|(See below, Typographic)|
|Writing system||Latin script|
|Language of origin||Latin language|
|Time period||~-300 to present|
|Descendants|| • ₲|
|Variations||(See below, Typographic)|
|Other letters commonly used with||gh, g(x)|
The letter 'G' was introduced in the Old Latin period as a variant of 'C' to distinguish voiced /ɡ/ from voiceless /k/. The recorded originator of 'G' is freedman Spurius Carvilius Ruga, the first Roman to open a fee-paying school, who taught around 230 BCE. At this time, 'K' had fallen out of favor, and 'C', which had formerly represented both /ɡ/ and /k/ before open vowels, had come to express /k/ in all environments.
Ruga's positioning of 'G' shows that alphabetic order related to the letters' values as Greek numerals was a concern even in the 3rd century BC. According to some records, the original seventh letter, 'Z', had been purged from the Latin alphabet somewhat earlier in the 3rd century BC by the Roman censor Appius Claudius, who found it distasteful and foreign. Sampson (1985) suggests that: "Evidently the order of the alphabet was felt to be such a concrete thing that a new letter could be added in the middle only if a 'space' was created by the dropping of an old letter." The 3rd-century-BC addition of the letter G to the Roman alphabet is credited to Spurius Carvilius Ruga.
George Hempl proposed in 1899 that there never was such a "space" in the alphabet and that in fact 'G' was a direct descendant of zeta. Zeta took shapes like ⊏ in some of the Old Italic scripts; the development of the monumental form 'G' from this shape would be exactly parallel to the development of 'C' from gamma. He suggests that the pronunciation /k/ > /ɡ/ was due to contamination from the also similar-looking 'K'.
Eventually, both velar consonants /k/ and /ɡ/ developed palatalized allophones before front vowels; consequently in today's Romance languages, ⟨c⟩ and ⟨g⟩ have different sound values depending on context (known as hard and soft C and hard and soft G). Because of French influence, English language orthography shares this feature.
The modern lowercase 'g' has two typographic variants: the single-storey (sometimes opentail) 'g' and the double-storey (sometimes looptail) 'g'. The single-storey form derives from the majuscule (uppercase) form by raising the serif that distinguishes it from 'c' to the top of the loop, thus closing the loop, and extending the vertical stroke downward and to the left. The double-storey form (g) had developed similarly, except that some ornate forms then extended the tail back to the right, and to the left again, forming a closed bowl or loop. The initial extension to the left was absorbed into the upper closed bowl. The double-storey version became popular when printing switched to "Roman type" because the tail was effectively shorter, making it possible to put more lines on a page. In the double-storey version, a small top stroke in the upper-right, often terminating in an orb shape, is called an "ear".
Generally, the two forms are complementary, but occasionally the difference has been exploited to provide contrast. In the International Phonetic Alphabet, opentail ⟨ɡ⟩ has always represented a voiced velar plosive, while ⟨ ⟩ was distinguished from ⟨ɡ⟩ and represented a voiced velar fricative from 1895 to 1900. In 1948, the Council of the International Phonetic Association recognized ⟨ɡ⟩ and ⟨ ⟩ as typographic equivalents, and this decision was reaffirmed in 1993. While the 1949 Principles of the International Phonetic Association recommended the use of ⟨ ⟩ for a velar plosive and ⟨ɡ⟩ for an advanced one for languages where it is preferable to distinguish the two, such as Russian, this practice never caught on. The 1999 Handbook of the International Phonetic Association, the successor to the Principles, abandoned the recommendation and acknowledged both shapes as acceptable variants.
Wong et al. (2018) found that native English speakers have little conscious awareness of the looptail 'g' ( ). They write: "Despite being questioned repeatedly, and despite being informed directly that G has two lowercase print forms, nearly half of the participants failed to reveal any knowledge of the looptail 'g', and only 1 of the 38 participants was able to write looptail 'g' correctly."
Pronunciation and use
|Standard; most dialects||/ɣ/||Common latinization|
|Catalan||/(d)ʒ/||Before e, i|
|English||/dʒ/||Before e, i, y (see exceptions below)|
|/ʒ/||Before e, i in "modern" loanwords from French|
|silent||Some words, initial <gn>, and word-finally before a consonant|
|Faroese||/j/||soft, lenited; see Faroese phonology|
|/v/||after a, æ, á, e, o, ø and before u|
|/w/||after ó, u, ú and before a, i, or u|
|silent||after a, æ, á, e, o, ø and before a|
|/ʒ/||Before e, i, y|
|Galician||/g/~/ħ/||Usually||See Gheada for consonant variation|
|/ʃ/||Before e, i||now rarely spelled as such|
|/ɟ/||Before ai, e, i, oi, y||Latinization|
|/ɣ/||hard, lenited; see Icelandic phonology|
|/ɟ/||After i or before e, i|
|/dʒ/||Before e, i|
|Norman||/dʒ/||Before e, i|
|/j/||Before ei, i, j, øy, y|
|/ʒ/||Before e, i|
|Romanian||/dʒ/||Before e, i|
|Romansh||/dʑ/||Before e, i|
|/kʲ/||After i or before e, i|
|American||/h/||Before e, i, y|
|European||/x/||Before e, i, y|
|/j/||Before ä, e, i, ö, y|
|/ɟ/||Before e, i, ö, ü|
In English, the letter appears either alone or in some digraphs. Alone, it represents
- a voiced velar plosive (/ɡ/ or "hard" ⟨g⟩), as in goose, gargoyle and game;
- a voiced palato-alveolar affricate (/d͡ʒ/ or "soft" ⟨g⟩), predominates before ⟨i⟩ or ⟨e⟩, as in giant, ginger and geology; or
- a voiced palato-alveolar sibilant (/ʒ/) in post-medieval loanwords from French, such as rouge, beige, genre (often) and margarine (rarely)
⟨g⟩ is predominantly soft before ⟨e⟩ (including the digraphs ⟨ae⟩ and ⟨oe⟩), ⟨i⟩, or ⟨y⟩, and hard otherwise. It hard in those derivations from γυνή (gynḗ) meaning woman where initial-worded as such. Soft ⟨g⟩ is also used in many words that came into English from medieval church/academic use, French, Spanish, Italian or Portuguese – these tend to, in other ways in English, closely align to their Ancient Latin and Greek roots (such as fragile, logic or magic). There remain widely used a few English words of non-Romance origin where ⟨g⟩ is hard followed by ⟨e⟩ or ⟨i⟩ (get, give, gift), and very few in which ⟨g⟩ is soft though followed by ⟨a⟩ such as gaol more often written as jail since the early 20th century, and in Britain and closely aligned countries since, in all administrative use, superseded by prison.
The double consonant ⟨gg⟩ has the value /ɡ/ (hard ⟨g⟩) as in nugget, with very few exceptions: /ɡd͡ʒ/ in suggest and /d͡ʒ/ in exaggerate and veggies.
The digraph ⟨dg⟩ has the value /d͡ʒ/ (soft ⟨g⟩), as in badger. Non-digraph ⟨dg⟩ can also occur, in compounds like floodgate and headgear.
The digraph ⟨ng⟩ may represent
- a velar nasal (//) as in length, singer
- the latter followed by hard ⟨g⟩ (/ŋɡ/) as in jungle, finger, longest
Non-digraph ⟨ng⟩ also occurs, with possible values
- /nɡ/ as in engulf, ungainly
- /nd͡ʒ/ as in sponge, angel
- /nʒ/ as in melange
- /ɡ/ as in ghost, aghast, burgher, spaghetti
- /f/ as in cough, laugh, roughage
- Ø (no sound) as in through, neighbor, night
- /p/ in hiccough
- /x/ in ugh
- (rarely) /k/ in s'ghetti
Non-digraph ⟨gh⟩ also occurs, in compounds like foghorn, pigheaded
The digraph ⟨gn⟩ may represent
- /n/ as in gnostic, deign, foreigner, signage
- /nj/ in loanwords like champignon, lasagna
Non-digraph ⟨gn⟩ also occurs, as in signature, agnostic
The trigraph ⟨ngh⟩ has the value /ŋ/ as in gingham or dinghy. Non-trigraph ⟨ngh⟩ also occurs, in compounds like stronghold and dunghill.
Most Romance languages and some Nordic languages also have two main pronunciations for ⟨g⟩, hard and soft. While the soft value of ⟨g⟩ varies in different Romance languages (/ʒ/ in French and Portuguese, [(d)ʒ] in Catalan, /d͡ʒ/ in Italian and Romanian, and /x/ in most dialects of Spanish), in all except Romanian and Italian, soft ⟨g⟩ has the same pronunciation as the ⟨j⟩.
In Italian and Romanian, ⟨gh⟩ is used to represent /ɡ/ before front vowels where ⟨g⟩ would otherwise represent a soft value. In Italian and French, ⟨gn⟩ is used to represent the palatal nasal /ɲ/, a sound somewhat similar to the ⟨ny⟩ in English canyon. In Italian, the trigraph ⟨gli⟩, when appearing before a vowel or as the article and pronoun gli, represents the palatal lateral approximant /ʎ/.
Other languages typically use ⟨g⟩ to represent /ɡ/ regardless of position.
Amongst European languages, Czech, Dutch, Finnish, and Slovak are an exception as they do not have /ɡ/ in their native words. In Dutch, ⟨g⟩ represents a voiced velar fricative /ɣ/ instead, a sound that does not occur in modern English, but there is a dialectal variation: many Netherlandic dialects use a voiceless fricative ([x] or [χ]) instead, and in southern dialects it may be palatal [ʝ]. Nevertheless, word-finally it is always voiceless in all dialects, including the standard Dutch of Belgium and the Netherlands. On the other hand, some dialects (like Amelands) may have a phonemic /ɡ/.
Ancestors, descendants and siblings
- 𐤂 : Semitic letter Gimel, from which the following symbols originally derive
- C c : Latin letter C, from which G derives
- Γ γ : Greek letter Gamma, from which C derives in turn
- ɡ : Latin letter script small G
- ᶢ : Modifier letter small script g is used for phonetic transcription
- ᵷ : Turned g
- Г г : Cyrillic letter Ge
- Ȝ ȝ : Latin letter Yogh
- Ɣ ɣ : Latin letter Gamma
- Ᵹ ᵹ : Insular g
- Ꝿ ꝿ : Turned insular g
- ɢ : Latin letter small capital G, used in the International Phonetic Alphabet to represent a voiced uvular stop
- ʛ : Latin letter small capital G with hook, used in the International Phonetic Alphabet to represent a voiced uvular implosive
- ᴳ ᵍ : Modifier letters are used in the Uralic Phonetic Alphabet
- ꬶ : Used for the Teuthonista phonetic transcription system
- G with diacritics: Ǵ ǵ Ǥ ǥ Ĝ ĝ Ǧ ǧ Ğ ğ Ģ ģ Ɠ ɠ Ġ ġ Ḡ ḡ Ꞡ ꞡ ᶃ
- ց : Armenian alphabet Tso
Ligatures and abbreviations
|Unicode name||LATIN CAPITAL LETTER G||LATIN SMALL LETTER G||LATIN SMALL LETTER SCRIPT G|
|UTF-8||71||47||103||67||201 161||C9 A1|
|Numeric character reference||G
- 1 Also for encodings based on ASCII, including the DOS, Windows, ISO-8859 and Macintosh families of encodings.
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