You say ‘nuestro’, I say ‘nostro’. Let’s call the whole thing off.

We are using our bare-text transcriptions of E1 and E2 as a base text to aid us in the transcription of T, Q and Ss. For the E1 and E2 transcriptions we have used the transcriptions prepared by the Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies (HSMS) back in the 1970s, with their permission. You can have a look at them here: One of the first transcribing jobs we had to do here at the project was to go through each folio one by one, checking for any mistakes (we hardly found any at all) and adding in our own xml tags. Many of these tags were later removed for use in the base text to help us speed up the transcriptions of T, Q and Ss, but to make sure we are transcribing the other manuscripts within the same divisions and anonymous blocks to help with our collation at a later date, the div and ab and tags remain. The job of the transcribers for the other manuscripts is therefore largely one of editing the base text (the bare text of E) to match the images of T, Q and Ss. Sometimes this highlights changes in spelling and syntax, scribal modifications and sometimes differences in content. It is these sorts of things that we are interested in using the digital collation to help us study. One thing that we have already discussed here on the blog is the spelling change of ‘mugier’ to ‘muger’.

With all that in mind, another manuscript curiosity showed itself a couple of weeks ago. Avellana, one of our trusty crowdsourcers, spotted that in the base text the word ‘nostro’ was written out in full, suggesting that in E1 it had been spelled that way, but in the image she was transcribing, from T, the word was abbreviated to ‘nr̄o’. Our transcription guidelines state that when this is the abbreviated form we should tag in such a way that the computer will show the expanded version as ‘nuestro’, with the italics showing the user of the edited version which letters were not in the original image but were added by a transcriber in the 21st century. However, because Avellana knew that spelling was changing over the time the various manuscripts we are transcribing were originally written, and also because we have previously advised her to use the base text to suggest which letters are missing in abbreviated forms, she (correctly) questioned whether in this example the expansion should be ‘uest’, as in our guidelines, or whether it should be ‘ost’, if the word in the base text is ‘nostro’.

Here is how the word appeared in T (f.42v):

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 19.43.05

And here it is in E1 (f.164r), in the corresponding section of text:

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 19.43.13

We know from work done by previous scholars of the Estoria that E is a made up of folios from different periods of history. We believe that all of E1 is from the 1270s, and that E2 contains folios from the 1270s, the 1280s and some from the fourteenth century. Other scholars have more recently started to question this further, but for the time being these are the dates we are using. We decided that the tag in the transcription guidelines for ‘nr̄o’ would be one that shows up in the edited version as ‘nuestro’ because in the vast majority of times that we see the word written in full we see ‘nuestro’ and not ‘nostro’, so we think that the shift from ‘o’ to ‘ue’ had already taken place by the time even the oldest of the E folios were written. Here is an example of the word written out in full on folio 2v of E1:

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 19.43.54

So why do we see ‘nostro’ in another folio of the same manuscript? Our research fellow Enrique was quick to come up with the answer. Enrique asked to see the phrase in which ‘nostro’ was written. Here it is in E:

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 19.44.05

And in T:

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 19.44.11

A quick search of the HSMS concordances show that we only see ‘nostro’ written three times in E1, and in each case as part of the phrase ‘nostro sennor dios’.

Their concordances from the above website:

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 19.45.24

For this reason we believe that the word would have sounded archaic even in the 1270s, just as some religious language can sound archaic to us now. I only have to think of the song we used to sing before going home from Brownies – ‘Oh Lord, our God, thy children call. Grant us thy peace and bless us all’. The use of ‘thy’ here is archaic, but we accepted it as normal because it came within a religious song with set phrases.

It is more difficult to find exact concordances for how many times ‘nuestro’ appears in E1, as like us, the HSMS expanded the abbreviation mark to ‘uest’, and their concordances count both appearances of the word in full and the expanded version, so although their concordance shows 288 appearances of ‘nuestro’ we cannot be sure how many of these are instances of ‘nuestro’ and how many are ‘nr̄o’. Hopefully we will be able to create and use our own concordances which can differentiate between the two in the latter stages of the project.

So, how should we expand ‘nr̄o’ if both ‘nuestro’ and ‘nostro’ appear in the manuscripts? As the general usus scribendi of even the oldest folios we are transcribing, E1, show ‘nuestro’ being used much more often and in more varied examples than ‘nostro’ we should continue to tag any abbreviated forms of the word in such a way that the edited version will show nuestro (likewise nuestra, nuestros, nuestras) and only transcribe ‘nostro’ when the word appears written in full in the image exactly like that. This shows us why we do need to continue using some way of marking which letters appear in the manuscript and which do not. Typically, in print editions, letters expanded by the editor are shown in italics, and to this point we are doing the same. As we are creating a digital edition, we could, at a later date, choose to show expanded letters in a different colour, perhaps in bold, or maybe even in some other way, but the important thing for historians of language is that there is some distinction between the letters we actually see in the manuscript (or that we think we see) and those which have been added in by 21st-century transcribers.

2 thoughts on “You say ‘nuestro’, I say ‘nostro’. Let’s call the whole thing off.

  1. Dave McDougall

    FYI – for comparison the use of abbreviated and full forms in the Fazienda de Ultra Mar is as follows:
    nr̄o(s) 354, nuestro x 1, nostro x 2 (81va, 82rb)
    nr̄a(s) 17
    It is extremely rare to find a full form!
    It is also interesting that the E1 instances of nostro are grouped very close together, as are those in the Fazienda. The occurrence is probably down to a particular scribe.


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