Questions tagged [alphabet]

For questions regarding evolution, pronunciation, and forms of the Latin alphabet and its letters

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5
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1answer
61 views

Can Greek letter names be declined?

There seems to be solid evidence that Latin letter names were indeclinable. But in Greek, several letters' names do fit into standard declension patterns: sigma, for instance, might actually be a -ma ...
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1answer
62 views

Why aren't there more letters representing consonant digraphs in Greek?

In classical Greek, the only consonant digraphs that have corresponding letters in the alphabet are ks(Ξ), ps(Ψ), and zd(Ζ, though this one's debated) -- why aren't other consonant digraphs (e.g. ts, ...
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82 views

How many vowel qualities did Oscan have?

Oscan was an Italic language related to Latin, which died out somewhere in the early centuries CE. It's notable for being used in the Fabulae Atellanae and for being the source of various loans into ...
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2answers
102 views

What did the Etruscans call their letters?

We have a solid understanding of what the Romans called the letters of the alphabet, and the names of the Greek letters (alpha, beta, gamma…) are well-known. However, there seems to be a step missing ...
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152 views

Where did the Greek sibilant letters come from?

The predecessor to the modern Greek alphabet was the Phoenician alphabet, which had four "sibilant" letters: 𐤆 zayin /z/ 𐤎 samekh /s/ 𐤑 ṣade /ṣ/ 𐤔 šin /š/ According to Jeffery, these turned into ...
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3answers
148 views

Was η called “eta” or “heta”?

Nowadays, the letter Η/η is called "ita" by Greeks and "eta" by physicists. But I'm curious: if I went back in time and talked to Socrates, what name would he have used? Background: historically, Η ...
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1answer
73 views

Is rough vs smooth breathing predictable?

Recently, I came across an excerpt from a scholium on Dionysius Thrax: Διὰ τί τὸ "η" πρὸ τοῦ "τ" ψιλοῦται, ἐν δὲ τῷ ἧτα τῷ ὀνόματι τοῦ στοιχείου δασύνεται; Ἐπειδὴ παρὰ τοῖς ἀρχαίοις ὁ τύπος τοῦ "Η" ...
5
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1answer
82 views

Is this symbol for the letter N common?

Consider the picture below, depicting a cross allegedly found by monks of Galstonbury Abbey in a tomb (allegedly) containing the remains of King Arthur. It's suppose to say: Hic jacet sepultus ...
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2answers
118 views

How many Greek letters are there?

The Greek alphabet currently has twenty-four letters, and this has been standard for millennia now. However, three extra symbols are used for numbers, and other answers mention letters like tsan used ...
3
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1answer
72 views

How many letters are words in Latin?

In English, there are a few words that sound the same as a single letter. Some are spelled with a single letter ("I", "a") while others are just pronounced that way ("eye", "cue", "why"). How many of ...
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990 views

What is this letter?

I came across this picture attached to a clickbaity article this morning: A nice, normal-looking Greek alphabet…except for something that looks like S in between epsilon and zeta. What is this ...
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490 views

What was the sibilant in θάλασσα?

The word θάλασσα thálassa "sea" is spelled in various different ways, with different letters replacing the sigmas: some dialects had a tau, for example, while others had a theta. Do we know (through ...
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3answers
111 views

Can I pluralize letters of the alphabet?

In English, it's very common to talk about letters of the alphabet in the plural: he writes his R's backwards, for example, is a perfectly natural sentence. But the Latin names for the letters don't ...
9
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1answer
141 views

When did the Romans start using Z?

Several of my recent questions have touched on the letter Z, which was introduced fairly late to the alphabet (it's disappeared from its Phoenician position and been added back in at the end, in its ...
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132 views

How did σσ differ from σ?

Varro mentioned in this answer: I think it's highly likely that originally Greek σσ had a distinct sound from σ which made it a closer match to a foreign [ʃ] than σ would have been, which is why it ...
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1answer
135 views

Did the Romans ever transcribe [ʃ]?

(Note: [ʃ] is the first sound in English "ship".) I've seen the sound [ʃ] represented in a few different ways in Greek writing: σ in Hebrew names in the LXX, σχ in modern Tsakonian, ψ in Sappho's ...
5
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1answer
78 views

When transliterating from Latin to Greek, what kind of rho is used?

In Latin there is only one type of R and as far as I know the combination RH does not appear in native Latin words. The corresponding Greek letter rho can have two kinds of breathing (rough ῥ, ...
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1answer
405 views

The disappearance of digamma

Do we know why the Greek letter digamma (ϝ) fell out of use? The letter continued to have indirect effects despite disappearing from writing. Was it still pronounced despite not being written, or ...
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3answers
206 views

Did any other letters than sigma ever have separate end-of-word variants?

In a comment to my recent question on the origin of the two forms of sigma, Rafael pointed out that in Arabic most letters have separate forms for initial, middle, and final positions. However, in ...
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1answer
473 views

How and when did we get two forms of sigma?

The Greek letter sigma (σ) has a different form (ς) when used at the end of a word. This distinction seems unnecessary to me, and it's not clear why it would emerge. Do we know why and ...
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1answer
260 views

Did the Romans ever distinguish long vowels in writing?

In most modern writing of Latin, long vowels are distinguished from short vowels by using macrons (e.g, āēīōū). As far as I know, however, ancient authors rarely, if ever, distinguished long vowels ...
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2answers
402 views

What's the deal with Q?

In all forms of Latin I know, the letter Q is always followed by a U. No other letter seems to be bound this way. The combination QU stands for something like /kw/, and it would make more sense to me ...
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3answers
167 views

Is there a Latin standard for transliterating Russian?

Consider the Russian last name Тихонов (of a mathematician). The most common transliteration I have seen in English (mathematical literature) is Tychonoff, and the transliteration according to Finnish ...
7
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1answer
108 views

Is it possible to have a single Latin ligature be majuscule and minuscule?

Context The Latin grapheme: "Œ" is the majuscule ligature of the letters "O" and "E". Is it proper—or in-fact possible—to have part of the ligature be majuscule and the other part be minuscule?
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552 views

Were there ever two “Y” forms in classical Greek or Latin?

Looking through the fantastically-titled Libro di M. Giovambattista Palatino cittadino romano : nelqual s'insegna à scriuer ogni sorte lettera, antica & moderna, di qualun que natione, con le sue ...
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150 views

Are θ/þ/th distinct in Etruscan transcription?

While trying to answer an etymological question, I was looking through several different online resources about Etruscan vocabulary. Annoyingly, although these resources use mostly the same ...
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1answer
153 views

When did consonantal “v” start being transcribed as “β”?

Since I learned Latin using ecclesiastical pronunciation, I have a general interest in the shift from the classical pronunciation of "v" as /w/ to /v/. This question is more focused though: I am ...
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177 views

On two types of S in a text from 1759

I ended up studying this poem last year: This is a congratulatory poem in a dissertation at the Academy of Turku from 1759. It is on page 4 of the full dissertation. I also published an English ...
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1answer
239 views

Where can I hear the original pronunciation of the Latin alphabet?

Is there a difference between the pronunciation of c, k and q in classical Latin? If they are all the same, why have three different letters for the same sound? Also, if x is pronounced just like ks, ...
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2answers
2k views

Written Latin names of the Latin alphabet's letters

The spoken Latin names of letters have been given in an answer to another question. I want to know how the letters were referred to in writing. What are the written Latin names of the Latin alphabet's ...
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1answer
2k views

Why is the letter K a rare letter?

I was looking in a dictionary to find the meaning of the word: kalendae. When I came to the letter K, I saw that there are only a few words/names which starts with the letter K. I saw that there aren'...
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1answer
2k views

What are the classical names of the letters of the Latin alphabet?

When I refer to letters in Latin, I (sadly) use the English names for them. If I knew the Latin names, I could apply Classical Latin pronunciation rules to say them properly. So, how was each ...
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2answers
343 views

DVCITIS, DUCITIS, DŪCITIS

Are all three of these valid spellings and have I listed them in the chronological order they would have been used? DVCITIS DUCITIS DŪCITIS Would the C have been pronounced with a hard 'K', or a 'CH'...
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4answers
1k views

Is there a Latin version of “Quick brown fox…”?

"The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" is an English pangram, i.e. a phrase or sentence that contains all the letters of the alphabet (Wiki). Pangrams are often used in font typography to show ...
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2answers
689 views

Are there any complete Latin inscriptions written in boustrophedon?

The Wikipedia entry for Lapis Niger mentions that the inscription was written in boustrophedon, alternating reading direction between every line. This inscription is far from complete. Are there Latin ...
16
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1answer
515 views

When did the latin alphabet become bicameral?

The simultaneous use of uppercase and lowercase letters is a feature of the Latin alphabet used today. The uppercase and lowercase letterforms evolve from different styles of writing. Originally, the ...
14
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1answer
686 views

Examples of the use of Claudian letters (Ⅎ, Ↄ, Ⱶ)

Emperor Claudius introduced three additional letters to the Latin alphabet: Ⅎ, Ↄ, and Ⱶ. What are some examples of the words in which these letters were used?
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405 views

Why did the letters in the alphabet shift position?

When presented with the Greek alphabet, it is like this: Α Β Γ Δ Ε Ζ Η Θ Ι Κ Λ Μ Ν Ξ Ο Π Ρ Σ Τ Υ Φ Χ Ψ Ω Or the Etruscan alphabet: A B G D E V Z H Θ I K L M N Ξ O P Ś Q R S T Y X Φ Ψ But if we ...
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2k views

Why are there no native Latin words with a Z?

I have always been told that all Latin words with a Z are ancient Greek loanwords. Why doesn't Latin have any native words with a Z?
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1k views

Non-typographical evidence of V being pronounced as [w]

According to a consensus of Latin scholars, the letter V in ancient Latin was pronounced as [w]. This seems to make sense, because there was no distinguishing between V and U, so the letter V could ...