Questions tagged [alphabet]

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

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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 ...
Nathaniel is protesting's user avatar
26 votes
3 answers
5k 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?
Yadeses's user avatar
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20 votes
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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 ...
zefciu's user avatar
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20 votes
4 answers
2k 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 ...
cmw's user avatar
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18 votes
1 answer
1k 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?
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
12 votes
2 answers
468 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 ...
brianpck's user avatar
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10 votes
4 answers
3k 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 ...
Joonas Ilmavirta's user avatar
8 votes
3 answers
432 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 ...
Draconis's user avatar
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32 votes
2 answers
2k 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 ...
Yadeses's user avatar
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14 votes
2 answers
751 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 ...
Draconis's user avatar
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11 votes
1 answer
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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 ...
Ethan Bierlein's user avatar
9 votes
1 answer
386 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 ...
Joonas Ilmavirta's user avatar
9 votes
1 answer
345 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 ...
Draconis's user avatar
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8 votes
3 answers
245 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 ...
Draconis's user avatar
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20 votes
2 answers
2k 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 ...
Joonas Ilmavirta's user avatar
19 votes
1 answer
1k 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 ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
13 votes
1 answer
2k 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 ...
Draconis's user avatar
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10 votes
1 answer
400 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 ...
Draconis's user avatar
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8 votes
1 answer
699 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, ...
Ronen Festinger's user avatar
8 votes
2 answers
1k 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 ...
Draconis's user avatar
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8 votes
2 answers
2k 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 ...
Joonas Ilmavirta's user avatar
8 votes
2 answers
422 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'...
DVCITIS's user avatar
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5 votes
2 answers
345 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 ...
Draconis's user avatar
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5 votes
2 answers
700 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 ...
Draconis's user avatar
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5 votes
1 answer
201 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, ...
Joonas Ilmavirta's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
224 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 ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 66k
3 votes
3 answers
488 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 ...
Joonas Ilmavirta's user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
565 views

How has the pronunciation of the letter "c" developed?

I'd like to know how the pronunciation of the letter 'C' has developed in Latin. All I know so far is that it has changed through the centuries, but I'm interested in specifically what those changes ...
Gail's user avatar
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