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The Letter J

The Letter J in Spanish

JOTA: a fricative velar unvoiced consonant sound

Origen of the letter:
It appeared in the 18th century and it is interchangeable with the letter X

Example of usage:
Jamon

The J in Spanish

The letter J is the tenth letter and the seventh consonant in the Castilian alphabet. Its name in Spanish is JOTA, because it comes from the Greek letter iota. It was the last letter to be added to the Spanish alphabet. The “J” symbol appeared for the first time in the Roman alphabet, it was simply used as a capital “I”. In the middle ages, the elongated shape (J) was often used for ornamental reasons as well as for writing numbers. The letter “J” wasn’t used until the second half of the seventeenth century. It took almost a century and a half for it to appear in European printed books. Therefore, long after the invention of printing, the letter “J” was a mere variation of a calligraphic “I”. In Latin and Old Spanish, the letter “J” was considered a “semi-vowel”.

The use of the letter “J” as a consonant was restricted in terms of where it may be positioned in a word. This explains the spelling variations that appear in two well-known Spanish words: Mexico/Méjico and Quixote/Quijote. In modern Spanish, this letter represents the sound that is produced by bringing the curved part at the back of the tongue closer to the roof of the mouth so that the air brushes past without vibrating the vocal cords like in the Spanish words, “caja”, “rojo”, “julio”. There is a relaxed “J” sound in the final letter of the Spanish word “reloj”.