GRE Reading Comprehension

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Source: Kaplan

The Middle English language arose in the years following the Norman Invasion in 1066 and lasted until the late fifteenth century; its development over these years was marked by a sizable reduction in inflected forms, continental influences on vocabulary, and a gradual disappearance of several characters, including ash, eth, yogh, thorn, and wynn. Of these, the thorn is notable for its particularly unusual decline in English. Borrowed from the Old Norse runic alphabet, thorn (T t) is a dental fricative, similar to th in Modern English, and can be either voiced (as in th in English breathe) or voiceless (as in th in English breath). By the fourteenth century, however, th was being increasingly used in thorn's place, and the shape of thorn itself began to change, coming to resemble most closely the letter Y, which would later replace thorn entirely. This led to confusion surrounding the late Middle and early Modern English definite article ye, which is even now frequently used anachronistically in names of establishments to give them an "older" or more rustic feel. However, the ye found in texts from the late Middle English is, in fact, identical to the in pronunciation -- Y was simply used as a replacement for thorn in writing, in large part due to the lack of thorn on printing presses imported from the continent.

Question List: 1 2

Based on the passage, which of the following is a likely reason for the lack of thorn on imported printing presses?

  • A The thorn had already been replaced by y on the continent.
  • B The thorn is not a Latin character.
  • C The early printing press could only support a limited number of characters.
  • D By the time of the printing press, the thorn was only used in scribal abbreviations.
  • E The thorn was deemed too archaic appearing for contemporary audiences.

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