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Revision as of 18:13, 4 November 2011
Since around the 9th century, English has been written in the Latin alphabet, which replaced Anglo-Saxon runes. The spelling system, or orthography, is multilayered, with elements of French, Latin and Greek spelling on top of the native Germanic system; it has grown to vary significantly from the phonology of the language. The spelling of words often diverges considerably from how they are spoken.
The following image shows the simplified relationship between various scripts leading to the development of modern lower case of standard Latin alphabet used in England and that of the modern variants, fraktur (used in Germany until recently) and gaelic (Ireland).
- Several scripts coexisted such as half-uncial and uncial, which derive from Roman cursive and greek uncial, and visigothic, Merovingian (Luxeuil variant here) and Beneventan. The carolingian scrip was the basis for blackletter and humanist minuscule. What is commonly called "gothic writing" is technically called blackletter (here Textualis quadrata) and is completely unrelated to visigothic script.
- The letter j is i with a flourish, u and v are the same letter in early scripts and were used depending on their position in insular half-uncial and caroline minuscule and later scripts, w is a ligature of vv, in insular the rune wynn is used as a w (three other runes in use were the thorn (þ), ʻféʼ (ᚠ) as an abbreviation for cattle/goods and maðr (ᛘ) for man).
- The letters y and z were very rarely used, in particular þ was written identically to y so y was dotted to avoid confusion, the dot was adopted for i only after late-caroline (protgothic), in benevetan script the macron abbreviation featured a dot above.
- Lost variants such as r rotunda, ligatures and scribal abbreviation marks are omitted, long s is shown when no terminal s (surviving variant) is present.
- Humanist script was the basis for Venetian types which changed little until today, such as Times New Roman (a serifed typeface)
Unlike most other Germanic languages, English has almost no diacritics except in foreign loanwords (like the acute accent in café), and in the uncommon use of a diaeresis mark (often in formal writing) to indicate that two vowels are pronounced separately, rather than as one sound (e.g. naïve, Zoë). Words such as décor, café, résumé/resumé, entrée, fiancée and naïve are frequently spelled both with or without diacritics. Some accented words are used in both male and female versions, for example fiancée (female) and fiancé (male). Both spellings are mostly with the accent, but they may be written without the accent. The female word née in English refers to "maiden name" or literally "born as". The male version né is seldom used for a man, unless in rare cases where a man had changed his name by deed poll or on marriage or as an alias.
Some English words retain diacritics to distinguish them from others, such as resumé, exposé, lamé, öre, pâté, piqué, and rosé, though these are sometimes also dropped (for example, melée/melee and résumé/resumé, is often spelt resume in the United States (as the US equivalent of curriculum vitae). To clarify pronunciation, a small number of loanwords may employ a diacritic that does not appear in the original word, such as maté, from Spanish yerba mate, or Malé, the capital of the Maldives, following the French usage.
- English language - Wikipedia
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