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Home :: Archive :: 2013 :: March ::
Question Regarding Pronunciation of “quit” as Shortened Version of “requite” . . .

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0119  Wednesday, 20 March 2013

 

[1] From:        Crystal David < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         March 19, 2013 3:20:32 PM EDT

     Subject:     Q: Rom. “quit” 

 

[2] From:        Gabriel Egan < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         March 19, 2013 6:33:42 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Q: Rom. “quit” 

 

[3] From:        Tiffany AC Moore < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         March 20, 2013 9:29:38 AM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Q: Rom. “quit” 

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Crystal David < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         March 19, 2013 3:20:32 PM EDT

Subject:     Q: Rom. “quit” 

 

The evidence suggests that requite had a diphthong (of a schwa + i character). In the canon there’s only one rhyme with requite (requite thee / incite thee, Much Ado 1202) but this is reinforced by eight with quite (delight, fight, night, recite, sight, sprite, tonight, write). Spellings with a single t and final e generally support this—but there are two instances which could be evidence of a short vowel (or they could be just typos, of course): requitted (Coriolanus 2727) and requits (Richard III 904). 

 

Quit, as OED points out, came into English in the ‘repay’ sense with a long vowel, but it soon shortened (as shown most clearly by citations with a following tt spelling). A 1595 citation where the word is spelled quitt shows that this was in place by then. 

 

So the question is whether a long variant was still around in the 1590s, as suggested by the quite spelling. Unfortunately, the final -e is no guide, as this was still being used unsystematically by printers without any phonological implications, and spelling reformers like Richard Mulcaster were arguing that there were far too many unnecessary final e’s around, and they should go. So we can’t read much in from the quite/quite spelling variation in the Folio/Quarto. There’s no rhyming evidence for quit in Shakespeare, unfortunately. But the OED does have a 1578 citation where quyte is rhymed with dispyte, perfyte, and wyte, suggesting a long vowel. And occasional references by the orthoepists hint at this variant being used well into the 17th century.

 

There’s nothing unusual in the existence of variant pronunciations, of course. There are several cases in Shakespeare where a word has both long and short vowel variants. Again is probably the clearest example, sometimes rhyming with amain, brain, complain, etc and sometimes with men, pen, then, etc - as it still does today.

 

One has to take a view, as the lawyers say. My feeling is that quit was usually pronounced short, and requite long, but the variants would still be occasionally heard, especially in regional speech.

 

David Crystal

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Gabriel Egan < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         March 19, 2013 6:33:42 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Q: Rom. “quit”

 

Larry Weiss wrote of Hamlet

 

> F1 seems to have been printed from Q3,

> which doesn't have substantive authority.

 

I’d be interested to hear the reasons for this assertion about the Folio text of Hamlet.

 

Gabriel Egan

 

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Tiffany AC Moore < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         March 20, 2013 9:29:38 AM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Q: Rom. “quit”

 

Larry:  But would you be inclined to say the best pronunciation would be “quite” instead of “quit”—that is, the “long” vowel sound, as opposed to the short.  

 

Even if the Q or F are “bad” the spelling could indicate what the scribe heard and that seems like “quite” even though it’s spelled “quit”.

 
 

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