[ The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. 1976.]
is the 7th letter in the ISO basic Latin alphabet.
The letter 'G' was introduced in the Old Latin period as a variant of 'C' to distinguish voiced from voiceless . The recorded originator of 'G' is freedman Spurius Carvilius Ruga, the first Roman to open a fee-paying school, who taught around 230 BC. At this time, 'K' had fallen out of favor, and 'C', which had formerly represented both and before open vowels, had come to express in all environments.
Ruga's positioning of 'G' shows that alphabetic order related to the letters' values as Greek numerals was a concern even in the 3rd century BC. According to some records, the original seventh letter, 'Z', had been purged from the Latin alphabet somewhat earlier in the 3rd century BC by the Roman censor Appius Claudius, who found it distasteful and foreign.
[ Encyclopaedia Romana] Sampson (1985) suggests that: "Evidently the order of the alphabet was felt to be such a concrete thing that a new letter could be added in the middle only if a 'space' was created by the dropping of an old letter." [ Evertype.com]
George Hempl (1899) proposes that there never was such a "space" in the alphabet and that in fact 'G' was a direct descendant of zeta. Zeta took shapes like ⊏ in some of the Old Italic scripts; the development of the monumental form 'G' from this shape would be exactly parallel to the development of 'C' from gamma. He suggests that the pronunciation > was due to contamination from the also similar-looking 'K'.
Eventually, both and developed palatalized before front vowels; consequently in today's Romance languages, and have different sound values depending on context (known as hard and soft C and hard and soft G). Because of French influence, English orthography shares this feature.
The modern lowercase
'g' has two typographic variants: the single-storey (sometimes opentail
) and the double-storey (sometimes
. The single-storey form derives from the majuscule (uppercase) form by raising the serif
that distinguishes it from 'c' to the top of the loop, thus closing the loop, and extending the vertical stroke downward and to the left. The double-storey form (g
) had developed similarly, except that some ornate forms then extended the tail back to the right, and to the left again, forming a closed bowl or loop. The initial extension to the left was absorbed into the upper closed bowl. The double-storey version became popular when printing switched to "Roman type
" because the tail was effectively shorter, making it possible to put more lines on a page. In the double-storey version, a small top stroke in the upper-right, often terminating in an orb shape, is called an "ear".
Generally, the two forms are complementary, but occasionally the difference has been exploited to provide contrast. The 1949 Principles of the International Phonetic Association recommends using for advanced voiced velar plosives (denoted by Latin small letter script G) and for regular ones where the two are contrasted, but this suggestion was never accepted by phonetics in general,
and today is the symbol used in the International Phonetic Alphabet, with acknowledged as an acceptable variant and more often used in printed materials.
Use in writing systems
In English, the letter appears either alone or in some digraphs. Alone, it represents
a voiced velar plosive ( or "hard" ), as in goose, gargoyle and game;
a voiced palato-alveolar affricate ( or "soft" ), generally before or , as in giant, ginger and geology; or
a voiced palato-alveolar sibilant () in some words of French origin, such as rouge, beige and genre.
In words of Romance origin, is mainly soft before (including the digraphs and ), , or , and hard otherwise.
There are many English words of non-Romance origin where is hard though followed by or (e.g. get, gift), and a few in which is soft though followed by such as gaol or margarine.
The double consonant has the value (hard ) as in nugget, with very few exceptions: in suggest and in exaggerate and veggies.
The digraph has the value (soft ), as in badger. Non-digraph can also occur, in compounds like floodgate and headgear.
The digraph may represent
a velar nasal () as in length, singer
the latter followed by hard () as in jungle, finger, longest
Non-digraph also occurs, with possible values
as in engulf, ungainly
as in sponge, angel
as in melange
The digraph (in many cases a replacement for the obsolete letter yogh, which took various values including , , and ) may represent
as in ghost, aghast, burgher, spaghetti
as in cough, laugh, roughage
Ø (no sound) as in through, neighbor, night
Non-digraph also occurs, in compounds like foghorn
The digraph may represent
as in gnostic, deign, foreigner, signage
in loanwords like champignon, lasagna
Non-digraph also occurs, as in signature
The trigraph has the value as in gingham or dinghy. Non-trigraph also occurs, in compounds like stronghold and dunghill.
Most Romance languages and some Nordic languages also have two main pronunciations for , hard and soft. While the soft value of varies in different Romance languages ( in French and Portuguese, in Catalan language
, in Italian and Romanian, and in most dialects of Spanish), in all except Romanian and Italian, soft has the same pronunciation as the .
In Italian and Romanian, is used to represent before front vowels where would otherwise represent a soft value. In Italian and French, is used to represent the palatal nasal , a sound somewhat similar to the in English canyon. In Italian, the trigraph , when appearing before a vowel or as the article and pronoun , represents the palatal lateral approximant .
Other languages typically use to represent regardless of position.
Amongst European languages Czech language, Dutch language and Finnish language are an exception as they do not have in their native words. In Dutch language represents a voiced velar fricative instead, a sound that does not occur in modern English, but there is a dialectal variation: many Netherlandic dialects use a voiceless fricative ( or ) instead, and in southern dialects it may be palatal . Nevertheless, word-finally it is always voiceless in all dialects, including the standard Dutch of Belgium and the Netherlands. On the other hand, some dialects (like Amelands), may have a phonemic .
Faroese language uses to represent , in addition to , and also uses it to indicate a semivowel.
In Maori (Maori Language), is used in the digraph which represents the velar nasal and is pronounced like the in singer.
In older Czech language and Slovak language orthographies, was used to represent , while was written as ( with caron).
Ancestors, descendants and siblings
𐤂 : Semitic letter Gimel, from which the following symbols originally derive
C c : Latin letter C, from which G derives
Γ γ : Greek alphabet letter Gamma, from which C derives in turn
ɡ: Latin letter script small G
ᶢ : Modifier letter small script g is used for phonetic transcription
ᵷ : Turned g
Г г : Cyrillic letter Ge
Ȝ ȝ : Latin letter Yogh
Ɣ ɣ : Latin letter Gamma
Ᵹ ᵹ : Insular g
Ꝿ ꝿ : Turned insular g
ɢ : Latin letter small capital G, used in the International Phonetic Alphabet to represent a voiced uvular stop
ʛ : Latin letter small capital G with hook, used in the International Phonetic Alphabet to represent a voiced uvular implosive
ᴳ ᵍ : Modifier letters are used in the Uralic Phonetic Alphabet
ꬶ : Used for the Teuthonista phonetic transcription system
G with : Ǵ ǵ Ǥ ǥ Ĝ ĝ Ǧ ǧ Ğ ğ Cedilla Ɠ ɠ Ġ ġ Ḡ ḡ Ꞡ ꞡ ᶃ
Ligatures and abbreviations