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Posted by on Jun 26, 2016 in Tell Me Why |

Who Invented Alphabets?

Who Invented Alphabets?

One of the earliest forms of the alphabet was hieroglyphics. Hieroglyphics were single symbols that stood for entire words. Thousands of characters and symbols were used to represent the words, needs, and lives of early civilizations.

As civilizations and communication advanced, people began discovering that it was possible to use combinations of a much smaller set of symbols to represent all the words in a spoken language. Historians point to the Proto-Sinaitic script as the first alphabetic writing system, which consisted of 22 symbols adapted from Egyptian hieroglyphics.

This set was developed by Semitic-speaking people in the Middle East around 1700 B.C., and was refined and spread to other civilizations by the Phoenicians. This is the foundation of our modern alphabet.

Archaeologists have determined that the first workable alphabet was Phoenician in origin, and written as a crude script. However, each letter stood for a sound, and had a symbol of its own. Once introduced, it spread rapidly through the Middle East and, finally people of that time were able to write out complete words.

Ideas could be expressed much more easily than before, and narrative stories along with poetry began to appear. The first Greek alphabet was developed from the Phoenician one during the fifth century B.C., and was known as the iconic alphabet and had 24 characters.

When the Romans smashed the Greek Empire, they adopted this alphabet and adapted it to their own needs. The Latin alphabet (also called the “Roman alphabet”) is the most widely used alphabetic writing system in the world today. This is the system on which the English alphabet is based.

We call each of symbols a letter. Each letter of the alphabet represents one sound in our language. By combining these letters, it’s possible to represent an unlimited number of words. Many different alphabets have been used around the world throughout history. Often, new alphabets are created by modifying the alphabet of another language.

Content for this question contributed by Mike McBride, resident of Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz County, California, USA