diaeresis --Old or Middle English ancestor

קטן

Member
German High German
I noticed the British English version of US English 'dieresis', 'diaeresis', has 'ae' instead of less complex 'e'.
Now I conjecture 'diaeresis' has an Old or Middle English predecessor whose spelling includes æ (small ash).

This true ?
 
  • Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    No, it is from Latin. I have no idea whether the Saxon æ is related to the Latin æ; all the "æ" words I am aware of that survive with this spelling in modern British English have Latin roots, whereas Saxon names once spelt with Æ are now spelt with A or E instead.
     

    קטן

    Member
    German High German
    'initially Greek' and 'via Latin' doesn't rule out existence of Old or Middle English predecessor, does it ?

    It could have etymology of the following kind:
    Old Greek > Latin > Old/ Middle English > Modern English.
     

    Au101

    Senior Member
    England, English (UK)
    I'm not really too sure what you're asking here. It was not uncommon in the past for ae to be written æ in Latin texts and in English words with their origins in Latin and Greek. Encyclopædia is a relatively well known one that still survives to some extent. However the history of æ/ae in these words is certainly not Old/Middle English æ -> modern English ae -> US English e.

    Diaeresis could be spelled diæresis as in this scan of the first edition of Dr Johnson's dictionary:

    Samuel Johnson Dictionary
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    1611 (around the time of Shakespeare) is classified as Early Modern English.

    Some years after the U.S. was founded, Noah Webster (around the 1820s?), among others, advocated for some spelling reforms that aimed to simplify some spellings and make them more phonetic. I don't know if the elimination of ash, æ, was part of those particular reforms or not, but it is rarely used in the U.S. today.
     

    Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    I agree, kentix, the spelling with "ae" seems rare in the U.S., but
    I was surprised to see it more frequent than the spelling with "e", in modern times, on the Ngram Viewer.
     

    קטן

    Member
    German High German
    ...???
    Lots of Latin words, or even terms, entered Old English, ≈ 600 at least.
    For example, læfel.
    Chances are at least one of them has Old Greek ancestor.

    'diaeresis' may not be among them.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    There have been several waves of entry of Latin (less so Greek) words into English. One was with the Romans themselves around 0-400 AD. Another was via Norman scribes post 1066. A third was with the Renaissance around 1400-1500. But it's fairly well-recorded when each individual word arrived. And diaeresis was probably around 1600. It was first published in 1611; you would need to be a very clever detective to show that it entered the language much earlier than that.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    ...???
    Lots of Latin words, or even terms, entered Old English, ≈ 600 at least.
    For example, læfel.
    Chances are at least one of them has Old Greek ancestor.

    'diaeresis' may not be among them.
    It's possible, I suppose, but I think that ash æ died out at the in the Middle English period, and the importation of æ from Latin came later. I don't think ash appears in The Canterbury Tales (1392) or Piers Plowman (c. 1377), whereas thorn þ and yogh ʒ both do.

    I find it notable that we spell the Ancient Greek names Aesop and Aeschylus with "ae" (admittedly not usually with Æ), but we invariably spell Saxon names such as Ethelred (Æþelræd) with an "e", despite the best efforts of Wikipedia to persuade us otherwise.
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    ...???
    Lots of Latin words, or even terms, entered Old English, ≈ 600 at least.
    For example, læfel.
    Chances are at least one of them has Old Greek ancestor.

    'diaeresis' may not be among them.
    When one says that an English word is 'initially Greek' and came into English 'via Latin' and doesn't state any further stages of English, one asserts that the word was borrowed at the present stage of English. What you propose would be phrased as “from Middle English X, from Latin Y, from Greek Z”.

    Lots of Latin words entered Old English, and some of them are of ultimately Greek origin, but in none of them is a Latin <ae> or Greek <αι> reflected as Old English <æ>. The example you cited illustrates this: OE <æ> corresponds to Latin/Greek <a>. The regular reflex of La/Gr <ae/αι> in OE is <é/e> depending on vowel length.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    I noticed the British English version of US English 'dieresis', 'diaeresis', has 'ae' instead of less complex 'e'.
    Now I conjecture 'diaeresis' has an Old or Middle English predecessor whose spelling includes æ (small ash).

    This true ?
    Latin ae > e is usually due to influence of French or other Romance languages. The Latin Diphthong ae shifted from Republican Latin to Proto-Romance as follows: [ae]/[aɪ] > [æ:] > [e]. This is why you find pésident in French, which is from Latin praesidentem.

    With later direct loans from Latin (rather than loans from Romance languages), it is just difference learned traditions, how close you want to remain to the Latin original and how much Romance (in the case of English predominantly French) influence is incorporated.
     
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