Tuesday, 11 January 2022

Unicode Trivia U+01BF

Block: U+0180..024F "Latin Extended-B"

The Old English (Anglo-Saxon) alphabet (circa 8th to 12th centuries) had 24 letters:

Aa Ææ Bb Cc Dd Ðð Ee Ff Ᵹᵹ Hh Ii Ll Mm Nn Oo Pp Rr Ss Tt Uu Ƿƿ Xx Yy Þþ

The twenty-first letter (uppercase "Ƿ", lowercase "ƿ") is named "wynn". This alphabet was derived from Latin, which lacked a /w/ sound, so the digraph "uu" was used instead. Hence the name "double-u".

Later, "uu" was replaced by the runic symbol "ᚹ" (U+16B9 "RUNIC LETTER WUNJO WYNN W") that morphed into the Latin wynn. After the Norman Conquest, French scribes abandoned the wynn, possibly because it was easily confused with "Pp" and/or "Þþ" (thorn), and reverted to "double-u".

There are many infographics about the evolution of the English alphabet, including one by Useful Charts. I've tried to construct one from the perspective of codepoints in Unicode 14.0. I've also ignored minuscules which means that topics such as Carolingian are omitted.

There's an interactive rendition of this table on the "Unicode Tour" web page that accompanies these blog posts.

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