Who invented Alphabet?

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  • 1 decade ago
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    A Specimen of typeset fonts and languages, by William Caslon, letter founder; from the 1728 Cyclopaedia.An alphabet is a standardized set of letters — basic written symbols — each of which roughly represents a phoneme of a spoken language, either as it exists now or as it was in the past. There are other systems of writing such as logographies, in which each character represents a word, and syllabaries, in which each character represents a syllable, but alphabets are the most widespread writing system. Alphabets are in turn classified according to how they indicate vowels: as equal to consonants, as in Greek, as modifications of consonants, as in Hindi, or not at all, as in Arabic.

    The word "alphabet" came into Middle English from the Late Latin Alphabetum, which in turn originated in the Ancient Greek Alphabetos, from alpha and beta, the first two letters of the Greek alphabet.[1] There are dozens of alphabets in use today. Most of them are composed of lines (linear writing); notable exceptions are Braille, fingerspelling, and Morse code.

    Contents [hide]

    1 Linguistic definition and context

    2 History

    2.1 Middle Eastern Scripts

    2.2 European alphabets

    2.3 Asian alphabets

    3 Types

    4 Spelling

    5 See also

    6 Notes

    7 Bibliography

    8 External links

    [edit] Linguistic definition and context

    Writing systems



    List of writing systems










    Main article: Writing system

    The term alphabet prototypically refers to a writing system that has characters (graphemes) for representing both consonant and vowel sounds, even though there may not be a complete one-to-one correspondence between symbol and sound.

    A grapheme is an abstract entity which may be physically represented by different styles of glyphs. There are many written entities which do not form part of the alphabet, including numerals, mathematical symbols, and punctuation. Some human languages are commonly written by using a combination of logograms (which represent morphemes or words) and syllabaries (which represent syllables) instead of an alphabet. Egyptian hieroglyphs and Chinese characters are two of the best-known writing systems with predominantly non-alphabetic representations.

    Non-written languages may also be represented alphabetically. For example, linguists researching a non-written language (such as some of the indigenous Amerindian languages) will use the International Phonetic Alphabet to enable them to write down the sounds they hear.

    Most, if not all, linguistic writing systems have some means for phonetic approximation of foreign words, usually using the native character set.[2]

    [edit] History

    Main article: History of the alphabet

    [edit] Middle Eastern Scripts

    A specimen of Proto-Sinaitic script, one of the earliest (if not the very first) phonemic scriptsThe history of the alphabet starts in ancient Egypt. By 2700 BCE Egyptian writing had a set of some 22 hieroglyphs to represent syllables that begin with a single consonant of their language, plus a vowel (or no vowel) to be supplied by the native speaker. These glyphs were used as pronunciation guides for logograms, to write grammatical inflections, and, later, to transcribe loan words and foreign names.[3]

    However, although seemingly alphabetic in nature, the original Egyptian uniliterals were not a system and were never used by themselves to encode Egyptian speech.[4] In the Middle Bronze Age an apparently "alphabetic" system known as the Proto-Sinaitic script is thought by some to have been developed in central Egypt around 1700 BCE for or by Semitic workers, but only one of these early writings has been deciphered and their exact nature remains open to interpretation.[5] Based on letter appearances and names, it is believed to be based on Egyptian hieroglyphs.[5]

    This script eventually developed into the Proto-Canaanite alphabet, which in turn was refined into the Phoenician alphabet.[6] Note that the scripts mentioned above are not considered proper alphabets, as they all lack characters representing vowels. These early vowelless alphabets are called abjads, and still exist in scripts such as the Arabic and Hebrew scripts.

    Phoenician was the first major phonemic script.[7][8] In contrast to two other widely used writing systems at the time, Cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphs, each of which contained thousands of different characters, it contained only about two dozen distinct letters, making it a script simple enough for common traders to learn. Another advantage to Phoenician was that it could be used to write down many different languages, since it recorded words phonemically.

    The script was spread by the Phoenicians, whose Thalassocracy allowed the script to be spread across the Mediterranean.[7] In Greece, the script was modified to add the vowels, giving rise to the first true alphabet. The Greeks took letters which did not represent sounds that existed in Greek, and changed them to represent the vowels. This marks the creation of a "true" alphabet, with the presence of both vowels and consonants as explicit symbols in a single script. In its early years, there were many variants of the Greek alphabet, a situation which caused so many different alphabets to evolve from it.

    [edit] European alphabets

    Codex Zographensis in the Glagolitic alphabet from Medieval Bulgaria.The Cumae form was carried over to the Italian peninsula, where it gave way to a variety of alphabets used to inscribe the Italic languages. One of these became the Latin alphabet, which was spread across Europe as the Romans expanded their empire. Even after the fall of the Roman state, the alphabet survived in intellectual and religious works. It eventually became used for the descendant languages of Latin (the Romance languages), and then for the other languages of Europe.

    Another notable script is Elder Futhark, and is believed to have evolved out of one of the Old Italic alphabets. Elder Futhark gave rise to a variety of alphabets known collectively as the Runic alphabets. The Runic alphabets were used for Germanic languages from 100 AD to the late Middle Ages. Its usage was mostly restricted to engravings on stone and jewelry, although inscriptions have also been found on bone and wood. These alphabets have since been replaced with the Latin alphabet, except for decorative usage for which the runes remained in use until the 20th century.

    The Glagolitic alphabet was the script of the liturgical language Old Church Slavonic, and became the basis of the Cyrillic alphabet. The Cyrillic alphabet is one of the most widely used modern alphabets, and is notable for its use in Slavic languages and languages formerly part of the Soviet Union, such as the Bulgarian and Russian alphabets. The Glagolitic alphabet is believed to have been created by Saints Cyril and Methodius, while the Cyrillic alphabet was invented by the Bulgarian scholar Clement of Ohrid, who was their disciple. They feature many letters that appear to have been borrowed from or influenced by the Greek alphabet and the Hebrew alphabet.

    [edit] Asian alphabets

    Beyond the logographic Chinese writing, many phonetic scripts are in existence in Asia. The Arabic alphabet, Hebrew alphabet, Syriac alphabet, and other abjads of the Middle East are developments of the Aramaic alphabet, but because these writing systems are largely consonant-based they are often not considered true alphabets.

    Most alphabetic scripts of India and Eastern Asia are descended from the Brahmi script, which is often believed to be a descendent of Aramaic, but this link is controversial. These scripts are abugidas, that is, they write syllables instead of individual sounds, so their status as alphabets is disputed.

    Zhuyin on a cell phoneIn Korea, the Hangeul alphabet was created, although it may also have been derived from the Mongolian Phagspa script, which in turn was derived from the Brahmi script. Hangeul is a unique alphabet in a variety of ways: many of the letters are designed off of a sound's place of articulation, it was consciously designed by the government at the time, and it situates individual letters into syllable clusters with equal dimensions as Chinese characters to allow for mixed script writing.

    Zhuyin (sometimes called Bopomofo) is an alphabet used to phonetically transcribe Mandarin Chinese in Mainland China and Taiwan, though its use in Mainland China today is limited. It developed out of a form of Chinese shorthand based on Chinese characters in the early 1900s. While Zhuyin is not used as a mainstream writing system, it is still often used in ways similar to a romanization system—that is, for aiding in pronunciation and as an input method for Chinese characters on computers and cell phones.

    European alphabets, especially Latin and Cyrillic, have been adapted for many languages of Asia. Arabic is also widely used, sometimes as an abjad (as with Urdu and Persian) and sometimes as a complete alphabet (as with Kurdish and Uyghur).

    [edit] Types

    Alphabets: Latin , Cyrillic , Latin and Cyrillic , Greek , Armenian or Georgian

    Abjads: Arabic , Arabic and Latin , Hebrew and Arabic

    Abugidas: North Indic , South Indic , Ethiopic , Thaana Canadian Syllabic ,

    Logographic+syllabic: Pure logographic , Mixed logographic and syllabaries , Featural-alphabetic syllabary + limited logographic Featural-alphabetic syllabary History of the alphabet

    Middle Bronze Age 19th c. BC

    Ugaritic 15th c. BC

    Proto-Canaanite 14th c. BC

    Phoenician 11th c. BC

    Paleo-Hebrew 10th c. BC

    Aramaic 8th c. BC

    Brāhmī & Indic 6th c. BC

    Tibetan 7th c.

    Khmer/Javanese 9th c.

    Hebrew 3rd c. BC

    Syriac 2nd c. BC

    Nabatean 2nd c. BC

    Arabic 4th c.

    Pahlavi 3nd c. BC

    Avestan 4th c.

    Greek 9th c. BC

    Etruscan 8th c. BC

    Latin 7th c. BC

    Runes 2nd c.

    Ogham 4th c.

    Gothic 3th c.

    Armenian 405

    Glagolitic 862

    Cyrillic 10th c.

    Samaritan 6th c. BC

    Iberian 4th c. BC

    Epigraphic South Arabian 9th c. BC

    Ge'ez 5–6th c. BC

    Meroitic 3rd c. BC

    Hangul 1443

    Canadian Syllabics 1840

    Zhuyin 1913

    complete genealogy

    The term "alphabet" is used by linguists and paleographers in both a wide and narrow sense. In the wider sense, an alphabet is a script that is segmental on the phoneme level, that is, that has separate glyphs for individual sounds and not for larger units such as syllables or words. In the narrower sense, some scholars distinguish "true" alphabets from two other types of segmental script, abjads and abugidas. These three differ from each other in the way they treat vowels: Abjads have letters for consonants and leave most vowels unexpressed; abugidas are also consonant-based, but indicate vowels with diacritics to or a systematic graphic modification of the consonants. In alphabets in the narrow sense, on the other hand, consonants and vowels are written as independent letters. The earliest known alphabet in the wider sense is the Wadi el-Hol script, believed to be an abjad, which through its successor Phoenician is the ancestor of modern alphabets, including Arabic, Greek, Latin (via the Old Italic alphabet), Cyrillic (via the Greek alphabet) and Hebrew (via Aramaic).

    Examples of present-day abjads are the Arabic and Hebrew scripts; true alphabets include Latin, Cyrillic, and Korean Hangul; and abugidas are used to write Tigrinya Amharic, Hindi, and Thai. The Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics are also an abugida rather than a syllabary as their name would imply, since each glyph stands for a consonant which is modified by rotation to represent the following vowel. (In a true syllabary, each consonant-vowel combination would be represented by a separate glyph.)

    The boundaries between the three types of segmental scripts are not always clear-cut. For example, Iraqi Kurdish is written in the Arabic script, which is normally an abjad. However, in Kurdish, writing the vowels is mandatory, and full letters are used, so the script is a true alphabet. Other languages may use a Semitic abjad with mandatory vowel diacritics, effectively making them abugidas. On the other hand, the Phagspa script of the Mongol Empire was based closely on the Tibetan abugida, but all vowel marks were written after the preceding consonant rather than as diacritic marks. Although short a was not written, as in the Indic abugidas, one could argue that the linear arrangement made this a true alphabet. Conversely, the vowel marks of the Tigrinya abugida and the Amharic abugida (ironically, the original source of the term "abugida") have been so completely assimilated into their consonants that the modifications are no longer systematic and have to be learned as a syllabary rather than as a segmental script. Even more extreme, the Pahlavi abjad eventually became logographic. (See below.)

    Thus the primary classification of alphabets reflects how they treat vowels. For tonal languages, further classification can be based on their treatment of tone, though names do not yet exist to distinguish the various types. Some alphabets disregard tone entirely, especially when it does not carry a heavy functional load, as in Somali and many other languages of Africa and the Americas. Such scripts are to tone what abjads are to vowels. Most commonly, tones are indicated with diacritics, the way vowels are treated in abugidas. This is the case for Vietnamese (a true alphabet) and Thai (an abugida). In Thai, tone is determined primarily by the choice of consonant, with diacritics for disambiguation. In the Pollard script, an abugida, vowels are indicated by diacritics, but the placement of the diacritic relative to the consonant is modified to indicate the tone. More rarely, a script may have separate letters for tones, as is the case for Hmong and Zhuang. For most of these scripts, regardless of whether letters or diacritics are used, the most common tone is not marked, just as the most common vowel is not marked in Indic abugidas; it Zhuyin not only is one of the tones unmarked, but there is a diacritic to indicate lack of tone, like the virama of Indic.

    The number of letters in an alphabet can be quite small. The Book Pahlavi script, an abjad, had only twelve letters at one point, and may have had even fewer later on. Today the Rotokas alphabet has only twelve letters. (The Hawaiian alphabet is sometimes claimed to be as small, but it actually consists of 18 letters, including the ʻokina and five long vowels.) While Rotokas has a small alphabet because it has few phonemes to represent (just eleven), Book Pahlavi was small because many letters had been conflated, that is, the graphic distinctions had been lost over time, and diacritics were not developed to compensate for this as they were in Arabic, another script that lost many of its distinct letter shapes. For example, a comma-shaped letter represented g, d, y, k, or j. However, such apparent simplifications can perversely make a script more complicated. In later Pahlavi papyri, up to half of the remaining graphic distinctions of these twelve letters were lost, and the script could no longer be read as a sequence of letters at all, but instead each word had to be learned as a whole – that is, they had become logograms as in Egyptian Demotic.

    The largest segmental script is probably an abugida, Devanagari. When written in Devanagari, Vedic Sanskrit has an alphabet of 53 letters, including the visarga mark for final aspiration and special letters for kš and jñ, though one of the letters is theoretical and not actually used. The Hindi alphabet must represent both Sanskrit and modern vocabulary, and so has been expanded to 58 with the khutma letters (letters with a dot added) to represent sounds from Persian and English.

    The largest known abjad is Sindhi, with 51 letters. The largest alphabets in the narrow sense include Kabardian and Abkhaz (for Cyrillic), with 58 and 56 letters, respectively, and Slovak (for the Latin alphabet), with 46. However, these scripts either count di- and tri-graphs as separate letters, as Spanish did with ch and ll up to a recent time, or uses diacritics like Slovak č. The largest true alphabet where each letter is graphically independent is probably Georgian, with 41 letters.

    Syllabaries typically contain 50 to 400 glyphs (though the Múra-Pirahã language of Brazil would require only 24 if it did not denote tone, and Rotokas would require only 30), and the glyphs of logographic systems typically number from the many hundreds into the thousands. Thus a simple count of the number of distinct symbols is an important clue to the nature of an unknown script.

    It is not always clear what constitutes a distinct alphabet. French uses the same basic alphabet as English, but many of the letters can carry additional marks, such as é, à, and ô. In French, these combinations are not considered to be additional letters. However, in Icelandic, the accented letters such as á, í, and ö are considered to be distinct letters of the alphabet. In Spanish, ñ is considered a separate letter, but accented vowels such as á and é are not. Some adaptations of the Latin alphabet are augmented with ligatures, such as æ in Old English and Ȣ in Algonquian; by borrowings from other alphabets, such as the thorn þ in Old English and Icelandic, which came from the Futhark runes; and by modifying existing letters, such as the eth ð of Old English and Icelandic, which is a modified d. Other alphabets only use a subset of the Latin alphabet, such as Hawaiian, or Italian, which only uses the letters j, k, x, y and w in foreign words.


    From Simple English Wikipedia - the free encyclopedia that anyone can change

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    Writing is the act of recording information on a medium so that it may be read by others or at a later time.

    The medium is usually paper, though other permanent media, such as cloth and clay can be used. Temporary media such as television and movie screens can also be used to display writing.

    Writing is often done using a hand tool such as a pencil, a pen, or a brush, but more and more, text is being created by computer printers under the control of a computer application.

    In the earliest times, writing was usually a set of pictures, which stood for words or ideas. The Egyptians used this kind of method in their invention of hieroglyphs. Chinese use the same idea today, where a character stands for a thing rather than a sound.

    A people known as the Sumerians, who lived in a part of the world now occupied by Iraq and its neighbors, developed a form of writing called cuneiform. Marks pressed into soft clay stood for sounds; after the clay had dried, it could be carried elsewhere for others to read. Cuneiform was also used to create messages on soft rock, leather, and papyrus. About 4000 years ago, the first alphabet began to appear.

    It is only in the last few hundred years that most people have been able to write and to read. Until then, education was only for the wealthy or powerful, and because each book had to be created by hand, there were very few books available compared to the billions in the world today.

    Source(s): Bilingual Teacher and some from Wikipedia.
  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    This is like asking "Who invented the house?". Our alphabet is largely based off the Roman alphabet, which is mostly based off the Greek alphabet (in fact the world "alphabet" comes from the first two Greek alphabet letters: alpha and beta). And the Greek alphabet was based on even older alphabets. This traces all the way back to the use of written symbols for words, which several cultures developed independently.

    Source(s): My own knowledge over the years. No wikipedia necessary.
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  • 1 decade ago

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  • 1 decade ago



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