4.0701 Early English Orthography (1/104)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Wed, 7 Nov 90 11:49:32 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0701. Wednesday, 7 Nov 1990.

Date: Mon, 05 Nov 90 17:45:49 EST
From: Richard Ristow <AP430001@BROWNVM>
Subject: An interesting exchange from HISTORY

I'm appending a short exchange off the HISTORY list which seemed of
considerably broader relevance than that list. I've been a little
surprised to see no mention on HUMANIST.


Subject: Early English Orthography
X-Topic: Entry #1864 of LISTS.HISTORY

Early English Orthography

Date: Mon, 29 Oct 90 14:57:00 PST

Dear Networkers,

I'm involved in a huge but ultimately satisfying project: *The History of
American English Spelling* or more properly, *Early English Orthography*.

Currently there are three of us working on this project which will be a
sequel or companion to:

Cummings, D. W. *American English Spelling: An Informal Description.*
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1988.

The three of us are:
D. W. Cummings
J. F. Clark
C. L. Schmidt

Whereas the first work was a description of orthographic features and
"rules" and variations on the general rules of Modern American English
spelling, this second work will be a history of the English language
with a slant towards orthography.

We've divided up the tasks and basically what I've been working on is:

West Germanic Gemination, the phenomena that led to or may be a
reflection of among other things, our current twinning or doubling rule
which is --

When adding a suffix to a base, twin the final letter of the base when

1) the suffix begins with a vowel (V)
2) base ends in a vowel-consonant (VC) pattern
3) the vowel of the above VC pattern is stressed before the suffix
is added, and retains that stress after the suffix is added.
Hence, refer --> referring but not *referrence*

(For those of you interested in the West Germanic Gemination Rule, let me
know and I'll send you an explanation.)

The other task I'm working on is the development of Standard Written
English. I'm trying to trace this from the development of the Mercian
dialect, up to Orm, from Orm to Chaucer and from Chaucer to Chancery
English. The evidence is there for the most part, I'm just trying to put
the pieces together. Where I'm having trouble is with finding the
reasons why Mercian dominated, both linguistically and for a long while

Some of the evidence is obvious. The Mercian territory (later West and
East Midland) bordered on all the other dialectical/political areas of
England including Wales. It became a common linguistic ground among the
other dialectical regions.

Also, the area of East Midlands, which finally prevailed linguistically,
contained the three primary literacy centers of England (Oxford,
Cambridge, and London). However, although these two pieces of evidence
are fairly strong, it seems too easy and rather trivial to stop there.
A whole lot was going on, both politically and linguistically.

If anyone has ideas, thoughts or criticisms (please be kind) feel free to
write me directly or the list in general. I wouldn't at all mind a
discussion on these topics.

Thanks for the help,

Subject: Re: Early English Orthography
X-Topic: Entry #1866 of LISTS.HISTORY
Posted on 31 Oct 1990 at 01:19:37 by BrownVM Mailer (103837)

Re: Early English Orthography

Date: Tue, 30 Oct 90 20:51:53 CST
From: Don Mabry <djm1@RA.MSSTATE.EDU>

I am posting a reply to the entire list even though I realize that many
list members may not have a professional interest in the history of
language. I do so as a possible example of how we can further the
scholarly enterprise.

Chriss@cwu might contact Natalie Maynor <nm1@ra.msstate.edu> for leads
and information about the history of spelling. She is a student of
dialects and should be able to direct inquiries into the best channels.

It seems to me that one thing we can do for each other as scholars is to
provide leads and information to other scholars, regardless of discipline.

Don Mabry