#2235. 3文字規則[spelling][orthography][final_e][personal_pronoun]


 現代英語の正書法には,「3文字規則」と呼ばれるルールがある.超高頻度の機能語を除き,単語は3文字以上で綴らなければならないというものだ.英語では "the three letter rule" あるいは "the short word rule" といわれる.Jespersen (149) の記述から始めよう.

   4.96. Another orthographic rule was the tendency to avoid too short words. Words of one or two letters were not allowed, except a few constantly recurring (chiefly grammatical) words: a . I . am . an . on . at . it . us . is . or . up . if . of . be . he . me . we . ye . do . go . lo . no . so . to . (wo or woe) . by . my.
   To all other words that would regularly have been written with two letters, a third was added, either a consonant, as in ebb, add, egg, Ann, inn, err---the only instances of final bb, dd, gg, nn and rr in the language, if we except the echoisms burr, purr, and whirr---or else an e . . .: see . doe . foe . roe . toe . die . lie . tie . vie . rye, (bye, eye) . cue, due, rue, sue.
   4.97 In some cases double-writing is used to differentiate words: too to (originally the same word) . bee be . butt but . nett net . buss 'kiss' bus 'omnibus' . inn in.
   In the 17th c. a distinction was sometimes made (Milton) between emphatic hee, mee, wee, and unemphatic he, me, we.

 しかし,上の引用の最後で Milton が heehe を区別していたという事実は,もう1つの動機づけの可能性を示唆する.すなわち,機能語のみが2文字で綴られうるというのは,機能語がたいてい強勢を受けず,発音としても短いということの綴字上の反映ではないかと.これと関連して,offof が,起源としては同じ語の強形と弱形に由来することも思い出される (cf. 「#55. through の語源」 ([2009-06-22-1]),「#858. Verner's Law と子音の有声化」 ([2011-09-02-1]),「#1775. rob A of B」 ([2014-03-07-1])) .Milton と John Donne から,人称代名詞の強形と弱形が綴字に反映されている例を見てみよう (Carney 132 より引用).

                       so besides
Mine own that bide upon me, all from mee
Shall with a fierce reflux on mee redound,
On mee as on thir natural center light . . .
Did I request thee, Maker, from my Clay
To mould me Man, did I sollicite thee
From darkness to promote me, or here place
In this delicious Garden?
                                     (Milton Paradise Lost X, 737ff.)

For every man alone thinkes he hath got
To be a Phoenix, and that then can bee
None of that kinde, of which he is, but hee.
                            (Donne An Anatomie of the World: 216ff.)

 Carney (133) は,3文字規則の際だった例外として <ox> を挙げ (cf. <ax> or <axe>),完全無欠の規則ではないことは認めながらも,同規則を次のように公式化している.

Lexical monosyllables are usually spelt with a minimum of three letters by exploiting <e>-marking or vowel digraphs or <C>-doubling where appropriate.

 ・ Jespersen, Otto. A Modern English Grammar on Historical Principles. Part 1. Sounds and Spellings. 1954. London: Routledge, 2007.
 ・ Carney, Edward. A Survey of English Spelling. Abingdon: Routledge, 1994.

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