IJ (letter)

From Academic Kids

The title of this article is incorrect because of technical limitations. The correct title is IJ.

IJ (IJ) is a letter from the Dutch alphabet used to represent the diphthong or . When unstressed, IJ is pronounced as a schwa.

It is referred to as the 'long IJ' in the Dutch language, and contrasts with the 'short IJ' ei, which in most dialects is pronounced identically.

It is different from the letter "Y", and sometimes replaces it in the Dutch alphabet. In Dutch Y only occurs in loanwords or in (variantly spelled) old Dutch, and is often called 'Griekse IJ' ('Greek Y') or 'I-Grc' (the latter from French).

History and pronunciation

IJ probably developed out of II representing a long I sound, which it still represents in one special case, namely bijzonder [special], and in several Dutch dialects. At some time in the 15th or 16th century, this began to be spelt as a ligature ij. The sound was variably also spelt y, and still is in the Afrikaans language, which split from 16th century Dutch. Some time after that the sound which was now represented by ij in most cases began to be pronounced much like ei instead, but words containing it were still spelt the same. Today ij in most cases represents the ei-like sound, except in the suffix -lijk, where it is pronounced as a schwa.


Although dictionaries since 1850 have invariably been sorting ij between ih and ik, most encyclopaedias and all telephone directories in the Netherlands (but not those in Belgium) sort ij and y together, as if they are the same. This is because many surnames have nonstandard spellings: Bruijn may also be spelled Bruyn, and thanks to this sorting they can be found next to each other. This also helps with Frisian names (such as 'Frysln') which contain a y but are often spelled with a ij and pronounced as 'ie'. Of course this sorting is not perfect, as the name Bruin would still not be sorted along with the other variants. But of course in dictionary order Bruyn would be orphaned instead.

No matter how it is sorted, or if the ligature or i+j is used, in Dutch it remains one letter, and therefore should be capitalized as a whole: ijsvrij (ice-free: a day off school sometimes given in deep winter) should be spelled IJ S V R IJ in widespaced all-caps, and not I J S V R I J. Also, if the ligature appears at the beginning of a proper name the ij is capitalized as a whole, e.g. in IJssel and IJmuiden.

This rule is however not always followed: some southern (Belgian) variants of Dutch do not consider IJ to be a letter, and consequently IJ is not consistently capitalized, resulting in spellings like Ijsvrij. This is however not standard usage, and seen as incorrect in other variants of Dutch.

Technical details

The Dutch Y can be represented as a ligature of I and J, and as such exists in Unicode in the Latin Extended-A range as the character IJ (U+0132) (and its lowercase form ij (U+0133)). These characters are not in ASCII or in any of the ISO 8859 character encodings, and therefore the letter is most often written as IJ. Using two separate letters is recommended by the European rules for the use of the IJ in public records (http://www.terena.nl/library/multiling/euroml/annex02.html).

In print (lowercase y with diaeresis) and ij (i+j) look very different, and ij (i+j) and ij (ligature) are practically the same, but in the handwriting of most Dutch speakers and ij are identical, but an ij can be distinguished from the combination of i and j. In case of the capital letter this is even more true: Ÿ and IJ are written nearly the same, but the combination IJ looks quite different.

The correct letters can be typed with the HTML character entities IJ (uppercase) and ij (lowercase).

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
Modified characters:

| | | | | Āā | Ąą | | Ĉĉ | Čč | Ćć | Đđ | Ęę | | Ĝĝ | Ğğ | Ĥĥ | Įį | | İı | Ĵĵ | Łł | | | | Őő | | Ǫǫ | Şş | Șș | Šš | Ŝŝ | Țț | Ŭŭ | | Ųų | Ůů | Űű | Žž

Alphabet extensions: | | DZdz | DŽdž | Əə | Ȝȝ | Ƕƕ | ĸ | LJlj | LLll | NJnj | Ŋŋ | Œœ | Ȣȣ | [[Half r|]] | ſ | | | Ƿƿ | IJij

nl:IJ (letter) de:IJ (Buchstabe)


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