Y… for Yankee

Published 30th January 2012
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Y is for Yankee

Welcome to the penultimate post from our amazing alphabet blog series! It has been a great adventure to discover what is behind the characters we use every day. And now here we are to the fabulous Y, so let’s have a closer look.

Lingua Translations' alphabet blog series - Y... for Yankee As you have probably noticed already, the Y is in the shape of a fork. The French scholar Geofroy Tory thought that it was a suitable symbol to represent the choice between vice and virtue. In the AGESCI, the Italian Catholic Scouts and Guides, the symbol of the section of youngsters aged 17 and over is a fork, which is called forcola. Its two branches represent the choice that scouts and guides make between becoming a scout leader or leaving the movement. However, there are also several different places where we can find a Y. Can you think of any?

Y is the only letter commonly used as both vowel and consonant in English. As a vowel, we can think of the different sounds of myth, messy and myrtle. Whereas as a consonant we see y in youth or yearning. It also has something in common with its cousin W, as they are the only semivowels in English phonetics. You have a semivowel when a letter’s pronunciation approaches a vowel sound in the way it uses the throat and vocal chords.

Why Y?

Although in English Y is quite a widespread letter, in Italian there are only a very few words boasting it. They are mainly loans from other languages, such as yatch and yogurt. Can you think of a few more?

Y is also a very pretty letter. Due to its legibility, but also because of its handsome shape. Between 1250 and 1600 Y was very popular in English spelling and often replaced the poor I, such as in ‘hys’.  However, with the invention and spreading of printing in the 1500s, many spellings were standardised and poor little I conquered its place again. However, this letter rivalry can still be seen in alternative spellings, such as tyre/tire.

Welsh Y

An finally, since we are a Swansea based company, Welsh is a necessary ingredient for this blog post, so here we go. In Welsh it is pronounced [ə] in monosyllabic words or non-final syllables, and /ɨ/ or [i] (depending on the accent) in final syllables.

So, did you like the amazing Y? I hope so and… do not miss the last but not least Z!!!


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