Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Solved: Middle English Manuscript

Regarding the last post Daniel asks "So what can you tell from a handwriting analyst's perspective? Are they angry or lying or maybe a bit egotistical? :)"

I think Chris Blake really needs to put more than a grain of salt into his lesson plans.

Casey suggests/asks "It looks like "wheyder" to me, so I guess that would make it "wither?" I think so too. I should point out the thorn (þ) in the previous snippet that looks identical to a 'y'. This is common in MSS.

Then he asks "But among so many variations for 'whether,' how could 'wheyder'--if 'whether' was intended--be an 'error?' Seems like these crazy middle-English speakers didn't really have orthodox spellings and their necessary opposite: errors." Well I suppose the question is fair. If there are so many spellings how can a new one be considered an error and not a new legitimate variant? Having not yet perused LALME I cannot say for sure, but I would think that there is still a requisite convention to any spelling. (I read MSS on a micro-(stanley)-fiche.) There were so many dialects that those variants are not single occurances but evidence of the motley mosaic that was Middle English. So if enough people spelled it that way--it's not an error. Mediaevalists have always been so Post-Modern. (Post-Modern Man: PoMo Sapiens?)

Update: After looking at the MS carefully with Professor Astell we came up with a supportable transcription of the odd word I had previously mentioned.

I overlooked an obvious character. The fourth from the end is not a 't'--no 't' in the MS rises so high above the line. It's a 'k'. So we have a kyng of some sort. But the line needs a verb so we look at the -yng as the present participle ending and -thyngk- is there as a base. So what type of "thinking"? Vin-? Vui? Viii? Vni? Is it a typo for unthyngkyng? "Thoughtless"?
Or is it an almost impossible to pronounce vm-? Yes. Yes it is. Although I find no other instance of v=u in the text, the transcription would fit a form coming from the Old English ymb/ymbe meaning "around" or "about" or "near". The line is then part of a description of a man thinking about his character and fate.

1 comment:

  1. Omphaloskepsis it is. And upon further examination the author is a bit depressed and also a liar.


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