History of Alphabet and Numbers Systems Not as Easy as ABC, 1-2-3
Byline: J. Hope Babowice
You wanted to know
Garett Lemerand, 10, of Mundelein wanted to know:
Are there any letters or numbers that haven't been discovered?
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For more information
To learn more about the alphabet and numbers, Vernon Area
- "How To Count Like a Martian" by Glory St. John
- "Numbers" by Brian J. Knapp
- "Indian Picture Writing" by Robert Hofsinde
- "Long Is A Dragon: Chinese Writing for Children" by Peggy Goldstein
- "Scrawl! Writing in Ancient Times" (no author)
On the Web
History of the alphabet at http://www.concentric.net/~brandt58/history.html
Garett Lemerand, 10, a fourth-grader at St. John's School in Libertyville, asked, "Are there any letters or numbers that haven't been discovered?"
In short, the answer is, respectively, probably no and definitely yes. But as in everything, there's more to the answer than that. Let's examine both our alphabet and number systems
Craig Sirles, associate professor of English at DePaul University in Chicago, provided a short history of the 26-letter alphabet we use to spell words in English.
Our alphabet is known as the Roman alphabet. The letters we use also were used to form Latin words during the time of the Roman Empire more than 2,000 years ago. But our alphabet is even older than the Roman Empire.
Linguists, those specially trained language scientists, trace most of our alphabetic characters back to the Canaanites, a civilization that was located in the area of present-day Israel and Syria about 3,500 years ago.
The Canaanite alphabetic characters were passed on to the Phoenicians. These travelers introduced their letter system to the ancient Greeks. The Greek scholars then impressed the Romans with their alphabet, and the Romans used it to form their own letter system. The English word "alphabet" comes from the first two letters in the Greek writing system , "alpha" and "beta."
Over time, there have been a few additions to the Roman letter system. The original letters found in Old English, used from about 450 to 1100, contained several characters called "runes," which were borrowed from an old Scandinavian writing system. For the last 800 years, our 26-letter alphabet has remained basically unchanged.
What about other alphabets that are used to form other languages? …