5

There was a trend in the past of spelling semi-consonantal initial i (/j/) with a j:

  • jeri / ieri
  • jod / iod, yod
  • juta / iuta (loanword)
  • jota / iota
  • jato / iato
  • jella / iella
  • jena / iena
  • jodio / iodio
  • jonico / ionico
  • jattanza / iattanza
  • jettare, jettatura, jettatore / iettare, iettatura, iettatore

and similarly inter-vocal i:

  • aja / aia
  • bujo / buio
  • guajo / guaio
  • notajo / notaio
  • Savoja / Savoia
  • alleluja / alleluia
  • fidejussione / fideiussione
  • pajo, paja / paio, paia
  • ajola, ajuola / aiola, aiuola
  • noja, annojare / noia, annoiare
  • scojolo, scojattolo / scoiattolo

and additionally replacing plural suffix -ii (of -io) (to distinguish homophones from plural -i (of -o)):

  • varj / varij, varii, varî, vari
  • genj / genii, genî, geni
  • occhj / occhii, occhi
  • viaggj / viaggii, viaggi
  • studj
  • ufficj
  • principj
  • beccaj

but contemporarily, this orthography seems to have only been retained in a few proper nouns and latinisms:

  • Jesi, Jonio, Jesolo, Ajaccio, Letojanni, l’Aja
  • Jacopo, Jonio, Jole, Jannacci, Jolanda (Iolanda), Jago (Iago, Yago)
  • Jacuzzi, Jovine, Jacobelli, Jacoviello, Jaja, Ojetti, Ajello, Scajola, Pistoj, Rejna
  • Juventus, juventino (iuventino), juniores

and transcription of regional languages' words:

  • ajo (Romanesco, cognate with aglio)
  • naja (from Friulian naie, Old Venetian naia)

Apart from these proper nouns, are there any native Italian words still commonly spelled with a j?


Sources

The Tuscan Master; Or a New and Easy Method of Acquiring a Perfect Knowledge of the Italian Language in a Short Time, Divided into Two Parts..., Dr. Marcello Guelfi Borzacchini

http://www.treccani.it/vocabolario/j-j/

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    Nice question! I'm going to be the annoying one and ask what's your definition of native Italian words (if you go back enough most of them come from a different language anyways...). Would "used by an Italian writer before the year 1700" be ok? – Denis Nardin Mar 16 '18 at 17:44
  • Ah, yes haha - that seems fine for the purposes of my curiosity, but feel free to be as loose with the definition as you like. I mainly just wanted to avoid obvious global calques, like jazz, judo, jeans etc – ukemi Mar 16 '18 at 17:49
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    I agree with Denis's perplexity: what is a native Italian word? If we take the before-1700 definition, a good starting point would be to perform a search for “j” in, say, the third edition (1691) of the Crusca (lessicografia.it/ricerca_libera.jsp). Unfortunately, it does not seem to allow for fine-tuned searches, so many of the results returned – hundreds of them – are plurals in “-j” (occhj, vizj, savj...), which already by themselves attest that it was considered a full part of Italian orthography. – DaG Mar 16 '18 at 22:49
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    With no less patience, and loosening quite a bit our later endpoint, we may have a look at what Tommaseo thought about “J”. At least, it is easy to get the “J”-lemmas. – DaG Mar 16 '18 at 22:52
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    Tommaseo can be searched slightly better in the (not free) Zingarelli application. For instance, the first results for the lemmas in which * j * appears are “abbajare” and its derivates, “abbeveratojo” and similar words (abbigliatojo, abbocatojo...), and more than 2000 more (just lemmas, not inflexed forms). – DaG Mar 16 '18 at 22:55
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Apart from the vague suggestions I gave in the comments, perhaps the nearest to an actual answer is here. The digital version of Zingarelli dictionary allows some quite refined searches. It is mostly a vocabulary of contemporary use, not a historical one, so one of the requisites is satisfied by default.

By searching the the present (2018) edition for lemmas including a “j” (just lemmas, not inflexed forms) and asking for the century of first occurrence to be at most the 17th century, we get very little, and probably nothing that qualifies:

  • bijou
  • dagli (because of Roman variant “daje”)
  • fideiussione (because of the variant form “fidejussione”; the same for “fideiussore”)
  • foglietta (a volume measure for wine and oil, because of Roman variant “fojetta”)
  • j (as a lemma in itself)
  • junior
  • navaja
  • ragià (because of variant form “rajah”)

For the sake of curiosity, adding the 18th century only yields “acajou”, “jacquerie” and “Tokaj”, while in the 19th century a first tide of foreign terms began, from “abat-jour” to “navajo” (with, in last alphabetical position a curious, Neapolitan “scetavajasse”).

So, much as I personally love the letter “j” and would use it everywhere, I guess the answer to your question is a firm no (give or take a wandering fidejussore).

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  • 1
    For what it's worth, I'm pretty sure the plural principij is still used somewhere, but I'd be lying if I said it's common used. I'm surprised by the lack of naja (but that might be because it is a word that entered Italian in the 20th century with the Great War) – Denis Nardin Mar 17 '18 at 7:08
  • 1
    Indeed, @DenisNardin, Zingarelli gives 1918 as the year of the first attested use of naja. – DaG Mar 17 '18 at 10:26

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