Talk:History of the alphabet

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Updating Cuneiform[edit]

"Two scripts are well attested from before the end of the fourth millennium BCE: Mesopotamian cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphs." Well, no. Hieroglyphs came from the pictographic script whose oldest example is the inscription of King Scorpion in the 34th century BC. Very quickly this pictographic script into Hieroglyphics. So far we're in the 4th millennium BCE. Mesopotamian pictographic writing is either from the 35th century BC or the 32nd century BC depending on the source. However, Cuneiform however doesn't appear until the 26th century BC. Therefore, the statement that Hieroglyphs and Cuneiform were "well attested before the end of the fourth millennium BC" is therefore incorrect.MrSativa (talk) 00:58, 13 November 2016 (UTC)


In the article on the Phoenician alphabet it is stated that scholars could not find any link between the Phoenician alphabet and the Egyptian hieroglyphs. This article states that most alphabets in the world, including the Greek alphabet, descended from the hieroglyphs. However, according to the article on the Phoenician alphabet the Greek alphabet was a descendant of the Phoenician. I am confused. Could some scholar please clear up the matter for me and e-mail me at dugeot at iafrica dot com? I will thank thee very, very, very much. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:48, 4 November 2009 (UTC)

Old Italic & runes[edit]

According to the box, Old Italic and Latin are basically independent derivations from Greek, but isn't Latin an evolution of the Old Italic alphabet? I'd say this would look better:

  • Old Italic
    • Latin
    • Runes


I'm not sure we should even retain Old Italic, but of course you're correct. Runes, however, are only attested many centuries after Old Italic ceased to be used, and should probably be derived from Latin. kwami 18:46, 2005 August 23 (UTC)
There seems to be a quite common theory that Old Italic was the source of the runes, even though they are not attested until much later, and appear quite primitive compared to the Latin inscriptions of the same age...


See Talk:Middle Bronze Age alphabets


I'm a novice on this topic, but it seems to me that there are several written communcation systems that should be mentioned here, if only to dispel the myth that they developed independently.

First of all, I've read that Mayan writing on monuments and in inked codices was in many ways alphabetic, and it doesn't seem possible that it was derived from a semitic source.

Mayan was not alphabetic, and the article doesn't claim it's related to the Semitic abjad. kwami

Second, I've heard stories that the Korean script, Hangul, was invented by a single individual, and that many of the forms were based on the shape made by the tongue when pronouncing a given consonant. I've heard this story from several sources, so it seems worth dispelling the myth if it is indeed a myth.


That's covered in the Hangul article. Hangul has been traced to Tibetan, but not everyone accepts it. The tongue-shape idea is what was written in court records. kwami 22:55, 17 December 2005 (UTC)
What evidence is there of this? The article mentions one scholar's hypothesis, but similarities between the characters suggested to be related are vague at best. I would be very interested in additional supporting evidence that leads to this conclusion. Upthorn (talk) 09:45, 25 January 2010 (UTC)

Name of origination alphbet[edit]

Phoenician is no longer polictally correct. IS the ancient Paleo-Midddle-Eastern adjad. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:02, 7 August 2008 (UTC)

This article needs definition[edit]

Often in the discussion of the history of the alphabet, some terms are used with some flexibility in meaning. First, the term "the alphabet" often refers in western usage to the 26-letter Latin alphabet. In fact, the term "alphabet" refers to any writing system that denotes both vowels and consonants. The Latin alphabet is derived from Etruscan and Greek alphabets. The term "alphabet" first applies historically -- in the strictest definition of the term -- to the Greek Alphabet. The Greek alphabet was adopted and adapted from the Phoenicians' writing system which denoted primarily consonants. While the Phoenician writing system is often called the Phoenician Alphabet, some scholars, who insist it lies outside the category of alphabet, refer to it as the Phoenician abjad. The Phoenician abjad developed from early Semitic abjads. The origin of these Semitic abjads has been the source of much speculation and debate. Evidence and consensus points to a borrowing of Egyptian symbols which were re-assigned consonantal values by Semitic writers. In the sense that the history of alphabetic writing begins with the Egyptians, it is significant that the Egyptians had phonetic symbols. These phonetic symbols, however, were a very small subset of a vast, complex writing system.

The history outlined in this article, then, traces the idea and usage of PHONETIC writing that LEAD to the development of alphabetic writing.

This article is misleading in its title – implying the existence of one "the alphabet" – and in its content by not carefully defining the object of its discussion. (This article might be better titled "The development of phonetic writing.")

All writing is phonetic, including Chinese, Mayan, and Cuneiform. The term 'alphabet' has two meanings: a broader meaning of a segmental script, and a narrower meaning of a segmental script that indicates vowels and consonants equally. Both meanings have a long history. The alphabet/abjad/abugida distinction is useful for the academic who likes making fine distinctions. However, the restriction of the word 'alphabet' to Greek-like systems has a distasteful anti-Semitic history, and the term was purposefully broadened to counter this. The ambiguity is inherent in the word, but the common phrase "history of the alphabet" is not ambiguous. It is understood to mean the history of the family, from proto-Sinaitic on. Any other usage would require specification, such as 'the history of the Latin alphabet'. kwami 02:22, 30 December 2005 (UTC)
I agree with you (more-or-less) completely. But the ARTICLE itself should address what you just addressed: It should begin by defining what is "meant" by alphabet when we say it; speak of its place among phonetic writing; speak of issues involved in the abjad/alphabet debate! That would be great.
I still disagree that the article should include Egyptian phonetic writing. Those few symbols were part of a vast, complex writing system. It was clearly NOT an alphabet though the very first sentence of this article may read otherwise.

number of consonants[edit]

Dbachmann, if we're going to cite 22 consonants and the ABC alphabetic order, we should restrict ourselves to Phoenician and the subset of alphabets that descend from it. If we're going to talk about the history of the alphabet, then we should acknowledge all the alphabets in the family, which reflect 27 (Ugaritic) or 29 (S. Arabic) consonants, that were reduced to 22 in Phoenician, and also acknowledge both alphabetic orders. The latter is much more encyclopedic. I added it in, but was reverted. Will add again unless you wish too. kwami 19:58, 9 January 2006 (UTC)

Please change the table[edit]

Please split the final column into "Greek", "Latin", and "Cyrillic". Georgia guy 01:14, 13 January 2006 (UTC)

Greek, Anatolian, Old Italic[edit]

I am not going to insist on the passage, but I am not sure I am "flying in the face of mainstream scholarship". The earliest evidence for Greek alphabets date to the (early) 8th century. The earliest evidence for Old Italic or Anatolian alphabets, to the (late) 8th century. I.e. their temporal separation is a matter of decades. At such early times, it is a matter of terminology if you still speak of local variants of the Phoenician alphabets, or of early variants of the independent descendants. The Masiliana abecedarium is practically identical to the Phoenician alphabet, it is an academic question if it is a nascent Greek alphabet or a local variant of the Phoenician one. The Carian alphabet went undeciphered for many decades because people assumed it was derived from Greek. It was only deciphered when it was re-evaluated as independent from Greek. dab () 19:56, 13 March 2006 (UTC)

And some sources date the Anatolian alphabets even before that, see also my comments at Talk:Neo-Hittite... ፈቃደ (ውይይት) 20:02, 13 March 2006 (UTC)
The Carian script obviously has many elements that are not Greek, but Phrygian is clearly Greek: it has Greek but non-Phonecian features such as vowels, a split between F and Y, and the aspirates. Same goes for Etruscan/Old Italic. Note that the oldest forms of Greek had vowels and F vs. Y but not the aspirates, so the direction of borrowing is pretty clear: Greek → Phrygian and Greek → Etruscan. This is the standard understanding. Given the inherent uncertainties in dating, a few decades here or there are not significant. If Carian is independent from Greek, it would appear that it's independent of the other Anatolian alphabets as well. kwami 21:02, 13 March 2006 (UTC)
PS. Your sources for Carian would be interesting. kwami 21:05, 13 March 2006 (UTC)
you are right (and there is no need for edit warring between good faith editors, I apologize, let's talk this over). Yes, Phrygian is from Greek, no doubt. Classical Etruscan is certainly influenced by Greek, but archaic Etruscan (7th c.) seems also directly influenced by Phoenician. I'll get you some Carian references; the Anatolian alphabets are grouped together geographically, I suppose, but without necessarily claiming that they form a genetic unity. dab () 08:03, 14 March 2006 (UTC)
Okay, a unitary family of Anatolian alphabets completely divorced from Greek seemed a bit much, but of course oddballs like Carian might have something interesting in their history.
As for Etruscan, the earliest ABC I'm aware of is the one from Marsiliana mid 7th century. It looks like a typical early Greek alphabet, even having the letters Β Δ Ξ Ο which where not used in writing and disappeared soon after. And it has the vowel usage, F-Y distinction, and Χ Φ Ψ also found in the Greek of its time. The only Greek innovation it lacks is Ω, which wasn't found in many epichoric Greek scripts anyway. kwami 09:32, 14 March 2006 (UTC)

A different question. Under "Transmission to Greece", the article says "separate letters for vowels would have actually hindered the legibility of Egyptian, Phoenician, or Hebrew." At the very least, I think this needs a citation; better would be an explanation of this putative fact. (I happen to think it's wrong, the vowels are no less relevant in Semitic than they are in Greek; but that's just a personal opinion and not worth mentioning.) Mcswell (talk) 21:46, 30 June 2008 (UTC)

Yes, I agree with a citation. Don't know if I can dig anything up. Thought I'd read of studies demonstrating this with Hebrew, but it's been years. The idea is that vowels, often being transfixes, muck of the shapes of Semitic words, hampering quick recognition, whereas the functional equivalent in Greek, adding suffixes, is not a problem. (Fluent reading does not go by sound or letters, but by word shapes, and maintaining a constant shape for roots aids their recognition. Greek ablaut would also cause a problem, but to a much lesser degree.) On the other hand, not writing vowels causes problems with Greek, because they so often distinguish unrelated roots.
This ties in with nationalist or anti-Semitic claims that the Semites had a functionally defective script that required the genius of Greece to correct. Different language typologies might motivate different solutions to writing. You get similar issues when writing tone--tones can be left out almost entirely with some languages, such as Ndyuka, are addressable with diacritics in others, such as Bambara, but for fluency might require full letters for a heavily tone-dependent language like Hmong. That doesn't mean that Ndyuka writing is deficient. kwami (talk) 23:51, 30 June 2008 (UTC)

Very cool picture[edit]

THIS pic

Check that out, evolution of the alphabet. Comments? Fresheneesz 08:38, 26 March 2006 (UTC)

Adding nabatean before arabic?[edit]

Instead of having arabic alone, I really think that nabatean should be before it and have arabic come out of it. Eshcorp

Hangul alphabet not in common line of inspiration?[edit]

The article claims that the Hangul alphabet is *not* inspired in some way by the alphabet of the Egyptians. Reading the Hangul article, it says "some aspects of Hangul reflect a shared history with the Phagspa alphabet". Reading the Phagspa alphabet article, I can find "adapted the Uyghur alphabet — a descendant of the Syriac alphabet, via Sogdian — to write Mongol". The Syriac alphabet is surely in the line of inspiration from the Egyptian alphabet. I therefore have removed the stated Hangul exception. Hangul may be unique in other ways, but it apparently wasn't a tabula rasa re-invention of alphabetic principles. Martijn Faassen 21:22, 1 October 2006 (UTC)

Reading more, I found that some debate about independent invention surrounding Hangul is described in the article. The article was claiming there was not even a line of *inspiration* before though, which seems unlikely. Descent from other alphabets is an open debate; independent inspiration in the 15th century is less plausible. Martijn Faassen 21:27, 1 October 2006 (UTC)


I removed the paranthesis about abjads ("...earliest alphabets (properly, 'abjads'..." because according to the article on abjads, "abjad", as used here, isn't a generally accepted term. And in any case, an abjad is a type of alphabet which means that "alphabet" is not at all incorrect by anyone's standards.

The term "abjad" seems to be cropping up in inappropriate places on wikipedia (e.g. a link from Proto-Semitic to this page is labelled "Semitic abjads", although this will be corrected by the time you read this). This is gratuitous obscurantism and it makes me suspect that an academic turf war may be being fought here. Ireneshusband 00:43, 5 November 2006 (UTC)

small rewrite in 'Descendants of the Semitic abjad' - check I didn't change the meaning[edit]

I made a small rewrite. But want to make sure you I didn't change the meaning.

I belive the rewrite is clearer, mainly for the less read in alphabet history. Pablo2garcia 13:56, 30 November 2006 (UTC)

-- OLD LINE From it can be traced nearly all the alphabets ever used, most of which descend from the younger Phoenician version of the script.

-- INTRODUCED REWRITE From it can be traced nearly all the alphabets ever used, most of which descend from the Phoenician, an early version of the Canaanite script. --

Abjadi Order[edit]

I removed the "citation needed" from the sentence about abjadi order surviving or being reintroduced in alphabets which switched orders. The original abjd hwz hty klmn s`fs order is the basis for the traditional Arabic number system, just as in Greek and Hebrew, and is well known. the "abjadi order" article linked to in the sentence provides sufficient documentation. There is no need for further references here. IQAG1060 (talk) 03:03, 26 April 2008 (UTC)

Maldivian and Hangul[edit]

The only modern national alphabet that has not been graphically traced back to the Canaanite alphabet is the Maldivian script [...]

This needs to be fixed. Hangul is currently in use, and it's unrelated to the Canaanite alphabet. --Kjoonlee 03:52, 19 December 2006 (UTC)

There's good reason to think that Hangul derives from Phagspa, which is a Brahmic script, and that Brahmic derives from Aramaic. kwami 07:14, 9 September 2007 (UTC)

Canaanites are not Semitic[edit]

Canaanites are not Semitic!, there Afro/Hamitic. They adopted Syriac Aramiac. The evidence most frequently used to support them as semitic which their not is the texts found at Ras Shamra Ugarit, written in a Semitic language/dialect & circa. 14th cent. B.C.E. However, Ugarit apparently did not come within the Biblical boundaries of Canaan. “it is now clearly a misnomer to call Ugarit a ‘Canaanite’ city” said, A. F. Rainey. One source says “the Amarna Letters contain evidence for the opinion that non-Semitic ethnic elements settled in Palestine & Syria at a rather early date, for a number of these letters show a remarkable influence of non-Semitic tongues.” The facts are that there is still uncertainty as to the original language spoken by the first inhabitants of Canaan. Such a change would be no greater than that of other ancient nations, such as the ancient Persians, who, though of Indo-Europeanc origin, later adopted the Semitic Aramaean language & writing. [unsigned by, 20:32, 2007 November 15]

Since Hebrew was a dialect of the language we call Canaanite, I'm not sure what you mean, unless it's that Hebrew is not Semitic. There's also no such thing objectively as "Afro-Hamitic". kwami 09:36, 16 November 2007 (UTC)
God probably just gave the alphabet to Moses, since otherwise it's just an amazing coincidence that the commandments and torah were written down at the same time the first writing system came into being. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:55, 25 November 2007 (UTC)

Tradition shows is that Moses recorded Job expirences basically his lifestory, the book of Job dates to possibly 1473 B.C.E. It is accurate it would mean that even 40 years before the Exodus there an alphabet. Some suggest the sign given to Cain was a letter.

Actually as far as we know, Canaanites were Semites, with Canaanite being a Semitic language. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Melchiord (talkcontribs) 00:20, 16 February 2008 (UTC)

Words like "Canaanite" and "Semite" have two meanings here, the biblical and the linguistic. Lots of Jews insist that the Arabs aren't Semitic, for example, despite the similarity of the languages. kwami (talk) 17:42, 26 April 2008 (UTC)

Okay, not all so-called "arabs", are Canaanite descend. Genesis 10, shows the ancestor of the Canaanites, are Canaan son of Ham. Most of Arab people come from Joktan, or Ishmael, both descenants of Shem.

linguistic speaking there no evidence a Canaanite language father the Hebrew language period. It show a similar language exist in the area Hebrew migranted to and only that.

Canaanite formed their own adopted and adapted language, Languages around them were, Akkadian, Aramaic, Urgatic, Arabic, Israelite Hebrew, non-Israelite Hebrew as Edomite, Moabite, Ammonite. Abraham children Zim′ran, Mid′i·anite, Me′dan, Shu′ah, Jok′shan father of Sheba and Dedan, Ish′bak - Genesis 25:1-3; 1Ch 1:32. See a picture Semite influence their language not the other around.

Quoting one refenece book, The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (edited by G. A. Buttrick, 1962, Vol. 1, p. 495) that “the Amarna Letters contain evidence for the opinion that non-Semitic ethnic elements settled in Palestine and Syria at a rather early date, for a number of these letters show a remarkable influence of non-Semitic tongues.” (Italics ours.)

Need for diverse opinion[edit]

It appears from the article, that the perspective is basically european/middle-east centric (ie. areas influenced by various abrahamic cultures). There is an urgent need to cover other scripts that have not originated from Middle east, Greek, Latin. (talk) 19:08, 12 February 2008 (UTC)

This article is about alphabets, not writing systems in general, and all true alphabets are "descendants" in some sense (whether by direct borrowing or "stimulus diffusion") of the original early Semitic consonantal alphabet as developed by Semitic-speaking peoples (influenced by the Egyptian hieroglyphic writing system) ca. 1500 B.C. or earlier. Not sure what "Abrahamic" has to do with it, since alphabets were already spreading far and wide before Christianity or Islam existed, and when Judaism was a semi-obscure local religion. AnonMoos (talk) 23:31, 12 February 2008 (UTC)
True, but anon. has a point: we give very little room to the Brahmic family, for example. kwami (talk) 01:53, 13 February 2008 (UTC)


Latest findings prove that the history of alphabet comes from variations of the greek alpabet. Please take a look at this wiki - page In the last twelve years there are findings basically from to archaelogists n.sampson and g.hourmouziadis that testify that there have been written texts from 5000 - 6000bc.

Please update the article —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:02, 31 March 2008 (UTC)

The article doesn't say, let alone prove, that the writing on the tablet is Greek. In fact, it doesn't say what it is at all. Meanwhile, an image of the glyphs on the tablet shows that they aren't the slightest bit Greek. —Largo Plazo (talk) 15:39, 31 March 2008 (UTC)

Why the sequence A-B-C...[edit]

Why is it in the current order it is right now?Petrarch1603 (talk) 18:45, 22 June 2008 (UTC)

No-one knows, but it's over 3000 years old. See Ugaritic alphabet. kwami (talk) 18:55, 22 June 2008 (UTC)

Dates of the alphabets[edit]

The greek alphabet is said to have started in early 8th century BCE (cf its wikipedia entry). But the summary box on the right side of the page has 9th century BCE. Shouldnt it be changed to 8th century BCE ?

Same thing with the hebrew alphabet, the modern version based on the "square script" was adopted in the 6th century BCE, but the summary box has 3rd century BCE. Any objections if I change it to 6th century BCE ? --Squallgreg (talk) 13:18, 4 October 2008 (UTC)

Yeah, 8th c for Greek. People mess with the dates to push their agenda.
A Judean variant of the Aramaic script didn't emerge until the 3rd c BCE, so no, 6th would be wrong. Before that, it was simply Imperial Aramaic. kwami (talk) 16:13, 4 October 2008 (UTC)
Thanks Kwami. Also, all dates are start dates so I changed the Phoenician date to "12th c. BCE" (see [1]its history) from "11-14th c. BCE". —Preceding unsigned comment added by Squallgreg (talkcontribs) 22:36, 6 October 2008 (UTC)

Unicode vs images[edit]

Please use images as much as possible instead of unicode characters for scripts that are not very common world-wide. How many people visiting this page will have a Phoenician font installed? Probably almost none. And how many will be able to display Tibetic? It's a contemporary script, but WinXP, which is the most common OS, doesn't support it. I don't want to have to install fonts just to see a few symbols on one single page... —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:52, 10 October 2009 (UTC)

Alleged hindering[edit]

In the paragraph entitled "Greek alphabet", we are told that vowel letters actually hindered Egyptian, Hebrew and Arabic. Maltese has been written with vowel letters for centuries and so has Coptic. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:27, 15 May 2010 (UTC) A call for explanation has been in the text for some time with no answer. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:29, 15 May 2010 (UTC) Maltese is a dialect of colloquial Arabic and Coptic is a later form of Ancient Egyptian. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:34, 15 May 2010 (UTC)

There have been studies with Arabic and Hebrew that adding vowels make reading more difficult, because they mess up root recognition. Turkish, on the other hand, is a pain to read without vowel letters. That's not to say there aren't counterexamples: Persian continues to be written without many vowels (though more than Arabic), and Maltese as you point out has them (but also large numbers of non-Semitic loan words). As Peter Daniels put it, "there are languages for which an alphabet is not an ideal writing system. The Semitic abjads really do fit the structure of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic very well, [more] than an alphabet would be, since the spelling ensures that each root looks the same through its plethora of inflections and derivations." In any case, the point isn't "idiotic". — kwami (talk) 11:03, 15 May 2010 (UTC)
I'm going to need to clean this up again. There was more of that silly claptrap about Greek being more "mature" than Phoenician, rather than simply adapted to a differently structured language, and that it was the first script with letters for "discrete sounds" (!). — kwami (talk) 11:45, 15 May 2010 (UTC)
Kwamikagami does not mention Coptic. He speaks of "studies" but only one is mentioned.
The "study" of Daniels seems to be the personal opinion of Daniels. I not sure that
the first person you meet in the street has less right to speak than Daniels on vowel letters
and their alleged hindering process. Babylonian, a Semitic language, was
written for centuries with vowels and no one noticed the way they hindered anything. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:31, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
The oldest known writing in Maltese is from the 1470's and contains only one
non-Maltese word. Vowel letters appear in it throughout. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:41, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
If vowel letters hinder so much, then vowel sounds should do the same. Daniels should try and persuade all speakers of Arabic to speak with consonants alone and drop the vowel
sounds in the spoken Arabic language. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:30, 23 May 2010 (UTC)
Not sure how that is relevant. Writing is different from phonetic transcription. In some scripts, the correspondence is closer than in others. __ Just plain Bill (talk) 14:06, 14 September 2010 (UTC)
There's no abjad in current use, that I'm aware of, that does not make extensive use of matres lectionis -- essentially, consonantal letters repurposed to represent or suggest vowel sounds. In Arabic, for instance, the use of the ʔalif to represent long a, yaː to represent long i or ai, waː' to represent long u or au. The use of these letters of course disrupts the "root recognition" almost as much as a fuller represenation of vowels would, not to mention that the Semitic languages disrupt the roots themselves with infixes (e.g., iftiʕaːl forms). I don't think a fully alphabetic system would make it any harder for an Arabic reader to recognize roots than the use of the Roman alphabet prevents a reader of English from recognizing the common roots of sing, sang, and song, of freeze and frozen, of tooth and teeth. People are not quite as stupid as all that; they realize that vowels are variable, and (with reference to the roots) skip over them.RandomCritic (talk) 19:14, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
The weak point of the root recognition hypothesis (which is old philological yarn rehashed) is the assumption that vowels are somehow of lesser importance in Semitic languages (especially conservative ones with a small vowel system, like Arabic) than in Indo-European languages such as English. They're most definitely not. Consonants only provide the meaning of the root (and indicate a couple of affixes); but the vowels are crucial for determining derivational and inflectional properties of a word. Basically, a consonant-only script in a Semitic language reads like English with all (or most) of the grammatical morphemes removed. You can easily get the gist of a sentence, provided context and that you already know the language, but for scholars, who have to work with ancient Semitic languages which are only epigraphically attested, or who have to deal with the ambiguities in the Koran, abjads are a pain. Arabic is, basically, and in practice, a shorthand script. It's really handy for native speakers (you can write really quickly in it, I've been shown how it works), but a nuisance to learners who won't find it very easy to guess and fill in the missing vowels. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 16:57, 1 October 2011 (UTC)


There is no evidence that the Brahmic script derives from Aramaic. Its just a theory so i don't see why its even mentioned that Brahmic is actually related to it. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:36, 14 September 2010 (UTC)

I've reverted the removal of text, as the information seems to be cited at Brāhmī script. But I might be wrong, so I'm mentioning it here for the benefit of all.
(I've moved your comment to the end of the page, where new comments are generally left. (It didn't seem to fit in the thread you added it to, but I'm not an expert, so might well be wrong!)). HTH. -- Quiddity (talk) 18:01, 14 September 2010 (UTC)
Yes, a Semitic abjad, most likely Aramaic, is generally accepted as the ancestor of Brahmi. There are exceptions, principally in India, which from what I've read often seem to be motivated as much by nationalism as by scholarship. — kwami (talk) 19:05, 14 September 2010 (UTC)

So wrong it hurts[edit]

"The Anglo-Saxons began using Roman letters to write Old English as they converted to Christianity, following Augustine of Canterbury's mission to Britain in the sixth century. Because the Runic wen, which was first used to represent the sound 'w' and looked like a p that is narrow and triangular, was easy to confuse with an actual p, the 'w' sound began to be written using a double u. Because the u at the time looked like a v, the double u looked like two v's, W was placed in the alphabet by V."

Where to start? The name of the letter is wynn, not "wen"; the Anglo-Saxons used it side-by-side with the letter P for centuries (down to the 12th century) indicating that there was no confusion for either scribes or contemporary readers. The letter is doubtless derived from the rune, but unlike the rune is not "narrow and triangular"; it has a curved top and a diagonal joining the top to the vertical stem. The contemporary forms of p (which was rather rare in Anglo-Saxon itself, though common in Latin) were shaped differently, having two joined curves.

In the continental Germanic languages, however, the sequence uu was used for the sound of [w] at least as early as the 9th century; over time it was replaced by the ligature w. This spelling was brought into England by the Normans, and gradually displaced the native wynn because it was more familiar to scribes who primarily wrote in Norman-French. I know of no evidence that any similarity between wynn and p motivated the shift. I think this whole paragraph is speculation by a hasty editor. RandomCritic (talk) 18:58, 10 November 2010 (UTC)

Quite likely. Can you replace it with something cited to a reliable source or sources? Dougweller (talk) 19:48, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
I'm wondering whether the paragraph is needed at all. Why discuss specifically English developments when the article is about the Latin alphabet in general -- which was, of course, used throughout Europe? RandomCritic (talk) 14:23, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
Some people think that "w" is the only letter of the 26-letter Latin alphabet invented in England... AnonMoos (talk) 15:48, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

Error (True Alphabet)[edit]

The statement "Greek, the first true alphabet in that it consistently assigns letters to both consonants and vowels." is in my view erroneous.

In either way, I speak Aramaic. I can write it. I can read it, even if the vowels are not written out. We have many ways of denoting the vowels. We can use simple dots, or we even have separate symbols for them however we can also write the language without them and still read the words pronouncing the vowels. This is done partly by recognizing the set of consonants and also it is important to note that the consonants in Aramaic themselves reveal largely which vowel is to be pronounced when reading the word (with exceptions of course). When we type vowels in Aramaic they are always typed along with a consonant on the basline. The vowels are always followed by the same consonants (most of the time) and if you know the rules and is familiar with the language it is easy to understand that you wouldn't need to type out the vowels as the consonant itself represents a vowel (generally when familiar with a word the vowels are not simply needed to be typed out explicitly). So the statement I am disputing at the top of this passage would have to mean that Phonecians, Arameans etc didn't use vowels when they pronounced a written word? Of course this statement is absurd. Vowels are incorporated in these languages, just in a very clever way (remember Phonecian and Aramaic languages spread due to their intelligent and simple ways of typing down speech). It seems to me that the writer of this Wiki article has been outsmarted by this simple system.

In this way some different dialects of Aramaic that are still used today, sound differentwhen spoken but when written down and vowels omitted they infact look the same (as the main difference in the dialects are the use of the vowels) and can be understood by the speakers of the different dialects. — Preceding unsigned comment added by ManoYMano100 (talkcontribs) 23:38, 24 April 2011 (UTC)

Yes indeed. Alphabet: "A system of characters, signs, or symbols used to indicate letters or speech sounds." Nor can I find any reference to "true alphabet" as a technical term in the literature.

Finally, just to be safe, a quick check on Google Scholar shows that in the academic literature the term "true alphabet" is almost completely absent. And even among the few hits, most appear to be irrelevant, for example: "George Grierson called Landa the “true alphabet of the Punjab”."

I will edit.

Micheln (talk) 08:36, 31 August 2015 (UTC)

Note also how even in the section itself, the word "true" is between quotes, showing how the usage is non-standard.

Assuming that some scholars use this terminology, then in my view it is acceptable to use the term in a section paragraph, on one condition: the context must make it clear that this is not a consensus-terminology. But it should definitely not be used in a section header unless and until it becomes a generally accepted terminology in the academic community. Micheln (talk) 08:44, 31 August 2015 (UTC)

Semitic alphabet alphabetic vs. abjadi[edit]

We've got a bit of an edit war going on here (myself included), and both editors are trying to resolve it in the edit summaries, but that doesn't seem to be working. It involves the opening sentences of History of the alphabet#Semitic alphabet under Consonantal alphabets. The intro is "The Proto-Sinaitic script of Egypt has yet to be fully deciphered. However, it may alphabetic [sic] and probably records the Canaanite language."

I just plain think this is misleading, as the adjective "alphabetic", to a much greater extent than the noun "alphabet", implies that a writing system indicates vowels on par with consonants. It doesn't matter if five paragraphs down, the article starts talking about "true alphabets", it needs to be accurate in and of itself. Whether someone is just looking for the origins of the alphabet, or falls vicitim to WP:TLDR, they should not be misled in such a fundamental way.
I do not object to calling it the Semitic alphabet (it follows practice of giving things their common English names), but the adjective needs to be scrapped in favor of "However, it may be an abjad (a consonant-only alphabet) and probably records the Canaanite language." with or without the parenthetical. VIWS talk 21:54, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
The terminological distinction between "abjad" and "alphabet" is very recent (not much more than 15 years old), and in the preceding centuries scholars and others were perfectly happy to call them alphabets (using the phrase "consonantal alphabet" if any greater precision was felt to be needed). I really don't see the need to rigidly and inflexibly impose a recently-coined "abjad" neologism, nor do I think that the current state of scholarly use of terminology requires it. AnonMoos (talk) 05:59, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
I think that Wikipedia should reflect modern scholarship. I hope that's not a controversial opinion. I think it is completely appropriate to talk about "alphabetic principles" in reference to segmentation, abstraction, phonologic representation, etc., whether the given script is abjadi, alphabetic, abugida, or morpho-syllabic, but I believe that if you haven't described the script yet, an abjad should not be characterized as "alphabetic". That's it. I find it absolutely baffling that anyone thinks that this is somehow unreasonable. VIWS talk 08:02, 30 July 2011 (UTC)

This is in an article titled 'History of the alphabet', in a section called 'Consonantal alphabets' and subsection 'Semitic alphabet'. If your objection is that the Semitic alphabet is not an alphabet, then shouldn't we change the rest of this too? We also describe the Egyptian uniliterals as 'alphabetic' in the preceding section. When I suggested that perhaps you should read the article to understand the context of the edit before revert warring over it, this is what I meant. — kwami (talk) 22:19, 29 July 2011 (UTC)

As I said, I have no problem with the term "Semitic alphabet". That is its common name, and what it should be refered to as in the English Wikipedia. Most importantly, it is a step in the development of "the alphabet", inasmuch as that term has meaning. What I have a problem with is describing it by the adjective "alphabetic". This is misleading. The adjective "alphabetic" implies a lot of wrong things about the Semitic alphabet that the term "abjad" corrects. That's it. Most of the descriptions above that point refer to alphabetic principles, but after the abjadi structure of hieratic has already been distinctly described. Yes, it could probably use a little cleaning up with more attention payed to technical accuracy, but it doesn't mislead the reader like the opening of the description of the Semitic alphabet section does. VIWS talk 22:35, 29 July 2011 (UTC)

Possible Egyptian prototypes?[edit]

Why is the row called "Possible Egyptian prototype" empty? --Espoo (talk) 16:42, 6 September 2011 (UTC)

Because Kawamigami purged the somewhat bogus "Proto-Semitic alphabet"[sic] glyphs and retitled the row, but then never filled it in. I can fill in a few of them, assuming that Wiki-coded hieroglyphs will display in a table... AnonMoos (talk) 17:16, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
Added three which are some of the most-commonly mentioned. Albright has a lot more, but some of them are probably quite dubious in the light of modern scholarship and recent discoveries... AnonMoos (talk) 17:37, 6 September 2011 (UTC)

Tibetan / Brahmic question.[edit]

I am out of my field here, but why is:

• The Tibetan ད (Da) not on the D row, (and a dash is there)
• The Tibetan ཧ (Ha) on the E row (especially as Brahmic languages are abugida, and the vowels (in Tibetan) are written in dependant on a consonant)
• The Tibetan ཝ (Wa) present at all, as it's a relatively modern addition to the alphabet
• The Tibetan Da ད (ཌ) (or retroflex Da) is found on the Z two instead of  ཟ (ZA) 
• The Tibetan  ཧ (Ha) not on the H row, (and a dash is there)
• The Tibetan ཐ (ཋ) (T'a, or retroflex - aspirated T) on the Θ row, as it's not pronounced like Θ, but as an (non-fricative) aspirated dental.
• The Tibetan ཤ (Sha) on the Ξ row, as it's not pronounced like Ξ, but as (IPA [ʃ]) (sh)
• The Tibetan ཕ (P'a - aspirated P) present on the P row, especially as the correlate ཐ is not on the T row.
• The Tibetan ས (Sa) present on the Sampi row, as it's pronounced the same way as Σ
• The Tibetan ཁ (K'a - aspirated K) on the Q row?
• The Tibetan ཥ (retroflex Sha, only used when transliterating Sanskrit) on the S row, and not ས (Sa) ?

The mere appearances of many of these letters do not match - they represent different sounds, and their I am pretty confused by their presence! At least the article should explain how the correlation is made, and by what sources. I see that the table is captioned "The transmission of the alphabet from Tibetan (through Phagspa) to Hangul is also controversial." Well, without discussion it appears to be fabricated. (20040302 (talk) 11:03, 14 October 2011 (UTC))

I have pulled the unsourced, highly suspect correlation regarding the Brahmic descent. The cut text follows

Western ← Phoenician → Brahmic → Korean
Latin Greek Gujarati Devanagari Tibetan[citation needed]
A Α Aleph
B В Beth
C, G Г Gimel
D Δ Daleth ધ (ઢ) ध (ढ)
E Ε He (ㅱ)
F, V Ϝ, Υ Waw
Z Ζ Zayin દ (ડ) द (ड) ད (ཌ)
H Η Heth
Θ Teth થ (ઠ) थ (ठ) ཐ (ཋ)
I, J Ι Yodh
K Κ Kaph
L Λ Lamedh ㄹㄹ
M Μ Mem
N Ν Nun
Ξ Samek
O Ο Ayin  ?
P Π Pe પ, ફ प, फ པ, ཕ
Ϡ Sade
Q Ϙ Qoph
R Ρ Res
S Σ Sin
T Τ Taw ત (ટ) त (ट) ཏ (ཊ)

Table: The spread of the alphabet west (Greek, Latin) and east (Brahmic, Korean). Note that the exact correspondence between Phoenician (through Aramaic) to Brahmic is uncertain[citation needed], especially for the sibilants and the letters in parentheses. The transmission of the alphabet from Tibetan (through Phagspa) to Hangul is also controversial[citation needed].

There needs to be a source for the Brahmic connection, along with the rationale for it. Certainly by the time that one gets to Tibetan, there is no phonic or visual correlation as supplied (20040302 (talk) 19:15, 23 October 2011 (UTC))


In the section Predecessors, the article states:

That is, while capable of being used as an alphabet, it was in fact nearly always used with a strong logographic component, presumably due to strong cultural attachment to the complex Egyptian script.

This speculation is probably erroneous considering a similar situation occurred during the 20th Century. Immediately after the 1911 Revolution that established the Republic of China, many young reformers called for the elimination of Chinese characters and their replacement with a "modern" alphabetic or phonetic script. This effort resulted in various transcription systems such as Pinyin romanization and simplified Chinese characters, but Chinese characters are still used to this day. Why did this happen? It was not due to any sentimental attachment to writing Chinese. It was due to the simple fact that written Chinese encodes more information than a phonetic script ever could.

I do not pretend to know what Egyptians were thinking thousands of years ago, but I would choose a modern example of such a scenario before wildly speculating upon the sentiments of people whose culture I could not possibly encounter or get to know. This statement should be amended to reflect a more educated guess as to why the Egyptian writing system endured for so long.

--LuYu (talk) 12:14, 23 October 2011 (UTC)

LuYu -- Chinese script does not in any sense contain an alphabet, and if Chinese characters were to be used as the basis of a purely phonetic/phonemic orthography, then they would have to be drastically modified and simplified, as seen in the Japanese kana syllabaries, Korean hangul, the "bopomofo" symbols etc. By contrast, the Egyptian monoconsonantal signs already formed a kind of consonantal alphabet (or so-called "abjad"[sic]) within the Egyptian writing system, and the Egyptians also invented a method for partially writing vowels when transcribing foreign names into Egyptian script. All the Egyptians would have had to do was selectively focus on already-existing aspects of their commonly-used writing system in order to come up with a simplified writing system that would have been alphabetic and/or capable of writing vowels. Certainly when Semitic-speaking peoples encountered the Egyptian writing system in the 2000 BC - 1500 BC period, they seem to have fairly quickly derived a consonantal alphabet from it. However, the Egyptians refused to take such steps. I don't think that the situation is really very comparable to modern Chinese script... AnonMoos (talk) 15:08, 23 October 2011 (UTC)

Origin of Brahmi : new paper[edit]

i am pleased to announce the publication of my fifth research paper in a peer-reviewed journal

this deals with the origin of Brahmi . this is a logical and self-explanatory paper and is written using a multi-disciplinary approach. it is written in such a way that anybody can cross-verify the conclusions.

sujay rao mandavilli (talk) 09:42, 26 February 2013 (UTC)


In the picture "Venn diagram showing the intersections of the Greek, Latin and Russian alphabet" letter "K" appears twice: as common for Greek and Latin and as Russian only. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:59, 4 January 2014 (UTC)

There are actually two separate SVG files on Commons, and what to include in the various intersections has been discussed quite a bit on the Commons file talk pages... AnonMoos (talk) 22:05, 14 April 2017 (UTC)


I thought the alphabet was first invented by the ancient Sumerians. (talk) 01:09, 13 June 2016 (UTC)

They invented the precursor of it, Mesopotamian cuneiform. See the section "Predecessors" in the article. Cuneiform had a ton of characters, though. since each character represented an idea. Semitic abjads reduced it to about 22 distinct characters based on the first sound of the word and then the Greeks modified that and added vowels. Ian.thomson (talk) 01:32, 13 June 2016 (UTC)

Hebrew 'alphabet' derives from Egyptian hieroglyphics[edit]

I didn't realize that this issue was so hotly debated, as shown in a recent Science News article that states that ancient Hebrews turned Egyptian hieroglyphics into letters. There is no mention in the article of the Phoenician's contribution, which must suggest that the Hebrew "alphabet" pre-dates the Phoenician's. Science News, 11/19/2016. Sapientiaetdoctrina (talk) 13:31, 19 November 2016 (UTC)

Interesting. The article is here. It says this is highly contested. What it doesn't say is who the person making this assertion is - or rather it just identifies him as "archaeologist and epigrapher Douglas Petrovich of Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo,", which is correct but not the entire story. He's also part of and not a reliable source. Doug Weller talk 17:54, 19 November 2016 (UTC)
In case this comes up again, although he manages to get called a professor in the media, he isn't one. His site[2] calls him an adjunct teaching Ancient Egypt(something I've told Korvex before), and the University doesn't call him professor. See this and scroll down to HI299E: ANCIENT EGYPT (WINTER) where is is given no title. But at HI121: ANCIENT HISTORY IN A GLOBAL CONTEXT (WINTER) you'll see a real professor with the title. And the course he is teaching is not a standard part of the curriculum. Note its number if HI299E, and "Courses carrying special numbers (HI299, HI346, HI496) are established when a faculty member has an interest in pursuing a topic of study that is not part of our regular course offerings." Yes, Petrovich was one of many ASOR members giving presentations. Any member may present a paper, presentation doesn't mean approval.[3] He seems to be one of about 233 particpants giving 20 minute presentations.[4] See this response to a blog piece he wrote.[5] He states that he was the academic dean at Novosibirsk Biblical-Theological Seminary in Akademgorodok, Russia, which is true. It was his whatever it actually was and the title was self-bestowed. Doug Weller talk 16:27, 23 April 2017 (UTC)
    • ^ Ledyard, Gari K. The Korean Language Reform of 1446. Seoul: Shingu munhwasa, 1998.