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J is the tenth letter in the basic modern Latin alphabet; it was the last of the 26 letters to be added. Its name in English ( ) is spelled jay. It was formerly jy (from French ji) and still is in some dialects, mainly in Scottish English, where it is .

History

J was originally used as a swash character to end some Roman numerals in place of i. There was an emerging distinctive use in Middle High German. Gian Giorgio Trissino (1478-1550) was the first to explicitly distinguish I and J as representing separate sounds, in his Ɛpistola del Trissino de le lettere nuωvamente aggiunte ne la lingua italiana ("Trissino's epistle about the letters recently added in the Italian language") of 1524. Originally, both I and J represented , , and ; but Romance languages developed new sounds (from former and ) that came to be represented as I and J; therefore, English J (from French J) has a sound value quite different from (which represents the sound in the English word "yet").

Use in English

In English J most commonly represents the affricate (as in jet). In Old English the phoneme was represented orthographically as . Under the influence of Old French, which had a similar phoneme deriving from Latin , English scribes began to use I (later J) to represent word-initial of Old English (for example, iest, later jest), while using DG elsewhere (for example, he'dge). Later many other uses of I (later J) were added in loan words from French and other languages (e.g. adjoin, junta). The first English-language book to make a clear distinction between I and J was published in 1634. In loanwords such as raj, "J" may be pronounced by some, but not all, speakers. In some such cases, including raj, Taj Mahal and others, the regular is actually closer to the original sound of the foreign language, making this realization a hyperforeignism. Occasionally J represents other sounds, as in Hallelujah which is pronounced the same as "Halleluyah" (See the Hebrew yud for more details).

J is used relatively infrequently in the English Language, though it is more commonly used than Q, X or Z.

Use in other languages

The great majority of Germanic languages, such as German, Dutch, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian use J for the palatal approximant . Notable exceptions are English, Scots and Luxembourgish. J also represents in Albanian, and those Uralic, Baltic and Slavic languages that use the Latin alphabet, such as Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Latvian and Lithuanian. Some languages in these families, such as Serbian, also adopted J into the Cyrillic alphabet for the same purpose. Because of this standard, the minuscule letter was chosen to be used in the IPA as the phonetic symbol for the sound.

In the Romance languages J has generally developed from its original palatal approximant value in Latin to some kind of fricative. In Catalan, it has retained a palatal articulation as , while in French, Portuguese, and Romanian it has been fronted to the postalveolar fricative (as in English measure). In Spanish, by contrast, it has been both devoiced and backed from an earlier to a present-day , with the actual phonetic realization depending on the speaker's dialect.

In modern standard Italian spelling, only Latin words, proper nouns (such as Jesimarker, Letojannimarker, Juventus etc.) or those of foreign languages have J. Until the 19th century, J was used instead of I in diphthongs, as a replacement for final -ii, and in vowel groups (as in Savoja); this rule was quite strict for official writing. And J is also used for rendering words in dialect, where it stands for , e.g. Romanesque ajo for standard aglio (garlic). The Italian novelist Luigi Pirandello utilised J in vowel groups in his works written in Italian (he also wrote in his native Sicilian language, that still maintains the J).

In Basque, the sound represented by j has a variety of realizations according to the regional dialect: (the last one is typical of the Spanish Basque Country).

Among non-European languages which have adopted the Roman alphabet, J stands for in Turkish, Azerbaijani and Tatar. J stands for in Indonesian, Somali, Malay, Igbo, Shona and Zulu. It represents a voiced palatal plosive in Konkani, Yoruba, Oromo and Swahili. In Kiowa, J stands for a voiceless alveolar plosive, .

The letter J is generally not used in the modern Celtic languages, except in loanwords. It is also not used frequently in the Native American languages; Gwich'in, Hän, Kaska, Tagish, Tlingit, Navajo, Northern and Southern Tutchone.

Codes for computing

In Unicode the capital J is codepoint U+004A and the lowercase j is U+006A. Unicode also has a dotless variant, (U+0237) for use with combining diacritics.

The ASCII code for capital J is 74 and for lowercase j is 106; or in binary 01001010 and 01101010, respectively.

The EBCDIC code for capital J is 209 and for lowercase j is 145.

The numeric character references in HTML and XML are "J" and "j" for upper and lower case respectively.

References

  1. "J", Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989)
  2. "J" and "jay", Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (1993)
  3. Mittelhochdeutsches Handwörterbuch von Matthias Lexer (1878)
  4. Ɛpistola del Trissino de le lettere nuωvamente aggiunte ne la lingua italiana, photographic reproduction by Turin Univerisity, page 5 of PDF file; publishing date in on the last page.



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