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J, j [Called ‘jay’, rhyming with say, to match the pronunciation of K. In ScoE, often rhymes with high, to match the pronunciation of I]. The 10th LETTER of the Roman ALPHABET as used for English. Around the 13c, it developed as a graphic variant of i, including use as the last element of a Roman numeral, iij three, viij eight. Its status was uncertain for centuries. Lists published as recently as the early 19c did not always have i and j as separate letters of the alphabet. In print, the distinction was being made fairly consistently in lower case by 1630, though not in the first editions of SHAKESPEARE. Introduced around 1600, upper-case J was not generally distinguished from I for another 200 years.

Sound value and distribution

(1) The STANDARD value of j in English is the voiced palato-alveolar affricate /dʒ/, whose voiceless equivalent is spelt ch: contrast jeep/cheap, Jews/choose. J, dg, and soft g compete to represent this sound, as in judge and gem. J is not normally used at the end of a word or a stressed syllable. In this position, ge and dge are the rule, as in rage and dodge. The only exceptions are a small number of loanwords, such as hajj/hadj (pilgrimage) from Arabic and raj (rule, government) from Hindi. (2) There is a strong tendency for d followed by an i-glide (in words like grandeur, Indian, soldier, endure) to move to the value of j, prompting such non-standard spellings as ‘Injun’ for Indian and ‘sojer’ for soldier. (3) J occurs most often word-initially before a, o, u, a position in which g normally has its hard value: jab/gab, job/gob, jut/gut. (4) J does not normally feature in words of Old English origin, the digraph dg representing the sound medially and finally (cudgel, bridge), but some j-words (ajar, jowl) may be of Germanic origin.

Non-English influences

(1) FRENCH has given English many words with initial j: jail, jaundice, jaw, jay, jealous, jeopardy, jet, jewel, join, jolly, journal, journey, joy, juice, jury, just. (2) French g has been changed to j in jelly, Jeffrey, jest and possibly in jib, jig. The form judge (French juge) is an orthographic hybrid: initial French j and vernacular dg (marking a preceding short vowel). (3) Latin has contributed such words with initial j as joke, jovial, jubilant, junior, juvenile. (4) Other words with initial j tend to be exotic (jackal, jaguar, jasmine, jerboa, ju-jitsu, jungle), or recent, often AmE coinages (jab, jam, jazz, jeep, jinx, jive, and, with medial j, banjo, hijack). (5) Many proper names begin with j: Jack, James, Jane, Janet, Jean, Jeffrey, Jim, Joan, John, Joseph, Julia; as do the months January, June, July. (6) Medial j occurs commonly in Latinate roots after a prefix (adjacent, conjunction, prejudice, reject, subjugate) and such other Latinate words as majesty, major, pejorative. (7) Final j is rare, occurring only in such exotic forms as raj and hajj/hadj. (8) Since j differs in value in different languages, non-English values often occur in loans. The fricative of Modern French occurs in more recent loans (bijou) and in names (Jean-Jacques). GERMAN and some Slavonic languages pronounce j as a y-sound (Jung, Janáček). In SPANISH j represents the voiceless velar fricative /x/ (Jerez, Juan), which may be represented by h in English (marihuana) or fall silent. (9) Currently, g/j alternate in gibe/jibe and in the cognates jelly/gelatine and jib/gibbet, as well as in the personal names Jeffrey/Geoffrey, Jillian/Gillian. See G, I.

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J1 / / (also j) • n. (pl. Js or J's / jāz/ ) 1. the tenth letter of the alphabet. ∎  denoting the next after I (or H if I is omitted) in a set of items, categories, etc. 2. (J) a shape like that of a capital J. 3. archaic used instead of I as the Roman numeral for one in final position: between ij and iij of the clock. J2 • abbr. ∎  jack (used in describing play in card games). ∎  Physics joule(s). ∎  (in titles) Journal (of): J. Biol. Chem. ∎  Judge. ∎  Justice.

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j • symb. (j) (in electrical engineering and electronics) the imaginary quantity equal to the square root of minus one. Compare with i.

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J Tenth letter of the Roman-based w European alphabet, It evolved from the letter i and was the last to be incorporated into the modern alphabet; its early history is the same as that of i. The j developed from the tailed form of the i as often written at the beginnings of words. Today it represents a consonant sound in modern English, nearly always pronounced as a voiced affricate, as in jug; in some words (such as hallelujah) it is pronounced like a y.

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J the tenth letter of the modern English alphabet, originally a modification of the letter I. In the 17th century the two forms of the letter came to be differentiated, i remaining for the vowel and j being used for the consonant, with the capital form of the latter, J, being introduced.

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J. The name given to a supposed source used in the composition of the Pentateuch: it is an abbreviation of the Jahwistic (Yahwistic) source.

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j (ital.) Physics, symbol for current density
• Electrical engineering, symbol for the imaginary number √–1
• (bold ital.) Maths., symbol for a unit coordinate vector

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