1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Q

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Q the letter which immediately succeeds P in the alphabet of Latin and the modern languages of western Europe. It represents the Koppa of the earliest Greek alphabets surviving in that form of the Ionic alphabet, which ultimately superseded all others, merely as the numerical symbol for 90. In the Phoenician alphabet a sibilant Ẓade (Tzaddi) stands between q and p. Hence Q is the nineteenth letter in the Phoenician alphabet, the eighteenth in the Greek numerical alphabet, which alone contains it, the sixteenth (owing to the omission of θ and ξ) in the Latin, and (from the addition of J) the seventeenth in the English alphabet. Its earliest form is a rough ellipse transfixed by an upright line, 𐤒. In various Semitic alphabets this has been altered out of recognition, apparently from the writing of the symbol in cursive handwriting without lifting the pen. As a result forms like ֆ, , ק, , are developed. In Greece the head of the symbol is generally circular, and only in a few early inscriptions is the upright carried through the circle, 𐤒. The common form is ϙ with the upright stem short. This is also the earliest form in the Latin alphabet, but forms with the upright turned to the right as in a modern Q are found in the Republican period, while this tail becomes longer and curved in the early Empire. The pronunciation of the Semitic Koph (Qōf) was that of a velar guttural produced against the back part of the soft palate with great energy (hence called an “emphatic” sound). In Greek there is no evidence that ϙ was pronounced differently from K; hence no doubt its early disappearance in most dialects. It survived longest when followed by ο or υ, as at the beginning of the name of the town of Corinth. In Latin it is regularly used in combination with u. In classical Latin its use is confined to the cases where, as in English quill, &c., the u is pronounced as w before a following vowel, but in old Latin it is found also in other combinations. Many languages find the combination qu, when both sounds are consonantal (qw), difficult; q being the deepest guttural while (English w) is a lip sound, the points of production are nearly as far separate as they can be. There is thus a tendency to assimilation, and instead of a guttural followed by a labial semi-vowel, a new labial consonant p is produced. In Greek this is common when the combination is followed by the vowel ο, as in πῶ, ποῖ, &c., from the same stem as the Latin quō, quī, &c. This, however, is not found in all dialects alike (see Greek Language). In other languages, like Oscan and Umbrian which are closely akin to Latin, or the Welsh branch of the Celtic languages, p occurs regularly without regard to the nature of the vowel following. Thus, corresponding to the Latin quattuor, we find the Oscan petora, the Gaulish petor-ritum, “four-wheeler,” the Welsh pedwar, "four," &c., while the Irish cethir, "four," corresponds more closely to the Latin. (P. Gi.)