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BL: bible
Posted: 16 March 2011 05:21 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I’m surprised I didnþ (damn, forgot to switch from the Old English keyboard) do this one earlier.

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Posted: 17 March 2011 12:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I was first told about the Greek origin of the term bible (for the Christian testament) by our Samskrta master at school. Much later I came across the reference in either a Robert Grave or a William Golding book. I think it was in the latter, the only posthumously published novel of his (was it the Double Tongue?)

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Posted: 17 March 2011 02:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Old English borrowed this Latin word, and biblioþece and bibliþeca were used by the Anglo-Saxons to refer to libraries, the Christian scriptures, and, in at least one case, a single volume that contained the scriptures.

Does this mean we have a date by which we know that the Latin th became pronounced /θ/?

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Posted: 17 March 2011 03:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Presumably, at least for Latin as she was spoke in Anglo-Saxon England. There was considerable variation in how Latin was spoken across Europe, so it wouldn’t hold true for everywhere. I’d have to look up the individual manuscript dates to figure out what that date was, though. Ælfric was the big user of the word, according to the DOE, and he was late tenth/early eleventh century. The manuscript dates may be later; and since pronunciation is one of the major reasons for scribes changing spelling, it’s the manuscript date that’s important, not the date of composition of the text in which the word appears.

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Posted: 17 March 2011 01:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Unless I am sadly mistaken, the word bibliotheca is originally Greek*.  I don’t think we know much about how the Romans (or the peoples of post-Roman Europe when they spoke Latin) pronounced the word bibliotheca - they didn’t necessarily pronounce it the same way the Greeks did**, with an aspirated plosive (or whatever it’s called) th sound for theta (I’m not sure that Latin originally had such a sound at all**). I don’t know on what grounds the text quoted says “the Old English borrowed the Latin word”. Is there any reason why Old English shouldn’t have borrowed the Greek word?  Were Old English scholars familiar only with Latin, and not with Greek (the Venerable Bede certainly knew both)? And I don’t quite see on what grounds “we should now have a date by which the Latin th became pronounced theta” . What language are we talking about here? English, as Dave assumes? 

*There were lots of libraries in the Greek world, before the Romans took over both the word and the world from the Greeks (probably the best known bibliotheca was the one in the Museum at Alexandria).

** in most of the main modern Romance languages (Spanish, Italian, Portuguese) the word for “library” is biblioteca (none of these languages has a th sound). In French, the word is bibliothèque (with th pronounced as “t” – French doesn’t have a th sound, either). And when speakers of these languages speak Latin, they don’t pronounce th as theta, they pronounce it as “t” – and for all I know, they may always have done so.

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Posted: 17 March 2011 01:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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lionello - 17 March 2011 01:01 PM

Unless I am sadly mistaken, the word bibliotheca is originally Greek*.

Well, the modern Greek word for library is βιβλιοθήκη (bibliothiki), so I’m with lionello in asking this question.

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Posted: 18 March 2011 02:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Bibliotheca is the standard medieval Latin word for bible, used by Jerome himself. Knowledge of Greek was fairly rare in Anglo-Saxon England, while Latin was pretty ubiquitous, at least among the literate. Even those who would have recognized its ultimate Greek origin would have associated the word with Latin first.

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Posted: 18 March 2011 04:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Does this mean we have a date by which we know that the Latin th became pronounced /θ/?

There was, strictly speaking, no “Latin th.” The th digraph is used only for loan words from Greek.  In Latin itself it was simply another way of writing the /t/ phoneme, since Latin had no /θ/ (a fairly rare sound among the world’s languages), and I am curious to know how speakers of Old English came to use thorn to write it (and presumably /θ/ to say it).

Incidentally, the other ways to refer to the Bible avant le mot were fyrngewrit ‘old/former writings,’ seo halge gesegen ‘the old story/report,’ godes boc ‘God’s book,’ and halig gewrit ‘holy writ.’ (Courtesy of the Historical Thesaurus of the OED.)

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Posted: 18 March 2011 05:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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and I am curious to know how speakers of Old English came to use thorn to write it (and presumably /θ/ to say it).

Presumably, the Old English wrote biblioþéce. I had always heard that the thdigraph replaced thorn (þ) in the Early Middle English period, and was imported by Norman scribes.

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Posted: 20 March 2011 10:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I’m not sure what you’re responding to.  My question is why the speakers of Old English used thorn (þ) rather than t to write the word.  (And I don’t think OE speakers put length marks on their vowels when they wrote.)

In other words, the word when they borrowed it wasn’t pronounced with a fricative, it sounded like /biblioteka/, so why would they write it with thorn?

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Posted: 20 March 2011 11:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Perhaps because -in spite of Dave’s very cogent arguments - they knew Greek, and knew how the word was originally pronunced. How could one be a Christian Bible scholar and not know Greek?

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Posted: 20 March 2011 03:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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lionello - 20 March 2011 11:09 AM

Perhaps because -in spite of Dave’s very cogent arguments - they knew Greek, and knew how the word was originally pronunced. How could one be a Christian Bible scholar and not know Greek?

This brings up another question.  When did the Greek letter θ change from the aspirated /tʰ/ to the sound represented by the IPA /θ/?

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Posted: 20 March 2011 03:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Few Anglo-Saxons knew more than a smattering of Greek words--mainly those commonly found in Latin texts. There were a few exceptions who were proficient in the language, but even Bede’s knowledge of Greek was not all that great. Knowledge of Greek was not considered essential in medieval times because the Vulgate was the word of God. Other translations did not matter. It wasn’t until Tyndale in the sixteenth century that English biblical scholars began using the Greek and Hebrew texts.

Ælfric was the writer who is responsible for most of the uses of biblioþeca. I used to know whether or not he was one of the ones who knew Greek, but I can’t remember. My recollection is that he didn’t, but I’m not confident in that statement.

And now that I look at the DOE entry again, the headword is biblioþeca, but most of the entries are given as bibliotheca (or other variants with <th>). I can’t tell if that’s what’s in the manuscripts or if there is some editorial intervention going on somewhere in the chain.

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Posted: 20 March 2011 06:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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This brings up another question.  When did the Greek letter θ change from the aspirated /tʰ/ to the sound represented by the IPA /θ/?
---

You mean in English, or in Greek?

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Posted: 21 March 2011 02:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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OP Tipping - 20 March 2011 06:23 PM

This brings up another question.  When did the Greek letter θ change from the aspirated /tʰ/ to the sound represented by the IPA /θ/?
---

You mean in English, or in Greek?

In Greek.  Or am I mistaken about its having originally been /tʰ/?  I thought the difference between τ and θ was the former was /t/ and the latter was /tʰ/.  Edit:  Classical Greek, that is.

[ Edited: 21 March 2011 02:46 AM by Faldage ]
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Posted: 21 March 2011 05:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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@Faldage: the earliest, uncontested evidence (mentioned in a source I have access to, Allen VG) of a fricative pronunciation of one of the aspirated stops in Greek is from the first century CE, in a Pompeian context: Dafne for Δαφνη. He also mentions Cicero making fun of a Greek witness not being able to properly pronounce Fundanius, probably substituting a voiceless aspirated stop for the Latin fricative.. [WS Allen, Vox Graeca, pp.23ff.]

@languagehat: Sorry for my confusion. I thought you were asking about the graphemes and not the phonemes.

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