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An unknown phonetic character?

by Andreas St?tzner (3 January 2008)

James Kass has discovered a hitherto unknown phonetic character, in an image of a 1929  German-French dictionary. It is an edition from the well-known Langenscheidt publishing house.

Here are some introductory explanations extracted from the volume, featuring the letter in question:


The letter is obviously based on the shapes of capital G and lowercase j. It is used to resemble the french sound of g which is nowadays more conventionally transcribed with [ʒ] (= ezh; 0292)*. The Geejay, how we may adress it for the time being, seems to be of rather rare occurence and is not yet encoded.

If eventually considered for encoding, the casing of this letter may be of particular delicacy. Is it a lowercase, uppercase or ?caseless? letter? Or a hermaphrodite? The glyph in the source depicted above is a merger of one uppercase and one lowercase part (G_j). In the text of the dictionary it is used as a unicase or caseless letter. It is questionable wether to speak of it as a ligature.

When elegible for encoding it should perhaps get treated as a phonetic character (like the IPA characters). There are no free cells in existing Phonetics ranges. Though many phonetic characters appear to be of a somewhat dubious case nature (esp. UPA, 1D00?) all IPA letters are defined as ?LATIN SMALL LETTERs?. It would be neccessary to decide upon the case of Gj.

One option is to determine it as caseless. This might be simplest but may cause confusions and typographically frustrating results if someone decides to use it alongside with other phonetic letters.

If named ?LATIN SMALL LETTER ?? than irritations about the testified glyph shape are to be expected, even when it is claimed to be caseless. Remains the other option, to make it a bicameral letter with two characters. Default glyphs may then fit into a given font like this:

However, further investigation should be made to sort out wether phonologists know of the letter, perhaps more attests of usage, glyph variants and so on.

*  Thanks to Andre Szabolcs Szelp for correcting this.  A:S

Supplement, 4 Jan. 2008

The same character is to be found in a 1940 edition of a German-Italian dictionary, by the same publisher. The Geejay appears with a different glyph here, the j-part of it featuring a scriptive loop. By the way, there’s yet another peculiar character in this book: a kind of n_j-ligature.


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Letzte Änderung: 04.01.2008 02:12