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Ezh (letter)

Ezh (letter)

Ezh (Ʒ ʒ) is a letter in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), representing the voiced postalveolar fricative consonant. It is also called the "tailed z". Example: vision [ˈvɪʒən]. It is pronounced as the "s" in "treasure" or the "si" in the word "precision".

Ezh is used as a letter in some orthographies of Skolt Sami, both by itself, and with a caron (Ǯ ǯ). These denote partially voiced alveolar and post-alveolar affricates, respectively. It also appears in the orthography of some African languages, for example in the Aja language of Benin and the Daghbani language of Ghana, where the uppercase variant looks like a reflected sigma (Σ).

Origin

As a phonetic symbol, ezh originates with Isaac Pitman's alphabet in 1847, as a z with an added hook. The symbol is based on medieval cursive forms of Latin z, evolving into the blackletter z letter. In Unicode, however, the blackletter z ("tailed z", German geschwänztes Z) is considered a glyph variant of z, and not an ezh.

In contexts where "tailed z" is used in contrast to tail-less z, notably in standard transcription of Middle High German, Unicode ʒ is sometimes used, strictly speaking incorrectly. Unicode offers ȥ "z with hook" as a grapheme for Middle High German coronal fricative instead.

Ezh as an abbreviation for dram

In Unicode, a standard designed to allow symbols from all writing systems to be represented and manipulated by computers, the ezh is used as the symbol to represent the abbreviation for dram, an apothecaries' system unit of mass.

Ezh and yogh

In Unicode 1.0, the character was unified with the unrelated character yogh which was not correctly added to Unicode until Unicode 3.0. Historically, ezh is derived from Latin z, while yogh is derived from Latin g. The characters do look very similar, and do not appear alongside each other in any alphabet. To better differentiate between the two, the Oxford University Press and the Early English Text Society extend the uppermost tip of the 'yogh' into a little curvature upward.

Ezh and the digit three

The capital ezh looks similar to the common form of the figure three (3). To differentiate between the two characters, Ezh includes the sharp zigzag of the letter z, while the number is usually curved.

Still, there is a slightly different form of the Arabic numeral three called banker's three, which looks like the ezh. Its origin is that bankers did not want forgers to turn the 3's in a check into 8's, so the top is angled.

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