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Dr. Know
824439.  Thu Jun 16, 2011 3:46 am Reply with quote

I have noticed, perhaps incorrectly, that English is the only language that always capitalises the first person singular pronoun, I. The rest of the world carries on with it quite happily in lowercase. Why might this be?
I have traced its etymology back to the Goth. ik*, (a common ancestor of the German ich).

Otto Jespersen wrote:
The reason for writing I is ... the orthographic habit in the middle ages of using a 'long i' (that is, j or I) whenever the letter was isolated or formed the last letter of a group; the numeral 'one' was written j or I (and three iij, etc.), just as much as the pronoun.

That kinda explains it, but it just raises further questions. Why do they use the 'long i' only in those circumstances? And how is it interchangable with J? Perhaps akin to when Us and Vs were similarly mixed up?

824470.  Thu Jun 16, 2011 6:29 am Reply with quote

The long i predates the middle ages and goes right back to Roman times. "xiij" showed the end of the numeric sequence, and also as an initial letter in personal names; EG iulius becomes julius.

However, as the so called "Latin" alphabet developed in different countries throughout Europe many letters were added by various peoples which have since fallen out of use. Homographs such as the long and short i and the long and short s followed different conventions of use in different languages and different scripts (the medieval equivalent of a font) making it quite impossible to say that any letter was used in such-and-such a manner exclusively.

824570.  Thu Jun 16, 2011 1:28 pm Reply with quote

Hello - another linguist! Welcome Barbara :-)

824667.  Thu Jun 16, 2011 6:24 pm Reply with quote

Hi Jenny :-)
Grammatologist actually, but one picks up phonetics, linguistics, and palaeography over the years :-)

I think I may have given the Elves a problem - I corrected a few palaeographic errors they made, but being an old school researcher I cited ISBNs rather than URLs! he he :-)

824670.  Thu Jun 16, 2011 6:43 pm Reply with quote

Don't worry about that - some of the Elves are old school too!

I've long been interested in writing systems, although phonetics was my "thing" in my days as a linguistics lecturer. These days I teach English (specializing in Eng Lang, but I do Eng Lit as well) in a grammar school.

On Dr. Know's first question, I cannot think of any other language which always capitalizes the first person pronoun. Some languages capitalize the polite forms of their pronouns (eg German Sie or Spanish Vd.), and quite a few use a capital for a pronoun which refers to God.

Traditionally, Polish capitalized all pronouns, although by now this is considered a bit old-fashioned. The sort of office which still prepares its correspondence using a typewriter probably still does it, while trendy companies where colleagues even dare to address each other by Christian name alone probably don't.

Dutch has a single letter pronoun in the shape of u (second person singular, polite form). But it is not written with a capital.

824734.  Fri Jun 17, 2011 7:05 am Reply with quote

That's reassuring :-) I've just revised my post to them and I hope they sus that my automatic spooling chucker is responsible for the misspelling of capital as capitol :-) so much for passing with flying colons!

It's quite interesting how every language develops its own written conventions - thank you.

You must know the IPA, the only true example of writing being "visible speech"?

Dr. Know
824746.  Fri Jun 17, 2011 7:26 am Reply with quote

We've learned a bit about it in English, but the only ones we've learned properly are agma, schwa, and /x/.

824813.  Fri Jun 17, 2011 11:59 am Reply with quote

Dr. Know wrote:

You'd get really confused if you came to my classes, because I call it eng!

824823.  Fri Jun 17, 2011 12:39 pm Reply with quote

I'd confuse thee more :-)
I use the typographic, Greek, Runic, Coptic, and Anglo-Saxon names the letters have in known alphabets! In the case of "agma" (a term I confess I've never seen before) I called it "Ing".

824848.  Fri Jun 17, 2011 5:29 pm Reply with quote

Why is the 'ing' sound sometimes reversed?
When singing "Agnus Dei", we are taught to pronounce it "Anyus Dei".
Is this specific to sung Latin, or does it occur in other, spoken languages?

Last edited by mckeonj on Fri Jun 17, 2011 5:40 pm; edited 1 time in total

824851.  Fri Jun 17, 2011 5:38 pm Reply with quote

You mentioned the 'long i', which looks very like a lower case J.
Is it too soon to start a J forum?
It is a very interesting and confusing letter with a multiple personality disorder.

824854.  Fri Jun 17, 2011 5:46 pm Reply with quote

mckeonj wrote:
When singing "Agnus Dei", we are taught to pronounce it "Anyus Dei".
Is this specific to sung Latin, or does it occur in other, spoken languages?

It occurs in spoken Italian (e.g. 'lasagne').

824867.  Fri Jun 17, 2011 6:25 pm Reply with quote

Which is in fact precisely why John was taught to say "Anyus Dei".

The Roman Catholic church does not use Classical Latin pronunciation. Since Pope Pius X wrote a paper on the subject in 1903, it has been usual within the RC church to pronounce Latin as though it were Italian. The only places which depart very much from this are Spain and Poland, where it is often pronounced as though it were Spanish and Polish.

Best guess is that the Classical Latin pronunciation would actually have been "Ang-nus".

Spud McLaren
824888.  Fri Jun 17, 2011 7:03 pm Reply with quote

Not the same, but I have noticed a similar thing in some Welsh words. If I may be permitted to represent the Welsh double-L as *, the placename Pontcysyllte appears to be pronounced pond-a-sud-*i. At the risk of labouring the point, the t and the ll seem to be transposed in speech.

Now Cel will correct me, I'm sure...

Dr. Know
824976.  Sat Jun 18, 2011 5:58 am Reply with quote

Speaking of Latin, I'm told by a book I was given for my birthday "Latin for all occassions" how to pronounce Latin, and it says that 'Caesar' would have been pronounced more like 'Kaisar'. Is that right?


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