The letter Çç originated in the Visigothic script used in Spain in early medieval times. Contrary to what the modern shape and name c-cedilla suggest it is not originally a Cc with a diacritic, but a swash form of the letter Zz.
A form of Zz like the ʒ now used in IPA for the French sound of Jj, with a downward curved swash replacing the lower horizontal line, was widespread in medieval scripts. In Spain this form developed a variant with also the upper horizontal line becoming a curved swash. In time this form (No. 3 in the image) became differentiated in use, denoting the voiceless coronal affricate /t͡s/ while form (1) or (2) denoted the corresponding voiced affricate /d͡z/. Perhaps it was the use of this letter form for the same sound as Cc represented before the letters Ee, Ii and Yy that prompted its further development into a form like a Cc with a tail, through increasing the size of the upper curve while decreasing the size of the lower part.
The name cedilla
The word cedilla is originally a diminutive of zeda or ceda, the Spanish name for the letter Zz, and thus was originally a name for the letter Çç, and not just for the ostensible diacritic. Alternative forms in older Spanish were cerilla and ceril. Incidentally cerilla means "friction match" in modern Spanish!
Cedilla in Unicode
Note that the cedilla may be confused with ogonek ˛ or comma below ◌̦. In some fonts, the cedilla together with some letters may look identical to the comma. In Romanian, the letters Șș and Țț are actually supposed to have a comma below and not a cedilla, while in most other languages Şş and Ţţ are supposed to have cedillas.
|Cedilla||Combining Cedilla||Latin Capital Letter C With Cedilla||Latin Small Letter C With Cedilla||Latin Capital Letter C With Cedilla And Acute||Latin Small Letter C With Cedilla And Acute||Latin Capital Letter D With Cedilla||Latin Small Letter D With Cedilla||Latin Capital Letter E With Cedilla||Latin Small Letter E With Cedilla||Latin Capital Letter E With Cedilla And Breve||Latin Small Letter E With Cedilla And Breve||Latin Capital Letter G With Cedilla|
|Latin Small Letter G With Cedilla||Latin Capital Letter H With Cedilla||Latin Small Letter H With Cedilla||Latin Capital Letter K With Cedilla||Latin Small Letter K With Cedilla||Latin Capital Letter L With Cedilla||Latin Small Letter L With Cedilla||Latin Capital Letter N With Cedilla||Latin Small Letter N With Cedilla||Latin Capital Letter R With Cedilla||Latin Small Letter R With Cedilla||Latin Capital Letter S With Cedilla||Latin Small Letter S With Cedilla|
|Note: The diacritic is placed on top of the letter to avoid the descender of the g.||||Note: May be confused with Latin Capital Letter S With Comma Below, Ș (U+0218).||Note: May be confused with Latin Small Letter S With Comma Below, ș (U+0219).|
|Latin Capital Letter T With Cedilla||Latin Small Letter T With Cedilla|
|Note: May be confused with Latin Capital Letter T With Comma Below, Ț (U+021A).||Note: May be confused with Latin Small Letter T With Comma Below, ț (U+021B).|
Cedilla in Natlangs
|Disambiguation of letter with several uses||Catalan||Çç /s/||Çç is used before Aa, Oo, Uu, or word-finally, and stands for /s/. Cc without cedilla would stand for /k/ in those positions. Intervocalic Çç is pronunced [s], while intervocalic Ss is [z].|
|Palatal consonant||Latgalian, Latvian||Ģģ /ɟ/, Ķķ /c/, Ļļ /ʎ/, Ņņ /ɲ/|
|Livonian||Ḑḑ /ɟ/, Ļļ /ʎ/, Ņņ /ɲ/, Ţţ /c/|
|Palatalized consonant||Livonian||Ŗŗ /rʲ/|
|Postalveolar consonant||Turkish||Çç /tʃ/, Şş /ʃ/||Note that the cedilla in Çç actually distinguishes voicing from Cc /dʒ/, not position.|
- ↑ The image of the Visigothic z was borrowed from Dr Dianne Tillotson's medieval writing site. She in turn got it from the British Library.
- ↑ Catalan alphabet at Wikipedia.
- Cedilla at Wikipedia.
- Visigothic script at Wikipedia.
- Visigothic Script at Dr Dianne Tillotson's medieval writing site.
Zur Geschichte und Bezeichnung der Cédille in den romanischen Sprachen, PDF by Dr. Andre Klump, Mainz (in German).Dead link!
- Another image showing Visigothic script from the Library of the Medieval Institute at University of Notre Dame. AFAICT unfortunately without any example of Zz which of course was uncommon in Latin text.