Thursday 30 April 2015

Blogging from A to Z in April - The Letter Z - Thursday 30th April 2015

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Thursday 30th April 2015 - The Letter Z

 Z is for 'ZEST', which is IVER in Swedish.

Yes, Z is a part of the Swedish alphabet, but it is not a well-used letter because the z-sound that we say in English does not exist in the Swedish sound system. If you are going to learn how to speak proper Swedish, you will just have to leave your buzzing Z:s at home!


As Tina Downey pointed out in her Postcards from Sweden, the Swedish alphabet does not end with the letter Z. There are three more letters tagged on at the end: Å, Ä and Ö.

One fun thing about these letters is that two of them are a word in itself. Ö is an island in Swedish and Å is a creek or small river.

There is a Swedish proverb using the word å*Gå inte över ån efter vatten, 'Don’t cross the stream to get water', meaning 'Don't do things needlessly complicated; settle with a simpler solution when there exists one.' "Carry coals to Newcastle."' (Source.)

Another fun fact about these characters is how they became what they are: letters you have seen before, but with extra dots or accent marks. But they are letters in their own right. You cannot remove the dots or the circle without changing the meaning of the words that are spelled with them. How did this start?

The Å, which looks like an A with a tiny ring on top, was originally spelled as two A:s (aa). But after a time, writers or scribes wanted to save space and wrote a tiny A over the one A. It became a circle over the A.

Both Ä and Ö have a similar history. They were first spelled with an extra 'E' afterwards, as 'ae' and 'oe'. The 'E' was later placed over the 'A' or the 'O' in order to save space. Then the tiny raised 'E' became just a squiggly line and then finally just two dots.

You can see this development if you look at very old handwritten documents or very old printed texts. These tiny letters became diacritical marks**.

Thank you for visiting my blog posts for A to Z in April 2015, which were dedicated to the memory of Tina Downey, who did so much to make the A to Z in April Challenge work.

Best wishes,

First Commenter:

* Watercourses in Sweden and the other Nordic countries are in Swedish usually referred to as bäck, å or älv. An å is usually larger than a bäck (brook, creek) but smaller than an älv (large river). A certain large bäck may however be larger than a certain small å, and a certain large å may be larger than a certain small älv. The word to use about a certain watercourse is often included as part of its name: Göta älv, Stångån. There are regional differences in whether watercourses of a certain size tend to have å or älv in their names. All älvar are found north of Göteborg, but that is also where the largest rivers in Scandinavia are found. For some rivers in southern Sweden the word ström is used, since that is the watercourse word included in their names. Rivers in other parts of the world are usually referred to with the word flod, which is a more neutral word for any watercourse larger than a bäck.

**Diacritic Marks (Source)

A diacritic /d.əˈkrɪtɨk/ – also diacritical mark, diacritical point, or diacritical sign – is a glyph added to a letter, or basic glyph. The term derives from the Greek διακριτικός (diakritikós, "distinguishing"), which is composed of the ancient Greek διά (diá, through) and κρίνω (krínein or kríno, to separate). Diacritic is primarily an adjective, though sometimes used as a noun, whereas diacritical is only ever an adjective. Some diacritical marks, such as the acute ( ´ ) and grave ( ` ), are often called accents. Diacritical marks may appear above or below a letter, or in some other position such as within the letter or between two letters.
The main use of diacritical marks in the Latin script is to change the sound-values of the letters to which they are added. Examples from English are the diaereses in naïve and Noël, which show that the vowel with the diaeresis mark is pronounced separately from the preceding vowel; the acute and grave accents, which can indicate that a final vowel is to be pronounced, as in saké and poetic breathèd; and the cedilla under the "c" in the borrowed French word façade, which shows it is pronounced /s/ rather than /k/. In other Latin alphabets, they may distinguish between homonyms, such as the French ("there") versus la ("the"), which are both pronounced [la]. In Gaelic type, a dot over a consonant indicates lenition of the consonant in question.
In other alphabetic systems, diacritical marks may perform other functions. Vowel pointing systems, namely the Arabic harakat ( ـَ, ـُ, ـُ, etc.) and the Hebrew niqqud ( ַ, ֶ, ִ, ֹ , ֻ, etc.) systems, indicate sounds (vowels and tones) that are not conveyed by the basic alphabet. The Indic virama ( ् etc.) and the Arabic sukūn ( ـْـ ) mark the absence of a vowel. Cantillation marks indicate prosody. Other uses include the Early Cyrillic titlo ( ◌҃ ) and the Hebrew gershayim ( ״ ), which, respectively, mark abbreviations or acronyms, and Greek diacritical marks, which showed that letters of the alphabet were being used as numerals. In the Hanyu Pinyin official romanization system for Chinese, diacritics are used to mark the tones of the syllables in which the marked vowels occur.
In orthography and collation, a letter modified by a diacritic may be treated either as a new, distinct letter or as a letter–diacritic combination. This varies from language to language, and may vary from case to case within a language.
In some cases, letters are used as "in-line diacritics" in place of ancillary glyphs, because they modify the sound of the letter preceding them, as in the case of the "h" in English "sh" and "th".[1]

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