adj., adv., n. (adj., adj. as sb., adv.)
Gaw lyt(t)el, Pe lyttel, Cl little, lyttel, Pat lyttel; Erk littele
'little'(Modern English little)
The etymology of this word is complicated as the evident base of the various common Gmc adjectives meaning 'small' varies: long and short /i/ and /u/ occur, as well as /t/ next to /tt/. OE had lȳtel < *lūt- (with i-mutation caused by the suffix), cp OHG luzzi, luzzil, LG lütt , MDu luttel < *lu(t)t-. The OE variant lītel could reflect a base with /i:/, as is evidenced elsewhere, e.g. OIcel lítill, Go leitils. OED3 notes that ME forms can all be explained by shortening and unrounding of the original stem vowel, but finds it 'very likely that Middle English forms with long and short ῑ in the east midlands and the north were reinforced by reflexes of the latter base in early Scandinavian'. While plausible, this is impossible to demonstrate definitively, as this is also the expected outcome of OE /y:/ arising from i-mutation of WGmc /u:/ (Jordan-Crook §39.2).
*lūt- or *līt-
Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)
(ONP lítill (adj.))
Other Scandinavian Reflexes
Far lítil, Icel lítill, Norw liten, Dan liden, Sw liten
Phonological and morphological markers
Spellings in <i> occur (along with spellings in <u>) from late OE and early in place-names (MED, OED, EPNE) and are usual for the N, E and EM.
Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus
Gaw 30, 1183, 1250 etc.; Pe 172, 301, 387, etc.; Cl 215, 233, 451 etc.; Pat 59, 94, 256 etc.; Erk 160, 165