Latin script

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Latin script
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{{short description|Writing system used to write most European languages}}{{about||the Latin script as used for the Latin language|Latin alphabet}}{{more footnotes|date=October 2017}}

|time=~700 BC–present|fam1= Egyptian hieroglyphs|fam2=Proto-Sinaitic|fam3=Phoenician alphabet|fam4=Greek alphabet|fam5=Old Italic scriptCyrillic script>CyrillicArmenian alphabetGeorgian script>GeorgianCoptic alphabetRunic alphabet>Runic/FutharkFraser alphabet (Lisu language>Lisu)Osage script(partially) several Phonetic transcriptions, such as International Phonetic Alphabet>IPA, which have been used to write languages with no native script(partially) Pollard script (Miao)(partially) Caroline Island script (Woleaian)(indirectly) Cherokee syllabary(indirectly, partially) Yugtun script|sample=A Specimen by William Caslon.jpg|imagesize=200px|unicode=See Latin characters in Unicode|iso15924=Latn|IPAChartEng=1}}Latin or Roman script is a set of graphic signs (script) based on the letters of the classical Latin alphabet. This is derived from a form of the Cumaean Greek version of the Greek alphabet used by the Etruscans. Several Latin-script alphabets exist, which differ in graphemes, collation and phonetic values from the classical Latin alphabet.The Latin script is the basis of the International Phonetic Alphabet and the 26 most widespread letters are the letters contained in the ISO basic Latin alphabet.Latin script is the basis for the largest number of alphabets of any writing system{{sfn|Haarmann|2004|p=96}} and is themost widely adopted writing system in the world (commonly used by about 70 percent of the world's population). Latin script is used as the standard method of writing in most Western, Central, as well as in some Eastern European languages, as well as in many languages in other parts of the world.


The script is either called Roman script or Latin script, in reference to its origin in ancient Rome. In the context of transliteration, the term "romanization" or "romanisation" is often found.WEB,weblink Search results | BSI Group,, 2014-05-12, WEB,weblink Romanisation_systems,, 2014-05-12, Unicode uses the term "Latin"WEB,weblink ISO 15924 – Code List in English,, 2013-07-22, as does the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).WEB,weblink Search – ISO,, 2014-05-12, The numeral system is called the Roman numeral system; and the collection of the elements, Roman numerals. The numbers 1, 2, 3 ... are Latin/Roman script numbers for the Hindu–Arabic numeral system.


Old Italic alphabet {| class"wikitable"|+ Old Italic alphabet

!Letters || 𐌀 || 𐌁 || 𐌂 || 𐌃 || 𐌄 || 𐌅 || 𐌆 || 𐌇 || 𐌈 || 𐌉 || 𐌊 || 𐌋 || 𐌌 || 𐌍 || 𐌎 || 𐌏 || 𐌐 || 𐌑 || 𐌒 || 𐌓 || 𐌔 || 𐌕 || 𐌖 || 𐌗 || 𐌘 || 𐌙 || 𐌚!Transliteration || A || B || C || D || E || V || Z || H || Θ || I || K || L || M || N || Ξ || O || P || Ś || Q || R || S || T || Y || X || Φ || Ψ || F">

Archaic Latin alphabet{| class"wikitable"|+ Archaic Latin alphabet

!As Old Italic || 𐌀 || 𐌁 || 𐌂 || 𐌃 || 𐌄 || 𐌅 || 𐌆 || 𐌇 || 𐌉 || 𐌊 || 𐌋 || 𐌌 || 𐌍 || 𐌏 || 𐌐 || 𐌒 || 𐌓 || 𐌔 || 𐌕 || 𐌖 || 𐌗!As Latin || A || B || C || D || E || F || Z || H || I || K || L || M || N || O || P || Q || R || S || T || V || XThe letter {{angle bracket|C}} was the western form of the Greek gamma, but it was used for the sounds {{IPA|/ɡ/}} and {{IPA|/k/}} alike, possibly under the influence of Etruscan, which might have lacked any voiced plosives. Later, probably during the 3rd century BC, the letter {{angle bracket|Z}} – unneeded to write Latin properly – was replaced with the new letter {{angle bracket|G}}, a {{angle bracket|C}} modified with a small horizontal stroke, which took its place in the alphabet. From then on, {{angle bracket|G}} represented the voiced plosive {{IPA|/ɡ/}}, while {{angle bracket|C}} was generally reserved for the voiceless plosive {{IPA|/k/}}. The letter {{angle bracket|K}} was used only rarely, in a small number of words such as Kalendae, often interchangeably with {{angle bracket|C}}.

Classical Latin alphabet

After the Roman conquest of Greece in the 1st century BC, Latin adopted the Greek letters {{angle bracket|Y}} and {{angle bracket|Z}} (or readopted, in the latter case) to write Greek loanwords, placing them at the end of the alphabet. An attempt by the emperor Claudius to introduce three additional letters did not last. Thus it was during the classical Latin period that the Latin alphabet contained 23 letters:{| class="wikitable" style="text-align:center"|+ Classical Latin alphabet! style="text-align:left" | Letter! A !! B !! C !! D !! E !! F !! G !! H !! I !! K !! L !! M !! N !! O !! P !! Q !! R !! S !! T !! V !! X !! Y !! Z! style="text-align:left" | Latin name (majus)á}} {{smcé}} {{smé}} {{smgé}} {{smꟾ}} {{smel}} {{smen}} {{smpé}} {{smv́}} {{smes}} {{smv́}} {{smꟾ graeca}} {{sm|zéta}}! style="text-align:left" | Latin nameā >bē >cē >dē >ē >ef >gē >hā >ī >kā >el >em >en >ō >pē >qū >er >es >tē >ū >ix >ī Graeca}} ''zēta! style="text-align:left" | Latin pronunciation ((Help:IPA/Latin|IPA))aː}} {{IPAkeː}} {{IPAeː}} {{IPAɡeː}} {{IPAiː}} {{IPAɛl}} {{IPAɛn}} {{IPApeː}} {{IPAɛr}} {{IPAteː}} {{IPAiks}} {{IPAˈdzeːta}}

ISO basic Latin alphabet

{|class="wikitable" style="text-align:center; table-layout:fixed"|+ ISO basic Latin alphabet!Uppercase Latin alphabetA>B>C>D>E>F>G>H>I>J>K>L>M>N>O>P>Q>R>S>T>U>V>W>X>Y>|Z!Lowercase Latin alphabet|zThe use of the letters I and V for both consonants and vowels proved inconvenient as the Latin alphabet was adapted to Germanic and Romance languages. W originated as a doubled V (VV) used to represent the sound {{IPA|[w]}} found in Old English as early as the 7th century. It came into common use in the later 11th century, replacing the runic Wynn letter which had been used for the same sound. In the Romance languages, the minuscule form of V was a rounded u; from this was derived a rounded capital U for the vowel in the 16th century, while a new, pointed minuscule v was derived from V for the consonant. In the case of I, a word-final swash form, j, came to be used for the consonant, with the un-swashed form restricted to vowel use. Such conventions were erratic for centuries. J was introduced into English for the consonant in the 17th century (it had been rare as a vowel), but it was not universally considered a distinct letter in the alphabetic order until the 19th century.By the 1960s, it became apparent to the computer and telecommunications industries in the First World that a non-proprietary method of encoding characters was needed. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) encapsulated the Latin alphabet in their (ISO/IEC 646) standard. To achieve widespread acceptance, this encapsulation was based on popular usage. As the United States held a preeminent position in both industries during the 1960s, the standard was based on the already published American Standard Code for Information Interchange, better known as ASCII, which included in the character set the 26 × 2 (uppercase and lowercase) letters of the English alphabet. Later standards issued by the ISO, for example ISO/IEC 10646 (Unicode Latin), have continued to define the 26 × 2 letters of the English alphabet as the basic Latin alphabet with extensions to handle other letters in other languages.


File:Latin alphabet world distribution.svg|thumb|upright=2.05|The distribution of the Latin script. The dark green areas show the countries where the Latin script is the sole main script. Light green shows countries where Latin co-exists with other scripts. Latin-script alphabets are sometimes extensively used in areas coloured grey due to the use of unofficial second languages, such as French in Algeria and English in Egypt, and to Latin transliteration of the official script, such as pinyinpinyinThe Latin alphabet spread, along with Latin, from the Italian Peninsula to the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea with the expansion of the Roman Empire. The eastern half of the Empire, including Greece, Turkey, the Levant, and Egypt, continued to use Greek as a lingua franca, but Latin was widely spoken in the western half, and as the western Romance languages evolved out of Latin, they continued to use and adapt the Latin alphabet.

Middle Ages

With the spread of Western Christianity during the Middle Ages, the Latin alphabet was gradually adopted by the peoples of Northern Europe who spoke Celtic languages (displacing the Ogham alphabet) or Germanic languages (displacing earlier Runic alphabets) or Baltic languages, as well as by the speakers of several Uralic languages, most notably Hungarian, Finnish and Estonian.The Latin script also came into use for writing the West Slavic languages and several South Slavic languages, as the people who spoke them adopted Roman Catholicism. The speakers of East Slavic languages generally adopted Cyrillic along with Orthodox Christianity. The Serbian language uses both scripts, with Cyrillic predominating in official communication and Latin elsewhere, as determined by the Law on Official Use of the Language and Alphabet.WEB,weblinkweblink" title="">weblink dead, 14 July 2014, 17 May 2010, Zakon O Službenoj Upotrebi Jezika I Pisama,, 2014-07-05,

Since the 16th century

As late as 1500, the Latin script was limited primarily to the languages spoken in Western, Northern, and Central Europe. The Orthodox Christian Slavs of Eastern and Southeastern Europe mostly used Cyrillic, and the Greek alphabet was in use by Greek-speakers around the eastern Mediterranean. The Arabic script was widespread within Islam, both among Arabs and non-Arab nations like the Iranians, Indonesians, Malays, and Turkic peoples. Most of the rest of Asia used a variety of Brahmic alphabets or the Chinese script.Through European colonization the Latin script has spread to the Americas, Oceania, parts of Asia, Africa, and the Pacific, in forms based on the Spanish, Portuguese, English, French, German and Dutch alphabets.It is used for many Austronesian languages, including the languages of the Philippines and the Malaysian and Indonesian languages, replacing earlier Arabic and indigenous Brahmic alphabets. Latin letters served as the basis for the forms of the Cherokee syllabary developed by Sequoyah; however, the sound values are completely different.{{Citation needed|date=April 2015}}

Since 19th century

In the late 19th century, the Romanians returned to the Latin alphabet, which they had used until the Council of Florence in 1439,WEB,weblink 1714, Descriptio_Moldaviae,, 2014-09-14, primarily because Romanian is a Romance language. The Romanians were predominantly Orthodox Christians, and their Church, increasingly influenced by Russia after the fall of Byzantine Greek Constantinople in 1453 and capture of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, had begun promoting the Slavic Cyrillic.Under French rule and Portuguese missionary influence, a Latin alphabet was devised for the Vietnamese language, which had previously used Chinese characters.

Since 20th century

In 1928, as part of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's reforms, the new Republic of Turkey adopted a Latin alphabet for the Turkish language, replacing a modified Arabic alphabet. Most of the Turkic-speaking peoples of the former USSR, including Tatars, Bashkirs, Azeri, Kazakh, Kyrgyz and others, used the Latin-based Uniform Turkic alphabet in the 1930s; but, in the 1940s, all were replaced by Cyrillic. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, three of the newly independent Turkic-speaking republics, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, as well as Romanian-speaking Moldova, officially adopted Latin alphabets for their languages. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Iranian-speaking Tajikistan, and the breakaway region of Transnistria kept the Cyrillic alphabet, chiefly due to their close ties with Russia. In the 1930s and 1940s, the majority of Kurds replaced the Arabic script with two Latin alphabets. Although the only official Kurdish government uses an Arabic alphabet for public documents, the Latin Kurdish alphabet remains widely used throughout the region by the majority of Kurdish-speakers.

21st century

In 2015, the government of Kazakhstan announced that a Kazakh Latin alphabet would replace the Kazakh Cyrillic alphabet as the official writing system for the Kazakh language by 2025.Kazakh language to be converted to Latin alphabet – MCS RK. (30 January 2015). Retrieved on 2015-09-28. There are also talks about switching from the Cyrillic script to Latin in Ukraine,WEB, Klimkin welcomes discussion on switching to Latin alphabet in Ukraine,weblink UNIAN (March 27, 2018), Kyrgyzstan,WEB, Moscow Bribes Bishkek to Stop Kyrgyzstan From Changing to Latin Alphabet,weblink The Jamestown Organization (October 12, 2017), WEB, Kyrgyzstan: Latin (alphabet) fever takes hold,weblink Eurasianet (September 13, 2019), and Mongolia.WEB, Russian Influence in Mongolia is Declining,weblink Global Security Review (March 2, 2019), In October 2019, the organization National Representational Organization for Inuit in Canada (ITK) announced that they will introduce a unified writing system for the Inuit languages in the country. The writing system is based on the Latin alphabet and is modeled after the one used in the Greenlandic language.WEB, Canadian Inuit Get Common Written Language,weblink High North News (October 08, 2019),

International standards

By the 1960s, it became apparent to the computer and telecommunications industries in the First World that a non-proprietary method of encoding characters was needed. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) encapsulated the Latin alphabet in their (ISO/IEC 646) standard. To achieve widespread acceptance, this encapsulation was based on popular usage.As the United States held a preeminent position in both industries during the 1960s, the standard was based on the already published American Standard Code for Information Interchange, better known as ASCII, which included in the character set the 26 × 2 (uppercase and lowercase) letters of the English alphabet. Later standards issued by the ISO, for example ISO/IEC 10646 (Unicode Latin), have continued to define the 26 × 2 letters of the English alphabet as the basic Latin alphabet with extensions to handle other letters in other languages.

As used by various languages

In the course of its use, the Latin alphabet was adapted for use in new languages, sometimes representing phonemes not found in languages that were already written with the Roman characters. To represent these new sounds, extensions were therefore created, be it by adding diacritics to existing letters, by joining multiple letters together to make ligatures, by creating completely new forms, or by assigning a special function to pairs or triplets of letters. These new forms are given a place in the alphabet by defining an alphabetical order or collation sequence, which can vary with the particular language.


Some examples of new letters to the standard Latin alphabet are the Runic letters wynn {{angle bracket|Ƿ/ƿ}} and thorn {{angle bracket|Þ/þ}}, and the letter eth {{angle bracket|Ð/ð}}, which were added to the alphabet of Old English. Another Irish letter, the insular g, developed into yogh {{angle bracket|Ȝ/ȝ}}, used in Middle English. Wynn was later replaced with the new letter {{angle bracket|w}}, eth and thorn with {{angle bracket|th}}, and yogh with {{angle bracket|gh}}. Although the four are no longer part of the English or Irish alphabets, eth and thorn are still used in the modern Icelandic and Faroese alphabets.Some West, Central and Southern African languages use a few additional letters that have a similar sound value to their equivalents in the IPA. For example, Adangme uses the letters {{angle bracket|Ɛ/ɛ}} and {{angle bracket|Ɔ/ɔ}}, and Ga uses {{angle bracket|Ɛ/ɛ}}, {{angle bracket|Ŋ/ŋ}} and {{angle bracket|Ɔ/ɔ}}. Hausa uses {{angle bracket|Ɓ/ɓ}} and {{angle bracket|Ɗ/ɗ}} for implosives, and {{angle bracket|Ƙ/ƙ}} for an ejective. Africanists have standardized these into the African reference alphabet.The Azerbaijani language also has the letter written as "Ə", which represents the near-open front unrounded vowel.


A digraph is a pair of letters used to write one sound or a combination of sounds that does not correspond to the written letters in sequence. Examples are {{angle bracket|ch}}, {{angle bracket|ng}}, {{angle bracket|rh}}, {{angle bracket|sh}} in English, and {{angle bracket|ij}} in Dutch. In Dutch the {{angle bracket|ij}} is capitalized as {{angle bracket|IJ}} or the ligature {{angle bracket|IJ}}, but never as {{angle bracket|Ij}}, and it often takes the appearance of a ligature {{angle bracket|ij}} very similar to the letter {{angle bracket|ÿ}} in handwriting.A trigraph is made up of three letters, like the German {{angle bracket|sch}}, the Breton {{angle bracket|c'h}} or the Milanese {{angle bracket|oeu}}. In the orthographies of some languages, digraphs and trigraphs are regarded as independent letters of the alphabet in their own right. The capitalization of digraphs and trigraphs is language-dependent, as only the first letter may be capitalized, or all component letters simultaneously (even for words written in titlecase, where letters after the digraph or trigraph are left in lowercase).


A ligature is a fusion of two or more ordinary letters into a new glyph or character. Examples are {{angle bracket|Æ/æ}} (from {{angle bracket|AE}}, called "ash"), {{angle bracket|Œ/œ}} (from {{angle bracket|OE}}, sometimes called "oethel"), the abbreviation {{angle bracket|&}} (from Latin et "and"), and the German symbol {{angle bracket|ß}} ("sharp S" or "eszet", from {{angle bracket|ſz}} or {{angle bracket|ſs}}, the archaic medial form of {{angle bracket|s}}, followed by a {{angle bracket|z}} or {{angle bracket|s}}).


File:Small a with acute.svg|thumb|upright=0.25|The letter {{angle bracket|a}} with an acute diacriticdiacriticA diacritic, in some cases also called an accent, is a small symbol that can appear above or below a letter, or in some other position, such as the umlaut sign used in the German characters {{angle bracket|ä}}, {{angle bracket|ö}}, {{angle bracket|ü}} or the Romanian characters ă, â, î, ș, ț. Its main function is to change the phonetic value of the letter to which it is added, but it may also modify the pronunciation of a whole syllable or word, or distinguish between homographs (such as the Dutch words (wikt:een|een) meaning "a" or "an", and (wikt:één|één), meaning "one"). As with letters, the value of diacritics is language-dependent.English is the only major modern European language requiring no diacritics for native words (although a diaeresis may be used in words such as "coöperation").As an example, an article containing a diaeresis in "coöperate" and a cedilla in "façades" as well as a circumflex in the word "crêpe" (JOURNAL, Anthony, Grafton,weblink Books: The Nutty Professors, The history of academic charisma, 2006-10-23, The New Yorker, )weblink" title="">"The New Yorker's odd mark{{snd}}the diaeresis"


Some modified letters, such as the symbols {{angle bracket|å}}, {{angle bracket|ä}}, and {{angle bracket|ö}}, may be regarded as new individual letters in themselves, and assigned a specific place in the alphabet for collation purposes, separate from that of the letter on which they are based, as is done in Swedish. In other cases, such as with {{angle bracket|ä}}, {{angle bracket|ö}}, {{angle bracket|ü}} in German, this is not done; letter-diacritic combinations being identified with their base letter. The same applies to digraphs and trigraphs. Different diacritics may be treated differently in collation within a single language. For example, in Spanish, the character {{angle bracket|ñ}} is considered a letter, and sorted between {{angle bracket|n}} and {{angle bracket|o}} in dictionaries, but the accented vowels {{angle bracket|á}}, {{angle bracket|é}}, {{angle bracket|í}}, {{angle bracket|ó}}, {{angle bracket|ú}} are not separated from the unaccented vowels {{angle bracket|a}}, {{angle bracket|e}}, {{angle bracket|i}}, {{angle bracket|o}}, {{angle bracket|u}}.


The languages that use the Latin script today generally use capital letters to begin paragraphs and sentences and proper nouns. The rules for capitalization have changed over time, and different languages have varied in their rules for capitalization. Old English, for example, was rarely written with even proper nouns capitalized; whereas Modern English of the 18th century had frequently all nouns capitalized, in the same way that Modern German is written today, e.g. ("All of the sisters of the old city had seen the birds").


Words from languages natively written with other scripts, such as Arabic or Chinese, are usually transliterated or transcribed when embedded in Latin-script text or in multilingual international communication, a process termed Romanization.Whilst the Romanization of such languages is used mostly at unofficial levels, it has been especially prominent in computer messaging where only the limited 7-bit ASCII code is available on older systems. However, with the introduction of Unicode, Romanization is now becoming less necessary. Note that keyboards used to enter such text may still restrict users to Romanized text, as only ASCII or Latin-alphabet characters may be available.

See also




  • {{Citation |last=Haarmann |first=Harald |title=Geschichte der Schrift |trans-title=History of Writing |language=German |publisher=C. H. Beck |location=München |edition=2nd |year=2004 |isbn=978-3-406-47998-4}}
{hide}Library resources box |by=no |onlinebooks=yes |others=yes |about=yes |label=Latin script
|viaf= |lccn= |lcheading= |wikititle= {edih}

Further reading

  • Boyle, Leonard E. 1976. "Optimist and recensionist: 'Common errors' or 'common variations.'" In Latin script and letters A.D. 400–900: Festschrift presented to Ludwig Bieler on the occasion of his 70th birthday. Edited by John J. O’Meara and Bernd Naumann, 264–74. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.
  • Morison, Stanley. 1972. Politics and script: Aspects of authority and freedom in the development of Graeco-Latin script from the sixth century B.C. to the twentieth century A.D. Oxford: Clarendon.

External links

{{Commons category|Latin alphabet}} {{Latin script}}{{ISO 15924/footer}}

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