In Middle English writing, tailed z came to be indistinguishable from yogh.
In Middle Scots, the character yogh became confused with a cursive z and the early Scots printers often used z when yogh was not available in their fonts. Consequently, some Modern Scots words have a z in place of a yogh—the common surname MacKenzie was originally written MacKenȝie (pronounced makenyie).
Yogh is shaped similarly to the Arabic numeral 3, which is sometimes substituted for the character in online reference works. There is some confusion about the letter in the literature, as the English language was far from standardised at the time. Capital Ȝ is represented in Unicode by code point U+021CȜLATIN CAPITAL LETTER YOGH, and lower case ȝ by code point U+021DȝLATIN SMALL LETTER YOGH.
It stood for /ɡ/ and its various allophones—including [ɡ] and the voiced velar fricative[ɣ]—as well as the phoneme /j/ (⟨y⟩ in modern English orthography). In Middle English, it also stood for the phoneme /x/ and its allophone [ç] as in ⟨niȝt⟩ ("night", in an early Middle English way still often pronounced as spelled so: [niçt]). Sometimes, yogh stood for /j/ or /w/, as in the word ⟨ȝoȝelinge⟩ [ˈjowəlɪŋɡə], "yowling".
In Middle Scots, it represented the sound /j/ in the clusters /lj/, /ŋj/ and /nj/ written lȝ and nȝ. Yogh was generally used for /j/ rather than y.
In medieval Cornish manuscripts, yogh was used to represent the voiced dental fricative[ð], as in its ⟨ȝoȝo⟩, now written ⟨dhodho⟩, pronounced [ðoðo].
The original Germanic g sound was expressed by the gyfu rune in the Anglo-Saxon futhorc (which is itself sometimes rendered as ȝ in modern transliteration). Following palatalization, both gyfu and Latin g in Old English expressed the /j/ sound before front vowels. For example, "year" was written as gear, even though the word had never had a g sound (deriving from Proto-Germanic*jērą).
With the re-introduced possibility of a /ɡ/ sound before front vowels, notably in the form of loanwords from the Old Norse (such as gere from Norse gervi, Modern English gear), this orthographical state of affairs became a source for confusion, and a distinction of "real g" (/ɡ/) from "palatalized g" (/j/) became desirable.
In the 14th century, the digraph gh arose as an alternative to yogh for /x/, and eventually overtook yogh in popularity; still, the variety of pronunciations persisted, as evidenced by cough, taught, and though. The process of replacing the yogh with gh was slow, and was not completed until the arrival of printing presses (which lacked yogh) in England around the end of the fifteenth century. Not every English word that contains a gh was originally spelled with a yogh: for example, spaghetti is Italian, where the h makes the g hard (i.e., [ɡ] instead of [dʒ]); ghoul is Arabic, in which the gh was /ɣ/.
The medieval author Orm used this letter in three ways when writing Early Middle English. By itself, it represented /j/, so he used this letter for the y in "yet". Doubled, it represented /i/, so he ended his spelling of "may" with two yoghs. Finally, the digraph of yogh followed by an h represented /ɣ/.
In the late Middle English period, yogh was no longer used: niȝt came to be spelled night. Middle English re-imported G in its French form for /ɡ/ (As a further side note, French also used ⟨y⟩ to represent /j/ in words like voyage and yeux).
In words of French and Gaelic origin, the Early Scotspalatal consonant/ɲ/ had become /nj/ or in some cases /ŋj/, and the palatal consonant /ʎ/ had become /lj/ by the Middle Scots period. Those were variously written nȝ(h)e, ngȝe, ny(h)e or ny(i)e, and lȝ(h)e, ly(i)e or lyhe (cf. gn and gli in Italian). By the Modern Scots period the yogh had been replaced by the character z, in particular for /ŋj/, /nj/ (nȝ) and /lj/ (lȝ), written nz and lz. The original /hj/ and /çj/ developed into /ʃ(j)/ in some words such as Ȝetland or Zetland for Shetland. Yogh was also used to represent /j/ in words such as ȝe, ȝhistirday (yesterday) and ȝoung but by the Modern Scots period y had replaced yogh. The pronunciation of MacKenzie (and its variant spellings) (from Scottish Gaelic MacCoinnich[maxˈkʰɤɲɪç]), originally pronounced [məˈkɛŋjiː] in Scots, shows where yogh became z. Menzies Campbell is another example.
In Middle Scots orthography, the use of yogh became confused with a cursive z and the early Scots printers often used z when yogh was not available in their fonts.
The yogh glyph can be found in surnames that start with a Y in Scotland and Ireland; for example the surname Yeoman, which would have been spelled Ȝeman. Sometimes, the yogh would be replaced by the letter z, because the shape of the yogh was identical to some forms of handwritten z.
In Unicode 1.0, the character yogh was mistakenly unified with the quite different character ezh (Ʒ ʒ), and yogh itself was not added to Unicode until version 3.0.
List of Middle English words containing a yogh
These are examples of Middle English words that contain the letter yogh in their spellings.
Kilchenzie or Kilkenzie – a small settlement on the Kintyre peninsula, from Choinnich (Scottish Gaelic pronunciation: [ˈxɤɲɪç]), the genitive of Coinneach (Scottish Gaelic pronunciation: [ˈkʰɤɲəx]) "Kenneth";
Kilhenzie – a small settlement in South Ayrshire, also from Choinnich;
The symbol actually used in Egyptology is , two half-rings opening to the left. Since Unicode 5.1, it has been assigned its own codepoints (uppercase U+A722 Ꜣ LATIN CAPITAL LETTER EGYPTOLOGICAL ALEF, lowercase U+A723 ꜣ LATIN SMALL LETTER EGYPTOLOGICAL ALEF); a fallback is the numeral 3.