Thorn (letter)

Last updated
Þ
Þ þ
Latin letter Thorn.svg
Usage
Writing system Futhark, Futhorc, Latin script
Type Alphabetic and logographic
Language of origin Old English language
Old Norse language
Phonetic usage[ θ ]
[ ð ]
[ θ̠ ]
[ z ]
/θɔːrn/
Unicode codepointU+00DE, U+00FE
History
Development
  • Þ þ
Time period~800 to present
Descendantsꝥ, þͤ, þͭ, þͧ, yᷤ, yͤ, yͭ, (possibly) 𐌸
SistersNone
Transliteration equivalents Θ, th
Other
Other letters commonly used with th, dh
This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA).For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.For the distinction between [ ], / / and  , see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.

Thorn or þorn (Þ, þ) is a letter in the Old English, Gothic, Old Norse, Old Swedish, and modern Icelandic alphabets, as well as Middle Scots and some dialects of Middle English. It was also used in medieval Scandinavia, but was later replaced with the digraph th, except in Iceland, where it survives. The letter originated from the rune in the Elder Fuþark and was called thorn in the Anglo-Saxon and thorn or thurs in the Scandinavian rune poems. It is similar in appearance to the archaic Greek letter sho (ϸ), although the two are historically unrelated. The only language þ is still currently in use in is Icelandic. [1]

Contents

It is pronounced as either a voiceless dental fricative [θ] or its voiced counterpart [ð]. However, in modern Icelandic, it is pronounced as a laminal voiceless alveolar non-sibilant fricative [θ̠], [2] [3] similar to th as in the English word thick, or a (usually apical) voiced alveolar non-sibilant fricative [ð̠], [2] [3] similar to th as in the English word the. Modern Icelandic usage generally excludes the latter, which is instead represented with the letter eth Ð, ð; however, [ð̠] may occur as an allophone of /θ̠/, and written þ, when it appears in an unstressed pronoun or adverb after a voiced sound. [4]

In typography, the lowercase thorn character is unusual in that it has both an ascender and a descender (other examples are the lowercase Cyrillic ф, and, in some [especially italic] fonts, the Latin letters f and ſ [ long s ]).

Uses

English

Old English

The letter thorn was used for writing Old English very early on, as was ð, also called eth. Unlike eth, thorn remained in common use through most of the Middle English period. Both letters were used for the phoneme /θ/, sometimes by the same scribe. This sound was regularly realised in Old English as the voiced fricative [ð] between voiced sounds, but either letter could be used to write it; the modern use of [ð] in phonetic alphabets is not the same as the Old English orthographic use. A thorn with the ascender crossed () was a popular abbreviation for the word that .

Middle and Early Modern English

"... by the grace that god put ..." (Extract from the The Boke of Margery Kempe) The Book of Margery Kempe, Chapter 18 (clip).png
"... by the grace that god put ..." (Extract from the The Boke of Margery Kempe )

The modern digraph th began to grow in popularity during the 14th century; at the same time, the shape of Þ grew less distinctive, with the letter losing its ascender (becoming similar in appearance to the old wynn (Ƿ, ƿ), which had fallen out of use by 1300, and to ancient through modern P , p). By this stage, th was predominant and the use of Þ was largely restricted to certain common words and abbreviations. This was the longest-lived use, though with the arrival of movable type printing, the substitution of y for Þ became ubiquitous, leading to the common "ye", as in 'Ye Olde Curiositie Shoppe'. One major reason for this was that Y existed in the printer's types that were imported from Belgium and the Netherlands, while Þ did not. [5] The word was never pronounced with a "y" sound, though, even when so written. [6] The first printing of the King James Version of the Bible in 1611 used ye for "the" in places such as Job 1:9, John 15:1, and Romans 15:29. [7] It also used yt as an abbreviation for "that", in places such as 2 Corinthians 13:7. All were replaced in later printings by the or that, respectively.

Abbreviations
Abbreviations of "the"
Middle English the.svg
Middle English þ with superscript e
EME ye.svg
Blackletter y with superscript e

The following were scribal abbreviations during Middle and Early Modern English using the letter thorn:

  • Middle English the.svg (þͤ)  a Middle English abbreviation for the word the
  • Middle English that.svg (þͭ)  a Middle English abbreviation for the word that
  • Middle English thou.svg (þͧ)  a rare Middle English abbreviation for the word thou (which was written early on as þu or þou)

In later printed texts, given the lack of a sort for the glyph, [5] printers substituted the (visually similar) letter y for the thorn:

  •    yᷤ  an Early Modern English abbreviation for the word this
  • EME ye.svg (yͤ)  an Early Modern English abbreviation for the word the
  • EME that.svg (yͭ)  an Early Modern English abbreviation for the word that

Modern English

Thorn in the form of a "Y" survives in pseudo-archaic uses, particularly the stock prefix "ye olde". The definite article spelt with "Y" for thorn is often jocularly or mistakenly pronounced /jiː/ ("yee") or mistaken for the archaic nominative case of the second person plural pronoun, "ye", as in "hear ye!".

Icelandic

Icelandic is the only living language to keep the letter thorn (in Icelandic; þ, pronounced þoddn, [θ̠ɔtn̥] or þorn [θ̠ɔrn̥] ). The letter is the 30th in the Icelandic alphabet, modelled after Old Norse alphabet in the 19th century; it is transliterated to th when it cannot be reproduced [8] and never appears at the end of a word. For example, the name of Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson is anglicised as Hafthor.

Its pronunciation has not varied much, but before the introduction of the eth character, þ was used to represent the sound [ð], as in the word "verþa", which is now spelt verða (meaning "to become") in modern Icelandic or normalized orthography. [9] Þ was originally taken from the runic alphabet and is described in the First Grammatical Treatise from the 12th-century:

Staf þann er flestir menn kalla þ, þann kalla ég af því heldur þe að þá er það atkvæði hans í hverju máli sem eftir lifir nafnsins er úr er tekinn raddarstafur úr nafni hans, sem alla hefi ég samhljóðendur samda í það mark nú sem ég reit snemma í þeirra umræðu. [...] Höfuðstaf þe-sins rita ég hvergi nema í vers upphafi því að hans atkvæði má eigi æxla þótt hann standi eftir raddarstaf í samstöfun. [10]

– First Grammarian, First Grammatical Treatise

The letter which most men call thorn I shall call the, so that its sound value in each context will be what is left of the name when the vowel is removed, since I have now arranged all the consonants in that manner, as I wrote earlier in this discussion. [...] The capital letter of the I do not write except at the beginning of a section, since its sound cannot be extended, even when it follows the vowel of the syllable. [11]

– First Grammarian, First Grammatical Treatise, translation by Einar Haugen

Upper- and lowercase versions of the thorn character, in sans-serif (left) and serif (right) Latin alphabet Thth.svg
Upper- and lowercase versions of the thorn character, in sans-serif (left) and serif (right)

Computing codes

characterÞþ
Unicode nameLATIN CAPITAL LETTER THORNLATIN SMALL LETTER THORN
Unicode 00DE00FE
Character entity reference Þþ
Windows-1252,
ISO-8859-1, ISO-8859-15
DEFE
LaTeX \TH\th

Variants

Various forms of thorn were used for medieval scribal abbreviations: [12]

See also

Related Research Articles

In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are and [b], pronounced with the lips; and [d], pronounced with the front of the tongue; and [g], pronounced with the back of the tongue;, pronounced in the throat;, [v], and, pronounced by forcing air through a narrow channel (fricatives); and and, which have air flowing through the nose (nasals). Contrasting with consonants are vowels.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Eth</span> Letter of the Latin alphabet; used in Icelandic, Faroese, and Old English

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">H</span> Letter of the Latin alphabet

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A lateral is a consonant in which the airstream proceeds along one or both of the sides of the tongue, but it is blocked by the tongue from going through the middle of the mouth. An example of a lateral consonant is the English L, as in Larry. Lateral consonants contrast with central consonants, in which the airstream flows through the center of the mouth.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">S</span> 19th letter in the English alphabet

S, or s, is the nineteenth letter in the Latin alphabet, used in the modern English alphabet, the alphabets of other western European languages and others worldwide. Its name in English is ess, plural esses.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Y</span> Letter of the Latin alphabet

Y, or y, is the twenty-fifth and penultimate letter of the Latin alphabet, used in the modern English alphabet, the alphabets of other western European languages and others worldwide. According to some authorities, it is the sixth vowel letter of the English alphabet. In the English writing system, it mostly represents a vowel and seldom a consonant, and in other orthographies it may represent a vowel or a consonant. Its name in English is wye, plural wyes.

<i>The</i> Grammatical article in English

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The alphabet for Modern English is a Latin-script alphabet consisting of 26 letters, each having an upper- and lower-case form. The word alphabet is a compound of the first two letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha and beta. The alphabet originated around the 7th century CE to write Old English from Latin script. Since then, letters have been added or removed to give the current letters:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Voiced dental fricative</span> Consonantal sound

The voiced dental fricative is a consonant sound used in some spoken languages. It is familiar to English-speakers as the th sound in father. Its symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet is eth, or and was taken from the Old English and Icelandic letter eth, which could stand for either a voiced or unvoiced (inter)dental non-sibilant fricative. Such fricatives are often called "interdental" because they are often produced with the tongue between the upper and lower teeth, and not just against the back of the upper teeth, as they are with other dental consonants.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Voiceless dental fricative</span> Consonantal sound

The voiceless dental non-sibilant fricative is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. It is familiar to English speakers as the 'th' in think. Though rather rare as a phoneme in the world's inventory of languages, it is encountered in some of the most widespread and influential. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨θ⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is T. The IPA symbol is the Greek letter theta, which is used for this sound in post-classical Greek, and the sound is thus often referred to as "theta".

A central consonant, also known as a median consonant, is a consonant sound that is produced when air flows across the center of the mouth over the tongue. The class contrasts with lateral consonants, in which air flows over the sides of the tongue rather than down its center.

English rarely uses diacritics, which are symbols indicating the modification of a vowel's sound when spoken. Most of the affected words are in terms imported from other languages The diaeresis mark, the grave accent and the acute accent are the only diacritics native to Modern English, and their usage has tended to fall off except in certain publications and particular cases.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ye olde</span> Pseudo Early Modern English phrase

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In English, the digraph ⟨th⟩ represents in most cases one of two different phonemes: the voiced dental fricative and the voiceless dental fricative (thing). More rarely, it can stand for or the cluster (eighth). In compound words, ⟨th⟩ may be a consonant sequence rather than a digraph, as in the of lighthouse.

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Icelandic orthography is the way in which Icelandic words are spelled and how their spelling corresponds with their pronunciation.

Unlike many languages, Icelandic has only very minor dialectal differences in sounds. The language has both monophthongs and diphthongs, and many consonants can be voiced or unvoiced.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Icelandic language</span> North Germanic language

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">English articles</span> Definite article "the" and indefinite articles "a" and "an" (and sometimes the word "some")

The articles in English are the definite article the and the indefinite articles a and an. The definite article is used when the speaker believes that the listener knows the identity of the noun's referent. The indefinite article is used when the speaker believes that the listener does not have to be told the identity of the referent. No article is used in some noun phrases.

The voiceless alveolar fricatives are a type of fricative consonant pronounced with the tip or blade of the tongue against the alveolar ridge just behind the teeth. This refers to a class of sounds, not a single sound. There are at least six types with significant perceptual differences:

References

  1. "Icelandic language, alphabet and pronunciation". omniglot.com. Retrieved 2022-04-14.
  2. 1 2 Pétursson (1971 :?), cited in Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996 :145)
  3. 1 2 Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996), pp. 144–145.
  4. Einarsson, Stefán (1949). Icelandic: Grammar, Texts, Glossary. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press. pp. 22–23.
  5. 1 2 Hill, Will (30 June 2020). "Chapter 25: Typography and the printed English text" (PDF). The Routledge Handbook of the English Writing System. p. 6. ISBN   9780367581565. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2022-07-10. The types used by Caxton and his contemporaries originated in Holland and Belgium, and did not provide for the continuing use of elements of the Old English alphabet such as thorn <þ>, eth <ð>, and yogh <ʒ>. The substitution of visually similar typographic forms has led to some anomalies which persist to this day in the reprinting of archaic texts and the spelling of regional words. The widely misunderstood ‘ye’ occurs through a habit of printer’s usage that originates in Caxton’s time, when printers would substitute the <y> (often accompanied by a superscript <e>) in place of the thorn <þ> or the eth <ð>, both of which were used to denote both the voiced and non-voiced sounds, /ð/ and /θ/ (Anderson, D. (1969) The Art of Written Forms. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, p 169)
  6. "ye-olde - Definition, pictures, pronunciation and usage notes | Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary at OxfordLearnersDictionaries.com". www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com. Retrieved 2019-12-13.
  7. "1611 The Authorized King James Bible". archive.org. p. 1400. Retrieved August 14, 2022.
  8. "Icelandic BGN/PCGN 1968 Agreement" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2016-10-26.
  9. Gordon, E.V. (1927). An Introduction to Old Norse . New York: Oxford University Press. p.  268. ISBN   0-19-811184-3.
  10. First Grammatical Treatise, eText (modernized spelling ed.), NO: Old.
  11. Haugen, Einar (1950). "First Grammatical Treatise. The Earliest Germanic Phonology". Language. 26 (4): 4–64. doi:10.2307/522272. ISSN   0097-8507. JSTOR   522272.
  12. Everson, Michael; Baker, Peter; Emiliano, António; Grammel, Florian; Haugen, Odd Einar; Luft, Diana; Pedro, Susana; Schumacher, Gerd; Stötzner, Andreas (2006-01-30). "L2/06-027: Proposal to add Medievalist characters to the UCS" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2013-08-19.
  13. Everson, Michael; West, Andrew (2020-10-05). "L2/20-268: Revised proposal to add ten characters for Middle English to the UCS" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2020-10-24.

Bibliography