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In orthography and typography, letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger upper case (capital letters, caps, majuscule, upper-case, or uppercase) and smaller lower case (minuscule, etc.) letters in certain languages. The term originated from the common layouts of the shallow drawers called type cases used to hold the movable type for letterpress printing.
In the Latin script, capital letters are A, B, C, etc.; lower case includes a, b, c, etc. Most Western languages (certainly those based on the Latin, Cyrillic, Greek, Armenian alphabets, and Coptic alphabets) use letter cases in their written form as an aid to clarity. Scripts using two separate cases are also called "bicameral scripts". Many other writing systems (such as those used in the Georgian language, Glagolitic, Arabic, Hebrew, and Devanagari) make no distinction between capital and lowercase letters – a system called unicase. If an alphabet has case, all or nearly all letters have both forms. Both forms in each pair are considered to be the same letter: they have the same name and pronunciation and will be treated identically when sorting in alphabetical order. An example of a letter without both forms is the German ß (ess-tsett), which exists only in minuscule. When capitalised it normally becomes two letters ("SS"), but the ß letter may be used as a capital (ẞ) to prevent confusion in special cases, such as names. This is because ß was originally a ligature of the two letters "ſs" (a long s and an s), both of which become "S" when capitalised. It later evolved into a letter in its own right. ß is also occasionally referred to as a ligature of "sz", which recalls the way this consonant was pronounced in some medieval German dialects. The original spelling sz is preserved in Hungarian and pronounced [s].
Languages have capitalisation rules to determine whether upper case or lower case letters are to be used in a given context. In English, capital letters are used as the first letter of a sentence, a proper noun, or a proper adjective, and for initials or abbreviations in American English; British English only capitalises the first letter of an abbreviation. The first-person pronoun "I" and the interjection "O" are also capitalised. Lower case letters are normally used for all other purposes. There are however situations where further capitalisation may be used to give added emphasis, for example in headings and titles or to pick out certain words (often using small capitals). There are also a few pairs of words of different meanings whose only difference is capitalisation of the first letter. Other languages vary in their use of capitals. For example, in German the first letter of all nouns is capitalised, while in Romance languages the names of days of the week, months of the year, and adjectives of nationality, religion and so on generally begin with a lower case letter.
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Originally alphabets were written entirely in capital letters, spaced between well-defined upper and lower bounds. When written quickly with a pen, these tended to turn into rounder and much simpler forms, like uncials. It is from these that the first minuscule hands developed, the half-uncials and cursive minuscule, which no longer stay bound between a pair of lines. These in turn formed the foundations for the Carolingian minuscule script, developed by Alcuin for use in the court of Charlemagne, which quickly spread across Europe.
European languages, except for Ancient Greek and Latin, did not make the case distinction before about 1300. In Latin, papyri from Herculaneum dating before 79 A.D. (when it was destroyed) have been found which include lower-case letters a, b, d, h, p, and r. According to papyrologist Knut Kleve, "The theory, then, that the lower-case letters have been developed from the fifth century uncials and the ninth century Carolingian minuscules seems to be wrong."
Both "majuscule" (// or //) and "minuscule" letters existed, but the printing press had not yet been invented,[when?] and a given handwritten document could use either one size/style or the other. However, before about 1700 literacy was comparatively low in Europe and the Americas. Therefore, there was not any motivation to use both upper case and lower case letters in the same document as all documents were used by only a small number of scholars.[clarification needed]
The timeline of writing in Western Europe can be divided into four eras:
Traditionally, certain letters were rendered differently according to a set of rules. In particular, those letters that began sentences or nouns were made larger and often written in a distinct script. There was no fixed capitalization system until the early 18th century. The English language eventually dropped the rule for nouns, while the German language kept it.
Similar developments have taken place in other alphabets. The lower-case script for the Greek alphabet has its origins in the 7th century and acquired its quadrilinear form in the 8th century. Over time, uncial letter forms were increasingly mixed into the script. The earliest dated Greek lower-case text is the Uspenski Gospels (MS 461) in the year 835. The modern practice of capitalizing the first letter of every sentence seems to be imported (and is rarely used when printing Ancient Greek materials even today).
The Oxford Universal Dictionary on Historical Advanced Proportional Principles (reprinted 1952) indicates that this usage of "case" (as the box or frame used by a compositor in the printing trade) was first used in English in 1588. Originally one large case was used for each typeface, then "divided cases", pairs of cases for majuscules and minuscules, were introduced in the region of today's Belgium by 1563, England by 1588, and France before 1723.
The terms upper and lower case originate from this division. By convention, when the two cases were taken out of the storage rack, and placed on a rack on the compositor's desk, the case containing the capitals and small capitals stood at a steeper angle at the back of the desk, with the case for the small letters, punctuation and spaces being more easily reached at a shallower angle below it to the front of the desk, hence upper and lower case.
Though pairs of cases were used in English-speaking countries and many European countries in the seventeenth century, in Germany and Scandinavia the single case continued in use.
Various patterns of cases are available, often with the compartments for lower-case letters varying in size according to the frequency of use of letters, so that the commonest letters are grouped together in larger boxes at the centre of the case. The compositor takes the letter blocks from the compartments and places them in a composing stick, working from left to right and placing the letters upside down with the nick to the top, then sets the assembled type in a galley.
For paleographers, a majuscule script is any script in which the letters have very few or very short ascenders and descenders, or none at all (for example, the majuscule scripts used in the Codex Vaticanus Graecus 1209, or the Book of Kells).
The word minuscule is often spelled miniscule, by association with the unrelated word miniature and the prefix mini-. This has traditionally been regarded as a spelling mistake (since minuscule is derived from the word minus), but is now so common that some dictionaries tend to accept it as a nonstandard or variant spelling. However, miniscule is still less likely to be used for lower-case letters.
Similar to case is recent usage in Georgian, where some authors use isolated letters from the Asomtavruli alphabet within a text otherwise written in Mkhedruli in a fashion that is reminiscent of modern usage of letter case in the Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic alphabets.
Capitalisation is the writing of a word with its first letter in uppercase and the remaining letters in lowercase. Capitalization rules vary by language (e.g. capitalisation in English) and are often quite complex, but in most modern languages that have capitalisation, the first letter of every sentence is capitalised, as are all proper nouns. Some languages, such as German, capitalise the first letter of all nouns; this was previously common in English as well. (See the article on capitalisation for a detailed list of norms.)
In English, a variety of case styles are used in various circumstances:
In some traditional forms of poetry, capitalisation has been conventionally used as a marker to indicate the beginning of a line of verse independent of any other grammatical feature.
In English-language publications, varying conventions are used for capitalizing words in publication titles and headlines, including chapter and section headings. The rules differ substantially between individual house styles. The main examples are (from most to least capitals used):
|The||Vitamins||Are||In||My||Fresh||California||Raisins||"Start case" – capitalization of all words, regardless of the part of speech|
|The||Vitamins||Are||in||My||Fresh||California||Raisins||Capitalization of the first word, and all other words, except for articles, prepositions, and conjunctions|
|The||Vitamins||are||in||My||Fresh||California||Raisins||Capitalization of the first word, and all other words, except for articles, prepositions, conjunctions, and forms of to be|
|The||Vitamins||are||in||my||Fresh||California||Raisins||Capitalization of the first word, and all other words, except for closed-class words|
|The||Vitamins||are||in||my||fresh||California||Raisins||Capitalization of all nouns and the first word|
|the||Vitamins||are||in||my||fresh||California||Raisins||Capitalization only of nouns|
|The||vitamins||are||in||my||fresh||California||raisins||Sentence case – Capitalization of only the first word, proper nouns and as dictated by other specific English rules|
|the||vitamins||are||in||my||fresh||California||raisins||Mid-sentence case – capitalization of proper nouns only|
|the||vitamins||are||in||my||fresh||california||raisins||All-lowercase letters (unconventional in formal English)|
Among U.S. book publishers (but not newspaper publishers), it is a common typographic practice to capitalize "important" words in titles and headings. This is an old form of emphasis, similar to the more modern practice of using a larger or boldface font for titles. This family of typographic conventions is usually called title case. (A less common synonym is "headline style".) The rules for which words to capitalize are not based on any grammatically inherent correct/incorrect distinction and are not universally standardized; they are arbitrary and differ between style guides, although in most styles they tend to follow a few strong conventions, as follows:
The convention followed by many British publishers (including scientific publishers, like Nature, magazines, like The Economist and New Scientist, and newspapers, like The Guardian and The Times) is to use sentence-style capitalization in titles and headlines, where capitalization follows the same rules that apply for sentences. This convention is usually called sentence case. It is also widely used in the United States, especially in newspaper publishing, bibliographic references and library catalogues. Examples of global publishers whose English-language house styles prescribe sentence-case titles and headings include the International Organization for Standardization.
Although title case is still widely used in English-language publications, especially in the United States, sentence case has been slowly gaining some popularity over title case in recent decades, for several reasons. One is that, in the era of shrinking budgets and profitability for traditional publishing, some production staffs have realized that title case is not lean (it imposes a cost to enforce the rules and exceptions of any particular house style that, because of its arbitrariness, does not add any inherent value to the text). Another is that title case strikes some users as old-fashioned, associated with non-scientific/technical and pre-internet writing style. Such trends may lend a certain fashionableness to sentence case.
In creative typography, such as music record covers and other artistic material, all styles are commonly encountered, including all-lowercase letters and mixed case (StudlyCaps).
One British style guide mentions a form of title case: R.M. Ritter's "Oxford Manual of Style" (2002) suggests capitalizing "the first word and all nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs, but generally not articles, conjunctions and short prepositions".
Some sentence cases are not used in standard English, but are common in computer programming, as well as in product branding and in other specialised fields:
The conversion of letter case in a string is common practice in computer applications, for instance to make case-insensitive comparisons. Many high-level programming languages provide simple methods for case folding, at least for the ASCII character set.
Most modern word processors provide automated case folding with a simple click or keystroke. For example, in Microsoft Office Word, there is a dialog box for toggling the selected text through UPPERCASE, then lowercase, then Title Case (actually start caps; exception words must be lowercased individually). The keystroke shift-F3 does the same thing.
In some forms of BASIC there are two methods for case folding:
UpperA$ = UCASE$("a") LowerA$ = LCASE$("A")
char upperA = toupper('a'); char lowerA = tolower('A');
#define toupper(c) (islower(c) ? (c) - 'a' + 'A' : (c)) #define tolower(c) (isupper(c) ? (c) - 'A' + 'a' : (c))
This only works because the letters of upper and lower cases are spaced out equally. In ASCII they are consecutive, whereas with EBCDIC they are not; nonetheless the upper case letters are arranged in the same pattern and with the same gaps as are the lower case letters, so the technique still works.
Some computer programming languages offer facilities for converting text to a form in which all words are first-letter capitalized. Visual Basic calls this "proper case"; Python calls it "title case". This differs from usual title casing conventions, such as the English convention in which minor words are not capitalized.
Unicode defines case folding through the three case-mapping properties of each character: uppercase, lowercase and titlecase. These properties relate all characters in scripts with differing cases to the other case variants of the character.
As briefly discussed in Unicode Technical Note #26, "In terms of implementation issues, any attempt at a unification of Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic would wreak havoc [and] make casing operations an unholy mess, in effect making all casing operations context sensitive [...]". In other words, while the shapes of letters like A, B, E, H, K, M, O, P, T, X, Y and so on are shared between the Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic alphabets (and small differences in their canonical forms may be considered to be of a merely typographical nature), it would still be problematic for a multilingual character set or a font to provide only a single codepoint for, say, uppercase letter B, as this would make it quite difficult for a wordprocessor to change that single uppercase letter to one of the three different choices for the lower case letter, b (Latin), β (Greek), or в (Cyrillic). Without letter case, a 'unified European alphabet'—such as ABБCГDΔΕZЄЗFΦGHIИJ...Z, with an appropriate subset for each language—is feasible; but considering letter case, it becomes very clear that these alphabets are rather distinct sets of symbols.
Similar orthographic conventions are used for emphasis or following language-specific rules, including:
In the metric system of weights and measures, the same letter can have different meanings in upper and lower cases.
|Look up capital letter in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Look up minuscule or lowercase in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
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