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Friday, October 22, 2010

origin of letters-alphabet


The word alphabet comes, via the Latin word alphabētum, from the Greek wordαλφάβητος (alphabētos), which itself comes from the first two letters of the Greek alphabet, α (άλφα/alpha) and β (βήτα/beta). The names of the Greek letters were based on Phoenican letter names. The first two letters of the Phoenican alphabet are 'āleph(ox) and bēth (house). See our Etruscan alphabet (top left)

The Riddle of the Alphabet, by Aldo Lavagnini
The most puzzling thing about our alphabet - apart from the form of the letters themselves, which bear no true relation to the sounds they are meant to represent - is its order, which has no apparent justification. Vowels and consonants
- even while vowels were originally wholly absent - la
bials and palatals, dentals and sonants, are there thoroly mixed, in spite of which that order has been kept faithfully and substantially preserved, during no less than 4000 years.
There is nothing in it, for instance, of the nice grouping of the Devanagari letters: vowels first in their order, then gutterals, palatals, post-alveolars, dentals, labials, and spirants. That is because the Roman alphabet just grew. It was not designed scientifically as was Devanagari.
Its order has been instilled in us from our first school days, and innumerable generations have learned it in the same manner, together with the names of the letters.

There have been very few interpolations, if any, some dropping or change - as for instance the purely Latin G - and some additions at the end, so that the Greek alphabet ends in Omega and ours with Z, but the ancient order has been largely preserved, with few exceptions, in its several offshoots.
The reason for that order has not been explained until now: it has been sought vainly in the original names of the letters themselves - as they are best preserved in Greek and Hebrew - but no satisfactory motive has been found for such a peculiar and rigid grouping of apparently - heterogeneous objects, such as a bull, a house, a camel, a door or tent, and so on.

It is true, however, that the reason is concealed in the names of the letters, which may reveal it when properly analyzed from a synthetical viewpoint: the best clue is given us by the name
of the first letter Aleph or Alpha, originally alepu, the Bull. When we know that up to 3000 years ago the constellation of Taurus was the one of the Vernal Equinox, and that therefore the Zodiac began with it, the natural explanation for that order so faithfully kept, is that it followed just the same order of the zodiacal constellations.

In the form of our letter A, we may even now recognize the head of a bull, or the astronomic sign for Taurus, if we only turn it upside down. It is not an isolated instance: just past the middle, we find a group of three letters, one after another: M, N, and O, which by both their name and shape are unmistakably related to the last three constellations, as we know them: Aquarius, Pices and Aries.

M or e'mmaim stands for "the waters," N similarly for nun or e'nnaina "the two fishes," and O or ain for the "eye" constellation, i.e. Aires, as it was afterwards named.

At the end of the VII century new social needs needed new tools:
social functions of language vs linguistic functions in society
a couple of Examples:
Slavic and Arabic peoples.

Glagolitic alphabet (omniglot)

The Glagolitic alphabet was invented during the 9th century by the missionaries St Cyril (827-869 AD) and St Methodius (826-885 AD) in order to translate the Bible and other religious works into the language of the Great Moravia region. They probably modelled Glagolitic on a cursive form of the Greek alphabet.

How did the order evolved in Arabic? Any learner of its language finds a disordered list according to articulation and likeness.
The Aramaic language (see above) had fewer consonants than Arabic, so during the 7th century new Arabic letters were created by adding dots to existing letters in order to avoid ambiguities

The study of ancient manuscripts of the Qur'an is steadily gathering pace. In decades past, a few scholars have compiled lists of Qur'anic manuscripts attributable to the 1st century hijra. A discussion of how scholars date early Qur'anic manuscripts and an assessment of the value of these manuscripts is also provided along with some detailed mathematical calculations. Quite simply, there is no other work from the Late Antiquity that comes close to the Qur'an in terms of the number of their earliest manuscripts including textual content.

Since diacritical marks were already fixed before the first half of the first century of hijra and the vowel marks invented a little later by Abu al-Aswad al-Du'ali [d. 69 AH / 688 CE], it should not be surprising to see the Muslims towards the end of first century of hijra were already using the dotted manuscripts. Abu ‘Amr al-Dani narrates a couple of reports that shed some light into this matter.
It was to us narrated that Ibn Sirin owned a mushaf that was dotted by Yahya Ibn Ya‘mur [d. 90 AH / 708 CE]. And that Yahya was the first one to dot them. The three of these people are among the eminent successors of Basra.[53]

Whelan's study of the Qur'anic inscriptions on the Dome of the Rock and the literary sources mentioning the Qur'anic inscriptions in the Prophet's mosque in Madinah and the presence of professional copyists of the Qur'an has already demonstrated the evidence of codification of the Qur'an in the 7th century 

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