Q

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This article is about the letter of the alphabet. For other uses, see Q (disambiguation).
Writing cursive forms of Q

Q (named cue /ˈkjuː/[1]) is the 17th letter of the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet.

History[edit]

Egyptian hieroglyph
wj
Phoenician
qoph
Etruscan
Q
Greek
Qoppa
V24
PhoenicianQ-01.png EtruscanQ-01.svg GreekQ-01.png

The Semitic sound value of Qôp (perhaps originally qaw, "cord of wool", and possibly based on an Egyptian hieroglyph) was /q/ (voiceless uvular stop), a sound common to Semitic languages, but not found in English or most[citation needed] Indo-European ones. In Greek, this sign as Qoppa Ϙ probably came to represent several labialized velar stops, among them /kʷ/ and /kʷʰ/. As a result of later sound shifts, these sounds in Greek changed to /p/ and /pʰ/ respectively. Therefore, Qoppa was transformed into two letters: Qoppa, which stood for a number only, and Phi Φ which stood for the aspirated sound /pʰ/ that came to be pronounced /f/ in Modern Greek.[citation needed]

In the earliest Latin inscriptions, the letters C, K and Q were all used to represent the two sounds /k/ and /ɡ/, which were not differentiated in writing. Of these, Q was used before a rounded vowel (e.g. 〈EQO〉 'ego'), K before /a/, and C elsewhere. Later, the use of C (and its variant G) replaced most usages of K and Q: Q survived only to represent /k/ when immediately followed by a /w/ sound.[2] The Etruscans used Q in conjunction with V to represent /kʷ/.

Use in writing systems[edit]

English[edit]

In English the digraph 〈qu〉 most often denotes the cluster /kw/, except in borrowings from French where it represents /k/ as in 'plaque'. See list of English words containing Q not followed by U. 〈q〉 is the second-least-common letter in the English language, with a frequency of just 0.09% in words. Only 〈z〉 occurs less often.

Other languages[edit]

In most European languages written in the Latin script, such as in Romance and Germanic languages, 〈q〉 appears almost exclusively in the digraph 〈qu〉. Notable exceptions to this are Albanian, in which 〈q〉 represents the voiceless palatal stop [c], and Maltese and Võro, which use it to represent the glottal stop [ʔ]. In French, Occitan, Catalan and Portuguese, 〈qu〉 represents /k/ or /kw/; in Spanish, it represents /k/. 〈qu〉 replaces 〈c〉 for /k/ before front vowels 〈i〉 and 〈e〉, since in those languages 〈c〉 represents a fricative or affricate before front vowels. In Italian 〈qu〉 represents [kw] (where [w] is the semivowel allophone of /u/).

〈q〉 has a wide variety of pronunciations among non-European languages that have adopted the Latin alphabet. It has the value /q/ in Aymara, Crimean Tatar, Greenlandic, Quechua, Uyghur and Uzbek. In Azerbaijani, 〈q〉 stands for a voiced velar stop [ɡ]. In Chinese Hanyu Pinyin, 〈q〉 is used to represent the sound [tɕʰ], which is close to English 〈ch〉 in "cheese", but pronounced further toward the front of the mouth. 〈q〉 in Fijian has the value of a prenasalized voiced velar stop [ŋɡ]. In Kiowa, 〈q〉 represents a glottalized velar stop [kʼ]. In Xhosa and Zulu, 〈q〉 is used for the postalveolar click [kǃ]. In transliteration of Classical Mongolian, 〈q〉 represents a voiceless velar fricative [x].

Other systems[edit]

The International Phonetic Alphabet uses 〈q〉 for the voiceless uvular stop.

Other uses[edit]

The Roman numeral Q is sometimes used to represent the number 500,000.[3]

Forms and variants[edit]

A comparison of the glyphs of 〈q〉 and 〈g〉.

The lowercase Q (q) is usually seen as a lowercase O with a descender (i.e., downward vertical tail) extending from the right side of the bowl, with or without a swash (i.e., flourish), even a reversed lowercase p. The lowercase Q's descender is usually typed without a swash due to the major style difference typically seen between the descenders of the lowercase G (a loop) and lowercase Q (vertical). The descender of the lowercase Q is sometimes handwritten finishing with a rightward swash to distinguish from the leftward facing curved descender on the lowercase G or the number 9.

Related characters[edit]

Descendants and related characters in the Latin alphabet[edit]

Ancestors and siblings in other alphabets[edit]

  • 𐤒 : Semitic letter Qoph, from which the following symbols originally derive

Derived signs, symbols and abbreviations[edit]

Computing codes[edit]

Character Q q
Unicode name LATIN CAPITAL LETTER Q     LATIN SMALL LETTER Q
Encodings decimal hex decimal hex
Unicode 81 U+0051 113 U+0071
UTF-8 81 51 113 71
Numeric character reference Q Q q q
EBCDIC family 216 D8 152 98
ASCII 1 81 51 113 71
1 Also for encodings based on ASCII, including the DOS, Windows, ISO-8859 and Macintosh families of encodings.

Other representations[edit]

NATO phonetic Morse code
Quebec – – · –
ICS Quebec.svg Semaphore Quebec.svg ⠟
Signal flag Flag semaphore Braille
dots-12345

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Q" Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989); Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (1993); "que," op. cit.
  2. ^ Sihler, Andrew L. (1995), New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin (illustrated ed.), New York: Oxford University Press, p. 21, ISBN 0-19-508345-8 
  3. ^ Gordon, Arthur E. (1983). Illustrated Introduction to Latin Epigraphy. University of California Press. p. 44. Retrieved 3 October 2015. 

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Q at Wikimedia Commons
  • The dictionary definition of Q at Wiktionary
  • The dictionary definition of q at Wiktionary