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What is the background, history, and pronunciation of the symbol "8" when used in spelling a 17th century French word?  For example "Peoria" when it looks like "Pe8ria".

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I really don't have a clue but it doesn't look like the Greek letter for the long "o" -Omega , does it?

No, when I have seen it in manuscripts, such as Father Marquette's journal concerning the discovery of the Mississippi River in 1673, it always looks very much like the numeral eight: 8.  I have noticed it in other manuscripts of that age as well.  From the modern pronunciation of the words, it seems to me like it likely represents a sound something similar to "oo" or possibly "ou."

Thank you for your reply.

I wonder if by any chance you can post a scan so we can see what you mean exactly?

Here are three examples taken from the Marquette map of 1673, in each, it seems that "ou" or "oo" would make the approximate pronunciation of the Native American words Marquette was trying to record.  See attached file.

Attachments:

I honestly don't recall seeing this before (not that I'm an expert in historic manuscripts...). The only I can say is that theoretically, there does exist such a thing as an "ou ligature", which looks a bit like a figure 8: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ou_(ligature)

How much if ever this ligature was used in French, I'm honestly not sure...

You're exactly right!  Apparently, when formed precisely, the "8" has a small open gap in the very top of the upper loop.  The encyclopedia entry specifically cites its use in representing the Algonquin Native American language.

Thank you very much for your assistance.

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