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Re: OT: English and front rounded vowels

From:T. A. McLeay <conlang@...>
Date:Monday, December 10, 2007, 13:07
Mark J. Reed wrote:
> While on the topic of English differences from common Germanic themes, where > the heck does "yes" come from? I assume it's cognate with "ja", but whence > the -s? The only place I've seen a similar form is Esperanto, which of > course doesn't count since it was taken from English...
Old English ge:se < ge:a-si, where "ge:a" --- meaning "so" --- continues *ja and is continued by "yea", and "si" is an imperative of "to be"; the whole thing means "so be it". IIRC, in OE/ME ge:a/yea was a neutral "yes", whereas ge:se/yes affirmed negative questions. (The colons represent phonological length, but don't correspond to anything in the OE orthography. In OE, <g>=/j/ before front vowels. <e:a> = /&:a/ and isn't anything particularly strange because OE usually fronted Germanic /a/.) The modern "yeah" is obviously another variant of "yes", although quite how it comes about I don't know. IIRC in American English it's something like /j&/ making it phonologically quite strange, whereas for non-rhotic speakers it rhymes with "fair" (I have /je:, fe:/). I would not be surprised if the modern "yay" was just another representative of ME "yea" and therefore we have four different continuations of *ja: yea (archaic), yes, yay (interjection), yeah (informal). -- Tristan.