Why is the pronoun ‘I’ the only pronoun that is capital by default in English?


Why is the pronoun ‘I’ the only pronoun that is capital by default in English?

In: 2109

The generally accepted linguistic explanation for the capital “I” is that it could not stand alone, uncapitalized, as a single letter, which allows for the possibility that early manuscripts and typography played a major role in shaping the national character of English-speaking countries.

Edit: copy/paste off google.

Well, since the current top comment just copy-pasted the New York Times without actually including the part that answers your question, I’m gonna put this in a top-level comment.

This is based on this article: https://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/03/magazine/03wwln-guestsafire-t.html

Basically, according to the historian in the article, single-letter words just looked weird to scribes in the olden days—like you made a mistake while writing or forgot the rest of the word.

The historian doesn’t directly explain why “a” is okay lower case, but that might be because “a” is a much less “important” or “weighty” word. He suggests that, for those old scribes, “I” had too important a meaning to be written so small, so they just made it bigger, until it settled into being upper case.

It’s also worth noting that, in Old English, “I” was not a single letter, and used to be “ich” or “ic”, kinda like German (which English is in the same language family as). It got shortened over time.

I get the historical explanations, but I was always taught in school that “I” is a proper pronoun. While that is probably fabricated by a low budget public education system, it does make for a fun explanation. The basic principle is that you are naming yourself in the first person. Since we rarely refer to ourselves in the third person we capitalize our own personal pronoun.

Again, probably not the real reason, but it was what I heard in English classes until maybe the 8th grade or so.

Like many things in English, it’s not based on any logical rule.

Early writers simply thought the letter i looked too small by itself.

The only other single-letter word in English is “a,” which doesn’t carry a lot of semantic weight.

Writers started capitalizing “I” to give it more importance, and it became tradition.

In Old English, it used to be “ich” or “ic” and it was not capitalized. Other pronouns like “him” and “her” follow this pattern. I guess you could say “I” is special.