Are there any ambiguities created by merging I and J into one letter?

In some Latin alphabet Polybius squares, the I and J are merged into one letter. Normally, this doesn’t really create any problems, as I and J are a vowel and a consonant, so there wouldn’t really be a case where they could easily be swapped. The only one I can think of is ion and jon. Are there any more?


Oh please. We’ve already been there, before j was invented and English worked just fine then too:

However, there were some (now obsolete) rules to distinguish between vowel and consonant forms. Bullokar explains:


I has two sounds, one agreeing to its old and continued name, and is then a vowel, the other sound agreeing to the old name of g and my g’, and then is a consonant: and is always used for a consonant, when it begins a syllable and a vowel next after it in the same syllable.

Even without knowing that rule, I can read “pre-j” books easily, simply because I am a native speaker. Most of the time, it’s obvious it’s really a j, for example subiect.

Even so, there are plenty of words that are spelled the same way in English already (some of which are also homophones). For example, it’s always quite obvious if Turkey is the country, or a bird (and its meat). It’s all about context.

On the other hand, English has grown used to having a separate j and i. These newer parts of the language will be the root of any problems.

For example, this change would drastically affect shorthand writing.

  • In SMS, ik and jk are two different things (“I know” and “just kidding”).
  • This would affect some acronyms, potentially changing the pronunciation. (Example: SJC becomes SIC.)
  • Replacing all the j’s with i’s would also invalidate a very large percentage of programming code, given their use as iterator varible names, among other purposes. (Interesting history behind that, BTW.)

Also, some words with double (or more) i/j will be practically impossible to parse:

  • bijou would become biiou
  • Ijo would become Iio
  • Fiji would become Fiii
  • Beijing would become Beiiing (although we could use the old romanizarion Peking instead)

This type of change would only cause a few words to have the same spelling, and typically this would not be a problem (again, context). Actually, sometimes this would consolidate different, synonymous spellings (alleluja vs. alleluia, Maia vs. Maja).

I found some words that would now overlap.

(Method: I got a list of words from /usr/share/dict/words containing j. I replaced the j’s with i’s and removed all the words that had the red spellcheck line. I ignored pairs of alternative spellings, and pairs where one or more word was always a name, not in English, or obscure slang.)

I found these words:

  • field/fjeld
  • hajj/haji
    • These words are derived from the same Arabic word. There are a whole bunch of alternate spellings for hajj that cropped up, including alfaie/alfaje.
  • iamb/jamb
  • ione/jone
  • iota/jota
  • kai/kaj
    • One is NZ slang, the other is Indian; probably a non-issue with overlap.
  • maiolica/majolica
    • Majolica is earthenware made to imitate maiolica
  • rai/raj
  • raia/raja
  • sai/saj
  • tai/taj

Of these words, the only ones that are likely to be confused are field/fjeld, hajj/haji, and maiolica/majolica. Which is nothing.

How did they make it work before?

You could use ‘g’ for the ‘j’ sound in most of those words – mgb

Yes, g was often used where i would have been ambiguous. You can still see this in words: for example, edge instead of edie.

Additionally, particualarly with words of Spanish origin, it would be appropriate to use h, as in the a variant spelling of marijuana: marihuana.

*A note about names

Everyone with a name from before a change in orthography would keep the original spelling. (The DMV is already too crowded; now imagine all the Johns need to get their driver’s licence changed all at once.)

You can see this in other languages, too. On German.SE, äüö explains:

No, personal names are always spelled as they are officially registered on birth. They do not fall under the changes of rules of New German Orthography.

What you would find is that people will start naming their babies differently, adapting to the new English orthography.

Source : Link , Question Author : yonderfork , Answer Author : Community

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