From: Marco Cimarosti (
Date: Wed May 17 2000 - 04:54:02 EDT

>What codepoint should be used to encode the letter which later >seperated into U/V?

Uppercase should be *V*, and lowercase should be *u*.

Lowecase v was just a contextual variant used at the beginning of words. Both variants could have both sounds: the vowel [u] or the consonant [v] (previosuly [w]).

At a certain age, someone (see note 1) had the idea of using these two variants for distinguishing the two sounds. Probably v was chosen for sound [v] because the consonant was more common at the beginning of words.

In order to maintain the distinction in uppercase, the "rounded" form U was invented. As you can imagine, the acceptance of U was much slower, because type foundries had to prouce an ad hoc type for it.

The same process involved also I/J. The lowecase j was a graphic variant (see note 2) used (I think) at the beinning and end of words. When the two forms split as different letters, an ad hoc uppercase J was invented for the "bent" variant.

<NOTE 1>
Unluckily I cannot remember the exact date when this happened; it was around the 16th century.
But what worries me most is that I cannot remember the name of the Italian guy who invented the modern u/v and i/j distinctions. He was the author of a larger proposal for a spelling reform of Latin and Italian, that involved many other new letters, mainly drawn from the Greek alphabet.
The proposal was presented to the Pope (at that time, head of a large temporal state in central Italy), who set up an ad hoc commission of expert to evaluate it. The commission, after a few months of ballots, rejected the proposal.
However, some typographers (probably in the attempt of lobbying the papal commission) had in the meanwhile produced some fonts for the new characters.
Although the official rejectance, the u/v and i/j distinction became popular in Italian typography and quicly extended to other countries.
Later on, around the 19th century, the i/j distinction was dropped in Italian spelling, but it remained in most other European languages.
If anyone in the list may ***help me*** remembering the name of the guy, I would be very grateful for it. A printed copy of the proposal and of the decision of the papal commission is at the British Museum in London. I have seen it exhibited in the printings room, but now it is likey back in the library.

<NOTE 2>
I and J were still considered the same letter in Italian up to about 1950 (the Treccani encyclopedia sorts them together) and this is also reflected by the Italian name for J: "i lungo" (= long i). Even today, many Italian word exceptionally containg j (e.g. Jugoslavia, boja, jena) are also often spelled with i (e.g. Iugoslavia, boia, iena).

_ Marco
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