"ye": "the" vs. "thee"?

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Wed Oct 1 02:50:11 UTC 2008

It appears, then, that part of my recent confusion is irrelevant to
what I was concerned about:  I had conflated "ye" (you) with "thee",
when they were/are separate.  It's only "ye" (the) and "ye" (you), as
printed in the 18th century, that I had assumed -- apparently
incorrectly -- had once been spelled with thorn, and wanted to distinguish.

In writings I am transcribing, I decided to change "ye" to "the" when
it was, and to leave "ye" unaltered when it was "you", so that my
readers wouldn't be confused about the pronunciation and meaning of
the two.  Am I on safe ground?


At 9/30/2008 10:24 PM, Paul A Johnston, Jr. wrote:
>Both the and thee were spelled with thorn, and in Middle English
>texts, not infrequently with one e.  Northern scribes were the ones
>who wrote their thorns and y's identically or nearly so.  Now, ye is
>a separate word, the old second person PLURAL pronoun, nominative
>case < Old English ge = /je:/.  Since thee is objective case, the
>two generally don't get confused, particularly in the
>North.  Furthermore, thou and you can look alike (you or yow), but
>thou is nominative and you, objective.
>The confusion is potentially more likely in Early Modern English,
>once ye and you get confused.  Northern Middle English and Older
>Scots also frequently write the plural pronouns as <3e, 3he, 3ou,
>3ow, 3hou, 3how) where 3 =  the letter yogh.  Again, they can be
>disambiguated this way.
>Paul Johnston
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
>Date: Tuesday, September 30, 2008 9:23 pm
>Subject: "ye":  "the" vs. "thee"?
> > ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------
> > ------------
> > Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> > Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> > Subject:      "ye":  "the" vs. "thee"?
> > -------------------------------------------------------------------
> > ------------
> >
> > I have managed to confuse myself about "ye" in 18th-century
> > writings.  I have understood the Y to stand for thorn.  But were both
> > "the" and "thee" spelled with thorn, and the latter became the "ye"
> > meaning "you" (in addition to the "ye" meaning "the")?
> >
> > Joel
> >
> > ------------------------------------------------------------
> > The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> >
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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