1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/L

L a letter which was the twelfth letter of the Phoenician alphabet. It has in its history passed through many changes of form, ending curiously enough in its usual manuscript form with a shape almost identical with that which it had about 900 B.C. (PhoenicianL-01.svg Phoenician lamedh.svg). As was the case with B and some other letters the Greeks did not everywhere keep the symbol in the position in which they had borrowed it 𐤋. This, which was its oldest form in Attica and in the Chalcidian colonies of Italy, was the form adopted by the Romans, who in time converted it into the rectangle L, which passed from them to the nations of western Europe. In the Ionic alphabet, however, from which the ordinary Greek alphabet is derived it appeared as Λ. A still more common form in other parts of Greece was Greek Lambda 09.svg, with the legs of unequal length. The editors of Herodotus have not always recognized that the name of Labda, the mother of Cypselus, in the story (v. 92) of the founding of the great family of Corinthian despots, was derived from the fact that she was lame and so suggested the form of the Corinthian Greek Lambda 09.svg. Another form Greek Lambda 03.svg or Greek Eta tack.svg was practically confined to the west of Argolis. The name of the Greek letter is ordinarily given as Lambda, but in Herodotus (above) and in Athenaeus x. p. 453 e, where the names of the letters are given, the best authenticated form is Labda. The Hebrew name, which was probably identical with the Phoenician, is Lamed, which, with a final vowel added as usual, would easily become Lambda, b being inserted between m and another consonant. The pronunciation of l varies a great deal according to the point at which the tongue makes contact with the roof of the mouth. The contact, generally speaking, is at the same point as for d, and this accounts for an interchange between these sounds which occurs in various languages, e.g. in Latin lacrima from the same root as the Greek δάκρυ and the English tear. The change in Latin occurs in a very limited number of cases and one explanation of their occurrence is that they are borrowed (Sabine) words. In pronunciation the breath may be allowed to escape at one or both sides of the tongue. In most languages l is a fairly stable sound. Orientals, however, have much difficulty in distinguishing between l and r. In Old Persian l is found in only two foreign words, and in Sanskrit different dialects employ r and l differently in the same words. Otherwise, however, the interchanges between r and l were somewhat exaggerated by the older philologists. Before other consonants l becomes silent in not a few languages, notably in French, where it is replaced by u, and in English where it has occasionally been restored in recent times, e.g. in fault which earlier was spelt without l (as in French whence it was borrowed), and which Goldsmith could still rhyme with aught. In the 15th century the Scottish dialect of English dropped l largely both before consonants and finally after a and ū, a’ = all, fa’ = fall, pu’ = pull, ’oo’ = wool, bulk pronounced like book, &c., while after o it appears as w, row (pronounced rau) = roll, know = knoll, &c. It is to be observed that L=50 does not come from this symbol, but was an adaptation of Greek Chi 05.svg, the western Greek form of χ, which had no corresponding sound in Latin and was therefore not included in the ordinary alphabet. This symbol was first rounded into , and then changed first to and ultimately to L.  (P. Gi.)