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Wondering when and why historically the Anglo-Saxon letter "Y" became a (part-time) vowel substitute for the letter "I", leading to "gymnasium" instead of "gimnasium" or "cyanide" instead of "cianide" etc.

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    'Y' is a full vowel in 'gymnasium' and 'cyanide' but a semivowel in 'yellow'. Nov 6 '17 at 9:15
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    Neither the Angles nor the Saxons nor even the Jutes, let alone the English, invented the letter Y. It comes to us from Greek by way of Latin, not from the fuþorc.
    – tchrist
    Nov 6 '17 at 11:45
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    First tell us about the history of the classification "vowel".
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 6 '17 at 12:45
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The answer is that Y has always been used as a vowel in English.

For example, hyð. The OED has a citation from Corpus Glossary (c736):

Deconfugione, statione, hyðae.

And another from Metres of Boethius (1000):

Þæt is sio an hyð.

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