1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/P

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P The sixteenth letter of the English alphabet, the fifteenth in the Latin and the sixteenth in the Greek alphabet, the latter in its ordinary form having the symbol for x before o. In the Phoenician alphabet, from which the Western alphabets are directly or indirectly derived, its shape, written from right to left, is . In the Greek alphabet, when written from left to right, it takes the form or , the second form being much rarer in inscriptions than the first. Only very rarely and only in inscriptions of the 7th and 6th centuries B.C. are rounded forms , found. In Italy the Etruscan and Umbrian form (written from right to left), though more angular than the Phoenician symbol, resembles it more closely than it does the Greek. The earliest Roman form—on the inscription found in the Forum in 1899—is Greek in shape , though the second leg is barely visible. The Oscan is identical with the rarer Greek form. As time goes on the Roman form becomes more and more rounded , but not till Imperial times is the semicircle completed so as to form the symbol in the shape which it still retains . The Semitic name became in Greek πϵῖ, and has in the course of ages changed but little. The sound of p throughout has been that of the breathed labial stop, as in the English pin. At the end of English words like lip the breath is audible after the consonant, so that the sound is rather that of the ancient Greek ϕ, i.e. p-h, not f, as ϕ is ordinarily now pronounced. This sound is found initially also in some dialects of English, as in the Irish pronunciation of pig as p-hig. For a remarkable interchange between p and qu sounds which is found in many languages, see under Q.  (P. Gi.)