This article is about the alphabet used to write the Latin language. For modern alphabets derived from it used in other languages and applications, see Latin script
and Latin-script alphabet
The Latin alphabet
or Roman alphabet
is the collection of letters originally used by the ancient Romans
to write the Latin
language and its extensions used to write modern languages.
The term Latin alphabet
may refer to either the alphabet used to write Latin (as described in this article) or other alphabets based on the Latin script
, which is the basic set of letters common to the various alphabets descended from the classical Latin alphabet, such as the English alphabet
. These Latin-script alphabets
may discard letters, like the Rotokas alphabet
, or add new letters, like the Danish
shapes have evolved over the centuries, including the development in Medieval Latin
, forms which did not exist in the Classical period alphabet.
Due to its use in writing Germanic, Romance and other languages first in Europe and then in other parts of the world and due to its use in Romanizing
writing of other languages, it has become widespread (see Latin script
). It is also used officially in Asian countries such as China (separate from its ideographic
writing), Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam, and has been adopted by Baltic and some Slavic states.
During the Middle Ages
, the Latin alphabet was used (sometimes with modifications) for writing Romance languages
, which are direct descendants of Latin
, as well as Celtic
and some Slavic languages
. With the age of colonialism
and Christian evangelism
, the Latin script
spread beyond Europe
, coming into use for writing indigenous American
and African languages
. More recently, linguists
have also tended to prefer the Latin script or the International Phonetic Alphabet
(itself largely based on the Latin script) when transcribing or creating written standards for non-European languages, such as the African reference alphabet
Signs and abbreviations
Although Latin did not use diacritical signs, signs of truncation of words, often placed above the truncated word or at the end of it, were very common. Furthermore, abbreviations or smaller overlapping letters were often used. This was due to the fact that if the text was engraved on the stone, the number of letters to be written was reduced, while if it was written on paper or parchment, it was spared the space, which was very precious. This habit continued even in the Middle Ages. Hundreds of symbols and abbreviations exist, varying from century to century.
Old Italic alphabet
Archaic Latin alphabet
Archaic Latin alphabet
Old Latin alphabet
Latin included 21 different characters. The letter ⟨C⟩ was the western form of the Greek gamma
, but it was used for the sounds /ɡ/ and /k/ alike, possibly under the influence of Etruscan
, which might have lacked any voiced plosives
. Later, probably during the 3rd century BC, the letter ⟨Z⟩ – unneeded to write Latin properly – was replaced with the new letter ⟨G⟩, a ⟨C⟩ modified with a small vertical stroke, which took its place in the alphabet. From then on, ⟨G⟩ represented the voiced
plosive /ɡ/, while ⟨C⟩ was generally reserved for the voiceless plosive /k/. The letter ⟨K⟩ was used only rarely, in a small number of words such as Kalendae
, often interchangeably with ⟨C⟩.
Old Latin alphabet
Classical Latin alphabet
in this first-century inscription are very light. (There is one over the ó in the first line.) The vowel I
is written taller rather than taking an apex. The interpuncts
are comma-shaped, an elaboration of a more typical triangular shape. From the shrine of the Augustales
After the Roman conquest of Greece
in the 1st century BC, Latin adopted the Greek letters ⟨Y⟩ and ⟨Z⟩ (or readopted, in the latter case) to write Greek
loanwords, placing them at the end of the alphabet. An attempt by the emperor Claudius
to introduce three additional letters
did not last. Thus it was during the classical Latin
period that the Latin alphabet contained 23 letters:
Classical Latin alphabet
The Latin names of some of these letters are disputed; for example, ⟨H⟩ may have been called Latin pronunciation: [ˈaha]
or Latin pronunciation: [ˈaka]
In general the Romans did not use the traditional (Semitic
-derived) names as in Greek: the names of the plosives
were formed by adding /eː/ to their sound (except for ⟨K⟩ and ⟨Q⟩, which needed different vowels to be distinguished from ⟨C⟩) and the names of the continuants
consisted either of the bare sound, or the sound preceded by /e/.
The letter ⟨Y⟩ when introduced was probably called "hy" /hyː/ as in Greek, the name upsilon
not being in use yet, but this was changed to "i Graeca" (Greek i) as Latin speakers had difficulty distinguishing its foreign sound /y/ from /i/. ⟨Z⟩ was given its Greek name, zeta
. This scheme has continued to be used by most modern European languages that have adopted the Latin alphabet. For the Latin sounds represented by the various letters see Latin spelling and pronunciation
; for the names of the letters in English see English alphabet
were not regularly used, but they did occur sometimes, the most common being the apex
used to mark long vowels
, which had previously sometimes been written doubled. However, in place of taking an apex, the letter i was written taller
: ⟨á é ꟾ ó v́⟩. For example, what is today transcribed Lūciī a fīliī
was written ⟨lv́ciꟾ·a·fꟾliꟾ⟩ in the inscription depicted.
The primary mark of punctuation was the interpunct
, which was used as a word divider
, though it fell out of use after 200 AD.
Old Roman cursive
script, also called majuscule
cursive and capitalis cursive, was the everyday form of handwriting used for writing letters, by merchants writing business accounts, by schoolchildren learning the Latin alphabet, and even emperors
issuing commands. A more formal style of writing was based on Roman square capitals
, but cursive was used for quicker, informal writing. It was most commonly used from about the 1st century BC to the 3rd century, but it probably existed earlier than that. It led to Uncial
, a majuscule
script commonly used from the 3rd to 8th centuries AD by Latin and Greek scribes.
New Roman cursive
script, also known as minuscule
cursive, was in use from the 3rd century to the 7th century, and uses letter forms that are more recognizable to modern eyes; ⟨a⟩, ⟨b⟩, ⟨d⟩, and ⟨e⟩ had taken a more familiar shape, and the other letters were proportionate to each other. This script evolved into the medieval scripts known as Merovingian
and Carolingian minuscule
Medieval and later developments
De chalcographiae inventione
) with the 23 letters. J
The languages that use the Latin script
generally use capital letters
to begin paragraphs and sentences and proper nouns
. The rules for capitalization
have changed over time, and different languages have varied in their rules for capitalization. Old English
, for example, was rarely written with even proper nouns capitalized, whereas Modern English
writers and printers of the 17th and 18th century frequently capitalized most and sometimes all nouns,
which is still systematically done in Modern German
, e.g. in the preamble and all of the United States Constitution
: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
This map shows the countries in the world that use only language(s) predominantly written in a Latin alphabet as the official (or de facto official) national language(s) in dark green. The lighter green indicates the countries that use a language predominantly written in a Latin alphabet as a co-official language at the national level.
The Latin alphabet spread, along with the Latin language
, from the Italian Peninsula
to the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea
with the expansion of the Roman Empire
. The eastern half of the Empire
, including Greece
, the Levant
, and Egypt
, continued to use Greek
as a lingua franca
, but Latin was widely spoken in the western half
, and as the western Romance languages
evolved out of Latin, they continued to use and adapt the Latin alphabet.
Later, it was adopted by non-Catholic countries. Romanian
, most of whose speakers are Orthodox
, was the first major language to switch from Cyrillic
to Latin script, doing so in the 19th century, although Moldova
only did so after the Soviet collapse
It has also been increasingly adopted by Turkic-speaking
countries, beginning with Turkey
in the 1920s. After the Soviet collapse, Azerbaijan
, and Uzbekistan
all switched from Cyrillic to Latin. The government of Kazakhstan
announced in 2015 that the Latin alphabet would replace Cyrillic as the writing system for the Kazakh language by 2025.
The spread of the Latin alphabet among previously illiterate peoples has inspired the creation of new writing systems, such as the Avoiuli
alphabet in Vanuatu
, which replaces the letters of the Latin alphabet with alternative symbols.
may be seen in words such as "coöperation", though this is unusual. As an example, an article in the New Yorker contained a diaeresis
in "coöperate" (as well as cedilla
in "façades" and a circumflex
in the word "crêpe", both imported from French
- ^ Michael C. Howard (2012), Transnationalism in Ancient and Medieval Societies. p. 23.
- ^ Grafton, Anthony (2006-10-23). "Books: The Nutty Professors, The history of academic charisma". The New Yorker.
- ^ "The New Yorker's odd mark — the diaeresis". 16 December 2010. Archived from the original on 16 December 2010.
- ^ Cappelli, Adriano (1990). Dizionario di Abbreviature Latine ed Italiane. Milano: Editore Ulrico Hoepli. ISBN 88-203-1100-3.
- ^ Liberman, Anatoly (7 August 2013). "Alphabet soup, part 2: H and Y". Oxford Etymologist. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- ^ Crystal, David (4 August 2003). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521530330 – via Google Books.
- ^ Kazakh language to be converted to Latin alphabet – MCS RK. Inform.kz (30 January 2015). Retrieved on 2015-09-28.
- Jensen, Hans (1970). Sign Symbol and Script. London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd. ISBN 0-04-400021-9. Transl. of Jensen, Hans (1958). Die Schrift in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart. Deutscher Verlag der Wissenschaften., as revised by the author
- Rix, Helmut (1993). "La scrittura e la lingua". In Cristofani, Mauro (hrsg.) (ed.). Gli etruschi – Una nuova immagine. Firenze: Giunti. pp. S.199–227.
- Sampson, Geoffrey (1985). Writing systems. London (etc.): Hutchinson.
- Wachter, Rudolf (1987). Altlateinische Inschriften: sprachliche und epigraphische Untersuchungen zu den Dokumenten bis etwa 150 v.Chr. Bern (etc.).: Peter Lang.
- Allen, W. Sidney (1978). "The names of the letters of the Latin alphabet (Appendix C)". Vox Latina – a guide to the pronunciation of classical Latin. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-22049-1.
- Biktaş, Şamil (2003). Tuğan Tel.
Last edited on 3 May 2021, at 08:16
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