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I = J = Y = H = ZH?

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826877.  Sun Jun 26, 2011 10:37 am Reply with quote

Q: What is quite interesting about the letter J?

A: It was originally a graphic variant of "i" known as "i longa" and had no separate sound value from "i". In the late middle ages, after it and "i" had acquired their dots it came to represent a consonant, but not the same consonant in every language; in English it's the J of judge, in German the J has a "y" like sound as in "jung" (young), in Spanish an H like sound as in José (hoze-ay), and in French a voiced "sh" sound as in "Jean" (zhawn) which we do not have a distinct spelling for even though we use it in words such as "pleasure". Not bad going for a spare letter!

BTW. Many people believe the "i" got its dot to make it different from the otherwise identical vertical strokes used to write n, m, and u in Textura scripts (and certainly an accute like mark was used then), others say the dot was invented by the early Renaissance writing masters to make the I and J stand out in their joined-up cursive.

826888.  Sun Jun 26, 2011 11:13 am Reply with quote

Welcome to the forum Barbara-B

826908.  Sun Jun 26, 2011 12:24 pm Reply with quote

We can add K and X to the group of letters that that sound the same as J (can't think of a more elegant way of saying that).
I give you:
Pekin >> Beijing
Quixote >> Quijote
Nipon >> Japan
Then, for confusion worse confounded, we have Q on its own which is really K, and C on its own which can be S or K.

826912.  Sun Jun 26, 2011 12:44 pm Reply with quote

Slightly related is the question of why the personal pronoun "I" is in upper case, we don't write You or Me and only use Him when speaking of God.

The Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology says:

"~I~ pron. 1137 i; later I (about 1250, in The Story of Genesis and Exodus); developed from the unstressed form of Old English (about 725) ic singular pronoun of the first person (nominative case). Modern and Middle English I developed from earlier i in the stressed position. I came to be written with a capital letter thereby making it a distinct word and avoiding misreading handwritten manuscripts. In the northern and midland dialects of England the capitalized form I appeared about 1250. In the south of England, where Old English ic early shifted in pronunciation to ich (by palatalization), the form I did not become established until the 1700's (although it appears sporadically before that time)."

Some people draw a parallel with "O Lord!" as distinct from "oh dear".

826939.  Sun Jun 26, 2011 2:55 pm Reply with quote

Thanks Zebra57, I've been here before as BarbaraB, but for some reason the forum stopped letting me log on so I reregistered :-)

@exnihilo: I could have sworn I answered this in another thread where the same question had been asked and I had to research it because my knowledge of Latin alphabet palaeography drew a blank.

It turns out that for the English 1st person pronoun a variety of letters had been used; i, j (i longa), I, y and Y (I've no idea if these were dotted or undotted Y's). It turns out that in the 15th century (the first era of printing) that English printers decided to standardise on I. I've discovered lots of tales to explain why that particular letter was chosen - but they all sound a bit apocryphal.

@mckeonj. Indeed there is great variation in the grapheme/phoneme comparison around the world.

The Peking/Beijing comparison however is the difference between transcription systems that transcribe Chinese characters to the Latin alphabet. The 1st is the Wade-Giles system and the 2nd is the Pinyin system based on English and German orthographies respectively. Believe it or not the actual word is intended to be pronounced identically in both cases.

The X and J in Iberian words represents the difference between a voiced and unvoiced H, and are distinct phonemes rather than a simple X=J. And the X in Mexico reflects that the 1st people to transcribe native American languages into the Latin alphabet were Iberians. "Junta" is Spanish for "council" and is consistent with Iberian orthograhy.

The Nihon/Nippon Japan isn't really a case of J = N. Rather it it our mangling of Asian (mostly Malay and Chinese) names for the island which translate as eastern land or sunrise land (je-pang). When we finally established relations with Japan and discovered their own name for the country the old term stuck.

The C = K or S comes from English's habit of borrowing words from other languages. Where C = S the word has usually been borrowed from (or modelled on) Greek: in the Greek alphabet, and alphabets modelled on Greek like Russian and Coptic, the C grapheme represents the phoneme "S", and when C = K the word usually comes from, or is modelled on Latin.

Q is quite interesting because our kw sound in words like "quote" etc comes from the Latin values for Q and U (or V). Q had a value of "k" and "V" had a value of either "w" or "u". The famous quote from Julius Caesar "I came, I saw, I conquered." is much less impressive when you realise he pronounced it as "wee-nee, weedy, wee-chee." :-)

How do you pronounce "Texas"? I really do not see a connection to J here :-) OK, it was given its name by Spanish speakers whose pronunciation would have been more like "Tay-has" but American give X its syllabic value of "eks" just as we do.

826958.  Sun Jun 26, 2011 4:11 pm Reply with quote

Hi Barbara-B. I checked your previous registration and there is no reason why you shouldn't have been able to log on with it - did you forget your password maybe? Anyway, re-welcome :-)

826978.  Sun Jun 26, 2011 5:11 pm Reply with quote

Nope, Jenny, password and username were correct - I even requested a new password several times and still could not get in - I'm almost afraid to log off now in case history repeats its self :-/

826980.  Sun Jun 26, 2011 5:17 pm Reply with quote

That is distinctly weird. Maybe you could send dr.bob a PM about it, as he is our techy bod and would maybe like to know?

And I would certainly keep yourself logged in if possible.

826994.  Sun Jun 26, 2011 6:02 pm Reply with quote

Barbara-B wrote:
How do you pronounce "Texas"? I really do not see a connection to J here :-) OK, it was given its name by Spanish speakers whose pronunciation would have been more like "Tay-has" but American give X its syllabic value of "eks" just as we do.

At the time when Texas (and Mexico) were named by Spaniards, the letter <x> was used in Spanish to represent the sound /ʃ/. So Cervantes had a hero whom he would have called "kee-shot-eh", and Spain had territories called "me-shee-ko" and "te-shas".

But over the intervening centuries, Spanish pronunciation has changed - and /ʃ/ has disappeared from the language replaced by /h/. Keen to avoid the ambiguity which might result from having two letters which were pronounced as /h/, the Real Academia Española ruled that words which had hitherto been spelled with <x> should henceforward be spelled with <j>.

Cervantes' novel complied, and is by now spelled with a <j> in Spanish. But the Academy in Spain has often been criticized for its Castilian bias, and as a result the other Spanish-speaking countries sometimes ignore its rulings.

Méjico is uncommon and is frowned upon in that land, although the official Spanish language name of New Mexico is Nuevo Méjico. But conversely, Mexicans often do use Tejas when writing the name of that state. Tejas is also the name of an album by ZZ Top.

827008.  Sun Jun 26, 2011 6:53 pm Reply with quote

Thank you suze, that was indeed quite interesting.

It also explains to me why the "x" South American Native words is sometimes pronounced as "sh".

827011.  Sun Jun 26, 2011 6:59 pm Reply with quote

I think that J is my favourite letter, and Z my least favourite.
My favourite number is 8.
May I refer you to Alex Bellos blog, for a survey to find our favourite number:
This may not be entirely relevant to this discussion, and I will repeat it in the Quite Interesting forum

827019.  Sun Jun 26, 2011 7:23 pm Reply with quote

Bringing tennis into (hehe), Rafa Nadal's girlfriend (and fellow Mallorcan) is named Maria Francisca Perello, called 'Xisca' for short. This is said like Shees-ka.

Similarly, in high school I was taught by my Spanish teacher to say San Francisco as San Fran-shees-ko.

Ian Dunn
827044.  Mon Jun 27, 2011 2:44 am Reply with quote

I cannot help but think that this topic might be more suited to the "J Series Talk" section once it is opened.

827059.  Mon Jun 27, 2011 4:14 am Reply with quote

How many more hints do we need?

827091.  Mon Jun 27, 2011 7:13 am Reply with quote

Perhaps my post "Old Dots" in "I series talk" is also applicable to a J series?


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