1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/W

W the twenty-third letter of the English alphabet, shows its origin in its name; it is but VV, and, as the name shows, V had the vowel value of u, while the "double u" was employed for the consonant value. In German the same symbol w is called Vey, because in that language it has the value of the English v, while the German v (Vau, fow in pronunciation) is used with the same value as f. In the English of the 9th century the uu of the old texts (and the u of the Northern) was found not to represent the English w satisfactorily, and a symbol was adopted from the Runic alphabet. This survived sporadically as late as the end of the 13th century, but long before that had been generally again replaced by uu (vv only in Early Middle English) and by w. For w the earliest English printers had a type, but French printers had not; hence a book like the Roman Catholic version of the New Testament printed at Rheims in 1582 prints w with two v's set side by side. Throughout the history of English the sound seems to have remained the same—the consonantal u. For this value as well as for u Latin always used only V; in Greek, except in a few dialects, the consonant value was early lost (see under F). W is produced by leaving a very small opening between the slightly protruded lips while the back of the tongue is raised towards the soft palate and the nasal passage closed. The ordinary w is voiced, but according to some authorities the w in the combination wh (really hw) is not, in when, what, &c., even when the h is no longer audible. The combination WH (hw) represents the Indo-European q(symbol characters) when changed according to Grimm's law from a stop to a spirant. Thus what corresponds philologically to the Latin quod and the first syllable of the Greek ποδ-απός. In Southern English the h sound has now been generally dropped. In Scotland, along the line of former contact with Gaelic, it changes into f: fite=white, forl=whorl; but before ī (ee) it remains in wheel. In Early English w appeared not only before r as in write, but also before l in wlisp (lisp). In write, wring, &c., the w is now silent, though dialectically, e.g. in Aberdeenshire, it has changed to v and is still pronounced, vreet, vring, &c. In English and in other languages there is considerable difficulty in pronouncing w before long u sounds: hence it has disappeared in pronunciation in two (), but survives in Scotch twa, though otherwise the difficulty is more noticeable in Scottish dialects than in literary English, as in "oo"=wool and in the Scottish pronunciation of English words like wood as 'ood.  (P. Gi.) 

Warning: Default sort key "Wager" overrides earlier default sort key "W".