I would like to know if there is a technical term, perhaps typographic, that describes a letter of the alphabet that can be analyzed as partly composed of another letter of the alphabet. This is not all that common in English, but there are examples. If you are teaching a child to make an uppercase R, for example, you might tell them to make an uppercase P and then add a leg or foot to it. That P could then be referred to as "the ______ P within the R."

Thank you.

  • Imaginative question indeed! I have no answer but I appreciate your unique idea. EL & U members please don't downvote this question without providing good reason, because the word "typographic" used in it suggests it is within the scope of English Language, if not Usage. – English Student Apr 25 '17 at 16:57
  • I think a more general definition: 'contained within a 'larger' shape' is more likely to have an answer. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 25 '17 at 17:01
  • Perhaps embedded? – michael.hor257k Apr 25 '17 at 17:31
  • I'm not sure if what you are looking for exists, but while we wait to see if anyone knows, you could consider the anatomy of characters fonts.com/content/learning/fontology/level-1/type-anatomy/… the naming of parts. Also, that could avoid creating any confusion in a learner's mind about the sounds of B and R being somehow built on the sound of P. – Spagirl Apr 25 '17 at 17:35
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    If there is a technical term, it's probably not something that you would use with a child learning to write. Also, sometimes the visual similarity is more than coincidence: G was created from C. – Laurel Apr 25 '17 at 20:10

Some relevant terms include typographic ligature, which refers to a symbol or character made from multiple letters:

Two or more letters combined into one character make a ligature. In typography some ligatures represent specific sounds or words such as the AE or æ diphthong ligature. Other ligatures are primarily to make type more attractive on the page such as the fl and fi ligatures. In most cases, a ligature is only available in extended characters sets or special expert sets of fonts.

Also relevant would be grapheme:

the smallest meaningful contrastive unit in a writing system.

And then there are glyphs:

The shape given in a particular typeface to a specific grapheme or symbol. Most commonly glyphs are letters and numerals, but punctuation marks and symbols and shapes (e.g. ITC Zapf Dingbats) are also glyphs.

So, for example “fi” comprises two glyphs, namely “f” and “i”; however, they can be combined into a single “fi” glyph (in this instance the combination of “f” + “i” to form a single glyph, is know as a ligature).

Roughly speaking, one glyph usually corresponds to one character in a typeface; however, there are numerous instances when this is not strictly true. For example, the glyph “ö” is sometimes represented by two characters, one representing the “o”, the other representing the diacritical mark “¨”.

It seems like none of these is an exact answer to your question, as with your example of "P" and "R." But they do provide terminology for how characters can interact with each other to present a larger whole (as with ligature).

I'm guessing typographers would describe letters in relation to each other based on their component parts. For instance, they might say that a capital "R" is like a capital "P" with a leg stroke.

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The stokes in R are a superset of those in P. The stokes in P are a subset of those in R.

NOUN Mathematics - A set which includes another set or sets. - https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/us/superset

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