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A proposed British Romance language

5. Orthography


  1. There may be further changes while the pages on Consonants and Vowels are also being developed and as the result of feedback. Also we hope that in the finalized version actual Britainese examples will be given in Section.
  2. The page contains IPA phonetic symbols, If you do not have proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of the correct Unicode characters.


  1. I have departed from IPA in the representation of mid vowels, and follow the long established academic practice when describing Vulgar Latin and the development of Romance languages, namely:

    [e]and [o] denote any front unrounded or back rounded mid vowel respectively, when the degree of height is either unknown, indeterminate or irrelevant;

    [ẹ] and [ọ] denote specifically high versions (IPA [e] and [o]);

    [ę] and [ǫ] denote specifically low versions (IPA [ɛ] and [ɔ]).

  2. Also [ə] denotes:

    - generally any reduced non-defined centralized vowel without reference to height;

    - in Late Britainese, a unstressed non-phonemic low-mid to near-low ([ɜ] to [ɐ]) central vowel, depending upon regional pronunciation.

5.1 Introduction

When the earliest documents in Britainese were written, scribes naturally used the Roman alphabet. The spoken language will not have evolved so far as to make Latin orthographic symbols unsuitable. This, indeed, applied to all the western Romance languages. As the languages developed, so did the orthography of those languages with the result that, except for French, the orthography more or less reflects the educated spoken form. French orthography has not radically changed since the 13th century and, therefore, has not kept pace with developments in the spoken language. This is especially noticeable in that the spelling has not reflected the monophthongization of earlier diphthongs and triphthongs and retains final consonants that are no longer pronounced.

We can safely assume that Britainese likewise would have continued using and adapting the Roman alphabet. Would the orthography have become as divorced from the spoken language as French orthography is? Would it to some extent be as chaotic as English in our timeline? It might be argued that French and English orthographies show an areal preference to hold onto traditional spellings which depart from later pronunciations. But this is hardly so.

Welsh, for example, has maintained an orthography that reflects pronunciation, i.e. it is what in popular parlance is called "phonetic."

Old English, likewise, was written in a fairly consistent spelling with Roman letters even though it was not a Romance language. This was swept away by the Norman Conquest when English itself was supplanted in law by Norman French for three centuries. By the time written English appears again English had borrowed a large number of French words with their French spellings and native English words were also spelled in a manner much influenced by Norman French conventions. The spelling of Middle English was irregular and inconsistent, the same word often being spelled in different ways in the same manuscript and even in the same sentence. Nevertheless, it was a much better guide to actual pronunciation than modern English. Unfortunately the series of linguistic changes, including the great Vowel shift, that accompanied the emergence of early modern English from late medieval Middle English were not reflected in re-alignment of spelling. This has resulted in our modern English orthography where most sounds can be spelled in several different ways and where most letters and combinations of letters can have several different pronunciations.

It will, however, be seen that the historic factors that affected the evolution of French and English orthographies in our timeline did not exist for Britainese in BART; in particular:

  • There was no Norman Conquest or any comparable conquest that would cause the spelling system of a different language from another language family to be imposed on Britainese;
  • There were no developments comparable to the Great Vowel Shift of 15th & 16th century England;
  • There was no general monophthongization of earlier diphthongs;
  • Final consonants did not fall silent.

There is, therefore, no reason to suppose that Britainese spelling will not remain more or less phonemic in that, as in Romance languages generally, the pronunciation of a given word can be predicted from its spelling, but some phonemes may be spelled in more than one way.


5.2 Early Britainese (approx. 6th to mid 14th century)

The pronunciation of Latin itself, however, and, indeed, its spelling was being contaminated by the development of local vernaculars. Thus, for example, there was confusion between i and e in the spelling of Latin words which originally had a short-i in the Classical language; similarly we find confusion between o and u in the spelling of many Latin words.

Also the emerging vernacular pronunciations meant that Latin ceased to be pronounced uniformly; thus while in north Gaul the Roman letters had the phonetic values of Merovingian Latin, so in Britain they will have assumed the values of Vectingian Latin, hence, e.g. while c still largely represented [k], before the vowel symbols e or i, it represented [ʦ] in north Gaul and [t͡ʃ] in Britain.

The late 8th century Carolingian reforms brought about the standardization of Latin orthography and syntax, but not of its pronunciation. Thus the spelling confusions in Latin itself disappeared as older forms were re-established, but Latin continued to be pronounced more or less according to local use (which remained the case until the Erasmian reforms eight centuries later). Thus the Carolingian reforms, which spread to Britain during the 9th century, largely eliminated the confusion between e and i, but c before the vowel symbols e or i continued to represent [ʦ] in north Gaul and [t͡ʃ] in Britain.

5.2.1 Simple Vowels
After the Carolingian reforms had spread to Britain the earlier confusion between e and i spellings in both Latin and Britainese disappeared. There remained, however, some confusion in the use of o and u as we shall see below.

The Roman alphabet had six vowel symbols: a e i o u y. The letter y, however, had been added to the Roman alphabet during the 1st century BC to denote the Greek /y/; the sound was not native to Latin. In Greek the sound eventually became unrounded and merged with /i/. In Late Latin y was pronounced the same as i, referred to as "Greek i" or, in Britainese i greg (cf. Portuguese & Galician i grego, Spanish i griega, Catalan & Occitan i grega, French i grec) and regarded as an alternative way of writing i and rarely used. It was also simply regarded as an alternative to u by early Britainese scribes and rarely used except by some in diphthongs, see below. We shall, therefore, not refer to y again in this subsection.

Like scribes in the other western Romance languages, the early scribes used the vowels of the Roman alphabet with the values of their regional pronunciation of Latin (see the introduction to section 5.2 above). Thus in early Britainee:
a, e. i, o, u were used to denote /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/ and /y/ respectively.

The early distinction of /ǫ/ and /ọ/ had given way to /o/ and /u/, but whether the language still distinguished /ę/ from /ẹ/ at this time cannot be determined as e was the only letter used for front mid vowels.

The scribes, however, had problems with the two non-Latin vowel sounds:

  • [ə] In the earliest French text, the 9th century Strasbourg Oaths, the scribe is at a loss how to represent the new sound [ə]. He denoted it variously as a, e and o in the same document, e.g. nostro, fradre, fradra, suo. We can expect the same sort of hesitancy by the early Britainese scribes. We know that in our timeline by the 12th century it was regularly denoted by e in French, as it was also in Middle English. We can, therefore, reasonably expect that after initial uncertainty by Britainese scribes, the sound eventually became denoted only by e.
  • [u] did not occur in the pronunciation of Latin in Britain or north Gaul, where Latin u was pronounced [y]. Thus, although in Britain and north Gaul the vernacular /y/ (← Latin ū) was written u and vernacular /ǫ/ (← Latin o), which shifted to /o/ in Britainese, was written o, there was confusion on both sides of the Channel regarding the spelling of /ọ/ (← Latin ō and Latin u), which shifted to /u/ in Britainese and in many environments also in French. We find that in Norman French the sound was written u, but elsewhere in French as o or ou. There is no reason to suppose any greater consistency in early Britainese. There were likely also to have been dialect differences; probably, as in our timeline, changes happened first in the London area and more northern and western areas were more conservative so we can expect scribes there to be using o while in the south-east u would have become more common. Also individual scribes may well have used both o and u for the same sound, choosing whichever letter the Latin original had.
5.2.2 Consonants
Like the other western Romance languages, the early scribes used the consonants of the Roman alphabet with the values of their regional pronunciation of Latin (see the inroduction to section 5.2 above). That meant in the case of Britainese that the letters b, d, f, k, l, m, n, p, r, t had basically the same sounds as they had had in Classical Latin and still retain in modern Italian and have in the International Phonetic alphabet. Of the other letters:
  • c and g retained the 'hard' pronunciation [k] and [ɡ] respectively, except before the letters e, i and the rarely used y, where they had their 'soft' sounds, i.e. [t͡ʃ] and [d͡ʒ] respectively.
  • đ was sometimes used to denote [ð]. See dh below.
  • h had long ago become silent in Latin. Thus, in Medieval texts, we find h being omitted, e.g. abere for Classical habere (cf. Old French aveir, avoir) or, sometimes, inserted where the Classical language did not have it, e.g. charta for carta. Also in the writing of vernaculars we find inconsistent use of h, with a tendency to omit it.
    Britainese scribes will, of course, have used h to denote [h] in Germanic loanwords; this will have increased to the tendency to omit h if it was silent.
    (For the digraphs ch, ph, rh and th, see below.)
  • j did not exist as a separate letter at this date and was written with the same symbol as the vowel i. It was the 15th century Italian Renaissance humanists who were responsible for making this distinction consistent and permanent; and even so it took some time for other countries to adopt this distinction. In Classical Latin the consonant i denoted [i̯] but, as we saw on the Consonants page the sound had become [d͡ʒ] in the early Romance languages, including Britainese.
    It meant that in Britainese (and several other languages) i did duty for both the vowel /i/ and the consonant /d͡ʒ/, but position normally made it clear which was which; if a vowel followed it was almost certainly the consonant, e,g, ianvair /d͡ʒan'vai̯r/; "January", but if a consonant followed it was certainly a vowel, e.g. uin /vin/ "wine." (As the latter example shows the same considerations applied to u which did duty for both the consonant /v/ and, as we have seen, for the vowel /y/ and sometimes /u/ - see v below.)
  • q was used in Latin only before the consonant u (see v below), thus, e.g. making it clear that qui = [kwiː] but cui - [kui̯]. As we saw on the Consonants page, Latin /kw/ remained only before /a/, having become /k/ before other vowels. The combination was, however, generally retained in the earliest western Romance texts, whether it denoted /kw/ or just /k/. There is no reason to suppose that scribes of early Britainese were any different. Thus we shall find both quatre /kwatrə/ "four" and qui /ki/ "who."
    It should be noted, however, that this was not the only way that /ki/ was written; there is no reason to suppose that the spellings chi and ki were not also used, just as they were in northern Gaul; see the digraph ch below. This suggests that the spelling qui was probably etymologizing and that, in pronouncing Latin, qu was more likely to be /kw/, especially in Britain where initial /w/ remained and did not, as in French, develop to /gw/ → /g/ and where initial /kw/ did not shift to /k/, cf. Britainese quatr /kwatr̩/, French quatre /katʁ/.
  • s was generally pronounced [s] in Britainese, but was voiced [z] when between vowels or word final. It was also voiced when before a voiced consonant, e.g. Israhel [izra'el]. Before a voiceless consonant it was [s]. The combination sc was normally pronounced [sk], but before e or i it was pronounced [ʃ] (as in the Britainese pronunciation of Latin).
  • v did not exist as a separate letter at this date and was written with the same symbol as the vowel u, not becoming a separate letter until the Renaissance (see j above). As with i, so with u, whether it was a consonant or a vowel was determined by position. If it occurred before a vowel (but see w below), it was a consonant, e.g. uenir /ve'nir/ "to come"; but after a consonant (except q, see above), it was a vowel, e.g. pur /pyr/ "pure". Between vowels it was a consonant, e.g. caual /ka'val/ "horse" (see also w below). A final u after a vowel was, potentially, ambiguous; however, recourse was often made to a supporting silent e was often used meaning sometimes that a written form had alternate pronunciations according to context, e.g. uiue /viv/ [masc.] ~ uiue /'vivə/ [fem.] = "alive, living."
  • w also did not exist as a separate letter in the early Roman alphabet; it was written, as its English name implies, uu and was used at first to denote [w] in words of Germanic origin, just as uu was in Old High German and Norman French (and, in our timeline, in Old English, though the runic ƿ "wynn" was more commonly used till the Normans made uu more popular); e.g. uuerre /wer(r)ə/ "war." The digraph uu continued to be used in Medieval Latin for /w/ in Germanic names through the Middle Ages; its development to a single letter was gradual, beginning, it seems with crossing the capitals VV in a ligature until it eventually fused into the single letter w.
  • x did not survive in Proto-Western-Romance, [ks] becoming [i̯s], e.g. sex → /sei̯s/. It occurred rarely and only in learned borrowings and, we may assume, was pronounced [ks] or [gz] according phonological environment.
  • z was a Greek letter added to the Roman alphabet in the 1st century BC to represent ζ in words borrowed from Greek. In the few words which survived in Vulgar Latin the sound was merged with that of Vulgar Latin j (see Consonants page Its use was rare in early Britainese and found only in borrowed words, e.g. baptizar (← Latin baptizāre ← Greek βαπτίζειν). It is unclear whether it was pronounced [z] or [dz].

Latin also had four digraphs used when transcribing Greek words: ch, ph, rh and th; these continued to be used in learned texts in transcribing Greek words. In addition, we find:

  • ch was used by some scribes both in Britain and in north Gaul (e.g. in the late 9th century Sequence of Saint Eulalia) to denote 'hard' /k/ before e and i, e.g. chi /ki/; other scribes in both countries used k, rarely used in Latin spelling, or qu (see q above). It also continued to written for /k/ in words of Greek origin, especially Christ and related words. It was used to represent [x] in the Gaelic loanword loch.
  • ph was used to represent the same sound as f above in words, mostly proper names, of Greek or Hebrew origin, e.g. Philip(p) /fi'lip/, Joseph /d͡ʒo'zef/.
  • rh was used to represent Greek initial ρ; also medial -ρρ- was transcribed as -rrh-; it was used only in the transcription of Greek words. It was pronounced the same way as r /r/ and was very rare in early Britainese texts.
  • th was used originally to transcribe Greek θ which in the Classical period was [tʰ] but had become [θ] in the Late Empire and has remained so till the present day. In our timeline it was used by Norman scribes to represent Old English [θ] and would undoubtedly have been used likewise in BART to represent [θ].

Two other digraphs were used by some early Britainese scribes:

  • dh was used in our time-line to represent the Old French [ð], together with just plain d in Strasburg Oaths of 842 AD; while in England, where [θ] and [ð] were allophonic variants, scribes used either þ (thorn) or ð (eth) to denote both sounds indifferently. The former letter was taken from the Runic alphabet and the latter was just a d, written in the insular script, with a stroke through it. The Runic alphabet in no more likely to have been known the Roman christian Britain of BART than it was in northern Gaul in our own time-line; nor is likely that in BART we would have seen the strange development of our time-line where Ð has the lower case form ð (in Nordic languages and the transcription of Old and Middle English) and đ (elsewhere in Europe, Africa and in Vietnam), as Britain was part of the Romance speaking world and thus more connected with its continental neighbors and less likely to have developed a separate "insular" style of writing under Irish influence.
    We find in mid 12th century manuscript of the 'Life of Saint Alexis', the scribe hesitates between d and th to represent [ð]. But, although the poem was composed inn the Île de France or, possibly, in that part of Normandy adjoining it, the earliest manuscript we have was written in England by an Anglo-Norman scribe. The Normans had rendered Old English þ / ð as th which, as we noted above, did duty for the allophonic variants [θ] ~ [ð]; only gradually during the Middle English period did /θ/ and /ð/ emerge as marginally distinct phonemes as they remain in modern English. In BART there was no English and no Anglo-Norman. The Britainese /θ/ and /ð/ came from quite different origins and there would have been no more reason to denote them by the same symbol or digraph any more than denoting /f/ and /v/ by the same symbol. Britainese scribes would have been well aware that /ð/ was cognate with a sound written d in Latin.
    We may, therefore, discount the Anglo-Norman th = /ð/ of our time-line, and safely assume that Britainese scribes represented /ð/ as dh or đ.
  • gh was used by some to denote /ɡ/ ('hard g') before e and i; gu was also sometimes also found for 'hard g', either on analogy with qu (see above) or through French influence.
5.2.3 Diphthongs (and vowel digraphs)
Late Latin had only one diphthong, [au̯] written au (but doubtless by those whose vernacular, like Britainese, had [eu̯] gave this pronunciation to eu in words like seu and neuter when reading Latin). The Classical Latin ae and oe had become monophthongs [ęː] and [ẹː] respectively and written ę or e in Medieval Latin. The only diphthong, therefore, directly inherited from Latin was [au̯]; but, as we saw on the Vowels page, Britainese had devoloped a series of falling diphthongs, some where the less prominent semivowel tends towards [i̯] and others it tends towards [u̯].

Diphthongs gliding towards [i̯]
These arose partly from lenition of intervocalic [d͡ʒd͡ʒ] in western Romance (see Consonants, partly the diphthongization of free Vulgar Latin tonic /ẹ/ (see Vowels but mainly from from depalatalization of earlier palatalized consonants, i.e. so-called 'glide metathesis (see Note 4 on the Consonants page).

We assume [ii̯] would have been realized as [i], in which case Proto-Britainese would have had the following diphthongs: /ai̯/, /ęi̯/, /ẹi̯/, /ǫi̯/, /ọi̯/ and /ui̯/.

When /u/ shifted to /y/, /ui̯/ would have shifted to /yi̯/; whether ui still retained a diphthongal pronunciation or had become simply /y/, we cannot tell. But we know such a change had happened by the Middle Britainese period.

Also how far early Britainese retained the other five diphthongs it is difficult to say as we find only ai, ei and oi in the written records. Whether ei did duty for both /ęi̯/ and /ẹi̯/ or whether the two earlier diphthongs had fallen together as /ei̯/, we cannot tell; similarly we cannot tell whether oi did duty for two phonemes or not. But it seems that when /ọ/ shifted to /u/, the first element of earlier /ọi̯/ remained lower than [u].

By the end of the early period it is likely that:

  • ai, ei and oi denoted just three phonemic diphthongs: /ai̯/, /ei̯/ and /oi̯/ respectively;
  • and ui was a digraph with the value /i/.

If, however, a vowel followed one of these diphthongs (or the digraph ui) then writing them with a final i would be identical with the consonant i (see j above) with the sound [d͡ʒ], e.g. *reial "royal" ← rēgāle(m) would suggest /re'd͡ʒal/ not /rei̯'al/. To avoid this the early scribes did just as they did in Gaul, i.e. used y for the second element; it is also likely that in Britainese just as in early French, the y in fact represented [i̯j], i.e. reyal /rei̯'jal/.

In theory a final i after a vowel was ambiguous; but in practice [d͡ʒ] was never represented that way in final position. In our timeline some scribes in Old French were content to write roi for "king", but we do find an increasing use of y in that position, and it also favored in English spellings. I see no reason to suppose that things were significantly different in BART; therefore, there is no reason to suppose that while some scribal school wrote "king" as rei others wrote it as rey.

Diphthongs gliding towards [u̯]
As we have seen, while some instances of /au̯/ were inherited directly from Vulgar Latin, other instances were derived from Vulgar Latin [aɫ]; the other diphthongs were derived from Vulgar Latin [ęɫ], [ẹɫ], [ǫɫ] and [ọɫ]. There were, apparently, no examples of Vulgar Latin [iɫ] and [uɫ]]; also, it should be noted that, unlike Old French, there was no secondary velarization of [ɫ] in early Britainese (see Consonants 3.2.3). Proto-Britainese then had the diphthongs /au̯/, /ęu̯/, /ẹu̯/, /ǫu̯/ and /ọu̯/.

For how long the distinction /ęu̯/ ~ /ẹu̯/ was maintained, we cannot tell as the diphthongs were both written eu; but they had probably fallen together before the end of the early period. Similarly both /ǫu̯/ and /ọu̯/ had been written ou; but when /ọ/ had shifted to /u/, it would seem, from odd spelling errors and from subsequent development in later Britainese, that /ọu̯/ shifted to /uu̯/ → /u/; the dippthong /ǫu̯/ remained a diphthong and, after the shift /ọ/ → /u/, became phonemically /ou̯/.

By the end of the early period it is appears that:

  • au, eu and, sometimes, ou denoted just three phonemic diphthongs: /au̯/, /eu̯/ and /ou̯/ respectively;
  • and that ou was also used as a a digraph with the value /u/.

As for the spelling of these diphthongs, while /au̯/ is found written ao in Italian, e.g. Paolo and has, historically, been found written ao in Occitan (where also /eu̯/ has historically been found written eo), it may be wondered if, when /u/ shifted to /y/, it was not found preferable by some scribes to write ao, eo etc. But in north Gaul where Vulgar Latin /u/ had also become /y/, there is no evidence that such spellings were used. Nor, in our timeline are falling diphthongs found with the second element written o in Welsh or in Middle English. I, therefore, find no good reason to suppose such spellings occurred in early Britainese. The spelling with -u persisted because:

  1. Both [y] and [u] are round vowels so the traditional spelling did not seem awkward;
  2. scribes were familiar with the speling au and, to a lesser extent, eu in Latin.

If, however, the diphthong was followed by a vowel, then the u would be identical to its use as the consonant /v/ (see v above). Almost certainly if this had occurred the scribes would have written the u doubled (see w above), e.g. auu, euu and ouu, but no instances of these diphthongs followed by a vowel are found in early Britainese. They did, however, occasionally occur in final position and some scribes write the u doubled to distinguish it from the consonant /v/. So we find, for example, that some scribes are happy to write "God" as Deu, but others write Deuu.


5.3 Middle Britainese (approx. mid 14th century to mid 16th century)

This was a time of change and development of the language. The following sound changes took place:

  • aphesis before s followed by a consonant;
  • general loss of [ə] in final post-tonic syllables;
  • the unrounding of [y] → [i].

Note: the order given above does not imply that this is the order in which the changes occurred. It is merely the order in which I shall consider them below. Indeed, we could not give the chronological order even if we wished to because we have no records of the spoken language and changes become reflected in writing spasmodically and usually well after they have been happening in speech. Also the changes will not have taken place everywhere at the same time and almost certainly these developments overlapped.

5.3.1 Aphesis before s followed by a consonant
In our timeline this was a common development in English, e.g. stable ← Old French estable (modern French étable), strange ← O.F. estrange, squire ← esquire ← O.F. escuier, spoil "booty" ← O.F. espoille, space ← O.F. espace and so on.

Also in Welsh we find that where the literary language has initial unstressed ys+consonant, colloquial Welsh has s+consonant; for example, sbyty (ysbyty "hospital"), sgrifennu (ysrifennu "to write"), sgubo (ysgubo "to sweep"), stafell (ystafell "room") and even 'steddfod (eisteiddfod). Is this known in Romance languages also?

Italian is, I suppose, the most well known example where this has happened. There it happened very early on. It may, however, be objected that Italian is not a western Romance language but belongs to the southern Italo-Romance group. However, we find that in western Romance aphesis also took place in Romansh dialects, c.f.

to writescrībereescribirescriureécrirescriverscrivere
to hopespērāreesperaresperarespérersperarsperare
tight, narrowstrictusestrechoestretétroitstretgstretto
study [noun]studiumestudioestudiétudestudistudio

Thus this feature is attested in our timeline in both the modern languages of southern Britain and within western Romance; thus I have no doubt that this is also a feature of Britainese. Indeed, it was probably already happening in some dialects in the early period; but it becomes general in this period.

5.3.2 General loss of [ə] in final post-tonic syllables
This has already been discussed on the Vowels page in sections and 4.5.2 and need not be discussed further here. It will have been seen that the final -e was also dropped in spelling. We can expect that this did not suddenly happen but was a gradual process during this period with spellings being more conservative than the spoken language.

But by the end of this period the final unpronounced -e had generally disappeared except where it was retained to show the 'soft' pronunciations of c, g and sc, e.g. place /plat͡ʃ/ "[town] square" (← *platʲa ← platea); juge /d͡ʒyd͡ʒ/ ~ /d͡ʒid͡ʒ/ "judge" (← *judce ← jūdice(m)); pesce /peʃ/ "fish" (← pisce(m)).

When the plural -s was added, the e was pronounced: places /'plat͡ʃəz/; juges /'d͡ʒyd͡ʒəz/ ~ /'d͡ʒid͡ʒəz/; pesces, pescᵉs /'peʃəz/.

5.3.3 The unrounding of [y] → [i]
We know that by the late period this change had taken place. But Latin continued to be pronounced according to local vernacular practice; thus as [y] shifted to [i], so the local pronunciation of Latin luna lucet became /'lina 'lit͡ʃet/. There scribes carried on writing the new sound with u as this was now its Latin sound as well. It means it is difficult to date when the change took place; in any case it would not have happened everywhere at the same time. A growing uncertainty about spelling with u or ui noticed in some texts may indicate uncertainty about the new sound; indeed, it has been suggested that the increase in spellings such as luin "moon"(← lūna) and puir "pure" (← pūr-) were understood to mean "u pronounced like i."

More clearly indicative are rhymes in verse where, for example, we find lun "moon" rhyming with uin (i.e. vin) "wine." However, it is likely that a scribe from another an area where Latin u was pronounced /u/ would find this odd and make mistakes; while u was pronounced [y], such a scribe would readily accept [y] and [u] as allophones of the same Latin sound. But when u is pronounced [i] exactly the same as i, things are rather different; and, indeed, we do find errors where, e.g. lun is written lin and hypercorrections such as fug for fig "fig."

5.3.4 Other developments
In our timeline we find that in French and particularly in Anglo-Norman there is fluctuation in the use of double consonants, reflecting the etymologizing and Latinizing tendency of scribes, and the more common and phonetic use of single consonants. There is no reason to suppose there would not have been similar fluctuation in Britainese in BART. Only in the case of s did such doubling have any phonetic significance: single s between consonants or word final after a vowel = [z], while ss between vowels or word final after a vowel = [s].

The digraph uu /w/ becomes regularly written as a ligature and, in effect, has developed into w by the end of this period. Whether ou is a diphthong or whether it merely represents /u/ is not always clear; and the spelling of /u/ continued to show fluctuation between o and ou, with etymology often, though not always, the determining factor.

5.4 Late Britainese (approx. mid 16th century till the present)

It was in this period that the orthography became standardized. There were two important events that contributed to this:

5.4.1 The Introduction of Printing
The introduction of the moveable type printing press in Germany in the mid 15th century heralded great changes. By the end of that century printing presses in operation throughout Western Europe had already produced more than twenty million copies; and in the following century, their output rose tenfold to an estimated 150 to 200 million copies. This meant that reading and writing were no longer confined largely to religious orders, the clergy and the legal profession. It began the democratization of knowledge.

This had profound sociological consequences. We are concerned here, however, with the effect on the orthography. As the reading public grew there was less tolerances of confusing variations in spelling; Printers themselves also wished to reduce or eliminate variation. Both these factors worked strongly in favor of standardizing the orthography.

5.4.2 The Renaissance (14th - 17th centuries)
This began as a cultural movement in late Medieval Italy and then gradually spread to the rest of Europe, marking the beginning of the Early Modern Age. It was marked by a return to Classical norms of Latin and the rediscovery of Classical Greek language, literature and philosophy. Its intellectual basis was its own "humanism" derived from notions such as that of the pre-Socratic philosopher, Protagoras, who said "Man is the measure of all things" (πάντων χρημάτων μέτρον ἄνθρωπος). This new way of thinking brought about a revolution in art, architecture, politics, science and literature. It also affected language, which is chiefly our concern here; in particular:
  • Reform of script;
  • Restoration of classical spelling of Latin;
  • Introduction of Greek inspired diacritics in written vernacular languages. Reform of script
The Blackletter script, also misleadingly called "Gothic script", had spread through western Europe from the mid 12th century and had developed various national styles; there was, for example, a version sometimes (also misleadingly) called "Old English" (long after Old English had given way to Middle English) in our timeline and, doubtless, there was a "Britannic" variety in BART. The Italian humanists restored the Classical Roman capitals and, thinking (mistakenly) that Carolingian minuscule script was of ancient Roman origin, developed the humanist minuscule script; this became the model for the typesetter's Roman typeface, as it was standardized by Aldus Manutius and thus formed the modern Latin Roman alphabet both in our timeline and in BART.

This did not, however, change the orthography. One Italian humanist, Gian Giorgio Trissino, did do so. In his 1524 essay, Ɛpistola del Trissino de le lettere nuωvamente aggiunte ne la lingua Italiana, he proposed adding five new letters to the Italian alphabet. Three (Ɛ ε [ɛ], Ⲱ ω [ɔ] and Ӡ ç [d͡z]) did not catch on, but two did, and not only in Italian but generally throughout western and central Europe; they were the consonants J j and V v which he formally and consistently distinguished from the vowels I i and U u respectively (interestingly, modern Italian has now largely dispensed with j except in proper names). When these innovations reached Britain, Britainese had J j = [d͡ʒ], I i = [i] and [i̯] as a second element of a diphthong, and V v = [v] while U u = [i] or [u̯] as second element of a diphthong or [w] in the combination Qu, qu = [kw].

Thus it was in this period that the letters j, v and w were formally added to the alphabet. Restoration of classical spelling of Latin
Medieval Latin orthography differed in several ways from that of Classical Latin; nor, indeed, was its orthography standard, but was influenced by vernacular pronunciations and spellings, and thus varied between different European countries. Standardization of written single and geminate consonants
As we have seen (5.3.4 above), single consonants were doubled and geminate consonants written as single consonants, e.g. tranquillitas ~ tranquilitas, Africa ~ Affrica. Italian has retained phonetically (and phonologically) distinct geminate and single consonants, but in the western Romance languages gemination ceased to be distinctive. However, only Spanish consistently shows this in its spelling. I see no reason to suppose that in BART also the Classical spellings would have been restored in Latin and that the fluctuation in the use of double consonants in Middle Britainese would not have given way to standard spelling of single or double consonants according to etymology (also, recall from 5.3.4 above that intervocalic and word final spellings s and ss denoted different sounds). Restoration of written classical Latin h
We saw that Classical /h/ became silent in Vulgar Latin ( and, therefore, in regional pronunciations of Latin. Thus, in Medieval texts, we find h being omitted, e.g. abere for Classical habere, or inserted where the Classical language did not have it, e.g. charta for carta. Of the Romance languages, only Italian has generally omitted h in spelling, retaining it only in the words ho "I have," hai "thou hast," ha "[he/she/it] has," hanno "[they] have," a few interjections (e.g. oh!, ah!, ahi!, ahimé!), and in the digraphs ch and gh to denote /k/ and /g/ before e and i. The western Romance languages have continued to use h, both as a silent letter (cf. English borrowings from Old French, e.g. hour, honest, honour) and to show a 'modified' sound of another consonant. As in our-timeline, so in BART Latin spellings would have had their Classical forms restored; and there is no reason to suppose that Britainese would not have continued, as French, Spanish and Portuguese have done, to use silent h in Latin derived words beginning with h (for digraphs with h, see below).

Also h had always been written for [h] in Germanic and other borrowings, e.g. harp "harp", helm "helm(et)", hal "hall, large place covered by a roof." With the wholesale restoration of silent Latin h, some attempted to mark h = [h]; following established precedents, we find hh ("modified h") whereas others, influenced by đ, used ħ. Some even introduced the Greek 'breathing' diacritics thus (silent) and [h] (see subsection below). This is discussed further in subsection below. Standardization of use of i and y as vowels
As knowledge of Greek became rare in western and central Europe in the Middle Ages, we find that in loanwords from Greek and foreign names transmitted through Greek, i (ī) and y (ī graeca) tended to be used more or less interchangeably, e.g. Ysidorus ~ Isidorus, Egiptus ~ Egyptus. This was also found sometimes in pure Latin word and, indeed, survived in sylva (Classical silva "wood[land]") into the 18th century, probably due to false etymology relating it to Greek ὕλη (hýlē), cf. English sylvan and, indeed, Pennsylvania.

Greek came to be read in Greek script so that any confusion between i (ι) and y (υ) 'automatically' resolved itself; and, apart from odd exceptions, e.g. silva ~ sylva, the Classical spellings were restored in Latin. Most western Romance languages now write the sound as i whether it is derived from Latin i or Greek υ via Latin y. But French has continued to write i or y according to etymology, just as English has in our-time line. It is likely that Britainese would have behaved like French in this respect, thus, e.g.

lyre liraliraliralyr /lir/
psychologie psicologiapsicologíapsicologiapsychologí /psikolo'd͡ʒi/ Classical -ti- restored before a vowel
Before a vowel, Classical -ti- was often written as -ci-, e.g. natio ~ nacio. In the Renaissance the -ti- spelling was restored in Latin. Spanish has retained the Medieval c, e.g. nación, whereas in many words French and English have restored -t-, thus Old French nacion and Middle English nacioun have become nation in modern French /na.sjɔ̃/ and English /ˈneɪ̯ʃən/. It is, therefore, likely Britainese would have behaved in much the same way, e.g. Middle Britainese nacioun(e) /na't͡ʃ(j)un(ə)/ → natioun /na't͡ʃ(j)un/.

The sound in theory is /t͡ʃj/ but the palatals [ʃ, ʒ, t͡ʃ, d͡ʒ] would almost certainly have occasioned yod-dropping as, e.g., in English chute /ʃuːt/, chew /t͡ʃuː/, juice /d͡ʒuːs/ (except in those few dialects which have not changed early modern English [ɪʊ̯] to [juː]).

This of course applies to learned words borrowed directly from Latin, not to words inherited through Vulgar Latin. It means that, like French and English several other languages, Britainese will have doublets such as:

  • rasioun /ra'ʒun/ ← VL ratióne "reason" cf. French raison, Spanish razón, Portuguese razão, Italian ragione.
  • ratioun /ra't͡ʃ(j)un/ ← CL ratiōne(m) "ration" cf. French ration, Spanish ración, Portuguese ração, Italian razione.

In English and French in our timeline, this does not apply to initial ti- followed by a vowel, but here the situation is not as it would in Britainese; English tiara has three syllable /tiˈɑːɹə/ and the initial sounds of French tiare are [tj] whereas the -ti- in nation is [sj]. But in Britainese the -ti- in natioun is [t͡ʃ], just like the t in, e.g. nature and nurture in modern English in our timeline; this is known as yod-coalscence (i.e. [t]+[j] → [t͡ʃ]). This is common in parts of Britain and in southern hemisphere English where, e.g. tune is pronounced [t͡ʃuːn]. Although Welsh has resisted this tendency, we find similar phenomenon in Cornish and Gaelic, so we may assume some sort of areal feature. It is, therefore, likely that, especially under the influence of words like natioun, the initial [tj] of words like tiar(e) would have become [t͡ʃ]. Restored æ and œ limited to unassimilated Latin words and phrases
We saw in 4.3.1 that the Classical diphthongs ae and oe had become simple vowels in Vulgar Latin, becoming /ę/ and /ẹ/ respectively. As early as the 4th century we find both these former diphthongs being written simply as e, and this became the norm in Medieval Latin. But also from the 9th century we find e caudata ("tailed e"), i.e. ę used for the old ae diphthong. This seems to be used to keep various grammatical endings distinct, rather than to denote any special pronunciation. The symbol is, however, used in Middle and Early Modern Irish manuscripts for e, ae and ea and in Old Norse to represent [æ]; but here is no reason to suppose it would have been used in Britainese any more than it was in other Romance languages.

The Renaissance did, however, restore the spellings ae and oe, often as the ligatures æ and œ, in Latin; but this did not affect the Romance languages, except for French in words such as the words mœurs ("mores"), cœur ("heart"), sœur ("sister"), œuf ("egg"), œuvre ("work") and œil ("eye"). Normally the ancient ae and oe remained just e in the Romance languages, and there is no good reason to suppose that in BART Britainese would have behaved differently, e,g:

CaesarCésar CèsarCésarCésar Cesar
archeologiaarchéologiearqueologiaarqueologíaarqueologia archeologí
OedipusŒdipeÈdipEdipoÉdipo Édip
oeconomiaéconomieeconomiaeconomíaeconomia economí

The ligatures, however, would, as in French, be used, pronounced as /e/, in Latin expressions such as ex æquo and unassimilated words of Latin and Greek origin, e.g. tænia ("tapeworm") and œstrus ("gadfly, bot") for the common verm solitair and tavoun respectively. When words are assimilated the sound is, as the table above shows, simply written as e, e.g. the "estrous cycle" is cycl estral /t͡ʃikl̩ es'tral/. Where the vowels are written separately, they are pronounced separately, e.g. cöefficient /koefi't͡ʃjent/. As the sounds [ø] and [œ] do not exist in Britainese, there will be no usage like those in the French words listed in the paragraph above the table. Introduction of Greek inspired diacritics in written vernacular languages
In the Middle Ages neither in BART nor in our timeline were diacritics used, except for the occasional use of the Roman apex, which was later confused with the Greek acute accent. This was occasionally used to show word stress, or that two contiguous vowels were pronounced separately or to distinguish i from adjoining letters (the latter use eventually became the dot we place over lower-case i and j today).

From the late 15th century grammarians and printers began using accents and other symbols found in Byzantine Greek texts. During the 16th century in our timeline there was a good deal variation in the use of these symbols, some making liberal use of them, others being more conservative; there is no reason to suppose that things would have been substantially different in BART; thus we may assume that similarly in Britain there were those making liberal use of these diacritics in writing Britainese (even to the extent of distinguishing mute h from /h/ by using the Greek breathings thus and respectively), while there were others who were far more conservative.

By the 18th century, both in our time-line and in BART, there was a reaction against the illogicalities and contradictions of earlier theorists and a desire for the suppression of personal caprice and the establishment of a norm. All western and Romance languages and Italian went through similar processes. Some, like French and Portuguese, use many of the Byzantine derived diacritics, others like Spanish and Italian use few. Of the Byzantine accents, the grave and circumflex were dropped and only the acute retained, partly because it was similar to the Roman apex which, as we saw above, had been occasionally used to show word stress and partly because it was the most common of the three symbols used to show word stress in Byzantine Greek.

The apostrophe and diaeresis were also retained with their Greek usage, thus:

  • the acute ( ´ ), though not to denote all stressed vowels but only irregular stress, e.g. Édip, psychologí;
  • the diaeresis ( ¨ ) to show that a vowel, which would normally have become a semivowel, remains a syllabic nucleus, e.g. cöefficient [ku.əfi't͡ʃent] (not [kwəfi't͡ʃent]);
  • the apostrophe ( ’ ), as in Greek, modern English and many western languages, to show elision of a sound.

For the use of the underdot beneath h, see subsection below. Diacritics of other origin are sometimes found in unassimilated foreign words, e.g. French façade; in later texts we find it given the Britainese spelling fassad.

5.4.3 Spellings are standardized Standardized spelling of [ð]
We saw above in 5.2.2 above, in early Britainese /ð/ was written as đ or dh; this use by different scribes continued during the middle Britainese period. In our own time-line in both English and Welsh we see variants of d with a stroke used to denote this sound (i.e. ð or đ or d with hook on ascender); and in Welsh we also find that digraphs dh and dd were used. In English, as noted above in 5.2.2, the Anglo-Norman digraph th was used for both /θ/ and /ð/, but we explained there why th would not have been used for /ð/ in Britainese.

But what we do see is that in both English and Welsh in our time-line, d with a stroke was discontinued and a digraph became standard. There is no reason to think that things would have different in Britain in BART; we may, therefore, be confident that đ would have fallen out of use and that /ð/ was consistently written dh in late Britainese. Standardized spelling of [h]
In section above that Latin initial h was restored in Britainese spelling, even though the sound had fallen silent centuries ago, and that some tried to mark the initial [h] still pronounced in words of Germanic origin. The use was the Greek 'breathings' over or before h (i.e. ̓H, h̓ 'silent' and ̔H, h̔ [h]) was considered eccentric and never caught on. As we saw in the section above that there was a reluctance to add a new letter by modifying one with a stroke through it or attached to it; if đ was dropped in favor of dh, then a new fangled ħ was not likely to catch on, especially as there was no agreement how the capital H with a bar or stroke should be written.

The digraph hh continued to be used by some, but others found it clumsy and continued just to write a single h. Eventually, however, as a compromise when h = [h], it was marked with an underdot, e.g. ḥarp, Ḥounan, Taj Maḥal. Standardized spellings of [i]
In earlier Britainese /i/ could be written as i or y and, when earlier [y] shifted to [i], also by u and ui. We saw in subsection that i and y had been used interchangeably in Middle Britainese, but that with the renewal of classical scholarship, etymological spellings became standard, i.e. Latin i and Greek ι were spelled i and Greek υ was spelled y.

However, when [y] had shifted to [i], it was noticed by some scholars that Britainese u was then behaving in a way not dissimilar from υ in Greek, i.e.

  • initial or after a consonant = [i];
  • ou (ου) = [u];
  • after a (α) and e (ε) it formed a 'diphthong': au [au̯], eu [eu̯] ~ αυ [av], ευ [ev].

They proposed, therefore, that y should be dropped and Greek υ always be transcribed as u, e.g. lur "lyre", Egupt "Egypt."

Others, however, pointed out that the Greek 'diphthongs' were not the same as the Britainese ones and that there was no Greek parallel to qu [kw]. Rather, they maintained, u should be retained only in the combinations au, eu, ou and qu and that where u = [i] it should be replaced by y, e.g. lyn "moon", pyr "pure."

These various proposals were, however, generally felt to be the eccentric theories of academics and, just as etymology had earlier prevailed over the question of i and y (see above), so too etymology prevailed with u. In short, the sound [i] was more often written i but where it derived from Greek υ it was written y and where it was derived from Latin u it was written u, thus: lyr, Egypt, lun, pur.

In section 4.5.7 we saw that /i/ before another vowel became a semi-vowel [j], e.g. myopí [mju'pi] "short-sightedness, myopia." But the combinations ui, iu, yi, iy may be pronounced [ji] or [i] (some of those combinations are rare and, for reasons given above, neither uy not yu will occur). Standardized spellings of [j]
Britainese certainly has the sound [j], but whether it has the phoneme /j/ is more problematic. An important difference between English in our timeline and Britainese is that English inherited many words beginning with /j/ from Old English, where it was spelled g before front vowels. In Middle English the sound was written as ȝ (yogh). With the advent of printing, y became used instead of ȝ, hence the modern English practice of spelling /j/ as y. Britainese, however:
  • inherited VL initial /j/ as /d͡ʒ/;
  • did not use the letter ȝ (which in any case did not exist anywhere in BART as a separate letter but was only an uncial variant of g).
Old and Middle Britainese would not have had words beginning with /j/ and spelled with initial y.
Old and Middle Britainese [j] occurred as:
  1. semi-vocalic equivalent of /i/ before a vowel (whether this should be considered an allophone of /i/, or whether as a separate phoneme is debatable).
    In this position it was variously spelled as i or y or, when /y/ shifted to /i/, as u. In the subsection above we saw that in later Britainese, /i/ was written as y only it was derived from Greek υ and u only where it was derived from Latin u; elsewhere it was written as i. Exactly the same applies the to the spelling of [j] as an allophone of /i/, e.g. hyen [jen] "hyaena" ← Latin hyæna ← Greek ὕαινα; manual [mə'njal] (cf. French manuel [ma.nɥęl]) "manual" ← Latin manuāle(m).
    It will be seen, therefore, that initial [j] would occur only where in Greek or Latin derived words where it had once been preceded by [h] and hence have been written as hi, e.g. hiat [jat] "hiatus", or as hy, i.e. hyen [jen] "hyaena" (in theory it could also be hu before a vowel, but this did not occur).
  2. a reflex of Vulgar Latin /dj/, /gj/ or /jj/ which in Britainese became [i̯j] (or [i̯] when word final). There was no inherited etymological spelling for this. But as we saw in 5.2.3 above, as word final it was variously written as i or y according to scribal preference and between vowels it was written as y.

    When the spelling of /i/ became standardized (see I see no reason to suppose that final i did not become the standard just as it did in French in our timeline, thus, e.g. poi [pwi] (← podiu(m)) "elevated place, balcony"; rai [rəi] (← radiu(m)) "ray, beam (of light or radiation)."

    When in France i replaced earlier y spellings, y was retained where it was etymological (i.e. in words of Greek origin; see subsection above) and where it was equivalent to [i̯j]. Would Britainese have acted likewise or would all non-etymological uses of y would have been regularized as i? There are arguments for both outcomes. But on an earlier version of this page I pointed out that in contrast to Spanish, on the two fringes of the Iberian peninsula we find Catalan and Portuguese both using i in this position and I suggested that Britain on the northern fringe of western Romance might do the same.

If i = [j] did become regularized in this way then the 'natural' way to write initial [j] in foreign borrowings would be i ; cf.
(Our time-line only)(Our time-line & BART) (BART)

English and Welsh do not exist in BART, but are included here since English gives the meaning and the Welsh forms show that this use of i is not foreign to Britain (Welsh does not, however, have its own word for coyote but either uses the English or blaidd y paith "prairie wolf").
The diaeresis in the Britainese cöiot [ku'jot] is needed as *coiot would be read as [kwi'jot]. Standardized spellings of [w]
Although ȝ (yogh) did not exist as a separate letter in BART, the letter w, however, as we saw in section 5.3.4 above, already existed as a separate letter from the later Middle Britainese period to denote [w], e.g. wardir "to guard, protect", wastel "cake", wer(re) "war", wesp(e) "wasp", west "west" wis(e) "manner, way" (letters in parenthesis show old Britainese sounds that were subsequently lost).

Also we find in Old Britainese Swene, Swane (cf. in Swane. Suane in 12th & 13th century Anglo-Norman of our timeline; also Gaelic Suain) and Middle Britainese Swede, Swedne, Sweden from Low German (Modern Britainese Swedn = "Sweden"); also in middle Britainese we find both Swisse and Switzer/ Switser /'switsər/ being used to mean a "Swiss (person)" (in Late Britainese: Swiss /swis/ "Swiss" [noun and adj.], Swister /swis'ter/ "Switzerland").

We saw also in that unstressed /o/ before another vowel (except in the digraph ou /u/) was pronounced [w], e.g. noit [nwit], "night", Joan [ʒwan] "John", This occurred almost entirely after a consonant, as in the examples given. It did, however, occasionally occur initially , e.g. oit [wit] "eight", oil [wil] "eye" where oi had earlier been [ui̯] but later shifted to [wi] (see

One should also remember that [w] continued to be written as u in the combination qu [kw], e.g. quatr [kwatr̩] "four", questioun [kwəs't͡ʃun] or [kwəʃ't͡ʃun] "question".

However, the weakening of unstressed /o/ [u] → [w] was felt to be just that, a weakening of vowel, and to be a Britainese peculiarity; the use of qu = [kw] was recognized as a Latinism. The 'natural' way to spell [w] was felt to be with the distinctive letter w, e.g.

  • wadi ['wadi] "a valley, ravine, or channel dry except in the rainy season, wadi" (← Arabic: وَادِي‎, wādī);
  • wigwom [wig'wom] "wigwam", (← Western Abenaki wigwôm);
  • wambad [wəm'bad] "wombat" (← Dharug *wambad);
  • diwali [di'wali] "diwali [Autumn festival of light observed by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs]" (← Hindi दिवाली [d̪ɪ.ʋäː.l̪iː]);
  • kiwi ['kiwi] "kiwi [flightless bird endemic to New Zealand, in the genus Apteryx]" (← Maori kiwi). Spelling of [k] and [ɡ]
In Latin originally [k] was written c and [ɡ] as g but, as we saw in subsection, c and g came to acquire 'soft sounds' of [t͡ʃ] and [d͡ʒ] before the vowels e, i and y. This has remained unchanged till the present day in Britainese. Even when [u] had shifted → [y] → [i], these letters kept their 'hard' value, thus. e.g. cub [kib] "cube", segur [sə'ɡir] "sure, safe, certain."

We saw in 5.2.2 above that [ki] could be written in early Britainese as qui, chi or ki and it was thought that qui was an etymologizing spelling and that chi and ki were the more common ways.

The combination ch was familiar from its Roman use in transcribing Greek χ; it was well known from its use in Christus ← Χριστός /kʰri:stós/. We find in our timeline the Medieval Latin the spellings michi ['miki] and nichil ['nikil] for Classical mihi and nihil where the medial [h] was preserved as [k] in these words after /h/ had fallen silent. So in those areas north of the Joret line we find ch as a way of spelling [k] before e, i and y as, e.g., in the 9th century 'Sequence of Saint Eulalia', composed in the Picard-Walloon area, where we find [ki] consistently written chi and [kielt] (← calet "it matters, it concerns") written chielt.

South of this line, ch had been put to a different use. Here, where 'soft-c' had become [ʦ] and [ka] had become [t͡ʃæ], the digraph ch was used to represent [t͡ʃ] (from there it was later brought to England after the Norman conquest). Here we find [ki] commonly spelled ki and, indeed, k commonly used for [k] before e, i and y, as e.g, in the 11th century 'Life of Saint Alexis', composed in or near the Île de France, in the early 12th century 'La Chanson de Roland', composed in Normandy near the île de France, and in other works of the 12th century.

However, in north France qu also continued to used before e and i to represent[k] and when [w] was lost after [k] in words such as quatre and quand and initial gu [ɡw] ← Germanic [w] was reduced to [ɡ], the digraphs qu and gu were used to denote [k] and [ɡ] before e and i; the letter k eventually dropped out of use until it was revived by the French Revolution in the prefix kilo- and is used in words of foreign origin, e.g. kepi (← Swiss German Käppi, diminutive of German Kappe), kangourou (← Guugu Yimidhirr gangurru).

In Britainese, however, initial Germanic [w] was retained, so there were no spellings of gu = [ɡw] (the uncommon Latin gu did not survive into Britainese) and, therefore, there was no rationale for spelling 'hard-g' as gu. Indeed, when gu was introduced later in learned borrowings directly from Latin it was pronounced [ɡy] or, later, [ɡi], e.g. bilingual /bilin'ɡial] /[bi.liŋ'ɡjal]. As Latin spelling had already inherited some consonant+h digraphs and the spelling ch was used as a possible way of spelling [k], it was 'natural' to adopt gh for [ɡ] before e, i or y.

Nor in early Britainese was there any pressure to spell 'hard-c' as qu since [kw] was retained in words such as quatr(e) and quand (also Latin qu seems generally to have been pronounced [kw] by Britainese scholars). We have seen that though k had been widely used in 12th century French, it was eventually dropped; indeed, the letter k is not much liked in the Romance languages generally (and even in English it is the fifth least frequently used letter) so it is likely that in BART Britainese will have followed suit and eventually dropped k except, like French, Spanish, Italian etc., in words of foreign origin. In other words, [k] before e, i and y was written ch.

But note that the uses of gh and ch were not parallel:

  • [ɡ] before a, o, u or a consonant is always written g;
  • [ɡ] before e, i or y is always written gh;
  • [k] before a, o, u or a consonant may be written as c or ch *;
  • [k] before e, i or y is always* written ch;
* or, more rarely, may be written k in more recent words of foreign origin. Spelling of [s] and [z]
Sections 5.2.2 and 5.3.4 above show that as in English and French in our timeline, so in BART Britainese is likely to spell [z] more often than not with s. With the dropping of unstressed [ə] in final syllables, we shall find that the plural of nouns is indicated simply by the ending -s. There is no reason to suppose that this will behave any differently than the corresponding ending in English, i.e. it is normally [z], but is [s] after [f] and voiceless plosives.

We also saw in section 5.2.2 that s was also voiced when before a voiced consonant, e.g. Isra(h)el [izra'el]. In Old English we do in fact find s = [s] before voiced consonants, e.g. slāw "sluggish, inert, slothful, late, tardy, torpid, slow", smæl "small, narrow, slender", sneġel "snail." The initial combinations sl and sn did not occur in Latin; the initial combination did occur, but only in words of Greek origin where the initial sound was pronounced [zm] as, indeed, the spelling variants zm show, e.g. smaragdus ~ zmaragdus [zmaˈraɡdʊs] "emerald, beryl, jasper, malachite", Smyrna ~ Zmyrna ['zmyrna] "Smyrna". There can be no doubt that the voicing of s before all voiced consonants applied equally to word initial position in Britainese just as it does in modern Italian today.

In section 5.2.2 we saw that z was rare in early Britainese and occurred only in learned words borrowed from Greek. It will have continued to be uncommon, occurring almost exclusively in borrowed words. Whatever pronunciation may have been given to it by scholars in the early period, there is no reason to doubt that in late Britainese it was pronounced [z] just as it is modern French, Occitan, Catalan and, except often in word final position, in Portuguese, that is in all modern western Romance languages except Spanish (where z = [θ] or [s] according to dialect).

We can summarise thus: Spelling of [s]
  1. s before a vowel if word initial or syllable initial after a consonant;
  2. s before hard c [k], or before f, k, p, q or t; *
  3. ss if between vowels or at the end of a word;
  4. s if word final after c, f, k, p or t;
* s + soft c = [ʃ]; see section below. Spelling of [z]
  1. z in any position;
  2. s before before b, d hard g [ɡ], l, m, n, r, v or w;
  3. s if between vowels or at the end of a word;
  4. s if word final after b, d hard g [ɡ], l, m, n, r, v or w;
Note: s is not found before soft g [d͡ʒ], j, h, x or z. Spelling of /t͡ʃ/ and /d͡ʒ/
We have seen that 'soft-c' and 'soft-g' (i.e. Vulgar Latin [kʲ] and [ɡʲ]) became [t͡ʃ] and [d͡ʒ] in Britainese; the 'soft' sounds continued to be written as c and g as, indeed, they were in all Romance languages, e.g. cent [t͡ʃent] "hundred", gendre [d͡ʒendrə] (late Britainese gendr [d͡ʒendr̩]) "sort, type, kind." Just as in English in our timeline, gg before e, i or y is pronounced [d͡ʒ] in Britainese, e.g. suggestioun [sid͡ʒəs'tjun, sid͡ʒəs't͡ʃ(j)un], and similarly, unlike English, cc before e, i or y is pronounced [t͡ʃ], e.g. accent [ə't͡ʃent].

We have seen also that in medieval Latin, Classical Latin ti before a vowel became written as ci, therefore in learned borrowings we find nacioune, inicial etc. where ci was, in theory, [t͡ʃj] but is likely in practice to have become simply [t͡ʃ]. Thus we find also comenciar /komen't͡ʃ(j)ar/ ← Vulgar Latin *comɪntjáre (CL com- + initiāre), where 1st persons singular, present was usually spelled comence /ko'ment͡ʃə/. Similarly it is likely that /d͡ʒj/ in learned borrowings such as legioun(e) and regioun(e) is, in practice prounced simply [d͡ʒ],

We have seen also in subsection 4.5.2 that 'soft-c' and 'soft-g' might also be spelled ce and ge before a vocalic sonorant, e.g. angel [and͡ʒl̩] ← early Britainese angele ['and͡ʒlə].

This had the unfortunate effect of making final -cel and -gel ambiguous as to pronunciation. Final syllables ending in any consonant other than single -s were stressed on the final syllable, hence, e.g. castel [kəs'tel] "castle, fortress" ← castellu(m); cancel [kən't͡ʃel] "lattice, barrier, screen, railings" ← cancellu(m).

This led some to adopt the spelling ang'l since, e.g. angl ['aŋɡl̩] "angle" ← angulu(m) is regularly stressed and has no accent, they argued that [and͡ʒl̩] should also not be written with an acute accent to show irregular stress. However, the acute accent is part of the written, not the spoken and if the written angel was not accent on -el, it should be written ángel; this practise prevailed and became standard. Moreover, is there really any essential difference between ['and͡ʒəl] and ['and͡ʒl̩]? Also, it will be remembered that in 4.5.2 we saw that syllabic sonorants and svarabhakti vowel + sonorant were variants. Spelling of [t͡ʃ]
The spelling of [t͡ʃ] was further complicated in that, as we saw in above, Middle Britainese ci before a vowel was often respelled as ti, e.g. natioun [nə't͡ʃ(j)un] ← Mid. Brit. nacioune; patient [pə't͡ʃ(j)ent] (noun) ← Mid. Brit. pacient ← Medieval Lat. paciente(m) (CL patiente(m)).
  1. c before the vowels e, i or y;
  2. ti, ty, tu before any vowel;
  3. ce before a final sonorant.
  • If ci or cy occurred before a vowel, it would in theory have been pronounced [t͡ʃj] but in practice this would have been indistinguishable from [t͡ʃ].
  • There are important differences between the use of c and t
    1. c is always soft, i.e. [t͡ʃ], before i and y, but remains hard, i.e. [k], before u, e.g.
    2. the combinations ti, ty, tu are pronounced [t͡ʃ] only if a vowel follows; otherwise t retains the sound [t], e.g. statioun [stə't͡ʃun] "station" ~ statin [stə'tin]. "statin." Spelling of [d͡ʒ]
So is di before vowels pronounce [d͡ʒ]? We saw in above that Britainese was subject to yod-coalscence which is common in much of British English and southern hemisphere English in our time line where, e.g. duke and juke are homophones, as are dune and June. The combination, however, will not be less common than ti before a vowel; cf. Britainese rai "beam, ray" derived through Vulgar Latin from radiu(m); radi ['radi] "radius [mathematics, anatomy]" derived directly from Latin radiu(s); and the neologism radio ['rad͡ʒu] "radium."

Also while the sound [d͡ʒ] was written g before e, i and y, it might also be written j in all contexts; as a syllable coda, however, j will be found only in post-Renaissance words of foreign origin, e.g. Taj Maḥal.

Thus we may summarize:

  1. g before the vowels e, i or y;
  2. di, dy, du before any vowel;
  3. ge before a final sonorant;
  4. j in all contexts (but as a syllable coda only in post-Renaissance words of foreign origin)
  • If gi or gy occurred before a vowel, it would in theory have been pronounced [d͡ʒj] but in practice this would have been indistinguishable from [d͡ʒ].
  • There are important differences between the use of g and d
    1. g is always soft, i.e. [d͡ʒ], before i and y, but remains hard, i.e. [ɡ], before u, e.g.
    2. the combinations di, dy, du are pronounced [d͡ʒ] only if a vowel follows; otherwise d retains the sound [d], e.g. mediar [mə'd͡ʒar] "to mediate; to average [mathematics]" ~ meditar [mədi'tar] "to meditate, ponder, reflect upon." Spelling of [ʃ] and [ʒ]
We have seen in and NOTE 1 that 'soft-sc' (i.e. Vulgar Latin [skʲ]) became [ʃ] in Britainese; the sounds continuing to be written as sc, e.g. pesce [peʃ] "fish" ← pisce(m); fasce [faʃ] "bundle, load, burden." ← fasce(m).

Instances of 'soft' sc were, however, less common than those of 'soft' c and g in early Britainese.

We have also seen above that Britainese had yod-coalescance; we may, therefore, be sure that ssi in words such as missioun and si in dimensioun were also pronounced [ʃ].

Similarly, the intervocalic si and su in visioun and visual would have been [ʒ] as in English vision and measure, thus visioun [vi'ʒun] and visual [vi'ʒal].

In section 3.2.8ii we saw that Latin bāsiāre /baː.si'aː.re/ became [bə'ʒar] in Britainese; similarly bāsiō /ˈbaː.sioː/ "I kiss" will have become ['baʒə] in Old & Middle Britainese. In Middle Britainese such spellings as basier, baziar, basciar, bascear, basgiar, basgear among others are likely to have been found. But with revival of Classical Latin spellings at the Renaissance, the same presures for the adoption ti in words like natioun would certainly have led to basiar /ba'ʒar/ and basie /'baʒə/. When final [ə] fell silent, there is no reason to suppose the spelling would not have been retained, i.e. basie [baʒ], the si coming before a 'silent' vowel.

The sound [ʒ] will not be found as a word initial nor syllable initial after a consonant. The sound will be encountered in unassimilated borrowings from French, e.g. lingerie [lɛ̃ʒ.ʁi], garage [ɡa.ʁaʒ]; but if the words become commonly used we may expect them to be assimilated in Britainese thus [lind͡ʒ(ə)'ri] (cf. Dutch [lɪn.ʒəˈri] ) and [ɡə'rad͡ʒ], influenced partly by spelling and partly by the existing 'native' words with suffix -age (cf. modern British English [ˈɡæɹɑː(d)ʒ] or [ˈɡæɹɪd͡ʒ]).

We may summarize thus:

  • [ʃ] may be written:
    1. sc before the vowels e, i or y;
    2. si, sy, su before any vowel, if syllable initial after a consonant;
    3. ssi, ssy, ssu if between two vowels;
    4. sce before a final sonorant.
    • If sci or scy occurred before a vowel, it would in theory have been pronounced [ʃj] but in practice this would have been indistinguishable from [ʃ].
    • There are important differences between the use of sc and s(s)
      1. sc is always soft, i.e. [ʃ], before i and y, but remains hard, i.e. [sk], before u, e.g.
      2. the combinations (s)si, (s)sy, (s)su are pronounced [ʃ] only if a vowel follows; otherwise (s)s retains the sound [s], e.g.passioun [pə'ʃun] "passion [strong feeling for another; emotional state; suffering]" ~ passiv [pə'siv] "passive [adj.]."
  • [ʒ] is written: si, sy, su if between two vowels (including final silent e or final silent e before a sonorant).
    • The sound [ʒ] does not occur in word initial position or syllable initial after a consonant;
    • the combinations si, sy, su after a vowel are pronounced [ʒ] only if another vowel follows; otherwise s retains the sound [z], e.g. visioun [vi'ʒun] "vision" ~ visibl [vi'zibl̩] "visible." Standardized use of acute accent
As we noted above, the grave and circumflex accents of Byzantine Greek were introduced to the west and variously adopted; in France in our timeline printers, grammarians and other theorists began using these in various different ways in the 16th century, and we may expect similar things to have happened with Britainese in BART. But, as we said above, of the three diacritics, only the acute survived to mark irregular stress.

It will have been seen that :

  • loss of vowel in penultimate syllable of proparoxytones making them into paroxytone words in early Britainese (subsection;
  • loss of many final vowels in early Britainese (subsection and the later loss of final [ə] (subsection 4.5.2);
and that, therefore, words in late Britainese were normally stressed on the final syllable, which ended in a consonant.

We saw, however, that in later Britainese, we would find words of foreign origin which ended a short, unstressed vowel (subsection 4.5.8), e.g. cari ['ka.ri] ( ← Tamil kaṟi) "curry", varanda [və'ran.də] ( ← Portuguese varanda ← Hindi varaṇḍā) "veranda", panda ['pan.də] ( ← French panda of unknown origin).

The regular stress in late Britainese was therefore on the syllable before the final consonant, and if the stress fell elsewhere it was marked with an acute accent as, e.g. in Édip and psychologí above.

Final unstressed syllabic sonorants normally made no difference to this, e.g. fenestr [fə'nestr̩̩] "window",

5.5 Appendix: Names of letters
In common with other western Romance languages, Britainese retained Latin derived names for the original 23 letters of the Roman alphabet. Only four letters need comments:
  • h was originally , but as the sound [h] disappeared from Latin it seems to have changed thus: /ha:/ → /ahha/ (reinforcement) → /akka/, cf. Italian acca, Old French ache;
  • u was originally /u:/ but in early Britainese became /y/, as it is in French to this day. When early Britainese /y/ became unrounded the name could hardly have become /i/ as this was the name of the letter i. In English in our timeline when y /y:/ became unrounded, the name became /wi:/ (which shifted to /waɪ̯/ after the Great Vowel Shift). Possibly when Old English /y/ became unrounded in Middle English to /i/, the name of letter name had kept a trace, as it were, of the rounding with the initial [w]. Others, however, say the name is of uncertain origin.
    Also in Britainese [wi] has the value of Britainese u when used as a vowel but the initial [w] keeps a reminder of the way the letter is pronounced in the qu combinations and of the rounded sound in the coda of the diphthongs written au and eu.
    Therefore as we know that a letter called [y] in Old English is found in Middle English (I think the earliest record is round about 1200) called [wi:] for whatever reason, it does not seem unreasonable to have a parallel in Britainese, albeit the letter concerned is a different one.
  • y was almost certain hy /hy:/ when first borrowed from Greek. But when the sound became unrounded in later Latin, it was named i Græcum or (littera) i Graeca "Greek i", cf. Galician i grego, French & Romanian i grec; Catalan i grega, in Italian i greca and in Spanish i griega is still used as well as the more recent ye. Britainese will likewise name it "Greek i".
  • z was another Greek letter added by the Romans to end of their alphabet. the Romans kept the Greek name zēta from which are derived the names of the letter in the various Romance languages and in British English zed.
As for the three extra letters:
  • j was given the vowel sound of the letter i after the initial [d͡ʒ] or [ʒ] in English and French (but modern English has replace the earlier [d͡ʒaɪ̯] by [d͡ʒeɪ̯], probably under the influence of the following k). The Iberian languages have names derived from Greek ἰῶτα (iôta) and Italian just has i lunga "long i" (from its shape). Britainese would surely have followed the French (and earlier English) practice.
  • v we might have expected to do keep the value of u after the initial [v], and indeed this is found in Italian as an alternative to vi as though from a Latin *vē; the latter is what we find in other Romance languages. Britainese will do likewise.
  • w is generally named a "double v" in Romance languages (e.g. Portuguese duplo vê, Spanish doble ve, Catalan ve doble, French double vé) and will be similarly named in Britainese.
A, a
B, b

C, c

D, d

E, e
F, f
G, g

H, h
I, i
J, j
K, k

L, l
M, m
N, n
O, o
P, p

Q, q
R, r
S, s
T, t

U, u
V, v

W, w
doubl vé
X, x
Y, y
i greg
Z, z


Britainese pages:

  1. Introduction
  2. Preliminary Considerations
  3. Phonology: Consonants
  4. Phonology: Vowels
  5. Orthography
  6. Grammar 1: Nouns, Articles & Adjectives
  7. Grammar 2: Pronouns and Determiners

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