1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/F

FThis is the sixth letter of the English alphabet as it was of the Latin. In the ordinary Greek alphabet the symbol has disappeared, although it survived far into historical times in many Greek dialects as Ϝ, the digamma, the use of which in early times was inductively proved by Bentley, when comparatively little was known of the local alphabets and dialects of Greece. The so-called stigma ϛ, which serves for the numeral 6, is all that remains to represent it. This symbol derives its name from its resemblance in medieval MSS. to the abbreviation for στ. The symbol occupying the same position in the Phoenician alphabet was Vau (EB1911 - F Vau.jpg), which seems to be represented by the Greek Υ, the Latin V, at the end of the early alphabet. Many authorities therefore contend that F is only a modification of the preceding symbol E and has nothing to do with the symbol Vau. In some early Latin inscriptions F is represented by ||, as E is by ||. It must be admitted that the resemblance between the sixth symbol of the Phoenician alphabet and the corresponding symbol of the European alphabet is not striking. But the position of the limbs of symbols in early alphabets often varies surprisingly. In Greek, besides Ϝ we find for f in Pamphylia (the only Greek district in Asia which possesses the symbol) EB1911 - F - Pamphylia.jpg, and in Boeotia, Thessaly, Tarentum, Cumae and on Chalcidian vases of Italy the form EB1911 - F - E form.jpg, though except at Cumae and on the vases the form F exists contemporaneously with EB1911 - F - E form.jpg or even earlier. At the little town of Falerii (Civita Castellana), whose alphabet is undoubtedly of the same origin as the Latin, F takes the form Tiwaz rune.svg. Though uncertain, therefore, it seems not impossible that the original symbol of the Phoenician alphabet, which was a consonant like the English w, may have been differentiated in Greek into two symbols, one indicating the consonant value w and retaining the position of the Phoenician consonant Vau, the other having the vowel value u, which ultimately most dialects changed to a modified sound like French u or German ü. Be this as it may, the value of the symbol Ϝ in Greek was w, a bilabial voiced sound, not the labio-dental unvoiced sound which we call f. When the Romans adopted the Greek alphabet they took over the symbols with their Greek values. But Greek had no sound corresponding to the Latin f, for φ was pronounced p-h, like the final sound of lip in ordinary English or the initial sound of pig in Irish English. Consequently in the very old inscription on a gold fibula found at Praeneste and published in 1887 (see Alphabet) the Latin f is represented by FB. Later, as Latin did not use F for the consonant written as v in vis, &c. , H was dropped and F received a new special value in Latin as representative of the unvoiced labio-dental spirant. In the Oscan and Umbrian dialects, whose alphabet was borrowed from Etruscan, a special form appears for f, viz. EtruscanF-02.svg, the old form EB1911 - F - E form.jpg being kept for the other consonant v (i.e. English w). The EtruscanF-02.svg has generally been asserted to be developed out of the second element in the combination FB, its upper and lower halves being first converted into lozenges, EB1911 - F - Lozenges.jpg, which naturally changed to EtruscanF-02.svg when inscribed without lifting the writing or incising implement. Recent discoveries, however, make this doubtful (see Alphabet).  (P. Gi.)