A

Basic Latin alphabet
Aa Bb Cc Dd    
Ee Ff Gg Hh
Ii Jj Kk Ll Mm Nn
Oo Pp Qq Rr Ss Tt
Uu Vv Ww Xx Yy Zz

A (; named a, plural aes)[1] is the first letter and a vowel in the basic modern Latin alphabet. It is similar to the Ancient Greek letter Alpha, from which it derives.

Contents


Origins

"A" can be traced to a pictogram of an ox head in Egyptian hieroglyph or the Proto-Sinaitic alphabet.[2]

Egyptian Proto-Semitic
ox's head
Phoenician
aleph
Greek
Alpha
Etruscan
A
Roman/Cyrillic
A

In 1600 B.C. the Phoenician alphabet's letter had a linear form that served as the base for some later forms. Its name must have corresponded closely to the Hebrew or Arabic aleph.


Blackletter A

Uncial A

Another Blackletter A 

Modern Roman A

Modern Italic A

Modern Script A

When the Ancient Greeks adopted the alphabet, they had no use for the glottal stop that the letter had denoted in Phoenician and other Semitic languages, so they used the sign to represent the vowel /a/, and kept its name with a minor change (alpha). In the earliest Greek inscriptions after the Greek Dark Ages, dating to the 8th century BC, the letter rests upon its side, but in the Greek alphabet of later times it generally resembles the modern capital letter, although many local varieties can be distinguished by the shortening of one leg, or by the angle at which the cross line is set.

The Etruscans brought the Greek alphabet to their civilization in the Italian Peninsula and left the letter unchanged. The Romans later adopted the Etruscan alphabet to write the Latin language, and the resulting letter was preserved in the modern Latin alphabet used to write many languages, including English.

The letter has two minuscule (lower-case) forms. The form used in most current handwriting consists of a circle and vertical stoke ("ɑ"), called Latin alpha or "script a". Most printed material uses a form consisting of a small loop with an arc over it ("a"). Both derive from the majuscule (capital) form. In Greek handwriting, it was common to join the left leg and horizontal stroke into a single loop, as demonstrated by the Uncial version shown. Many fonts then made the right leg vertical. In some of these, the serif that began the right leg stroke developed into an arc, resulting in the printed form, while in others it was dropped, resulting in the modern handwritten form.

Usage

In English, "a" by itself frequently denotes the near-open front unrounded vowel (/æ/) as in pad, the open back unrounded vowel (/ɑː/) as in father, or, in concert with a later orthographic vowel, the diphthong /eɪ/ as in ace and major, due to effects of the great vowel shift.

In most other languages that use the Latin alphabet, "a" denotes an open front unrounded vowel (/a/). In the International Phonetic Alphabet, variants of "a" denote various vowels. In X-SAMPA, capital "A" denotes the open back unrounded vowel and lowercase "a" denotes the open front unrounded vowel.

"A" is the third common used letter in English, and the second most common in Spanish and French. In one study, on average, about 3.68% of letters used in English tend to be ‹a›s, while the number is 6.22% in Spanish and 3.95% in French.[3]

"A" is often used to denote something or someone of a better or more prestigious quality or status: A-, A or A+, the best grade that can be assigned by teachers for students' schoolwork; A grade for clean restaurants; A-List celebrities, etc. Such associations can have a motivating effect as exposure to the letter A has been found to improve performance, when compared with other letters.[4]

A turned "a", ‹ɐ› is used by the International Phonetic Alphabet for the near-open central vowel, while a turned capital "A" ("∀") is used in predicate logic to specify universal quantification.

Alternative representations of A

Computing codes

In Unicode, the capital "A" is codepoint U+0041 and the lower case "a" is U+0061.[5]

The ASCII code for capital "A" is 65 and for lower case "a" is 97; or in binary 01000001 and 01100001, respectively.

The EBCDIC code for capital "A" is 193 and for lowercase "a" is 129; or in binary 11000001 and 10000001, respectively.

The numeric character references in HTML and XML are "A" and "a" for upper and lower case, respectively.

See also

References