G, the seventh letter and the fifth articulation of the English Alphabet, is derived to us, through the Latin and Greek, from the Assyrian languages; it being found in the Chaldee, Syriac, Hebrew, Samaritan, Phenician, Ethiopic and Arabic. In the latter language, it is called giim or jim; ;but in the others, gimel, gomal or gamal, that is camel, from its shape. which resembles the neck of that animal, at least in the Chaldee and Hebrew. It is the third letter in the Chaldee, Syriac, Hebrew, Samaritan and Greek; the fifth in the Arabic, and the twentieth in the Ethiopic. The early Latins used C for the Greek gamma, and hence C came to hold the third place in the order of the Alphabet; the place which gimel holds in the oriental languages. The two letters are primarily palatals, and so nearly allied in sound that they are easily convertible; and they have been reciprocally used the one for the other. But in the Assyrian languages; gimel had two sounds; one hard or close, as we pronounce the letter in gave, good; the other soft, or rather compound, as the English j or as ch in chase. In the Arabic, this letter has the sound of the English j or dzh, and this sound it has in many English words, as in genius, gem, ginger. It retains its hard sound in all cases, before a, o and u; but before e, i and y, its sound is hard or soft, as custom has dictated,and its different sounds are not reducible to rules. It is silent in some words before n, as in benign, condign, malign, campaign; but it resumes its sound inbenignityand malignity. G is mute before n in gnash; it is silent also in many words when united with h, as in bright, might,night, nigh,high. The Saxon g has in many words been softened or liquefied into y or ow; as Sax. daeg, gear, Eng. day, year; Sax. bugan, Eng. to Bow.
The Celtic nations had a peculiar manner of beginning the sound of u or w with the articulation g, or rather prefixing this articulation to that vowel. Thus guard for ward,gwain for wain, guerre for war, gwell for well. Whether this g has been added by the Celtic races, or whether the Teutonic nations have lost it, is a question I have not examined with particular attention. As a numeral G was anciently used to denote 400, and with a dash over it G, 40,000. As an abbreviation, it stands for Gaius, Geelius, &c. In music, it is the mark of the treble cliff, and from its being placed at the head or marking the first sound in Guido's scale, the whole scale took the name, Gammut, from the Greek name of the letter.
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