The Latin alphabet is the common name for the script type used by most modern Indo-European languages, as well as several languages outside this family of languages. The name of this script is derived from the fact that it was originally composed for use in the Latin language. The modern Latin alphabet in its basic form is composed of 26 letters, to which several languages add a few variants.

However, the classic Latin alphabet contained only 23 letters.

The letters 'J' was added in the middle ages to differentiate the consonantal 'I' from the vowel one.

The letters 'U' and 'V' were actually two ways of writing the same letter, but again in the middle ages they were separated so that 'U' represented the vowel form of the sound, and 'V' the consonantal form ('V' was pronounced like the modern English 'W').

The letter 'W' was also added in the middle ages, and originally it represented the sound it still represents in German (i.e. the English 'V').

In addition to the above, several letters were used only in the transcription of Greek words, and were in fact copied in form form the Greek. These letters are: 'K' (that appears only in two Latin words, both latinized Greek words), 'Y' and 'Z'.

In earlier Latin the letter 'G' did not appear as well, and the letter 'C' was used for it (C in classical Latin is always pronounced as in 'Car', and never as in 'Certain'), remnants of this are the facts that the initial for the name 'Gaius' is 'C.', and that the combination 'GS' always turns to 'X', just like the combination 'CS'

Two other signs have been introduced in the middle ages to the Latin writing system, 'Æ' and 'Œ', these signs are not considered actual letters, but merely a stylistic alternative for the combinations 'AE' (a very common diphthong in Latin) and 'OE' (a slightly less common diphthong) respectively.

In addition all non-capital letters were also only developed in the middle ages.

The Romans actually had two alphabets--one for writing on scrolls, notes, etc., and one for carving into stone. The alphabet we all know is the one which was carved on stone, and looks more or less like a variation on that standard computer font, "Times New Roman."

However, the handwritten alphabet--literally "manuscript"--looked somewhat different:


                                         ____   ____
   /|\      |\   /   |\    | |   | |     |         /
  / | \     |/  /    | \   | |   |       |--      /
 /  |  \    |\  \    | /   | |   |   OR  |       /
/   |   \   |/   \   |/    | |   |       |      /___

    A       B    C   D      E    F       F       Z


                                          ___     ____   
|  |   |   | /    |     |\  /|   |\ |    /   \    |   |  
|__|   |   |/     |     | \/ |   | \|   /     \   |   |  
|  |   |   |\     | /   |    |   |      \     /   |      
|  |   |   | \    |/    |    |   |       |   |    |      
							 
 H     I    K     L       M       N      O         P     



  ____                 _____
 /    \     |\    /      |      \      /   \  /
|      |    |/    \      |       \    /     \/
|      |    |\     \     |        \  /      /\
 \____\     | \    /     |         \/      /  \
       \
   Q         R     S     T         U/V      X


I wish to note that ASCII does not convey curves very well. The manuscript alphabet was not quite this angular, though it was this thin--that is, the "S" looked more like a curved "S" stretched out thin.

As we can see, the main differences can be seen in the way that the letters A, E, O, and P were written. "A" has a vertical middle bar, instead of a horizontal bar; "E" is two parallel vertical lines; "O" is actually more like an upsidedown "U", and "P" is without the closing bottom curve.

The reasons for some of this can be explained as the Roman borrowing from the Greek alphabet: "O" looking like an upsidedown "U" is simply the Greek Ω; "P" is Π. Time and slopping writing/mutations would lead to the Roman scribes curving the lines, leading to a closed space in the letter, as opposed to the open lines. The "A" and "E" are (IIRC) derived from Etruscan letters.

All of this ultimately derives from the Phoenicians of course, but that's another story.

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