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Why is Y pronounced ‘Why’?

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My understanding is that it's to do with its pronunciation in Old English. In early Old English, i and y were different sounds. i was IPA [i], like "ee" in Modern English, and y was [y], like "u" in French or "ü" in German, and their names were simply pronounced in that way.

But when those two sounds merged, a way to distinguish the names of the letters was needed, and so the pronunciation of y became [wi] (like "wee"). Later sound shifts changed the names of i and y to their modern forms, but besides that, the usage of y also changed to be less similar to its original sound. Because i and y now had the same sound, they were often confused and most original uses of y were replaced with i. Then, later, the letter ȝ (yogh) fell out of use, and was replaced with the visually similar y.

Thus, through a sequence of phonological and orthographic mergers, we have a name for the letter y that comes from a completely different source to most of its modern uses.

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Thanks for such a comprehenive explanation Steven. It's always fascinating to explore the way language changes. (Don't get me started on 'fascinate'.)