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A unicase or unicameral alphabet has just one case for its letters. Arabic, Brahmic scripts like Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, Old Hungarian, Hebrew, Iberian, Georgian, and Hangul are unicase writing systems, while modern Latin, Greek, Cyrillic, and Armenian are bicameral, as they have two cases for each letter, e.g. B and b, Β and β, or Բ and բ. Individual characters can also be called unicameral if they are used as letters with a generally bicameral alphabet but have only one form for both cases; for example, the ʻokina as used in Polynesian languages and the glottal stop as used in Nuu-chah-nulth are unicameral.

Most modern writing systems originated as unicase orthographies. The Latin script originally had only majuscule forms directly derived from the Greek alphabet, which were originally viable for being chiseled into stone. During the Early Middle Ages, scribes developed new letterforms for use in running text that were more legible and faster to write with an ink pen, such as Carolingian minuscule. Originally, use of the two forms was mutually exclusive, but it became a common compromise to use both in tandem, which ultimately had additional benefits in areas such as legibility. The later minuscule became the "lowercase" forms, while the original majuscule became the "uppercase" forms.

A modern unicase version of the Latin alphabet was proposed in 1982 by Michael Mann and David Dalby, as a variation of the Niamey African Reference Alphabet, but has never seen widespread use. Another example of unicase Latin alphabet is the Initial Teaching Alphabet. Occasionally, typefaces make use of unicase letterforms to achieve certain aesthetic effects; this was particularly popular in the 1960s.

While the International Phonetic Alphabet is not used for ordinary writing of any language, its inventory does not make a semantic case distinction, even though some of its letters resemble uppercase and lowercase pairs found in other alphabets.

Modern orthographies that lack a case distinction while using Latin characters include that used for the Saanich dialect in Canada, which uses majuscule letterforms save for a single suffix, and that used for palawa kani language in Tasmania, which uses only minuscule letterforms.[1]

Web typography[edit]

Unicase has been specified as a display variant in the CSS standard. For example, one can use the font-variant: unicase property to render text as unicase in supported browsers.[2] The underlying OpenType specification is the unic tag. Any given letter can be displayed as upper-case or lower-case according to the font design, unlike an all-caps display or use of small-caps for lower-case, but the same character is always displayed in that same case.[3]

Since only the presentation of the text is styled, no actual case transformation is applied and readers are still able to copy the original plain text from the webpage.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Harman, Kristyn (19 July 2018). "Explainer: How Tasmania's Aboriginal People Reclaimed a Language, Palawa kani". The Conversation. Retrieved 29 July 2021.
  2. ^ "CSS Fonts Module Level 3 §6.6#unicase", W3C standards and drafts, 20 September 2018, retrieved 19 November 2023
  3. ^ "Registered features, u-z (OpenType 1.9)". Microsoft Learn—Typography. 9 December 2021. Retrieved 20 November 2023.
  • Georgian Nuskhuri, Unicode 4.1.0, [1]