Some time ago I wrote about linefirst words. The first letter of words which appear at the beginning of lines is statistically different from those of words which occur elsewhere in the line. Specifically, the characters [p, t, s, d, y] are much more common.
While we can put down the commonness of [p, t] to Grove Words—in whole or in part—the over–occurrence of [s, d, y] still needs to be explained. My belief is that when a word begins a line one of these three characters is often added to the beginning (or switched in the case of [y]).
I call this phenomenon Linefirst Transformation, and I do not understand its cause. But I believe that I now have some proof beyond statistics.
In Quire 20 (where the statistics I have been using come from and where Linefirst Transformation is strongest) one of the folios has some kind of flaw which made it a poor writing surface. The outer upper part is misshapen, and it is obvious from the shortened lines and faded writing that the writer found the surface unusable.
In most cases the writer came to the end of a word which was already fading or indistinct and decided to start a new line. In a few cases he tried to start a new word on the same line but gave up after writing part of the first character. This is where our evidence for linefirst transformation comes from.
I count four cases on f112r where part of the first letter of a new word has been written but then abandoned. The writer continued on a new line, and it is a good assumption that the writer simply began the new line with the word he tried to write at the end of the line above.
In two of these cases the writer gave up after an initial stroke which resembles [e], and that stroke is indeed part of the first character on the new line. In a third case the writer seems to have written [y], though the ink is very faint. The first letter of the new line is [d]—one of the characters added to linefirst words—but the evidence is ambiguous. The [y] could be a word in itself, if it is indeed a [y].
However, a fourth example occurs at the end of the first line. It consists of two strong, but unshapely, blobs after the word [chcphy]. It is hard to know what writer intended here, but two things are clear: there are two blobs (and thus at least two strokes), both of which keep within the median, being neither descending nor ascending. These facts are important.
The image above shows that the marks are illegible as characters, but also clearly their number and basic shape. Whatever the writer abandoned here they must have gone to write on a new line. However, these two blobs are not compatible with the first word on the following line, which is [saiin].
The writer cannot have meant to write [saiin] as the abandoned word at the end of the first line. To write the character [s] you must first write a stroke like [e] and then add a long curved ascending stroke from its top end. So, two strokes, the second of which is ascending. We have already stated that neither of the two blobs at the end of the first line are ascending, and the fact that there are two mean that the writer cannot have abandoned an [s] after a single stroke.
The two blobs at the end of the first line are compatible with trying to write [aiin]. Either they represent the two strokes of [a] or the first two characters [ai]. I expect that the latter is most likely given the spacing between them.
The conclusion that I wish to draw is that while [aiin] was the intended word, linefirst transformation cause it to be written as [saiin]. As said above, [s] is one of the characters which occur more often at the beginning of lines. Moreover, words beginning [sa] are strongly linefirst, especially in Quire 20. (In fact, of 144 occurrences of [saiin], 56 occur at the beginnings of lines.)
The statistics for words beginning [s] found at the start of a line suggest that those which begin [sa] and [so] are overrepresented. If the evidence outlined in this post is accepted, then I propose that most such words actually begin [a] and [o], respectively. And that there is a real process adding characters to the beginning of words which occur at the start of lines.