I reread the inscription in this question about the abbreviation D. O. M. dated to 1749:

An inscription from Malta.

The variation between I and J caught my eye. It seems to me that:

  • J is used in all consonantal positions.
  • J is used in hujus.
  • J is used after I: varijs, munijs, junij.
  • In all other positions I is used, whether it is (classically) short or long.

U and V behave in a similar way: U is used in all vocalic positions, V in all consonantal ones. The only (perhaps) exception is that after Q we always have U.

The spelling choices seem very consistent, so I can't attribute this to chance. This seems to suggest that the U after Q is pronounced as a vowel, and the J in hujus, varijs, munijs, junij is pronounced as a consonant. Is this conclusion justified? All other make sense to me, but varijs, munijs, junij sound weird to me. Is it indeed a matter of spelling convention where no two consecutive Is can appear.

1 Answer 1


One of your conclusions is, I feel, justified: that the j in hujus is due to it being pronounced as a consonant/semivowel, since that was always the case. More than that: from Classical times (and actually earlier than that) almost all instances of consonantal i between vowels were geminated, since intervocalic short /j/ was lost at an earlier stage (e.g. PIE *tréyes > Proto-Italic *trēs; the exceptions are all compound words where the second part starts with /j/), so huius was /ˈhuj.jus/. This is still the case in Church Latin today (/ˈuj.jus/), so the only question to my mind isn't about j, but if the h is pronounced or not (presumably not).

ii being written as ij I wouldn't consider evidence of anything other than a desire to be easier to read. At least since the Middle Ages people have occasionally (and at points frequently) written the final i in Roman numerals ending in runs of them as j, and in, for example, Middle Dutch /iː/ came to be written <ij> rather than <ii> for aesthetic reasons as well. It's just a common ligature.

qu has always been an odd duck, but I see no reason to believe the u there suggests that that part of the sound came to be pronounced as a vowel so much as that it didn't become fricative like consonantal u in other positions; i.e. the normal state of affairs.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.