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2016-01-14 Thu

#2453. 中英語における <u> の <o> による代用 (2) [alphabet][spelling][orthography][minim]

 [2016-01-11-1]の記事の続編.先の記事では,中英語以来 <u> が期待されるところで <o> が代わりに綴られる傾向が観察されることについて,"minim avoidance" という標準的な説明を紹介した.しかし,英語綴字史を著わした Scragg (44) は,この仮説に懐疑的である.

Thus <o> replaced <u> in a large number of words with a short vowel, most of which now have RP /ʌ/ (e.g. come, some, Somerset, monk, son, tongue, wonder, honey, worry, above, dove, love), though some preserve the close vowel, RP /ʊ/ (wolf, woman). The use of <o> was valuable in distinguishing the vowel from a neighbouring consonant, particularly <v> (identical with <u> at this time . . .) and <w> (written <uu>, as the name of the letter suggests). The fact that the convention survives also in the neighbourhood of <n> and <m> has led many commentators to suggest that <o> was preferred to <u> to make reading easier, since the characters <u n m> all consisted in bookhand of a series of minims (or straight down-strokes), the series in <un ini iui uu iw im> etc. being in danger of being misdivided and of causing confusion. It is an argument that is hard to accept for the native language, since it is unlikely that English readers of the Middle Ages read letter by letter any more than modern readers do, but it is possible that such an explanation may hold for Latin, where <o> for <u> first appeared. In English, indeed, <o> for <u> also appeared occasionally in words in which there was no danger of minim confusion (cf. Mod. E borough, thorough), and the convention may have been established in part because of an English sound change whereby /ɒ/ became /u/ (now RP /ʌ/), e.g. among, money.


 Scragg は,むしろ,英語の写字生によるこの代用の背景には,ラテン語の読み書きにおける便宜なり,対応する英語の発音の変化なりがあったのではないかという考えだ.Scragg は,p. 44 の注で,部分的には同綴り異義語の衝突 ("homographic clash") を避ける目的での代用だったのではないかという案も出している.

Though <o> for /ʌ/ is a widespread convention in current English spelling, it should perhaps be observed that a great many words survive with <u>, e.g. hunt, under, humble, thumb. The use of <o>/<u> to avoid homophones becoming homographs as well is also worth noting: some, sum; son, sun; ton, tun. Similarly <u> is perhaps preserved in nut to avoid confusion with not.


 昨日も述べたように,問題の代用の背景には,複数の要因が働いていること (multiple causation) を前提とする必要がありそうだ.なお,"homographic clash" の回避とおぼしき他の事例については,「#1345. read -- read -- read の活用」 ([2013-01-01-1]) を参照.

 ・ Scragg, D. G. A History of English Spelling. Manchester: Manchester UP, 1974.

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