Do You Know About The Origin Of The English Alphabet

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Author: Harshita Gupta
Category: Guides   Translation Blog   

The Origin of the English Alphabet is quite fascinating and development of every letter of alphabet gas own story. Even though, English is spoken most, for some of the Non-English speakers, this language is one difficult language for you to learn. Indeed, there will be consistencies in English because various languages came into picture during development years. Missionaries, scholars and conquerors will shape English language into what to speak and known today.

Alphabetic Writing:

The early form of alphabetic writing actually started around 4000 years ago. As per scholars, it was Egypt that alphabetic writing developed right between 1800 and 1900 BC. The origin was going to be a Proto Sinaitic writing form that was not quite well. Now, after 700 years from that, Phoenicians developed alphabet, solely based on previous foundations. It was then widely used in Mediterranean, which includes North Africa, Europe, Levant and Iberian Peninsula. The alphabets were made out of all consonants in 22 letters.

Right in 750 BC, Greeks added vowels to the Phoenician alphabet and combination was initial true alphabet. Later, this was seized by Latin and combined with Etruscan characters with latters F and S. than in 3rd century, the ancient Latin script removed letters J, G, W, Y, Z, V or U. When Roman Empire was there ruling parts globally, they added roman alphabets derived from Latin, even though U/V, J and W were still not there.

How Did The English Alphabet Evolve

Before you head for the language services, you might know the evolution of this English language. When Roman reached Britain, they brought the Latin language with them. Britain was under control of Anglo Saxons, which was a Germanic tribe using old English. Old English at that time was using Futhorc, which is older alphabet and it is also called runic alphabet.

a) Old English

The perfect combination of Latin and runic alphabet resulted in creating modernized English alphabets. Some additions from runic alphabets were “thorn” with “th” sound and “wynn” making a “w” sound. But, there was no “w” in Latin. In middle ages, when Britain ceased to old runes, letter thorn was substituted by “th” and runic “wynn” became “uu” which then later evolved to “w.” In that same period, “U” and “J” were then added and that added a total of 26 letters. Then some symbols were added too.

b) Middle English

In 1066 AD, when Nomads invaded Britain, the lowborn used to work on Old English. The clergy, scholars and even mobility were speaking and writing in Latin or in Norman. Right after two centuries of Norman rule, writing in English was popular and again some old English letters were removed. Geoffrey Chaucer used this English in the Canterbury Tales.

c) Modern English

Then later in 15th century, printing press added Great Britain by William Caxton. At that point, English was standardized. Right from being interchangeable the letters U and V were separated and V being consonant and U as vowel. It was in 1604, that the first English dictionary was published by Robert Cawdrey and then the letter J was added in Modern English.

Definition Of An Alphabet:

Letters, widely used in any language will be known as alphabet collectively and spoken by Countries with the Most English Speakers. It comprises of a fixed order depending on custom of users. The alphabet is then used for writing and symbols used for writing are known as letters. Each letter represents one sound or related one used in spoken language. With the help of standardized reading spaces, direction and even punctuation marks, the alphabets forms words easily read by the readers. This term “alphabet” came from two Phoenician alphabet based letters, which are “Aleph” and “Beth.” Even though some languages have their own alphabets with common on being that of Latin, it is also shared languages aside from the English one.

Stories Related To English Alphabet:

It is always probable that many people have already learned English by now and at tender age. The parents might have taught you some. When you reach pre-school stage, you are well-aware of most letters of English alphabets and can form some simple words. After starting school, you were again introduced to English alphabet and learned words by combining those. As you started by learning the alphabets, it is natural for you to take it granted and not having interest in its history and stories involved. You might have added english conversation in the list too.

The modernized sector comprises of 26 letters, which started at 16th century. The development had influences from Greek, Roman, Semitic and Phoenician scripts. It is really a surprising addition to it.

A) The original shape of this latter was upside down and it was introduced in 1800s. Being inverted, it looks like animal’s head with antlers or horns. It was fitting as in Semitic A means ox.

B) B was primarily borrowed from Egyptian hieroglyphics with it resting on its belly. The original shaped look like house with door, roof and room. It represents shelter about 4K years ago.

C) It came from Phoenicians and it was shaped like hunter’s stick or the boomerang. Greeks called it gamma from facing other direction and it was flipped to direction written today with Italians giving that crescent shape.

D) Dalet was what the letter D was called in 800 BC by Phoenicians. It previously looked like rough triangle faced left. The original meaning is door. When Greeks adopted alphabet, they have it name Delta. Later, it was flipped and Romans gave the right side that semicircle shape.

E) Around 3800 years ago, E was pronounced as H in Semitic language and it looked like stick figure of human with two arms and a leg. The Greeks flipped it in 700BC and changed pronunciation into “ee” sound.

F) F was from Phoenicians and looked more like Y. It was pronounced at that time and sound made close to “waw.” Ancient Greeks renamed it to Digamma and tipped to resemble present day F. The Romans made it looked better with geometrical shape and sound to “fff.”

G) G came from Zeta in Greeks. It looked like I previously made “zzz” sound. It was changed in 250 BC by Romans and sounding like “g” sound.

H) H came from Egyptians and used as fence symbol. It made breathy sound when pronounced. So, academicians of those times thought it to be not necessary. Later, Latin and British scholars dropped it around 500AD.

I) I was called Yod in 1000 BC. It meant arm and hand. The Greeks used to call is “iota” and made it then vertical. It turned into straight line in 700 BC.

J) Previously, I used to stand for J sound. It got shaped in 15th century as contribution to Spanish language. It was in 1640 that the letter regulated in print.

K) K is the old letter and came from Egyptian hieroglyphics. Right in Semitic language, it was called kaph translating into palm of hand. At that time, letter faced other way. When Greeks got it in 800 BC, K became Kappa and flipped to right.

L) In Semitic, L was upside down. It looked like hooked letter and called EI, meaning God. The Phoenicians gave it that reversed look with hook facing left. The hook was straightened and changed the name to Lamed. Greeks called in lambda and turned it around for facing right. The final look came with straight foot at right angle by Romans.

M) The origin of this letter was wavy vertical lines with 5 peaks for symbolizing water as per Egyptian. In 1800 BC, Semites reduced lines to 3 waves and Phoenicians later removed another wave from it. Later, the peaks were made in zigzag in 800 BC and flipped horizontally.

N) N looked like small ripple over large one. It symbolizes fish and one ripple appeared in 1000 BC.

O) It came from Egyptians and called eye in that. Later, it reduced hieroglyphics with only the outline of pupil.

P) P used to look like V. It meant mouth. Then it turned into diagonal hook shape later and Romans then flipped it to right with closed loop.

Q) The original sound was Qoph translated into monkey or wool. In roman inscription in 520 BC, the letter appeared modern.

R) R was written by the Semites and was pronounced resh, meaning head. Later, Romans changed it.

S) It used to appear as horizontal wave like W and represents bow. It was Romans who flipped it to vertical position and named it sigma.

T) Previously, the lower case of this letter was used and was called taw. It was called Tau by Greeks.

U) This letter looked like Y in 1000 BC. It meant peg and later, Greeks called it upsilon.

V) Romans used U and V interchangeably. The distinction appeared around 1400.

W) It started in Middle ages two “u” were written side by side. It sounded like V and then it appeared in print in 1700.

X) It sounded like ksi in Greeks and used in its lowercase form. Later, in 15th century, the Italian printers used lower case X.

Y) Roman added Y in 100AD.

Z) Z was called zayin, which meant ax. It looked like I previously and then later changed by Greeks once they adopted it in 800BC.

Trust A Language Service Provider:

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Hello readers, this is Harshita Gupta – a young, energetic and passionate blogger, who is crazy in love with languages of the universe. At present, I work as a translator at a Spanish company and while I am free from my translation duties, I love writing educational and motivational blogs that describe the benefits and unknown facts about different languages, countries, cultures and their advantages to the businessmen.


Image credit to Andrew Seaman  | Image credit to Elijah O’Donnell  

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