1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/J

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J A letter of the alphabet which, as far as form is concerned, is only a modification of the Latin I and dates back with a separate value only to the 15th century. It was first used as a special form of initial I, the ordinary form being kept for use in other positions. As, however, in many cases initial i had the consonantal value of the English y in iugum (yoke), &c., the symbol came to be used for the value of y, a value which it still retains in German: Ja! jung, &c. Initially it is pronounced in English as an affricate dzh. The great majority of English words beginning with j are (1) of foreign (mostly French) origin, as “jaundice,” “judge”; (2) imitative of sound, like “jar” (the verb); or (3) influenced by analogy, like “jaw” (influenced by chaw, according to Skeat). In early French g when palatalized by e or i sounds became confused with consonantal i (y), and both passed into the sound of j which is still preserved in English. A similar sound-change takes place in other languages, e.g. Lithuanian, where the resulting sound is spelt . Modern French and also Provençal and Portuguese have changed j = dzh into ž (zh). The sound initially is sometimes represented in English by g: gem, gaol as well as jail. At the end of modern English words the same sound is represented by -dge as in judge, French juge. In this position, however, the sound occurs also in genuine English words like bridge, sedge, singe, but this is true only for the southern dialects on which the literary language is founded. In the northern dialects the pronunciation as brig, seg, sing still survives.  (P. Gi.)