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Old May 13 2013, 11:45 PM   #1
Miss Chicken
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Capitalisation of I

A few questions I though of last night as I was trying to get off to sleep.


How come, in Engish, I is the only personal pronoun that is capitalise in the middle of a sentence?

Which other languages capitalise some or all personal pronouns?

Does Arabic writing have capitalisation?

Are there any written languages (alphabetically written) that don't capitalise any words.
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Old May 13 2013, 11:50 PM   #2
auntiehill
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Re: Capitalisation of I

Why? Because we do and English is silly.
From dictionary.com:
Why do we capitalize the first-person pronoun, I? The short answer is because we do. But that’s not a very satisfactory answer. Even though it feels natural to English speakers, capitalizing I is unusual. In fact, English is the only language that does. Germanic and Romantic languages typically have some conventions for capitalizing proper nouns, like Deutschland (in German) or Place de la Concorde (in French), but English is the only one that selfishly insists on capitalizing the personal pronoun. We do not, you will recall, even capitalize we. Wondering why we capitalize letters at all?
It turns out that this unusual convention was a bit of an accident. In Old and Middle English, the word for “I” was closer to its German cousin, “ich,” and it was often spelled “ic.” At this point, the word was not capitalized. However, the pronunciation changed over time and so did the spelling, losing the consonant c.
At first, the new word, i, was left lowercase. However, it began to grow taller than other words. It grew for a silly reason: a single letter looks bad. Look at it: i. How sad. By the time Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales in the late 1300s, I, the personal pronoun, was slightly taller than its lowercase equivalent. From that point on, it was typically capitalized.
Read the full explanation HERE.
To read about English capitalization in general, go HERE.
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Old May 13 2013, 11:57 PM   #3
MacLeod
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Re: Capitalisation of I

No doubt many languages have unusual conventions.
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Old May 14 2013, 12:02 AM   #4
Miss Chicken
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Re: Capitalisation of I

Thanks for that info.

Another question - why are i and j dotted? It isn't as if it changes the pronunciation of these letters.

Where other diacritical marks ever used with English words (this question excludes borrowed French words etc that English speakers do use diacritical marks for)?
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Old May 14 2013, 12:17 AM   #5
Third Nacelle
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Re: Capitalisation of I

A diaeresis is occasionally used in English to indicate that two vowels are pronounced separately - coöperation, reëvaluate, zoölogical - but it's very rare.
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Old May 14 2013, 12:38 AM   #6
Lumos Ziyal
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Re: Capitalisation of I

^ Wow, I haven't seen that done in years! Decades, actually.
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Old May 14 2013, 12:51 AM   #7
Miss Chicken
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Re: Capitalisation of I

I don't know if I have ever seen it at all. When I was at school I think we were taught to use "co-operation" and "re-evaluate". I only remember seeing "zoological".
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Old May 14 2013, 02:44 AM   #8
Olive, the Other Reindeer
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Re: Capitalisation of I

Miss Chicken wrote: View Post
Does Arabic writing have capitalisation?

Are there any written languages (alphabetically written) that don't capitalise any words.
Hebrew, one of the world's oldest alphabetically written languages, has no capital letters.

I believe Arabic script also has no capitals, although the consonants do have initial, medial and final forms. Are there any Arabic or Persian speakers here who can elaborate?

Miss Chicken wrote: View Post
I don't know if I have ever seen it at all. When I was at school I think we were taught to use "co-operation" and "re-evaluate". I only remember seeing "zoological".
Nowadays those words are almost always spelled without a hyphen or dieresis: cooperate, reenter, etc.

Lately I've noticed the single-word spelling "noone" (for "no one") gaining currency, and I suppose it may be accepted as standard within a decade. To me, however, "Noone" will always be this guy.



Occasionally in English, foreign words may be written with an accent mark even though the word has no accent in its original language. For example, back in the 1970s, Plymouth made a car called the Volaré. The infinitive volare ("to fly") has no accent in Italian. But it was written with an acute accent so we unsophisticated Yanks wouldn't pronounce it "Volair."
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Old May 14 2013, 07:50 AM   #9
MacLeod
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Re: Capitalisation of I

Miss Chicken wrote: View Post
I don't know if I have ever seen it at all. When I was at school I think we were taught to use "co-operation" and "re-evaluate". I only remember seeing "zoological".
That's what I remember too, the use of a hyphen. Sure some words like Finalé use diaeresis.
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Old May 14 2013, 08:14 AM   #10
Miss Chicken
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Re: Capitalisation of I

MacLeod wrote: View Post
Miss Chicken wrote: View Post
I don't know if I have ever seen it at all. When I was at school I think we were taught to use "co-operation" and "re-evaluate". I only remember seeing "zoological".
That's what I remember too, the use of a hyphen. Sure some words like Finalé use diaeresis.
I think that all the words that I was taught to use diaeresis with are of French origin - café, fiancé, Noël, naïve, blasé etc.

Hebrew, one of the world's oldest alphabetically written languages, has no capital letters.

I believe Arabic script also has no capitals, although the consonants do have initial, medial and final forms. Are there any Arabic or Persian speakers here who can elaborate?
Thanks for the info, Scotpens

Lately I've noticed the single-word spelling "noone" (for "no one") gaining currency, and I suppose it may be accepted as standard within a decade. To me, however, "Noone" will always be this guy.
Noone just looks wrong. I think I tend to say nobody rather than no one.
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Old May 14 2013, 08:54 AM   #11
Cookies and Cake
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Re: Capitalisation of I

A couple of observations:

---

It's probably worth mentioning that Christians capitalize the personal pronouns He and Him when referring to God, Jesus, etc.

---

The US Constitution capitalizes the personal pronoun We. The style is ambiguous in the preamble, since "We" is the very first word. However, Article VII says [http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/cha...ranscript.html]:
done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independance of the United States of America the Twelfth In witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names,
(Note the spelling of "Independance", which is accurately transcribed, according to the high-resolution image scan. Although in that passage "We" is at the start of a line, "of" is at the start of the line immediately above it but is not capitalized. So, "We" is certainly capitalized, there.)

Actually, a lot of nouns and other words are capitalized in the US Constitution that we don't normally capitalize today. I don't know what the style is called, for that.
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Old May 14 2013, 09:23 AM   #12
Miss Chicken
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Re: Capitalisation of I

We still usually capitalise many of the words in a title such as

He Who Fears the Wolf

however if it is being catalogued for a library this capitalisation is wrong , it is

He who fears the wolf

Only conventional capitalisation is used though I have seen many entries wrongly capitalised in library catalogues.

I always wonder if I should, or should not, capitalise the heading of threads I start here, I usually don't and I think that is because I have been a library cataloguer )or maybe it is laziness).
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Old May 14 2013, 09:57 AM   #13
RJDonner&Blitzen
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Re: Capitalisation of I

CorporalCaptain wrote: View Post
Actually, a lot of nouns and other words are capitalized in the US Constitution that we don't normally capitalize today. I don't know what the style is called, for that.
I just call it archaic, and it's typical of the writing of the day. I kind of get a kick out of it and occasionally do it myself.

I wonder, does anybody dots i's and j's when they write or print? I can't remember ever actually doing that, except maybe in early grade school.
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Old May 14 2013, 10:03 AM   #14
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Re: Capitalisation of I

I dot my j's and i's. Dotting a lowercase "i" is quick way for me to distinguish between an "i" and an "l" in my writing, which is why I continue to do so. Dotting the "j" is just habit.
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Old May 14 2013, 10:05 AM   #15
Miss Chicken
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Re: Capitalisation of I

RJDiogenes wrote: View Post
CorporalCaptain wrote: View Post
Actually, a lot of nouns and other words are capitalized in the US Constitution that we don't normally capitalize today. I don't know what the style is called, for that.
I just call it archaic, and it's typical of the writing of the day. I kind of get a kick out of it and occasionally do it myself.

I wonder, does anybody dots i's and j's when they write or print? I can't remember ever actually doing that, except maybe in early grade school.
I do (most of the time) though my dots end up looking like slashes. He is a sample of handwriting I first posted here more than 3 years ago. No j's in it but I think I treat them the same way as i's.

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