Questions tagged [alphabet]

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

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Have these Greek letters been related to these Latin/English letters?

Was each following Latin/English letter originated from, cognate with, or related to the Greek letter given after the Latin/English letter? Latin f and Greek phi Latin h or e, and Greek eta Latin j ...
7 votes
2 answers
317 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, ...
0 votes
2 answers
87 views

How shall I remember the order between the letters in Greek alphabet?

In Greek alphabet, letters are ordered from alpha to omega. Why is it the order? How was it originated? Does the order matter? I saw that the order is used in Greek numerals for naming numbers. What ...
6 votes
1 answer
240 views

Using "u" to transliterate Greek "υ" (upsilon) into English

The typical advice that you receive, when transliterating Greek words into Roman letters, is that Greek υ (upsilon) can either be Roman "y" or "u." (See, for instance, the ...
9 votes
2 answers
734 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 ...
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 ...
5 votes
2 answers
704 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 ...
6 votes
1 answer
1k views

Capital and non-capital letters in the Greek alphabet

Is there a reason why only some of the capital and non-capital letters of the Greek alphabet are different?
33 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 ...
5 votes
2 answers
417 views

Hypothesis for Umbrian letter ers pronunciation

Umbrian epichoric alphabet (that is, locally adapted from Etruscan alphabet) has a consonant 𐌛, called ers in Unicode Old Italic scripts references. You can see an example of usage of such letter in ...
8 votes
1 answer
1k views

Why is this Etruscan letter sometimes transliterated as "ch"?

I've noticed that the Etruscan letter 𐌙 is sometimes transliterated as "ch", as you can see in the following image of an information panel in the Hypogeum of the Volumnus family:            ...
8 votes
2 answers
411 views

When and why did "Σ" make a comeback?

Math uses "Σ", as does modern Greek. But according to Wikipedia, "Σ" disappeared during late antiquity and the Middle Ages: In handwritten Greek during the Hellenistic period (4th–...
0 votes
1 answer
57 views

Can uppercase j be used to replace uppercase i letter on a monument inscription?

I have seen it repeatedly on two grave inscriptions. Both were called Ida but there was Jda on the grave inscription. They lived in the 19th and 20th centuries in the Central Europe. Is this a ...
16 votes
1 answer
8k 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'...
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 ...
8 votes
3 answers
437 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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
4 votes
1 answer
132 views

Were ῾ (δασεία) and ᾿ (ψιλή) formed from ├, ┤ (H) respectively?

Στο λατινικό αλφάβητο, όπως και στην αττική διάλεκτο, αποδόθηκε γραπτά με το γράμμα Η, από το οποίο άλλωστε προέρχεται και η δασεία. Συγκεκριμένα, το σύμβολο της δασείας αποτελεί απλοποίηση του ├ (το ...
3 votes
1 answer
583 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 ...
12 votes
2 answers
478 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 ...
20 votes
3 answers
10k 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 ...
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?
6 votes
1 answer
539 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 ...
3 votes
0 answers
126 views

Was the letter phi used in Latin?

Is there any evidence of the Greek letter phi being borrowed to write Latin words of Greek origin as φilosoφia for example? The question is not restricted to Classical Latin.
14 votes
2 answers
755 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 ...
9 votes
1 answer
398 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 ...
4 votes
2 answers
604 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 ...
3 votes
1 answer
265 views

When were /k/ and /q/ first distinguished in the Greek or Latin alphabet?

Nowadays, in languages which make a distinction between velar and uvular stops, it's common to use K for the first and Q for the second. This is best-known nowadays from transcriptions of Arabic names,...
9 votes
1 answer
209 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?
8 votes
2 answers
348 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 ...
7 votes
1 answer
206 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 ...
29 votes
1 answer
8k 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 ...
7 votes
0 answers
153 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 ...
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 ...
5 votes
2 answers
354 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 ...
8 votes
3 answers
703 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? ...
4 votes
1 answer
233 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 ...
5 votes
1 answer
136 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 ...
7 votes
2 answers
6k 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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
8 votes
3 answers
247 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 ...
14 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 ...
5 votes
1 answer
208 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, ...
6 votes
3 answers
710 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 ...
11 votes
1 answer
885 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 ...
3 votes
3 answers
492 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 ...
10 votes
1 answer
401 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 ...
8 votes
1 answer
705 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, ...