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

I'll briefly summarize the analysis of W. Sydney Allen in Vox Latina, 111ff., which is itself a summary of A. E. Gordon's The Letter Names of the Latin Alphabet. First, the vowels. These have the ...
Nathaniel is protesting's user avatar
14 votes
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Capital and non-capital letters in the Greek alphabet

It depends how hard they are to write with a pen! The "capital" letters are based on ancient inscriptional forms, the way they were carved into monuments. This is why they're made of ...
Draconis's user avatar
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13 votes

What's the deal with Q?

The Latin alphabet is based on the Etruscan alphabet, which had three signs for the /k/ sound: C (𐌂), K (𐌊), and Q (𐌒). The reason for that is that the Western Greek alphabet the Etruscan alphabet ...
Cairnarvon's user avatar
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Why is this Etruscan letter sometimes transliterated as "ch"?

Most of our understanding of Etruscan pronunciation comes from our knowledge of Greek. Back before the Greek alphabet was standardized, there were different varieties used in different areas. And ...
Draconis's user avatar
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12 votes
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Why is the letter K a rare letter?

The letter K was common in the old Latin alphabet, but somehow it all but died out before the classical age. It may have been ousted by the letter C, but I'm not sure why that happened. Sometimes ...
Cerberus's user avatar
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12 votes
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What is this letter?

I'd guess it's the symbol for 6, originally digamma, but later taking on an S-like shape. (It's a bit hard to make out, but I think the last two cells contain ΙΑ and ΙΒ, indicating a series of 1 to ...
varro's user avatar
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11 votes
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Did the Romans ever distinguish long vowels in writing?

The following is based mostly on Clackson and Horrocks 2007/2011, Leumann 1977, and Wallace 2011. First of all, something to keep in mind, as Weiss 2009/2011 puts it, is that "Long vowels were ...
Alex B.'s user avatar
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11 votes

What was the sibilant in θάλασσα?

There have been various theories about the phonetic value of ττ and σσ, but it`s often held that they were pronounced as might be expected, i.e. as [tt] and [ss]. The philologist Sidney Allen argues ...
Expedito Bipes's user avatar
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What's the deal with Q?

This answer already gave the answer as pointed by sumelic. In short, in archaic Latin, there were three letters 𐌂, 𐌊, and 𐌒, corresponding to C, K and Q. All those letters were used for both the ...
Luc's user avatar
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10 votes

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

Wikipedia's answer The article Latin Alphabet of Wikipedia gives an answer to your question. In short, the Latin alphabet is believed to be founded on the Cumæ alphabet (7th century). The Archaic ...
Luc's user avatar
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What was the sibilant in θάλασσα?

We can only speculate about the exact underlying nature of the "foreign phoneme"; on the other hand, its surface realization is obvious, [tt] or [ss]. Below is my summary of the most ...
Alex B.'s user avatar
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What did the Etruscans call their letters?

This is what Rex Wallace wrote in Zikh Rasna: A manual of the Etruscan language and inscriptions (Wallace 2008): “In our discussion, we employ the ancient Greek letters for the letters of the [...
Alex B.'s user avatar
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10 votes

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

The question really isn't so much why there weren't more signs representing consonant clusters as it is why the ones that do exist are there. The Phoenician alphabet, from which the Greek derives, had ...
Cairnarvon's user avatar
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9 votes
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Did any other letters than sigma ever have separate end-of-word variants?

The following is from the 'Variant forms' section of From Unicode to Typography, a Case Study: the Greek Script, by Yannis Haralambous (p 7–9). The paper was presented at the 14th International ...
cnread's user avatar
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When did the Romans start using Z?

The letter Z began to again be used shortly after the conquest of Greece (late 2nd century BC, early 1st century BC), but did not see a "formal" introduction into the Latin alphabet until later, as ...
Ethan Bierlein's user avatar
8 votes

Written Latin names of the Latin alphabet's letters

A quick first point: I believe the premise of this question is mistaken: there is not some monumental divide between how a letter is written and how it is spoken. As noted: In Hebrew, the first ...
brianpck's user avatar
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Is there a Latin version of "Quick brown fox..."?

Came across this single line in the Poetae Latini Minores (author uncertain): Sic fugiens, dux, zelotypos quam Karus haberis. The translation I see floating around the internet is odd, though: ...
cmw's user avatar
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8 votes

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

Beta comes to mind. From wikipedia In some high-quality typesetting, especially in the French tradition, a typographic variant of the lowercase letter without a descender is used within a word for ...
Dario's user avatar
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8 votes
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Can I pluralize letters of the alphabet?

I doubt that the letter names themselves were ever declined, but I expect that if the need arose, one could use litera in apposition, e.g. literae R. (I expect that's why you say "y at least seems to ...
varro's user avatar
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8 votes
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Where did the Greek sibilant letters come from?

Krahmalkov, in his Phoenician-Punic Grammar, suggests (based on data from later Punic) that the "traditional" sound values OP mentions are wrong. Instead: Zayin was pronounced [zd] or [dz], depending ...
Draconis's user avatar
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7 votes

Did the Romans ever transcribe [ʃ]?

There are plenty of examples of a foreign [ʃ] being transcribed by Latin "s" (or medially "ss") but the vast majority come via Greek. Apart from the numerous Hebrew names found in the Greek Bible, ...
varro's user avatar
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7 votes
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When transliterating from Latin to Greek, what kind of rho is used?

First, a pretty banal orthographic point. In Greek, only initial rho has a breathing mark, and there are only two recorded words (ῤάρος and its diminutive ῤάριον) that use a smooth breathing. Though ...
brianpck's user avatar
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7 votes
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The disappearance of digamma

The phoneme /w/ survived in some Greek dialects (Doric, Aeolic and others) but not in Ionic/Attic. It is written in inscriptions, but not (for example) in the manuscripts of Pindar (Doric) or in the ...
fdb's user avatar
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7 votes
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When did consonantal "v" start being transcribed as "β"?

Sturtevant, The Pronunciation of Greek and Latin, p. 88, has a relevant passage, though he doesn't go into details: Since Attic and Hellenistic Greek had no such sound as Classical Lat. v, namely [...
TKR's user avatar
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7 votes

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

I think jknappen is right: that extra Y isn't anything but a fancy Y. A few pages back (86/87), only one Y is mentioned. There were two forms of the the Y in Greek, though. In fact, there were ...
cmw's user avatar
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7 votes

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

I think that the two forms of the letter Y given on that page are purely aesthetic variations of the same character. It also makes the letter array a neat 6 × 4 array, like the Greek one on the other ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
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Are θ/þ/th distinct in Etruscan transcription?

Searching through Glen Gordon's database of attested Etruscan word forms, I haven't found any instances of transcribed th (tau + eta), even as variants or hapaxes. This leads me to believe that it's ...
Draconis's user avatar
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7 votes
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How many Greek letters are there?

Incomplete answer while I do more research! Here are all the ones I've found: Letters that survived as numbers: Digamma/waw (Ϝϝ) was originally used for /w/, and left traces of itself all over Homer'...
Draconis's user avatar
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Is this symbol for the letter N common?

It was somewhat common in the Middle Ages for capital N to have an horizontal connective stroke, resembling H, at least in manuscript. Here are a few examples of abbreviations using capital N, taken ...
Cerberus's user avatar
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7 votes

Was η called "eta" or "heta"?

Since some time has gone by without anyone else supplying documentary evidence concerning the matter, I'll provide an answer based on what I think must have happened, but without any ancient ...
varro's user avatar
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