Variants and attestation
Despite the fact that Alpha is basically the same in both Raetic alphabets, a comparatively great number of variants is distinguished in TIR. This is due to the accumulation of a number of characteristics which also occur, though usually individually, in the cases of other letters:
- The frequent attestation of randomly inverted forms.
- The attestation of rounded forms (usually corresponding to rounded forms of Upsilon in the same inscription).
- The attestation of both forms with symmetrically inclined hastae and with one straight hasta (also connected with corresponding forms of Upsilon).
- The attestation of variants with differently inclined bars in the asymmetrical forms.
Some unattested inverted forms have been retained for the sake of logical completeness. However, not all logically possible variants of rounded forms are systematically registered due to lack of attestations (i.e., rounded forms with the bar not touching the second hasta, and generally inverted variants, cp. Upsilon). (See ST-1 for a single possible exception.) Furthermore, distinctions which are not registered are:
- The bar touching the hasta in the bottom or at some point along its length.
- The bar not being executed to actually touch the hasta.
- The bar crossing either of the hastae.
- Lopsided variants: A variant of with the hasta in writing direction being shortened occurs in the inscriptions SR-7, SZ-3 and BZ-6, as well as in the marks SZ-44.2, SZ-46.2 and WE-6. A corresponding variant of occurs in some of the Magrè inscriptions (MA-8, MA-9, MA-10, MA-11, MA-19, MA-20).
While the alphabets of Magrè and Sanzeno do not systematically use different variants of Alpha, it can be observed that the Sanzeno alphabet exclusively employs variants with the bar rising in writing direction (←, , , ) – the marked form in the context of North Italic writing –, while the Magrè alphabet knows both rising and the more common falling bars. Although this means that is technically the standard sinistroverse form in Raetic, the orientation of the letters is described according to common Etruscoid practice, i.e. etc. = sinistroverse, etc. = dextroverse, to facilitate comparison with the other North Italic alphabets, and to avoid counter-intuitive ascriptions in the Venetoid inscriptions of the Raetic South. Closed forms (, ) are preferred in Magrè context, while open forms (, ) predominate in Sanzeno context. No pattern can be seen in the distribution of symmetrical and asymetrical variants. Of the rounded forms, variants with a rising bar occur in a number of Magrè-type inscriptions (and, notably, the associated NO-13), while variants with a falling bar () are almost exclusive to the petrographs (cp. the frequency of rounded forms of Upsilon and Kappa in rock inscriptions).
Alpha is one of the few letters which occurs both sinistroverse and dextroverse in the same inscription with some frequency (e.g. MA-2). Cp. Sigma. Due to the general preference for variants with a rising bar, Raetic Alpha does not develop "upright" variants with two falling bars, such as Este-style or late Western (identical to and often impossible to tell from Digamma). In doubtful or para-script contexts, / is indistinguishable from Chi /. Only in Magrè-type inscriptions does occur in clearly language-encoding inscriptions.
In addition to Raetic /a/, Alpha may have been employed to write foreign middle back rounded vowel phones ([o] or similar). See The Raetic language for a discussion.