March 24th, 2019


Dropping aitches

I was browsing in Wycliffe's ME Bible, and I came across these verses in Ephesians:
Therfor Y boundun for the Lord biseche you, that ye walke worthili in the clepyng, in which ye ben clepid, with al mekenesse and myldenesse, with pacience supportinge ech other in charite, bisi to kepe vnyte of spirit in the boond of pees. O bodi and o spirit, as ye ben clepid in oon hope of youre cleping; o Lord, o feith, o baptym, o God and fadir of alle, which is aboue alle men, and bi alle thingis, and in vs alle.

The "o" there is obviously the way Wycliffe said "one." One body, one spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism. But then, in that same section, we read "oon hope." In ME, the double vowel is a long vowel (in duration, especially), so "oon" means "one," but would be pronounced as a homonym for "own," rather than "won." So, why the difference? Is "o" all those times just an abbreviation for "oon?" Or is "oon" there because Wycliffe wouldn't normally pronounced the aitch in "hope?" This would correspond with ME usage of "a/an" and "my/mine."

I looked for other aitches which Wycliffe might have dropped. There are many words that begin with aitch that don't show any dropping of it. I wondered if Wycliffe would pronounce the aitches in "hym" and "heuenes." And then I saw this, also from Ephesians:
In whom also ye weren clepid, whanne ye herden the word of treuthe, the gospel of youre heelthe, in whom ye bileuynge ben merkid with the Hooli Goost of biheest, which is the ernes of oure eritage (1:13)

Wycliffe writes "eritage" for "heritage." If he were writing for the ear, then this tells us that he didn't pronounce the aitch, didn't even think to put it on there as a silent aitch. Perhaps that's because it would be unaccented in this line?

Appalachian dialects preserve some quirks that descend from ME. They say "hit" for "it" -- but only in accented syllables. "Hit's amazing" will be followed by "I've never seen it before." Something like that may be going on in Wycliffe's dialect.