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

The best way we know that consonantal V was pronounced as /w/ is from transcriptions of Latin words in other languages. For example, the Roman name Valerius is transcribed as Ουαλεριος (Oualerios) in ...
cmw's user avatar
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26 votes
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Why did the letters in the alphabet shift position?

The letter Γ was sometimes written 𐌂 and was taken into the Latin alphabet as C, so the position did not change. The letter G was only added later (3rd century BC) to the Latin alphabet, to ...
Earthliŋ's user avatar
  • 1,777
21 votes

Why did the letters in the alphabet shift position?

The Etruscan alphabet you presented in your question is actually a transliteration. The actual Etruscan inscriptions are in one of the "Old Italic" alphabets derived from the Greek one. Unicode now ...
Asteroides's user avatar
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20 votes
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Why are there no native Latin words with a Z?

It's because Z was borrowed from Greek. While, as the other posters point out, archaic Latin had a Z, it had disappeared due to sound changes. It was then forgotten and then borrowed from Greek to ...
cmw's user avatar
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19 votes
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Are there any complete Latin inscriptions written in boustrophedon?

Since this is not exactly my area of expertise, I will quote Rex Wallace (Wallace 2011). He argues that the earliest Latin inscriptions were written from right to left and from left to right (p. 22). ...
Alex B.'s user avatar
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18 votes

Is there a Latin version of "Quick brown fox..."?

I wrote a Python script to analyze every couplet in the Aeneid: I quickly realized that the only instances of "K" occur in inflections of Karthago. If I include k, there are no pangram couplets. If I ...
brianpck's user avatar
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16 votes
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When did the latin alphabet become bicameral?

Ancient and late antique scripts Roman cursive was sometimes mixed indiscriminately with Roman square capitals: There was no difference in meaning between upper case and lower case letters. The ...
fpsvogel's user avatar
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14 votes

Is there a Latin version of "Quick brown fox..."?

Not best of my elegiac couplets, but here goes: Sic tibi rex iuvenis gracili ore piloque Kalendis      hac forma lyrica littera quaeque datur. Free translation: Young ...
Joonas Ilmavirta'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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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

Are there any complete Latin inscriptions written in boustrophedon?

We do in fact have a couple. The best little collection of Old Latin inscriptions is found in Warmington's old Loeb, Remains of Old Latin IV: Archaic Inscriptions. It's a tiny bit out of date, but ...
cmw's user avatar
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12 votes
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Examples of the use of Claudian letters (Ⅎ, Ↄ, Ⱶ)

The last line of an AD 49 boundary stone uses the Ⅎ twice, representing the consonantal v: The last line reads: ampliaℲit terminaℲitq[ue]. (Illustrated Introduction to Latin Epigraphy, 118). ...
Nathaniel is protesting's user avatar
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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12 votes
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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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11 votes
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DVCITIS, DUCITIS, DŪCITIS

Yes, the spelling DVCITIS was absolutely valid in the Roman Republic and early Empire. The introduction of the letter U allowed people to mark the difference between the sound used as a consonant (...
Joel Derfner's user avatar
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11 votes

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

W. Sydney Allen, in Vox Latina, page 41, gives several examples that support the [w] pronunciation of the consonantal u in Classical Latin. The first example appears in the writings of Nigidius ...
Nathaniel is protesting's user avatar
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
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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10 votes
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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
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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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10 votes
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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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9 votes

Why are there no native Latin words with a Z?

Rex Wallace argues that the letter z “remained part of the alphabetic series until the third century BCE even though it seems to have been used sparingly – if at all – in Very Old and Old Latin ...
Alex B.'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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8 votes
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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

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
  • 40.1k
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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