1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/C

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

C The third letter in the Latin alphabet and its descendants corresponds in position and in origin to the Greek Gamma (Γ, γ), which in its turn is borrowed from the third symbol of the Phoenician alphabet (Heb. Gimel). The earliest Semitic records give its form as shape like Cyrillic ch or more frequently shape like small lambdaor shape like capital lambda. The form as last is found in the earliest inscriptions of Crete, Attica, Naxos and some other of the Ionic islands. In Argolis and Euboea especially a form with legs of unequal length is found as last but with shorter right leg. From this it is easy to pass to the most widely spread Greek form, the ordinary shape like capital gamma. In Corinth, however, and its colony Corcyra, in Ozolian Locris and Elis, a form shape like less-than sign inclined at a different angle is found. From this form the transition is simple to the rounded rounded C, which is generally found in the same localities as the pointed form, but is more widely spread, occurring in Arcadia and on Chalcidian vases of the 6th century B.C., in Rhodes and Megara with their colonies in Sicily. In all these cases the sound represented was a hard G (as in gig). The rounded form was probably that taken over by the Romans and with the value of G. This is shown by the permanent abbreviation of the proper names Gaius and Gnaeus by C. and Cn. respectively. On the early inscription discovered in the Roman Forum in 1899 the letter occurs but once, in the form reversed rounded C written from right to left. The broad lower end of the symbol is rather an accidental pit in the stone than an attempt at a diacritic mark—the word is regei, in all probability the early dative form of rex, "king." It is hard to decide why Latin adopted the g-symbol with the value of k, a letter which it possessed originally but dropped, except in such stereotyped abbreviations as K. for the proper name Kaeso and Kal. for Calendae. There are at least two possibilities: (1) that in Latium g and k were pronounced almost identically, as, e.g., in the German of Württemberg or in the Celtic dialects, the difference consisting only in the greater energy with which the k-sound is produced; (2) that the confusion is graphic, K being sometimes written K written like IC, which was then regarded as two separate symbols. A further peculiarity of the use of C in Latin is in the abbreviation for the district Subura in Roma and its adjective Suburanus, which appears as SVC. Here C no doubt represents G, but there is no interchange between g and b in Latin. In other dialects of Italy b is found representing an original voiced guttural (gw), which, however, is regularly replaced by v in Latin. As the district was full of traders, Subura may very well be an imported word, but the form with C must either go back to a period before the disappearance of g before v or must come from some other Italic dialect. The symbol G was a new coinage in the 3rd century B.C. The pronunciation of C throughout the period of classical Latin was that of an unvoiced guttural stop (k). In other dialects, however, it had been palatalized to a sibilant before i-sounds some time before the Christian era; e.g. in the Umbrian façia = Latin facial. In Latin there is no evidence for the interchange of c with a sibilant earlier than the 6th century A.D. in south Italy and the 7th century A.D. in Gaul (Lindsay, Latin Language, p. 88). This change has, however, taken place in all Romance languages except Sardinian. In Anglo-Saxon c was adopted to represent the hard stop. After the Norman conquest many English words were re-spelt under Norman influence. Thus Norman-French spelt its palatalized c-sound (=tsh) with ch as in cher and the English palatalized cild, &c. became child, &c. In Provençal from the 10th century, and in the northern dialects of France from the 13th century, this palatalized c (in different districts ts and tsh) became a simple s. English also adopted the value of s for c in the 13th century before e, i and y. In some foreign words like cicala the ch- (tsh) value is given to c. In the transliteration of foreign languages also it receives different values, having that of tsh in the transliteration of Sanskrit and of ts in various Slavonic dialects.

As a numeral C denotes 100. This use is borrowed from Latin, in which the symbol was originally circle with central dot, a form of the Greek θ. This, like the numeral symbols later identified with L and M, was thus utilized since it was not required as a letter, there being no sound in Latin corresponding to the Greek θ. Popular etymology identified the symbol with the initial letter of centum, "hundred."

(P. GI.)