- Lower case
Lower case (also "lower-case" or "lowercase"), minuscule, or small letters are the smaller form of letters, as opposed to upper case or
capital letters, as used in European alphabets (Greek, Latin, Cyrillic, and Armenian). For example, the letter "a" is lower case while the letter "A" is upper case.
alphabets were written entirely in capital letters, spaced between well-defined upper and lower boundsFact|date=December 2007. When written quickly with a pen, these tended to turn into rounder and much simpler forms, like uncialsFact|date=December 2007. It is from these that the first minuscule hands developed, the half-uncials and cursive minuscule, which no longer stay bound between a pair of lines.
These in turn formed the foundations for the
Carolingian minusculescript, developed by Alcuinfor use in the court of Charlemagne, which quickly spread across Europe. Here for the first time it became common to mix both upper and lower case letters in a single text.
The term "lower case" comes from manual
typesetting. Since minuscules were more frequent in text than majuscules, typesetters placed them in the lower and nearer " type case", while the case with the majuscules (the "upper case") was above and behind, a longer reach.
The word "minuscule" is often spelled "miniscule", by association with the unrelated word "miniature" and the prefix "mini-". This has traditionally been regarded as a spelling mistake (since "minuscule" is derived from the word "minus" [Charlton T. Lewis, [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0060%3Aentry%3D%239936 minusculus] ] ), but is now so common that some
dictionariestend to accept it as a nonstandard spelling variation.Fact|date=March 2008 However, "miniscule" is still less likely to be used for lower-case letters.
Traditionally, "more important" letters—those beginning sentences or
nouns—were made larger; then they were written in a different script, although there was no fixed capitalization system until the early eighteenth century (and even then all nouns were capitalized, a system still followed in German but not in English).
Similar developments have taken place in other alphabets. The lower-case script for the
Greek alphabethas its origins in the seventh century and acquired its quadrilinearform in the eighth century. Over time, uncial letter forms were increasingly mixed into the script. The earliest dated Greek lower-case text is the Uspenski Gospels(MS 461) in the year 835. The modern practice of capitalizing every sentence seems to be imported (and is commonly not used when printing Ancient Greek materials even today).
In scripts with a case distinction, the lower case is generally used in most texts, and for most of any given text, with the upper case reserved for emphasis and special contexts.
* [http://www.linfo.org/lower_case.html Lower Case Definition] by The Linux Information Project; also includes information on lower case as it relates to computers.
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