Eth, thorn and yogh
Eth (ð), thorn (þ) and yogh are old letters. They are not really in living use (with the possible exception of "eth"), but they have some historical relevance to Shetland.
Eth and thorn
Eth and thorn are letters, which were used in Old Norse, Norn, and Anglo-Saxon. The Icelandic and Faroese languages still use them.
Ð, ð (Eth)
"Eth", also known as "eð" (occasionally "edh") derives from the letter "d", with a crossbar. Today, the Scandinavian languages tend to replace it with "d". It never appears at the beginning of a word, so it is unusual to see it as a capital letter.
"Eth" is pronounced like "th" as in "baTHe" (rather than as in "bath") and is the harder "th" sound in English. "ð" is also used in the International Phonetic Alphabet to transcribe the same sound.
Use in Shetland
Notably "eth" can be found in Shetland's motto -
It also forms a part of two common Norse suffixes in place names, which can be found in Shetland, Orkney and Scotland - -staðir, -bólstaðr and -garðr.<ref>Houses, Farms and Building (Orkneyjar)</ref><ref>Glossary of Scandinavian origins of place names in Britain (Ordnance Survey)</ref> as in names such as Skellister, Fladdabister and Veensgarth. Firth in placenames is also derived from it.
Þ, þ (Thorn)
Unlike eth which derives from "d", thorn is a letter which comes straight out of runic script and was known by the same name.<ref>Note: The native name of runic also uses it - Fuþark.</ref> "Thorn" is pronounced like "th" as in "baTH" (rather than as in "bathe"). and is the softer "th" sound in English. In the International Phonetic Alphabet, the Greek letter "θ" (theta) is used for the thorn sound.
In Old English, ð and þ were interchangeable; the rationalisation into the voiced ð and unvoiced þ came late in their use.
In Scots and in English, ð fell out of use in the Middle Ages but þ remained until the advent of printing, and lasted somewhat later in Scots. Both letters survive in Icelandic, but it is þ which has fallen out of use in Faroese, as the pronunciation has changed to "t".
In English texts without the letter þ, it is commonly rendered "th".
Use in Shetland
The old name of Trondra was "Þrondaey". Twatt (þveit), and Tingwall (Þingvöllr) are examples of other names which formerly contained thorn. Thorn was also quite common in certain personal names, and the name of arguably the important Norse god - þórr (Thor; cf Tórshavn, Thor's Harbour, the Faroese capital).
A lot of the words that used to begin with thorn, e.g. "þu" (thou) "þing" (thing - i.e. assembly) or , are now pronounced with a "d" or "t" sound in modern Shetlandic, such as "du" and "ting".
Yogh is a bit different to the other two letters, since it was not really a Nordic/Norse one. It is a medieval letter, used in Middle English, and Middle Scots. It looked very similar to a number "3" or a handwritten "Z", so it frequently got converted into "z" when it was dropped. Yogh accounts for the strange traditional pronounciations of the Scottish names Menzies, and Dalziel.
Yell was also occasionally spelled as "Zell" historically.
Unlike eth and thorn, it is no longer in use anywhere, except for printing old texts, such as Chaucer or Langland.
- Shetland Dictionary on "Zetland"
- Norn Language
- Earl of Zetland
- Zetland County Council (ZCC)
- Runes and ogham - the Norse and Pictish scripts once used in Shetland.
- Umlaut, found in some Shetlandic words.