The Alphabet

Geselowitz, “The Alphabet”


Around the 3rd millennium BCE, a writing system, called cuneiform, developed in the Near East.  It is written by etching symbols into clay tablets with reed styluses (almost like writing with pen and paper). Cuneiform was a combination of symbols that represents things, and marks that indicated syllables. Some of the drawbacks to cuneiform were that eventually it had almost 1000 signs and because of that, not many were literate.

Example of cuneiform writing
Phoenician Alphabet

From 1500-1200 BCE, Phoenicians began to develop the first alphabet system. Instead of each symbol representing its own thing/idea, they figured that words can be broken down into different sounds; although, they didn’t represent vowel sounds, which people had to guess using their knowledge of the language. The advantages to this writing system is that people didn’t have to learn as many symbols to write as cuneiform, and that it could be written faster. Because it was so developed and efficient, the Phoenician alphabet began to spread  into other countries in the Mediterranean.  Eventually , other writings began to develop  such as Greek and Indian scripts.

Example of the Phoenician alphabet

3 Replies to “The Alphabet”

  1. JR,

    This article is concise and to the point. That is very helpful to everyone in the class, and especially helpful to someone who did not actually read the source. I enjoyed the part about the Phonetic alphabet, and how it drawls parallels with a lot of how modern alphabets, including our own, work today.

    Good job!

  2. JR,

    This insight into the different types of alphabets and their evolution was very thoughtful and interesting. It is intriguing to see the similarities between those two ancient alphabets and modern alphabets.

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