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

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Wed Oct 1 13:08:14 UTC 2008

At 10/1/2008 12:15 AM, James Harbeck wrote:
>One clue that you often get, depending on the medium, is that ye for
>"the" can have a superscript e, whereas ye for "ye" will not (yt with
>supercript t is also seen for "that"). Gravestones give good examples
>of this. The type sets acquired from Europe may have lacked thorns
>and eths, but they did often have superscripts.

Thanks, James.  I did know that, and fortunately
I don't have to deal much with manuscripts, and
only a few typeset documents that used
superscripts.  (And my problem is not
understanding which is "the" and which is "you",
but deciding how to transcribe them.)  For the
one manuscript that I would like to decipher,
there are added complexities -- understanding the
conventions of an estate settlement -- and I have
just hired an expert from the N.E. Historic
Genealogical Soc. to transcribe
it.  Coincidentally, today's issue of their
weekly newsletter discusses and recommends the
course English Handwriting 1500–1700: An Online
Course,  a CERES COPIA project.  The NEHGS writer says:

"You will find excellent information on letter
forms, including one of my pet peeves, the
inappropriate substitution of the letter y for
the ancient letter (known as ‘thorn’). The thorn
represented a ‘th’ sound, so when you see words
like “yat” or “ye,” you should transcribe them as “that” or “the.” "

So I have authority for what I plan to do -- at least from the NEHGS!  :-)


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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