Wednesday, October 1, 2008


A, first letter of the English alphabet, whose Semitic ancestor also stood first in its alphabet. The Semitic letter was apparently derived from the ox, of which it originally was intended to be a picture.

In the spelling of words, a is always a vowel in any position-as in at, pat, villa-but the pronunciation varies greatly; other letters and letter-groups have the same sound (Nineveh). In words of direct Germanic inheritance (e.g., that) a usually represents an older o (Greek tode,"that"). The reverse relationship appears in the Mid- Western pronunciation of o (hot, dog) as a variety of a sound.

In Greek the letter was called alpha (Arabic alif); the Romans learned to call it ah (perhaps as English in father) from Etruscan usage. The modern languages of Europe generally still so call it, but English a regular series of changes produced a (as in home)


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