Back in Old and Middle English, the word I had many different spellings, including ic, icc, ich, ikh, and i. You'll notice all those are lowercase; the capitalization started in the fourteenth century, first showing up around the time of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. It's actually very unusual to have the first person singular pronoun be majuscule - English is the only language that does it - but linguists theorize that it emerged when i became one letter to stress that it was not some kind of typographic error. Ic/icc/ich/ikh comes from Proto-Germanic ek, and that is reconstructed to the Proto-Indo-European root eg, which also meant "I". Going further, there's a New York Times article about this that raises some interesting points: how might the capitalized "I" affected the development of English speakers? How might increased use of lowercase i on the Internet change the use of the word? Why didn't this happen with other words? Just some interesting food for thought.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.