The Triumph of the Alphabet: A History of Writing

By A. C. Moorhouse | Go to book overview
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VI
the extension of the alphabet

1
SEMITIC ORIGIN OF GREEK ALPHABET

SO FAR WE HAVE STUDIED THE FIRST INVENTION OF THE alphabet in the hands of the Semites, and there have been many points in the account that are not certainly known. We shall now examine how the Semitic alphabet spread abroad, finally to become the chief world script. Here the events are more recent, but although the general outlines are fairly sure, even here many details are obscure.

We begin with the Greek alphabet, which is the ultimate source of all the alphabets now in use in Europe. A number of factors make it clear that the Greek alphabet is an offshoot of the Semitic. The form of the letters (especially in the earliest Greek inscriptions) is closely similar to the early North Semitic. The names of the letters in Greek are also very similar to the Semitic names: but, although nearly all the words have meaning in Semitic, they have none in Greek. The Greek order of the letters is also the same as the North Semitic. The direction of writing was originally from right to left in Greek, as in Semitic, but the boustrophedon style, and then left to right writing, superseded it. From the fifth century B.C. it was always from

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