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Why was "her" used here?

Wycliffe Bible
Mk.1:20

In accordance with studylight.org:

"...brother, in a boot makynge nettis. 20 And anoon he clepide hem; and thei leften Zebedee, her fadir, in the boot with hiryd seruauntis, and thei suweden hym. And thei entriden"

I think, that "their" should be used instead.

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2 Answers 2

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In Middle English, "her" means "their". The Modern English "their" actually comes from Old Norse, while the equivalent (and predecessor) of Modern English "her" is "hire".

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    Does that mean that ModE 'their' came from northern dialects of ME which had 'their' in preconquest 1066 Danelaw areas? Or was it just a matter of orthography, simply that it was spelled 'her' but pronounced with a dental fricative 'th'?
    – Mitch
    Jul 8, 2019 at 18:54
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    @Mitch It was definitely not just a matter of orthography. It was probably more complex than just northern vs southern dialects, but the th-initial forms borrowed from Norse were the ones that eventually won out, and they were more prevalent in the North, so roughly speaking, I’d say yes. Jul 8, 2019 at 19:14
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You are right, for modern English.

In Wycliffe's time, the oblique cases of "they" were "her" or "hir", and "hem". "Their" and "them" were not widespread, though I think they were used in some dialects.

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  • Did "they" also have a form without "t" letter? Jul 3, 2019 at 13:49
  • oh, eyeballfrog has already answered my question. Jul 3, 2019 at 13:56

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