H ( named aitch or haitch , plural aitches)"H" Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989); Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (1993); "aitch" or "haitch", op. cit. is the eighth letter in the ISO basic Latin alphabet.
HistoryThe original Semitic letter Heth most likely represented the voiceless pharyngeal fricative (). The form of the letter probably stood for a fence or posts. The Greek eta 'Η' in Archaic Greek alphabets still represented (later on it came to represent a long vowel, ). In this context, the letter eta is also known as heta to underline this fact. Thus, in the Old Italic alphabets, the letter heta of the Euboean alphabet was adopted with its original sound value . While Etruscan and Latin had as a phoneme, almost all Romance languages lost the sound— Romanian later re-borrowed the phoneme from its neighbouring Slavic languages, and Spanish developed a secondary from , before losing it again; various Spanish dialects have developed as an allophone of or in most Spanish-speaking countries, and various dialects of Portuguese use it as an allophone of . 'H' is also used in many spelling systems in digraphs and trigraphs, such as 'ch', which represents in Spanish, Galician, Old Portuguese and English, in French and modern Portuguese, in Italian, French and English, in German, Czech language, Polish, Slovak, one native word of English and a few loanwords into English, and in German.
Name in EnglishFor most English speakers, the name for the letter is pronounced as and spelled 'aitch' or occasionally 'eitch'. The pronunciation and the associated spelling 'haitch' is often considered to be h-adding and is considered nonstandard in England. It is, however, a feature of Hiberno-English. The perceived name of the letter affects the choice of indefinite article before initialisms beginning with H: for example "an H-bomb" or "a H-bomb". The pronunciation may be a hypercorrection formed by analogy with the names of the other letters of the alphabet, most of which include the sound they represent.Todd, L. & Hancock I.: "International English Ipod", page 254. Routledge, 1990. The haitch pronunciation of h has spread in England, being used by approximately 24% of English people born since 1982 John C Wells, Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, page 360, Pearson, Harlow, 2008 and polls continue to show this pronunciation becoming more common among younger native speakers. Despite this increasing number, the pronunciation without the sound is still considered to be standard in England, although the pronunciation with is also attested as a legitimate variant. Authorities disagree about the history of the letter's name. The Oxford English Dictionary says the original name of the letter was in Latin; this became in Vulgar Latin, passed into English via Old French , and by Middle English was pronounced . The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language derives it from French hache from Latin haca or hic. Anatoly Liberman suggests a conflation of two obsolete orderings of the alphabet, one with H immediately followed by K and the other without any K: reciting the former's ..., H, K, L,... as when reinterpreted for the latter ..., H, L,... would imply a pronunciation for H.
Use in writing systems
EnglishIn English, occurs as a single-letter grapheme (being either silent or representing ) and in various digraphs, such as , , , or ), (silent, , , , or ), (), (), (), ( or ), (In many dialects, and have merged). The letter is silent in a syllable rime, as in ah, ohm, dahlia, cheetah, pooh-poohed, as well as in certain other words (mostly of French origin) such as hour, honest, herb (in American but not British English) and vehicle. Initial is often not pronounced in the weak form of some function words including had, has, have, he, her, him, his, and in some varieties of English (including most regional dialects of England and Wales) it is often omitted in all words (see ' in an unstressed syllable, as in "an historian", but use of a is now more usual (see ).
Other languagesIn the German language, the name of the letter is pronounced . Following a vowel, it often silently indicates that the vowel is long: In the word ('heighten'), only the first represents . In 1901, a spelling reform eliminated the silent in nearly all instances of in native German words such as thun ('to do') or Thür ('door'). It has been left unchanged in words derived from Greek, such as ('theater') and ('throne'), which continue to be spelled with even after the last German spelling reform. In Spanish and Portuguese, ("hache" in Spanish, pronounced , or agá in Portuguese, pronounced or ) is a silent letter with no pronunciation, as in hijo ('son') and húngaro ('Hungarian'). The spelling reflects an earlier pronunciation of the sound . It is sometimes pronounced with the value , in some regions of Andalusia, Extremadura, Canarias, Cantabria and the Americas in the beginning of some words. also appears in the digraph , which represents in Spanish and northern Portugal, and in oral traditions that merged both sounds (the latter originarily represented by instead) e.g. in most of the Portuguese language and some Spanish-speaking places, prominently Chile, as well as and in Portuguese, whose spelling is inherited from Occitan. In French, the name of the letter is pronounced . The French orthography classifies words that begin with this letter in two ways, one of which can affect the pronunciation, even though it is a silent letter either way. The H muet, or "mute" , is considered as though the letter were not there at all, so for example the singular definite article le or la, which is elided to l' before a vowel, elides before an H muet followed by a vowel. For example, le + hébergement becomes l'hébergement ('the accommodation'). The other kind of is called h aspiré (" aspirated ' was added to disambiguate the and semivowel pronunciations before the introduction of the distinction between the letters and : huit (from uit, ultimately from Latin octo), huître (from uistre, ultimately from Greek through Latin ostrea). In Italian, has no phonological value. Its most important uses are in the digraphs 'ch' and 'gh' , as well as to differentiate the spellings of certain short words that are homophones, for example some present tense forms of the verb avere ('to have') (such as hanno, 'they have', vs. anno, 'year'), and in short interjections (oh, ehi). Some languages, including Czech, Slovak, Hungarian, and Finnish, use as a breathy voiced glottal fricative , often as an allophone of otherwise voiceless in a voiced environment. In Hungarian, the letter has five independent pronunciations, perhaps more than in any other language, with an additional three uses as a productive and non-productive member of a digraph. H may represent /h/ as in the name of the Székely town Hargita; intervocalically it represents /ɦ/ as in "tehéz"; it represents /x/ in the word "doh"; it represents /ç/ in "ihlet"; and it is silent in "Cseh". As part of a diphthong, it represents, in archaic spelling, /t͡ʃ/ with the letter C as in the name " Széchényi; it represents, again, with the letter C, /x/ in "pech" (which is pronounced pɛx in spite of the word's German origin); in certain environments it breaks palatalization of a consonant, as in the name "Horthy" which is pronounced hɔrti (without the intervening H, the name "Horty" would be pronounced hɔrc); and finally, it acts as a silent component of a diphthong, as in the name "Vargha", pronounced vɒrgɒ. In Ukrainian and Belarusian, when written in the Latin alphabet, is also commonly used for , which is otherwise written with the Cyrillic letter . In Irish, is not considered an independent letter, except for a very few non-native words, however placed after a consonant is known as a "séimhiú" and indicates lenition of that consonant; began to replace the original form of a séimhiú, a dot placed above the consonant, after the introduction of typewriters. In most dialects of Polish, both and the digraph always represent .
Other systemsAs a phonetic symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), it is used mainly for the so-called aspirations (fricative or trills), and variations of the plain letter are used to represent two sounds: the lowercase form }} represents the voiceless glottal fricative, and the small capital form }} represents the voiceless epiglottal fricative (or trill). With a bar, minuscule }} is used for a voiceless pharyngeal fricative. Specific to the IPA, a hooked }} is used for a voiced glottal fricative, and a superscript }} is used to represent aspiration.
Descendants and related characters in the Latin alphabet
- H with diacritics: Ĥ ĥ Ȟ ȟ Ħ ħ Ḩ ḩ Ⱨ ⱨ ẖ ẖ Ḥ ḥ Ḣ ḣ Ḧ ḧ Ḫ ḫ ꞕ
- IPA-specific symbols related to H: ꟸ
- ᴴ : Modifier letter H is used in the Uralic Phonetic Alphabet
- ₕ : Subscript small h was used in the Uralic Phonetic Alphabet prior to its formal standardization in 1902
- ʰ : Modifier letter small h is used in Indo-European studies
- ʮ and ʯ : Turned H with fishhook and turned H with fishhook and tail are used in Sino-Tibetanist linguistics
- Ƕ ƕ : Latin letter hwair, derived from a ligature of the digraph hv, and used to transliterate the Gothic letter 𐍈 (which represented the sound hʷ)
- Ⱶ ⱶ : Claudian letters
Ancestors, siblings and descendants in other alphabets
- 𐤇 : Semitic letter Heth, from which the following symbols derive
- *Η η : Greek letter Eta, from which the following symbols derive
- **𐌇 : Old Italic H, the ancestor of modern Latin H
- *** : Runic letter haglaz, which is probably a descendant of Old Italic H
- **Һ һ : Cyrillic letter Shha, which derives from Latin H
- ** : Gothic letter haal
Derived signs, symbols and abbreviations
Computing codes1 and all encodings based on ASCII, including the DOS, Windows, ISO-8859 and Macintosh families of encodings.
- Lubliner, Coby. 2008. "The Story of H." (essay on origins and uses of the letter "h")