Minim (palaeography)

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Page from a 14th-century Psalter, with blackletter "sine pedibus" text.

In palaeography, a minim is a short, vertical stroke used in handwriting. The word is derived from the Latin minimum, meaning "least" or "smallest".

A minim is the basic stroke for the letters i, m, n, and u in uncial script and later scripts deriving from it. Parts of other letters are based on minims as well: when a minim is extended above the line, it becomes an ascender, as in the letters d and b, and when it is extended below the line, it becomes a descender, as in the letters p and q. It is a stem when it forms only part of a letter, such as r.

Minims often have a connecting stroke which makes it clear that they form an m, n, etc.; however, in Gothic scripts, also known as textualis especially in late examples, minims do not connect to each other at all and it is nearly impossible to tell what letter is meant. A 14th-century example of this is: mimi numinum niuium minimi munium nimium uini muniminum imminui uiui minimum uolunt ("the smallest mimes of the gods of snow do not wish at all in their life that the great duty of the defences of the wine be diminished"). In Gothic script this would look like a series of single strokes (this problem eventually led to a dotted i and a separate letter j[citation needed]).

The problem was also sometimes solved in other ways in some languages. In Middle English, it has been suggested that the development of certain historically "wrong" spelling conventions (e.g. love for earlier luve, woman for earlier wimman) was motivated by the need to avoid long minim clusters.[1]

Gothic minims may have various decorations (essentially serifs), from a simple initial headstroke, to large diamond-shaped finials at the top and bottom, such as in textualis quadrata, the most decorated form of Gothic. Textualis sine pedibus, literally "textualis without feet", has minims with no finials at all, while textualis rotunda has round finials.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Heidi Harley (2006) English words: a linguistic introduction. Blackwell. ch.8. draft online chapter