Thursday, 4 September 2008

'Ye' better be surprised by this post!

Here is a random linguistic fact for you all!

Did you know that "ye" as in...

"Hear ye, hear ye!"
"Welcome to ye olde shoppe!"

...should actually be pronounced as "the"? Yes indeed -- modern English speakers have been sorely mislead. In fact, the "y" in "ye" is not at "y" (as we know it) at all. Rather, it was a single symbol which represented the sound "th," and in order to create words such as "the" and "this," one simply had to place a tiny "e" (for "the") or "s" (for "this") on top of the "y." (Funnily enough, this rule apparently wasn't standardized. For instance, the word "this" would appear spelt as both "y" plus a small "s" and as "this." If anyone can tell me why, I would be most obliged!) If you still aren't convinced, look to the right at the photograph I took of a tombstone inside a Gloucester church!

"Hear thee, hear thee"...hmm, it just doesn't have the same ring, does it?


Anonymous said...

This post was really interesting! I think "hear thee" makes more sense. "Hear you" is what they're really saying.

I guess this isn't in the realms of common knowledge yet though. I Googled "thee you" and found this site:

Simon said...

The y in ye replaced the letters ð (eth) and þ (thorn), which represented the th sound of "the" and "three" in Old English. These letters are still used in Icelandic, by the way.

The y was later replaced by th, a change probably made by Norman scribes to make English spelling more like French. They also changed sc to sh, cw to qu, and s to c in some words.

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