I, or i, is the ninth letter and the third vowel letter of the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet. Its name in English is i (pronounced /ˈaɪ/), plural ies.
In Modern English spelling, ⟨i⟩ represents several different sounds, either the diphthong /aɪ/ ("long" ⟨i⟩) as in kite, the short /ɪ/ as in bill, or the ⟨ee⟩ sound /iː/ in the last syllable of machine. The diphthong /aɪ/ developed from Middle English /iː/ through a series of vowel shifts. In the Great Vowel Shift, Middle English /iː/ changed to Early Modern English /ei/, which later changed to /əi/ and finally to the Modern English diphthong /aɪ/ in General American and Received Pronunciation. Because the diphthong /aɪ/ developed from a Middle English long vowel, it is called "long" ⟨i⟩ in traditional English grammar.
The letter ⟨i⟩ is the fifth most common letter in the English language.
The English first-person singular nominative pronoun is "I", pronounced /aɪ/ and always written with a capital letter. This pattern arose for basically the same reason that lowercase ⟨i⟩ acquired a dot: so it wouldn't get lost in manuscripts before the age of printing:
The capitalized "I" first showed up about 1250 in the northern and midland dialects of England, according to the Chambers Dictionary of Etymology.
Chambers notes, however, that the capitalized form didn't become established in the south of England "until the 1700s (although it appears sporadically before that time).
Capitalizing the pronoun, Chambers explains, made it more distinct, thus "avoiding misreading handwritten manuscripts."
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