As the previous post showed there was a time that Latin Alphabet had 27 letters. Yes, English was written with 1 additional letter, the &. (due to Latin influence). Now, before there was even a Latin influence to be accounted for something, there was Anglo-Saxon culture and their Runic Alphabet known as fuþorc to start with. FuÞorc! See? There’s already a different letter right there, right? Read below a little bit more about the history of our own alphabet and those 2 extinct letters…
Þorn & ƿynn
(thorn and wynn)
Our analysis start with Old English. English was first written in the alphabet mentioned above, the Anglo-Saxon fuÞorc, also known as Anglo-Saxon. The Angles and Saxons came from Germany and settled in Britain in the fifth century. The region they inhabited became known as “Angle-land,” or “England.”
Eventually, Christian missionaries introduced the Latin alphabet, which ultimately replaced Anglo-Saxon. But for some time, the alphabet included the letters of the Latin alphabet, some symbols (like &), and some letters of Old English.
As Modern English evolved, the Old English letters were dropped or replaced.
(Our trusty alphabet isn’t the only part of language that has changed — October used to be the eighth month, and September the seventh.)
Here’s an example: In Old English, a letter called “thorn” represented the “th” sound (as in “that”) in Modern English. In the Latin alphabet, the “y” was the symbol that most closely resembled the character that represented thorn. So, thorn was dropped and “y” took its place.
That is why the word “ye,” as in “Ye Olde Booke Shoppe,” is an archaic spelling of “the.”
The Old English letter “wynn” was replaced by “uu,” which eventually developed into the modern w. (It really is a double u.)
The letters “u” and “j” didn’t join what we know as the alphabet until the sixteenth century.