OK, hep me out here: I’ve never understood the fine distinction between “unto” and “to.” The KJV Bible is just chockablock with “unto’s”. Back in them days people did all sorts of things “unto” something else. In most cases, a simple “to” would suffice in today’s lexicon. But that word was available back then, so apparently there’s a fine distinction. And hardly anyone does anything “unto” anyone or thing nowadays.
Just in the first three chapters of “Genesis,” there are over a dozen “unto’s”.
In “Moby Dick,” two. Guess what? Both of them are Biblical quotes.
Two distinction come (un)to mind immediately: You wouldn’t use “unto” in a geographic sense, as in “I’m going unto London.” Also, “unto” can (archaically) also mean “until,” as in “‘unto’ death do us part.”
Isn’t “unto” literally “up to,” with the /p/ assimilated to the following nasal consonant? (Checks dictionary.) No: Online Etymology Dictionary says it’s the same distinction as between “until” and “till,” which is, no distinction in meaning.
According to Webster’s, the un- prefix is inferred to have meant “as far as”, which agrees with some of the distinctions upthread. Another distinction would be that it is not used to form infinitives.
What I really want to point out is that the King James Version was written to be read aloud. Even today it is praised for the beauty of its language. The translators preferred a poetic, elevated sound, and tended to choose older words. (Note the usage of the word thereof instead of the posessive pronoun its.) Unto fits all of these criteria: it fits very nicely into an iambic pattern, seems more elevated (today, even pretentious) than the lowly to, and has existed since Old English (according to Webster’s, again).
It doesn’t. The idea was that the p was converted to an n. It would be similar to how adding the prefix in- to polite becomes impolite.
Which is a place assimilation because the ‘p’ in polite was bilabial. In the case of ‘up to’ I don’t see how this works, the ‘t’ in to is alveolar and and the ‘n’ is also alveolar so there’s no assimilation.
I was thinking that the (apparently false) hypothesis was that the bilabial ‘p’ from “up to” was assimilated into the alveolar ‘t’. I know I lift my tongue inside my mouth while I pronounce the ‘p’. If I am “lazy”, and don’t close my mouth all the way, and let my voice carry a bit past the schwa (‘u’), I wind up with something that sounds similar to ‘unto’.
Ah. Sorry. I’ve heard people say that before, so I thought it was correct. I was referring to the 1913 edition of Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary. I have a hard copy, but it’s not in the best of shape, so I used the online version.