial “I” and I cannot get my head around the initial “J”s you were giving in your first reply. How were they pronounced?

Linden

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Re: i for modern English y
« Reply #5 on: August 19, 2014, 04:49:38 PM »
Hello again David

It really does have to be a matter of opinion.  I look upon the 'i' in 'iula' and the 'j' in 'judiþ' as having approximately the same value - 'i' & 'j' were two forms of the same letter initially in Latin.  Both I treat as a sort of 'consonantal 'i' ' - I suppose that the closest approximates are ModE 'y' as in 'yellow' and German/Dutch/Swedish 'j' as in 'ja' - so somewhere within that spectrum is my opinion. That opinion was coloured by what I learned of Latin in the 1960's and a view that the OE scribes would tend to use the same letters in OE as were used in Latin for the same sounds.  But thereby hangs another tale/tail - who can really say how Latin was pronounced?

ALL THIS IS MERELY MY OPINION - and that might change if something sufficiently convincing came along to change it.

This probably won't help at all - sorry!

Linden
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Horsa

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Re: i for modern English y
« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2014, 04:26:27 AM »
Of course all this wonderful diversity changed with Chancery English which later evolved into the standard written form. I remember (a long time ago, so it's a bit hazy) reading about the act of writing in the middle ages, prior to the invention of a standard written form. Writers would write just as their teachers had written. Which doesn't sound particularly earth shattering, but in a world with no dictionaries, or google, the writer is not just continuing the tradition of his or her mentor but occasionally an innovator.


One thing I remember reading also, is that the reason for the alternative spellings for words sometimes used interchangeably by the one scribe on the same page, is that the use of the letters wasn't always about their phonic values, but sometimes about the visual effect - this word looks better here with a j, but later on down the page it looks better with an i.


You got something akin to that in the development of chancery English, scribes would plop in letters here and there to show their knowledge of a words latin origin. "Debt" had a 'b' inserted even though it had never been pronounced in English with a b sound.

David

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Re: i for modern English y
« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2014, 08:54:48 AM »

Horsa your last comment leads me onto the correspondence of the written and spoken language.

The introduction of the "b" to show off their knowledge of Latin should be reversed. So it would be a good idea to get rid of the "b" in "limb" so it would spelt as spoken. On the other hand we should pronounce the the "b" in "lamb" so that it is spoken as it is written.
Why did they stop pronouncing the "b" in "lamb"?

brian farrell

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Re: i for modern English y
« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2014, 10:16:28 AM »
Hei David

Which modern English "Y" ?
Some people pronounce "y" words as a pure vowel/diphthong, others with a slight vibrational aspirated prefix.
e.g. "yearn". Is it "ee-ern", or "{hgyh}-ern". This does not appear to be regional, but rather an individual choice.

Personally, I would probably pronounce "yew" (the tree) as "ee-oo", and "you" the pronoun as "{hgyh}-oo", but for other words it really depends upon which side of the bed I get out of in the morning.
The colour: "ee-ellow", or "{hgyh}-ellow"; Christmas: "ee-ool", or "{hgyh}-ool" etc.

In OE terms I would probably go for Latin & Biblical words as being like Iudiþ as being "ee-oo-dith" and 'soft g' words as being "{hgye}"

but; no matter how good a phonetic alphabet is, it is never 100% perfect (due to dialects etc, and the "ear" of the scribe). The man with the pen defines the spelling; and we are in the unfortunate position of having to back-engineer that writing.

Perhaps we tend to over-analyse. A speaker should feel at ease, rather than being forced into a false pronunciation just to satisfy a grammatical rule or pigeon-hole.

I echo Linden's comments that in reality we will never know for certain the actual pronunciation, and the above is just my personal opinion.


David

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Re: i for modern English y
« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2014, 08:40:47 PM »

Brian, I’m afraid I do not know anything about hgyh and hgye. However, I like the idea that “i” was not pronounced as a consonant. So we get Judith written as “Iudiþ” and pronounced “Īūdiþ”. I don’t know where I got the idea of pronouncing “i” as a consonant.

I still feel that the “th” spelling is very late old English and I feel the “J” spelling is even later.

brian farrell

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Re: i for modern English y
« Reply #10 on: August 22, 2014, 05:47:45 AM »
Apologies for the "{hgyh}". It was just my amateurish attempt at phonetics. I was trying to describe the aspirated sound that can sometimes begin modern "Y" words. As I said some people do it, and other people don't. It is difficult to explain in writing.

Brian

Horsa

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Re: i for modern English y
« Reply #11 on: August 23, 2014, 02:32:16 PM »
Brian, whereabouts are you from? I have never heard this aspirated 'y' of which you speak. That doesn't mean it hasn't been pronounced in my presence, just that I had never noticed it. I have always had trouble with the idea of a velar g turning into a 'y' sound. They sound quite different, yet they are still considered alliterating sounds in Old English prosody. Your mention of the aspirated 'y' sound makes sense in terms of the alliteration of the first two half lines of beowulf and then again 20 odd lines later him eaferan was / æfter cenned // geong in geardum / þone God sende.

brian farrell

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Re: i for modern English y
« Reply #12 on: August 24, 2014, 09:18:15 AM »
I am from N.E.England (Durham). My dialect is termed "Pitmatic", which is now slowly dying out. It is neither Geordie (Newcastle) nor Mackem (Sunderland). It is a Durham/Northumberland rural dialect with 19th century coal mining terms added, but its roots lie in northern Angle (with some Viking Norse).

I have searched the internet for a phonetic equivalent to the effect that I'm trying to describe, but have found nothing. However the general consensus (last night in the pub) is:-
at normal conversational speed the effect does not seem to exist, but if a "Y" word is stressed and/or pronounced slowly then an aspirated vibration can appear, or be made to appear.

Someone suggested - try to pronounce JORVIK very slowly as "ee-yor-vik". Don't jump from "ee" to "yor", but slowly slide, whilst maintaining the "vibration" of the "ee" & hopefully an aspiration should appear on or around the "y". If mastered, then the word can be pronounced without a long leading "ee", although its "vibration" is still required.

Hopefully this gives something like "{hyh}-orvik", with the hint of a 'soft g' in there somewhere. The important thing is the vibration. Someone else said that the "vibration" around the "y" was similar to that of the "s/z" of "leisure"/"azure" (but obviously without the actual "s/z" sound). I don't know if this will work, as I can already do it.

My apologies if this is diverging from the intent of this notice board, but I think it's important to remember that whilst the majority of OE literature is based on West Saxon, there are many non-WS dialects in England (and Lallans Scot).

Linden

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Re: i for modern English y
« Reply #13 on: August 25, 2014, 02:11:33 PM »
I am from N.E.England (Durham). My dialect is termed "Pitmatic", which is now slowly dying out. It is neither Geordie (Newcastle) nor Mackem (Sunderland). It is a Durham/Northumberland rural dialect with 19th century coal mining terms added, but its roots lie in northern Angle (with some Viking Norse)..............................

There is a book on 'Pitmatic' by the late Bill Griffiths (OE scholar, poet and author of various AS publications too such as 'Aspects of Anglo-Saxon Magic').
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David

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Re: i for modern English y
« Reply #14 on: September 02, 2014, 11:13:33 AM »

I decided to go back to whether herian and nerian might have been pronounced herġan and nerġan. What I found was that in Proto Germanic “to praise” was probably “hazjaną” and “to save” was probably “nazjaną” where the “j” was probably pronounced as the modern Engish “y”.

It appears that at the emergence of the daughter languages the final “ą” was dropped so that in  Gothic we have “hazjan”.

In the West Germanic the "z" --> "r" in what was called rhotacism and the "a" --> "e" in what was called i-mutation. So going into old English we had “herjan” and “nerjan”.

In old English these changed to “herian” and “nerian”. Maybe these still had the “herjan” and “nerjan” pronunciation. To give possible further support to this idea we have words such as herġere/heriġend for praise giver.