1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/I

I the ninth letter of the English and Latin alphabet, the tenth in the Greek and Phoenician, because in these the symbol Teth (the Greek θ) preceded it. Teth was not included in the Latin alphabet because that language had no sound corresponding to the Greek θ, but the symbol was metamorphosed and utilized as the numeral C = 100, which took this form through the influence of the initial letter of the Latin centum. The name of I in the Phoenician alphabet was Yōd. Though in form it seems the simplest of letters it was originally much more complex. In Phoenician it takes the form PhoenicianI-01.svg, which is found also in the earliest Syriac and Palestinian inscriptions with little modification. Ultimately in Hebrew it became reduced to a very small symbol, whence comes its use as a term of contempt for things of no importance as in “not one jot or tittle” (Matthew v. 18). The name passed from Phoenician to Greek, and thence to the Latin of the vulgate as iōta, and from the Latin the English word is derived. Amongst the Greeks of Asia it appears only as the simple upright I, but in some of the oldest alphabets elsewhere, as Crete, Thera, Attica, Achaia and its colonies in lower Italy, it takes the form Greek Sigma Z-shaped.svg or S, while at Corinth and Corcyra it appears first in a form closely resembling the later Greek sigma Σ. It had originally no cross-stroke at top and bottom. I being not i but z. The Phoenician alphabet having no vowel symbols, the value of yōd was that of the English y. In Greek, where the consonant sound had disappeared or been converted into h, I is regularly used as a vowel. Occasionally, as in Pamphylian, it is used dialectically as a glide between i and another vowel, as in the proper name Δαμάτριιυς.. In Latin I was used alike for both vowel and consonant, as in iugum (yoke). The sound represented by it was approximately that still assigned to i on the continent. Neither Greek nor Latin made any distinction in writing between short and long i, though in the Latin of the Empire the long sound was occasionally represented by a longer form of the symbol I. The dot over the i begins in the 5th or 6th century A.D. In pronunciation the English short i is a more open sound than that of most languages, and does not correspond to the Greek and Latin sound. Nor are the English short and long i of the same quality. The short i in Sweet’s terminology is a high-front-wide vowel, the long i, in English often spelt ee in words like seed, is diphthonged, beginning like the short vowel but becoming higher as it proceeds. The Latin short i, however, in final syllables was open and ultimately became e, e.g. in the neuter of i-stems as utile from utili-s. Medially both the short and the long sounds are very common in syllables which were originally unaccented, because in such positions many other sounds passed into i: officio but facio, redimo but emo, quidlibet but lubet (libet is later); collīdo but laedo, fīdo from an older feido, istis (dative plural) from an earlier istois.  (P. Gi.)