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|æ| and |œ|

From:Benct Philip Jonsson <bpj@...>
Date:Saturday, October 2, 2004, 19:53
Ray Brown wrote:

> Modern > texts of Old English spell 'ash' with |æ| which denoted /æ/ as opposed to > plain |a| which denoted /a/. I have always assumed that the letters were > written as a ligature by Old English scribes, but I am not sure - there > are others on the list that can tell us whether they did or not. But if > they did, then we could say |æ| was an Old English innovation.
The Old English certainly borrowed |æ| from Latin writing, where it did still occur in Medieval spelling, if erratically, but there are three facts which complicate the picture: (1) The oldest English MSS use |ae| rather than |æ|, as do the even older oldest coins. (2) IIANM the form |ę| "e caudata" -- |e| with a hook, was at least as common as the original |æ| of which it was a devolution. This |ę| was common in Irish/Latin Carolingian and Old Norse writing as well. (3) The sound [ø/2] was apparently always written with the digraph |oe| in Old English. At least the handbooks don't mention |œ|. While having no direct bearing on |æ| it is a strange assymmetry! FWIW Old Icelandic uses |ę| almost exclusively, and also uses the analogously created |ǫ| -- |o| with a hook -- almost exclusively rather than the |ao| digraph or ligature it is supposed to be derived from. They stand for /E/ and /Q/, BTW. -- /BP 8^) -- B.Philip Jonsson -- melroch at melroch dot se Solitudinem faciunt pacem appellant! (Tacitus)