Medieval Writing
Special English Letters (2)

The Roman alphabet had no letter for the English w sound, so Old English used the runic character wen to represent this sound.

This example is from the 9th century interlinear Old English gloss of the Vespasian Psalter.
Anglo-Saxon w The word wille from a 10th century Anglo-Saxon poem written in insular minuscule script. The letter for w might easily be mistaken for a p.
This is from a 12th century bilingual charter. It looks rather similar to some versions of the thorn, but if you look at the thorn from this document on the previous page, you will see that it has a tall ascender.
This is from the same 12th century Old English legal document from which examples of the other letters were taken on the previous page.
The same document also has examples of w in the form of two interlocked vs.
The wen disappeared around this time, to be replaced in English writing with the interlocked v form as shown above, and then the very extravagant enlarged curly letter that so characterises English 14th century script. Other Germanic languages also developed the letter for w, but in modern German it is pronounced like the English v. That letter did not exist in Latin originally, but appeared much later for the consonantal u, and I don't think we really know how it was pronounced originally.
Another runic character, which did not appear in Old English but makes its appearance in Middle English writings, was the yogh. I have seen it described as representing a sound between a y and a g, whatever that might mean. It appears in words which today would be spelled with a silent g or as a consonantal y, as in yearly. I do not even know how you pronounce the word yogh, having heard people say YOG with a very hard sound, or even YO. I figure if you can work out how to pronounce it, you probably know what it sounded like, as I suspect it is onomatopoeic. Just to add to the confusion, it is written almost exactly like z in the scripts of the day.
Example from a poem written in a late 14th century cursiva anglicana book hand.
This example comes from the endorsement to a mid 15th century chancery petition, where it represents consonantal y.
And from a personal hand in one of the 15th century Paston letters.
The yogh disappeared, to be replaced by y, g, gh or other idiosyncrasies of English spelling. There does seem to be some confusion with certain consonants from the Middle English era, as g and w can get interchanged. For example, does your fridge or DVD player have a guarantee or a warranty? One of the delightful anomalies of English is that these kinds of inconsistencies never seem to get ironed out.
Another letter which was exceedingly rare in Latin was k, but it was quite common in Germanic languages, including English. However, as it has become part of the Roman alphabet as we use it, it has its own section here.
The special medieval letters for English have all died out, being replaced by combinations from the Roman alphabet. Well, w is still there, but we do call it double u. The process by which this happened was not terribly phonetic, so that English possibly has the most illogical set of spelling rules of any language.
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