Why “I” Is Capitalized In English
If you write correctly, then you most likely capitalize the letter “I” every time you use it in the first-person pronoun. However, it may surprise you to know that the English language is the only one that actually does it. But why is “I” capitalized in English at all? Let us delve into this question further to find out the answer.
In The Beginning
The English language has been around for centuries now. As the years have gone by, it has evolved into what it is today. There are many grammar rules to learn and be aware of. Most of those rules evolved and have explanations and origins. But when it pertains to the use of the first person singular “I” in capital letter, there’s a problem. That problem is that the true origin as why it happened is unknown. Truth is that both historians and linguists alike agree that they have been unable to find the real explanation as why this is so. What we do know is that it may have evolved in the Old and early Middle English.
In the German language, ‘ich’ was used back then as the personal pronoun. However, in time, it began to evolve and the personal pronouns grew. They began to change from Ich, ich, Ic, ic and I. As those changes came about, all of them were also used in English writing with many variations. Yet by the end of the period of Middle English, “I” became the sole winner. Alone and triumphant, the accompanying ‘ch’ were dropped. Still, even after these changes, the actual reason as to why remains unclear.
Don’t forget to read Are You Following These Rules of Capitalization?
There are several explanations as to why English ended up capitalizing the letter ‘I.’
While English stands alone as being the only one that does it, there are some interesting facts. For one, the word ‘we’ is not capitalized. Secondly, when ‘i’ was used at the beginning, it was used in lowercase form. Some scholars believe that when and after the ‘ch’ was dropped, there was a linguistic concern. That’s because they wanted it to represent importance; especially when used in a statement.
Another theory focuses on the psychological factor. That factor applied to the writer using it and affirming its importance. The importance being on the writer and not on the subject itself. In the middle ages, the egotism of writers was greater than it is today in many ways. The last explanation is thought to be on the practicalities of handwriting as opposed to the language itself. Since many felt that the lower case ‘i’ appeared weak on its own, the capitalization came into play. The historians believe that due to smudging issues experienced by scribes back then, this was a way to combat that. Without it being capitalized, it would have been easier for it to become intelligible or easily smudge over time.
You may also want to check out The Rules for Italics
From This Point On
Some historians look back to Geoffrey Chaucer and his writing of The Canterbury Tales which was written in the late 1300’s. He emphasized on using a taller ‘I’ than normal when he wrote it. From that moment on, it appears to have become the norm. These days, some people at times ignore using it in uppercase in instant messages and emails. But that may due to those people simply doing so because of trying to write faster. The reality is that now, most of us cannot imagine using the letter ‘I’ without it being capitalized. Quite honestly, ‘i’ in lowercase, simply appears very weak.