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The letters <p> and <f>, again
You may recall my observation, several months ago, that there seemed
to be two variants of the EVA letters <p> and <f>, distinguished by
the presence or absence of a "hook" at the end of the horizontal arm.
The main argument for making that distinction is the "pronunciation
table" on f66r, where the two variants of <f> are listed next to each
other in the middle column, and then "exemplified" with two successive
words on the left column (and also on the right-hand text).
On the other hand, we all know that <p> and <f> are almost (but not
exclusively) found on paragraph-initial lines, where <k> and <t> seem to
be comparatively rare; and that the four letters tend to occur in
similar contexts (e.g. as parts of "platform gallows").
These facts, besides their shapes, strongly suggest that <p> and <f>
are basically ornate variants of <t> and <k>. But then the
hooked/straight distinction would have no parallel in <k> and <t>.
Now, while reviewing the statistics of the "crust/mantle/core" word
paradigm, I just noticed another detail which may be relevant to that
question: namely, the EVA letter <e> essentially *never* --- with 1
exception in the whole book --- follows <p> and <f>, whereas it is
pretty common after <k> and <t>. (I believe Currier already had
Here you can find a tabulation of the "mantle suffixes" --- essentially,
the <e>/<ch>/<sh>/ combinations that can follow each of the four gallows
[Platform gallows don't matter]
That table shows that the distributions of mantle suffixes after the
*platformed* gallows <ckh>, <cth>, <cph>, and <cfh> are are extremely
similar, even for the <e> suffix.
We can explain this fact by assuming that the gallows conceptually
lies "inside" the platform, and is effectively shielded by it; hence
all four combinations are equivalent to <ch> as far as the following
letter is concerned. So let's leave platformed gallows aside for now.
[Naked gallows are peculiar]
The suffix distributions after "naked" gallows, however, are quite
different between the "normal" and "fancy" versions. Below is a
condensed version of the table, restricted to the few significant
suffixes. (The rest, I believe, are mostly accidents created by
omission of word spaces.) The fractions, as in the big table, are
relative to total for each gallows:
- e ech ch sh ee che she eee chee
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----
t .446 .168 .003 .112 .016 .128 .052 .012 .008 .004
k .443 .167 .005 .070 .010 .206 .032 .008 .017 .002
p .290 .... .... .232 .019 .... .269 .028 .... .026
f .386 .... .... .234 .024 .... .193 .017 .006 .027
[About <ee> and <ch>]
Note first the anomalously high counts for <ch> (but not <sh>) after
<p> and <f>, and the total absence of <ee> --- which is quite common
after <k> and <t>.
However, note that the combined frequencies of <ch>+<ee> after <k> and
<t> are quite close to the frequencies of <ch> only after <p> and <f>.
A possible explanantion for these numbers is that <ee> is actually
<ch> with the ligature omitted. (Or, possibly, <ch> is actually <ee>
with a ligature added to resolve ambiguities.) If that is the case,
then it seems plausible that, in those contexts where <k> and <t> are
replaced by fancier versions <f> and <p>, the scribe would also be
more careful about "crossing his <ee>s" with a ligature.
However this explanation fails to account for the <che>, <she>, and
<eee> suffixes. True, we see a relative absence of <eee> after <p> and
<f>, and an increase in the frequency of <che>; but the latter is way
too large to be explained as a "transmutation" of <eee> into <che>.
Perhaps some of the <k> and <t> mutated into <pche> and <fche>? Or is
there a more complex dance going on?
[About <e> and <ech>]
The point of this message is actually note the absence of suffixes <e>
and <ech> after <p> and <f>, contrasting with their extreme popularity
after <k> and <t>.
Given my theory that an isolated <e> is always a modifier for the
preceding letter, I think that these two columns are at least
consistent with each other: we can summarize both by saying the
letters <p> and <e> do not accept the <e> modifier (unlike <k> and
[Hooked arm is an extra <e>?]
It remains to explain this difference between fancy gallows and regular
gallows? Well, perhaps the difference doesn't
actually exist. An intriguing possibility is that the hooked-arm
<p> and <f> are actually fancy versions of <pe> and <fe>.
Note that even though the hook comes physically before the <p>/<f>
body, it comes *after* it temporally: hence it is not unreasonable to
read <pe>/<fe>, as opposed to <ep>/<ef>. I believe that there are
plenty of examples of such "non-linear fancifications" in medieval
[Hooked arms on platformed gallows]
A complication of this theory is that the hooked arms often occur on
platformed gallows. For example. On page f1r, line 13, we read
The first <p> has a hooked arm, the second one is straight.
So we need readings for those combinations too. My current guess is
that hooked-<cph> should be read as <cphe>. Note that if we apply this
guess to the above example, we get an intriguing "alliteration":
ckhey ... cphey ... cthey
If the "fancy variant" theory is true, that should be read as
ckhey ... cthey ... cthey
For whatever it is worth.
I will try to get a larger sample of alternative "hook = <e>"
readings. From a few examples I have seen, however, it seems
that the new reading is sometimes a plausible word, sometimes
not quite. So, again, the truth may be more complicated.
All the best,