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|Majuscule forms (also called uppercase or capital letters)|
|Minuscule forms (also called lowercase or small letters)|
The exact shape of printed letters varies depending on the typeface. The shape of handwritten letters can differ significantly from the standard printed form (and between individuals), especially when written in cursive style. See the individual letter articles for information about letter shapes and origins (follow the links on any of the uppercase letters above).
Written English uses a number of digraphs, such as ch, sh, th, wh, qu, etc., but they are not considered separate letters of the alphabet. Some traditions also use two ligatures, æ and œ, or consider the ampersand (&) part of the alphabet.
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Kullu nafar in Old English fi Harami.
IISJ rules, (Gang of Jeddawians)
In the orthography of Modern English, thorn (þ), eth (ð), wynn (ƿ), yogh (ȝ), ash (æ), and ethel (œ) are obsolete. Latin borrowings reintroduced homographs of ash and ethel into Middle English and Early Modern English, though they are not considered to be the same letters but rather ligatures, and in any case are somewhat old-fashioned. Thorn and eth were both replaced by th, though thorn continued in existence for some time, its lowercase form gradually becoming graphically indistinguishable from the minuscule y in most handwriting. Y for th can still be seen in pseudo-archaisms such as "Ye Olde Booke Shoppe". The letters þ and ð are still used in present-day Icelandic and Faroese. Wynn disappeared from English around the 14th century when it was supplanted by uu, which ultimately developed into the modern w. Yogh disappeared around the 15th century and was typically replaced by gh.
The letters u and j, as distinct from v and i, were introduced in the 16th century, and w assumed the status of an independent letter, so that the English alphabet is now considered to consist of the following 26 letters:
The ligatures æ and œ were until the 19th century (slightly later in USA) used in formal writing for certain words of Greek or Latin origin, such as encyclopædia and cœlom, although such ligatures were not used in either classical Latin or ancient Greek. These are now rendered as "ae" and "oe" in all types of writing, although in American English, a lone e has mostly supplanted both (for example, encyclopedia for encyclopaedia, and fetus for foetus).
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (June 2011)|
Diacritic marks mainly appear in loanwords such as naïve and façade. As such words become naturalised In English, there is a tendency to drop the diacritics, as has happened with old borrowings such as hôtel, from French. Informal English writing tends to omit diacritics because of their absence from the keyboard, while professional copywriters and typesetters tend to include them. Words that are still perceived as foreign tend to retain them; for example, the only spelling of soupçon found in English dictionaries (the OED and others) uses the diacritic. Diacritics are also more likely to be retained where there would otherwise be confusion with another word (for example, résumé rather than resume), and, rarely, even added (as in maté, from Spanish yerba mate, but following the pattern of café, from French).
Occasionally, especially in older writing, diacritics are used to indicate the syllables of a word: cursed (verb) is pronounced with one syllable, while cursèd (adjective) is pronounced with two. È is used widely in poetry, e.g. in Shakespeare's sonnets. Similarly, while in chicken coop the letters -oo- represent a single vowel sound (a digraph), in obsolete spellings such as zoölogist and coöperation, they represent two. An acute, grave or diaeresis may also be placed over an 'e' at the end of a word to indicate that it is not silent, as in saké. However, these devices are often not used even where they would serve to alleviate some degree of confusion.
The & has sometimes appeared at the end of the English alphabet, as in Byrhtferð's list of letters in 1011. Historically, the figure is a ligature for the letters Et. In English and many other languages it is used to represent the word and and occasionally the Latin word et, as in the abbreviation &c (et cetera). In 2013, Australian restauranteur Paul Mathis proposed the symbol Ћ, similar in appearance to the Cyrillic character Tshe, as a letter in the alphabet to replace the word The, primarily as a means to save character space when sending messages on phones or on Twitter.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (June 2011)|
The apostrophe, while not considered part of the English alphabet, is used to abbreviate English words. A few pairs of words, such as its (belonging to it) and it's (it is or it has), were (plural of was) and we're (we are), and shed (to get rid of) and she'd (she would or she had) are distinguished in writing only by the presence or absence of an apostrophe. The apostrophe also distinguishes the possessive endings -'s and -s' from the common plural ending -s, a practice introduced in the 18th century; before, all three endings were written -s, which could lead to confusion (as in, the Apostles words).
The names of the letters are rarely spelled out, except when used in derivations or compound words (for example tee-shirt, deejay, emcee, okay, aitchless, wye-level, etc.), derived forms (for example exed out, effing, to eff and blind, etc.), and in the names of objects named after letters (for example em (space) in printing and wye (junction) in railroading). The forms listed below are from the Oxford English Dictionary. Vowels stand for themselves, and consonants usually have the form consonant + ee or e + consonant (e.g. bee and ef). The exceptions are the letters aitch, jay, kay, cue, ar, ess (but es- in compounds ), wye, and zed. Plurals of consonants end in -s (bees, efs, ems) or, in the cases of aitch, ess, and ex, in -es (aitches, esses, exes). Plurals of vowels end in -es (aes, ees, ies, oes, ues); these are rare. Of course, all letters may stand for themselves, generally in capitalized form (okay or OK, emcee or MC), and plurals may be based on these (aes or As, cees or Cs, etc.)
|F||ef (eff as a verb)||/ˈɛf/|
|L||el or ell||/ˈɛl/|
|Y||wy or wye||/ˈwaɪ/|
Some groups of letters, such as pee and bee, or em and en, are easily confused in speech, especially when heard over the telephone or a radio communications link. Spelling alphabets such as the ICAO spelling alphabet, used by aircraft pilots, police and others, are designed to eliminate this potential confusion by giving each letter a name that sounds quite different from any other.
The names of the letters are for the most part direct descendents, via French, of the Latin (and Etruscan) names. (See Latin alphabet: Origins.)
|Letter||Latin||Old French||Middle English||Modern English|
|C||cé /keː/||/tʃeː/ > /tseː/ > /seː/||/seː/||/siː/|
|H||há /haː/ > /aha/ > /akːa/||/aːtʃ/||/aːtʃ/||/eɪtʃ/|
|R||er /ɛr/||/ɛr/||/ɛr/ > /ar/||/ɑr/|
|X||ex /ɛks, iks/||/iks/||/ɛks/||/ɛks/|
|Y||hý /hyː, iː/|
í graeca /iː ˈɡraɪka/
|ui, gui ?|
i grec /iː ɡrɛːk/
|Z||zéta /zeːta/||zed /zɛːd/|
et zed /et zeːd/ > /e zed/
The regular phonological developments (in rough chronological order) are:
The novel forms are aitch, a regular development of Medieval Latin acca; jay, a new letter presumably vocalized like neighboring kay to avoid confusion with established gee (the other name, jy, was taken from French); vee, a new letter named by analogy with the majority; double-u, a new letter, self-explanatory (the name of Latin V was ū); wye, of obscure origin but with an antecedent in Old French wi; zee, an American leveling of zed by analogy with the majority; and izzard, from the Romance phrase i zed or i zeto "and Z" said when reciting the alphabet.
The letters A, E, I, O, and U are considered vowel letters, since (except when silent) they represent vowels; the remaining letters are considered consonant letters, since when not silent they generally represent consonants. However, Y commonly represents vowels as well as a consonant (e.g., "myth"), as very rarely does W (e.g., "cwm"). Conversely, U sometimes represents a consonant (e.g., "quiz").
The letter most frequently used in English is E. The least frequently used letter is Z.