Origins of ordinary things: The alphabet

One of the first things that everyone learns as soon as they start school is their ABCs. This is the most important step in learning how to read because words comprise combinations of letters from the alphabet.

In ancient times when writing hadn’t come into place, pictographic symbols were used to describe words. However, according to History an education platform, these symbols were so complex that they could only be interpreted and understood by highly trained scribes.

The oldest known system of writing, according to Wikipedia an encyclopedia, is known as the consonantal system which consisted of twenty-two symbols. It dates far back to 1800 BC. It was used by Semitic-speaking workers in ancient Egypt who did not write vowels or sometimes used a single letter or symbol to represent a whole word.

Around the 8th century BC, the Egyptian consonantal system was refined by ancient Phoenicians in order to develop the Phoenician alphabetic script. The Phoenician alphabet had twenty-four discrete letters that could be used to write many languages and that traders would find easy to learn. Up to this point, there were no letters to represent vowels. This is according to Ancient Origins a knowledge dissemination platform.

The Phonetic alphabetic script then spread across the Mediterranean. When it spread to Greece around 750 BC, the Greeks modified it to include vowels. According to web-based Ancient History Encyclopedia, this is when the first true semblance of the modern day alphabet that has both vowels and consonants came into place. Still, they wrote the letters from right to left and later the direction alternated per line.

The alphabet written by ancient Greeks was later adopted by the Latins who were living in the Italian peninsula in 5th century BC. According to knowledge dissemination platform Today I Found Out, the Latins added letters “F” and “S.” However, they omitted some letters until about the third century when the alphabet started to include every letter except J, U and W. By this time, the letters were being written from left to right in every line.

When the Latins expanded their empire through Rome and Europe, they spread their alphabetic script. Still, it took many centuries before some countries started to use the alphabet. For instance, in Britain, the use of the Latin alphabet started in 7th century AD. This is according to Today I Found Out.

In the 16th century, letters V and U were split into two letters and later J was created thus making a complete twenty-six lettered alphabet that is used in formal education in most parts of the world.



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