History of Alphabet and Numbers Systems Not as Easy as ABC, 1-2-3

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 23, 2001 | Go to article overview

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?

If you have a question you'd like Kids Ink to answer, write Kids Ink, c/o the Daily Herald, 50 Lakeview Parkway, Suite 104, Vernon Hills, IL 60061 or send an e-mail to lake@@dailyherald.com. Along with the question, include your name, age, phone number, hometown, grade and school.

For more information

To learn more about the alphabet and numbers, Vernon Area

Library suggests

- "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?

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