views updated May 21 2018

I, i [Called ‘eye’]. The 9th LETTER of the Roman ALPHABET as used for English. It originated in the Phoenician symbol yod (representing the sound of y in yes) which was adapted in GREEK to a vertical line for the vowel called iota. This was adopted by the Romans as I with both long and short LATIN vowel values, and also for the consonant value of y. In medieval times, a superscript dot was added to distinguish minuscule i in manuscript from adjacent vertical strokes in such letters as u, m, n. The variant form j emerged at this time and subsequently became a separate letter.

Sound values

It is difficult to fix a precise primary value for i in English. There is free variation between different values of i in the first syllable of words such as digest, finance, minority, tribunal. Elsewhere, there is a regular shift between related words: child/children, five/fifth, crime/criminal, finish/final(ity), social/society, admire/admirable. Variation in sound is overlaid by two uncertainties in SPELLING: except word-initially, both i and y can represent the same sound, even as alternatives: gipsy/gypsy, siphon/syphon, laniard/lanyard, drier/dryer. Many spellings are available for the one sound in the final syllables of souvenir, Kashmir (contrast cashmere), cavalier, weir, musketeer, sincere, appear. The result is a varied distribution of values, as follows:

Short I

(1) In most monosyllabic words before pronounced word-final consonants: ill, in, is; bid, big, bit; which, sing, dish, with; fifth, milk, kiln, film, filth, wind (noun), link, hint, plinth, lisp, list. However, long i occurs in this position in pint, ninth and child, mild, wild (but not build, gild, guild) and in bind, find, kind, wind (verb), etc. Short i occurs in give, to live, but long i in dive, five, alive. Similarly, short i occurs in river, liver, but long i in diver, fiver. (2) In most polysyllables before a doubled consonant (bitter, bitty, cirrus, irrigate, immigrant) and commonly before single consonants (city, finish, spirit, river, consider, imitate, iridescent, limit, litigation, magnificent, ridiculous). (3) Occasionally before a consonant and word-final e (give, live, active, heroine, imagine, definite), although i is normally long in this environment. (4) The sound of short i is often spelt with y, especially to represent the Greek letter upsilon, as in myth, symbol. Other vowel letters may also have this value: e in pretty and Greek-derived words such as acme, catastrophe; o in the plural women; u in busy, business. Certain unstressed vowels vary in pronunciation between short i and other values, especially schwa: a as in furnace, cottage, e as in began, despair, hated, college, u as in lettuce, minute (noun). (5) In RP, a modified short i occurs before single r, when ir is not directly followed by another vowel: sir, stir, bird, girl, squirm, first, birth, circle, virtue. The same modification occurs with the short values of e, u, y, producing the homophones birth/berth, fir/fur. (6) The letter i does not occur word-finally in traditional English spelling, its sound being represented by y, but such a short i or a lengthened variant (depending partly on accent) is found in some recent formations and loans: taxi, safari, spaghetti. A length distinction between this value and short i may be heard in taxiing, a distinction some speakers also make between the two vowels of city.

Long I

(1) Monosyllables and disyllables before one or sometimes two consonants preceding word-final e: ice, tribe, wife, like, pile, time, fine, ripe, mire, kite, strive, size; idle, rifle, isle, title, mitre. (2) In disyllabic verbs ending in a stressed Latin root, whose corresponding nouns often have short i: ascribe/ascription, collide/collision, decide/decision, invite/invitation, provide/provision, reside/residence. (3) In monosyllables before: -gh (high, sigh, fight, plight, height, sleight), but not otherwise after e: (weigh, sleigh, eight, freight; -ld (child, mild, wild, but not build, g(u)ild); -nd (bind, blind, find, grind, hind, kind, rind, wind (verb)); and in a single case each -nt (pint), -nth (ninth), and -st (Christ). Note also whilst. In monosyllabic and disyllabic roots, a following silent consonant sometimes signals the long value: -g (align, benign, consign), -b (climb), -c (indict), -s (island, viscount). (4) In many polysyllables with initial stressed syllables: library, iron, island, item, final, libel, license, private, ivy, tidy (but contrast privy, city). (5) The long value is not always stable: sometimes it remains in derivatives while losing stress (final/finality, irony/ironic, library/librarian, virus/virology), elsewhere becoming short while stress is retained (arthritis/arthritic, bronchitis/bronchitic, BrE private/privacy). (6) In initial stressed syllables directly followed by another vowel: client, dial, diamond, diet, friar, ion, science, triangle, triumph. The long i is kept when the stress shifts in derivatives: science/scientific, triangle/triangular, triumph/triumphant. (7) In some unstressed suffixes of Latin origin, such as -ide (cyanide, sodium chloride) and -ite (Israelite, finite, but optionally short in plebiscite). In other suffixes, usage varies. Long i occurs in -ile in BrE but generally not in AmE, which has a schwa or a syllabic consonant: fertile, hostile, missile, volatile. Long i occurs in such animal-related adjectives as aquiline, bovine, equine, but short i commonly in such general adjectives as feminine, genuine, masculine (although long i can also occur, especially in ScoE). Latin endings in i usually have long value (alibi, fungi, termini) as do Greek letter names (pi, phi, psi, chi/khi). (8) A unique spelling is choir, changed from quire to reflect its derivation from chorus.

Continental I

This is the ‘ee’ value of MIDDLE ENGLISH i before the Great Vowel Shift. It is found in recent loans from the ROMANCE LANGUAGES (pizza, police, fatigue, routine, souvenir, mosquito) and elsewhere (bikini, kiwi, ski). JAPANESE Romaji spellings also accord i this value: Hirohito, Mitsubishi. In final position in FRENCH loans, the i may be followed by a silent letter: debris, esprit. The spelling of this vowel sound in earlier French loans has been Anglicized as ea and ee: league, esteem, canteen. This value also occurs in native English words and older loans with the medial digraph ie: field, fiend, frieze, grief, mien, piece, priest, shriek, siege. A following r modifies this value in RP, but otherwise bier, pierce, cashier belong in this category. Occasionally the ee value of the ie may be shortened in speech to short i: mischief. The ie in sieve always has short value, and the e value in friend is exceptional.

Unstressed I

In unstressed position, i is commonly reduced to schwa, though in some accents, notably RP, tending towards its short value: sordid, plaintiff, porridge, vestige, nostril, denim, raisin, tapir, premiss, limit, satirist, admiral, admiration.

Silent I

(1) In the second written syllable of business and, for some people, in medicine. (2) Before another vowel in the unstressed syllables of cushion, fashion, parishioner, and commonly in parliament.


(1) The letters i, y were interchangeable in MIDDLE ENGLISH and remain so in several pairs of alternatives: short value (gipsy/gypsy, lichgate/lychgate, pigmy/pygmy, sillabub/syllabub, silvan/sylvan), long value (cider/cyder, cipher/cypher, dike/dyke, siphon/syphon); contrasting ie and y (bogie/bog(e)y, cadie/caddy, pixie/pixy). BrE tyre contrasts with AmE tire. However, these alternatives are distinct from such homophones as calix/calyx, chili/chilly, die/dye. (2) There is standard variation between y and i when a suffix is added to a word that ends in y: happy, happier, happiest, happily, happiness; pity, pitying, pities, pitied, pitiable, pitiful. However, busy keeps y in busyness, to distinguish it from business. Sometimes there are alternative forms (drier/dryer), or there is no i form (slyness only), or no y form (gaily, daily). The verbs lay, pay, say change y to i in their past tense only: laid, paid, said. The verbs try, deny, adopt i in trial, denial. (3) The digraph ie has the value of long i in open monosyllables: die, lie, tie. Nouns and verbs whose base form ends in y with the value of long i inflect with ie when followed by s and d: try/tries, simplify/simplified. (4) I replaces e when suffixes are added to base words ending in -ce: face/facial, finance/financial, space/spacious (but note spatial). For alternative spellings such as despatch/dispatch, enquire/inquire see under E. (5) Some Latin singulars ending in -us substitute -i in the plural (fungus/fungi, radius/radii, terminus/termini). This is sometimes optional (cactuses, cacti) and may include controversial usages such as syllabuses, syllabi (there being no justification in Greek or Latin for the form syllabi). Some Latin singulars ending in -is may change to plural -es: axis/axes, basis/bases, oasis/oases.

Other functions

(1) A following i may soften (that is, palatalize) the letters c and g: electric/electricity, rigour/rigid. (2) When a vowel letter follows, i may soften a preceding consonant, but lose its own sound value: for example, c sounding like sh in racial, electrician, conscience, suspicion, conscious. Similar palatalization occurs with d (soldier), s (vision), ss (mission), t (nation). (3) In a similar position, i is silent after (soft) g: contagion, contagious, region, religion. (4) In the system of English personal pronouns, the capitalized letter I, spoken with a long value, represents the first person singular. To represent distinctive pronunciations, however, such as in Scots and Southern AmE, the form changes to Ah. See HARD AND SOFT, J.


1. A picture or image, especially a saint painted on a wooden panel and venerated in Orthodox Christianity. If something is iconic, it represents something else in a conventionalized way, as with features on a map (roads, bridges, etc.) or onomatopoeic words (as for example the words kersplat and kapow in US comic books, standing for the impact of a fall and a blow). 2. An archetypal image: ‘It is hopeless to retreat from the problem of racism to [Margaret] Mitchell's personal and Scarlett's fictional struggles against the role of the “icon” the “Southern Lady”, a figure utterly entangled with the practice of slavery’ (Patricia Storace, The New York Review of Books, 19 Dec. 1991). 3. A person regarded as embodying a certain quality, style, or attitude: ‘When Spike Lee, America's hottest black film director, decided to make a film about Malcolm X, the country's most controversial black icon, Hollywood sensed a blockbuster’ ( John Cassidy, The Sunday Times, 11 Aug. 1991). 4. A stylized symbol, especially in COMPUTING: a small image on a screen representing a function or an option, such as a paintbrush (representing and permitting a painting-like activity on screen) or a wastebasket (representing and permitting the erasure of materia). Commonly, a program is started, a file obtained, etc., by pointing an arrow-like cursor at one icon in a menu-like group, generally using a hand-held mouse to move the cursor and activate the icon. Compare EMOTICON.


views updated Jun 11 2018


The concept of the "I" appears in Jacques Lacan's work as a function that derives from the mirror stage. Piera Aulagnier later develops this term in a different way and defines it as nothing other than a knowledge of itself: "the I is nothing more than the I's knowledge of the I" (1975/2001, p.114).

Despite their semantic proximity, the I, for both Lacan and Aulagnier, is something clearly distinct from the Freudian ego; the latter is an agency, even if it claims to represent the totality of the person, and it has to be understood in relation to the other agencies (id, superego) and to the demands of reality and the object, which it can also oppose by occupying its position and turning, narcissicistically, to the love of the id.

Towards the end of his work (1923b), Freud ascribes a different origin to the ego, no longer considering it as a psychic agency or no longer defining its "character" only as a product of identifications but regarding it as "the mental projection of the surface of the body" and thus primarily as a "bodily ego" that is derived from sensations.

Jacques Lacan introduced the concept of "I" with the mirror stage (1936, then 1949), in opposition not to the Freudian ego but to the philosophy derived from the Cartesian cogito. The mirror stage constitutes an identification; namely, the transformation that occurs in a subject when he assumes an image as his own. This stage constitutes a fundamental identification that precedes the moment when the subject identifies with others through the mediation of language. It comprises several phases: in the first, the child reacts joyfully to the image but identifies it as belonging to an other; in the second, he perceives its imaginary nature and seeks the other behind the mirror; in the third, the child recognizes the image as his own. For Lacan, this entails the progressive and structuring conquest of the I through the intermediary of the subject's own body. "This Gestalt. . . symbolizes the mental permanence of the I at the same time as it prefigures its alienating destination; it is still pregnant with the correspondences that unite the I with the statue in which man projects himself, with the phantoms that dominate him, or with the automaton in which, in an ambiguous relation, the world of his own making tends to find completion" (1949/2002, p. 3]). Therefore the I simultaneously is alienated in this image, because it is always external to it, and finds a stability, if not a permanence, there. Here Lacan adduces the concept of alienation: "[the subject] identifies his sense of self with the image of the other and the image of the other then captivates this sense in him" (1946-50). In a second temporal phase, the subject is mediated by language, thereby returning to the unconscious everything that does not pass into discourse.

Piera Aulagnier fundamentally modifies the Lacanian concept of I by historicizing it, that is, by defining it in terms of the dual processes of "self-historicization" and the "identificatory project." However, it is principally in the mother-child relationship, well before the mirror stage, that she locates the primary identification from which the I will subsequently emerge. For the child, this identification develops from the first experience of pleasure, and it is the mother who identifies the child as the seeker of what she is offering, which thus makes him dependent on her own imagination. Similarly, in the mirror stage, Aulagnier emphasizes that the child, having recognized the specular image as his own, turns to his mother to seek approbation in her gaze and thus to find the "junction between the image and the legend" (1975/2001, p. 124). "She alone will be able to complete the narcissistic image, to add that 'something more' that is indispensable to its sheen and without which it would cease to be anything more than it is in the real: an effect of the laws of optics" (1975).

For Aulagnier, however, the I is not to be confused with the precursor of the I that is constituted by the subject's representational activity in these early stages. The I is first of all anticipated by the mother (as "word-bearer") and as this still-idealized I that is formed during the "representative" stage, that is to say the child's psyche that represents itself as possessing an absolute and immediate power over reality.

How does the I come into being? It is through the act of enunciation, but rather than just any act, it is that which names the affect: "the act of uttering a feeling is therefore at the same time the utterance of a self-naming by the I " ( p. 97). To name the other with the term of beloved, for example, is to designate the subject who is naming as that of the lover. Hence the author's formulation: "It is therefore in and by the deferred action of naming the cathected object [affect and kinship system] that the I comes about . . . the I is nothing more than the knowledge that the I may have of the I" (p. 98).

This knowledge has a sole purpose: to guarantee to the I a knowledge of its past and its future, the former being the precondition for the representability of the latter. The I will be characterized by its work, which differs from the enacting fantasy because it entails a work of making-sense based on "ideational representatives." Despite being anticipated by the mother at a primitive stage, the I can subsequently occur only by itself. The Other, the mother, no longer has the power to respond to questions such as "who am I?" or "what am I to become?": "To these two questions, which must necessarily find an answer, the I will respond on its own behalf by the continuous self-construction of an ideal image that it claims as its inalienable right and which assures it that the future will prove to be neither the result of pure chance, nor forged by the exclusive desire of another I" (p. 116).

What is possessed in this case is nothing but an outline, but what is cathected is the ideal image, as well as the ability to construct it and to recognize oneself through this process of construction. No philosophical observation about freedom can be dissociated from this definition of the I, as the author establishes it on the basis of the preconditions for the emergence of the I, and the way in which these preconditions can be lacking in the case of psychosis.

Sophie de Mijolla-Mellor

See also: Alienation; Apprenti-historien et le maítre-sorcier (L'-) [The apprentice historian and the master sorcerer]; Aulagnier-Spairani, Piera, ex-Castoriadis-Aulagnier; Demand; Ego; Ego (ego psychology); Encounter; Graph of Desire; Ideational representation; Identificatory project; Individual; Individuation (analytical psychology); Infant observation; Infantile psychosis; Integration; Need for causality; Object; Other, The; Passion; Primal, the; Psychic temporality; Psychoanalytic treatment; Psychotic potential; Sartre and psychoanalysis; Self-consciousness; Self-image; Sense/nonsense; Subject; Subject of the drive; Truth; Violence of Interpretation, The: From Pictogram to Statement .


Castoriadis-Aulagnier, Piera. (2001). The violence of interpretation. From pictogram to statement. (Alan Sheridan, Trans.) Hove: Brunner-Routledge. (Original work published 1975)

Charron, Gyslain. (1993). Le discours et le Je. Klincksieck, Canada: Presses de l'université de Laval.

Lacan, Jacques. (2002).Écrits: A selection. (Bruce Fink, Trans.) London: Tavistock Publications.

Mijolla-Mellor, Sophie. de (1998). Penser la psychose. Une lecture de l'œuvre de Piera Aulagnier. Paris: Dunod.


views updated May 18 2018

I1 / ī/ (also i) • n. (pl. Is or I's) 1. the ninth letter of the alphabet. ∎  denoting the next after H in a set of items, categories, etc.2. the Roman numeral for one.PHRASES: dot the i's and cross the t's see dot1 .I2 • pron. [first person sing.] used by a speaker to refer to himself or herself: accept me for what I am.• n. (the I) Philos. (in metaphysics) the subject or object of self-consciousness; the ego.I3 • abbr. ∎  Independent. ∎  (preceding a highway number) Interstate. ∎  (I.) Island(s) or Isle(s) (chiefly on maps).• symb. ∎  electric current: V = I/R. ∎  the chemical element iodine.


views updated May 09 2018

I. A Chinese term often translated as ‘righteousness’. It connotes that which is just, proper, in accord with moral and customary principles.

As a moral and philosophical concept, i is rooted in early Confucian thought. For Confucius himself, i seems to have been related to a more comprehensive value, jen (‘humanheartedness’). Mencius placed greater stress on i, making it one of the four virtues each of which has a ‘font’ (tuan) in the heart or mind.

In early Taoist thought, particularly in the Chuang Tzu, i is the condition in which all things, merely by following their nature, do the ‘right’ thing.

For early ‘legalist’ thinkers such as Han Fei Tzu, by contrast, i was seen as already a relic from the past. Jen and i no longer suffice to order society, despite the fact that they were taught and practised by the sage kings and teachers of old; only coercion by force is effective.

These early schools of thought set the parameters for most subsequent moral and philosophical thought on i.


views updated May 23 2018

I 1st sg. pers. pron. OE. = OS. (Du.) ik, OHG. ih (G. ich), ON. ek, Goth. ik (:- Gmc. *eka), corr., but with variation of vowel, cons., and ending, to L. egṓ, Gr. egṓ(n), Skr. ahám, Av. azəm, OSl. (j)azŭ. The reduced form i of OE. appears XII; in stressed position this became ī, which was finally generalized for all positions. The inflexional system of the pronoun is made up of four distinct bases; see ME, MY (MINE), WE, US, OUR.


views updated May 17 2018

I Ninth letter of the Roman-based w European alphabet, derived from the Semitic letter yod, meaning hand. It passed through Phoenician unchanged to the Greeks, who called it iota. In the Roman alphabet it was pronounced like ee in English keen, keep. The letter has two basic pronunciations in English: “short” i, as in bit, and “long” i (a diphthong), as in wide. I has a different sound in some words (such as police and first) and is pronounced like a consonantal y in words such as union and onion.


views updated May 29 2018

i • symb. (i) Math. the imaginary quantity equal to the square root of minus one. Compare with j.


views updated May 23 2018

I the ninth letter of the modern English alphabet, representing the Semitic consonant yod, which was adopted by Greek as iota, representing a vowel. In the 17th century a differentiation was made in the Roman alphabet, the consonant being represented by J, j (in its origin merely a variant form of I, i in certain positions), and the vowel by I, i.


views updated Jun 08 2018

i symbol for the imaginary number √–1
• (ital.) Physics, symbol for instantaneous current
• (bold ital.) Maths., symbol for unit coordinate vector
• (ital.) Chem., symbol for a van't Hoff factor


views updated May 17 2018

i (It.). The (masc. plural).