Re: letters that "complete the rectangle" in Indic scripts

From: Stephan Stiller <>
Date: Fri, 20 Sep 2013 02:34:45 -0700

On 9/19/2013 2:35 AM, Stephan Stiller wrote:
>> As far as I am aware, a proper 'null consonant' has only arisen when
>> it actually represents a glottal stop.
> There's ㅇ in hangeul ("Hangul"; Korean). Hebrew ע was supposedly
> first pharyngeal [ʕ], though it's nowadays standardly a glottal stop
> [ʔ] or null ∅ (and you don't even need need a hiatus for this). It's
> not clear to me to what extent it's correct to say that Arabic alif
> arose from a glottal stop (given that it was effectively used for [a:]
> too).

Why didn't I check Wikipedia first; they have a rather neato list
for someone who wants to check about such letters' origins.

And I'll add that the letter "h" in various Romance languages seems to
be occasionally used to prevent the graphical look of a syllable
consisting of only a vowel grapheme (or: vowel grapheme cluster / vowel
"multigraph"), often word-initially and in interjections. (Yes, this
doesn't fit Richard's term "'proper' null consonant".) In an even wider
sense, "dummy letters" can arise in a number of ways: in French we have
"'h' aspiré", and for Mandarin/pinyin we have the dummy initials "y-"
and "w-" ["initial" is here meant in the sense that a Chinese
phonologist will traditionally divide a Sinitic syllable into "initial"
and "final"].

Received on Fri Sep 20 2013 - 04:37:24 CDT

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