Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/C

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C

Cis the third letter of the English alphabet, and of the other alphabets derived from the Latin. Its history has been singular. It was the same in form as the Greek EB9 C Gamma.png, but inclined at a different angle, thus, EB9 C Turned Gamma.png (see under Alphabet), and by degrees it was rounded into EB9 C.png. It occupied the same place in the alphabet, and had the same phonetic value,—that of the sonant guttural g, the corresponding surd being represented, as in Greek, by K. (See under B for the distinction between sonants and surds.) These two sounds became confused at Rome at an early time before 450 B.C., and perhaps much earlier. The k-sound was lost and the symbol C represented both the g-sound, as in macister, lecio, and the original k-sound, as in censor, consul. The symbol K, however, was not entirely lost; it is found irregularly in inscriptions of all dates down to the times of the empire, and regularly as an initial abbreviation of Kalendæ, Karthago, Kæso (the proper name). In the 3d century B.C., the distinction between the two sounds was revived; but the symbol K was not replaced in ordinary use. C remained as the representative of the surd, losing its original sonant value; while a modification of it (G) was introduced to represent the sonant. The symbol retained its old value only when as the initial letter it represented the names Gaius and Gnæus, which, in consequence, are often erroneously written and sounded Caius and Cnæus. With this changed value the symbol C passed into the languages which are represented by the Latin alphabet. In some of them it has undergone yet further change. Before e and i in Italian, though still written, it is sounded as ch. This change from the guttural to the palatal is the result of assimilation, due to the following vowels. There is no evidence to show that it was established before the 7th century A.D. In France (as commonly in England) c before e and i has the sound of s. This is only a further change in the same direction as the Italian; and before a in French an original c has the sound sh, and is spelt ch, as in champ (campus), chambre (camera). Exceptions to this rule are generally words incorporated into classical French (i.e., the descendant of the old dialect of the Isle de France) from other dialects, as those of Normandy or Picardy, or are introduced from the Italian, as cavalier, &c. Our English ch (pronounced tch) for original c (as in chin for Old English cin, child for cild) is due probably to Norman influence, but here, as often, it is difficult to differentiate the results of the many disturbing causes which have operated upon our language.

As a numeral, C (for centum) denotes 100. In music, placed after the clef, it indicates that the measure is of the value of four crotchets.