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Claudian letters, with the variant of antisigma supported by manuscripts of Priscian.
Claudian letters with the ? variant of antisigma.
Claudian pomerium marker, where written words ampliavit and terminavit use turned digamma
? or /X (antisigma) to replace BS and PS, much as X stood in for CS and GS. The shape of this letter is disputed, however, since no inscription bearing it has been found. Franz Bücheler identified it with the variant Roman numeral ?, but 20th century philologists, working from copies of Priscian's books, believe it to instead resemble two linked Cs (?+?), which was a preexisting variant of Greek sigma, and easily mistaken for X by later writers. Revilo P. Oliver argued that Claudius would have based this letter upon the Arcadian variant of psi or . This letter should not be confused with the "open O" letter ?.
?, a turned F or digamma (digamma inversum) to represent consonantal U (w/v). The minuscule form should not be confused with the IPA symbol ? representing a voiced palatal stop.
?, a half H. The value of this letter is unclear, but perhaps it represented the so-called sonus medius, a short vowel sound (likely ? or ?) used before labial consonants in Latin words such as optumus/optimus. The letter was later used as a variant of y in inscriptions for short Greek upsilon (as in Olympicus). It may have disappeared because the sonus medius itself disappeared from spoken language.
These letters were used to a small extent on public inscriptions dating from Claudius' reign, but their use was abandoned after his death. Their forms were probably chosen to ease the transition, as they could be made from templates for existing letters. He may have been inspired by his ancestor Appius Claudius the Censor, who made earlier changes to the Latin alphabet. Claudius did indeed introduce his letters during his own term as censor (47-48), using arguments preserved in the historian Tacitus' account of his reign, although the original proclamation is no longer extant. Suetonius said of Claudius' letters:
Besides this he [Claudius] invented three new letters and added them to the alphabet, maintaining that they were greatly needed; he published a book on their theory when he was still in private life, and when he became emperor had no difficulty in bringing about their general use. These characters may still be seen in numerous books, in the [state] registers, and in inscriptions on public buildings.
The permanent change in shape from the old Roman letter ?, to its current closed shape P, first appears on coins from roughly the same time in Claudius' reign.[original research?]
Support for the letters was added in version 5.0.0 of Unicode. The letters are encoded as follows:
TURNED CAPITAL F TURNED SMALL F
ROMAN NUMERAL REVERSED ONE HUNDRED LATIN SMALL LETTER REVERSED C
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER HALF H LATIN SMALL LETTER HALF H
^Ryan, F. X. (1993). "Some Observations on the Censorship of Claudius and Vitellius, A.D. 47-48". American Journal of Philology. The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 114, No. 4. 114 (4): 611-618. doi:10.2307/295428. JSTOR295428.