By John Man

Compliment for Alpha Beta
"This ebook comes on the ideal second as we rediscover the significance in early examining of cracking the alphabetic code. the tale of the way that code got here into being is an engaging one, and guy is the precise author to inform it." instances academic Supplement

"A richly soaking up exploration, from B.C. to desktops, of the evolution of the main primary characters of our cultural heritage, the alphabet we a lot take with no consideration. John guy writes with a compellingly stressed interest and immediacy. The ever staggering, exotically specified narrative in his informative e-book makes it as undryly stress-free as a profitable archaelogical dig of 1 of Alan Moorehead s colourful histories of African exploration." David Grambs, writer of The Describer s Dictionary and The Endangered English Dictionary

"Text that's crisp, taut, and as transparent as a bell.... a desirable tale with many a beguiling subplot alongside the way." New Scientist

"Letter ideal the simplest histories and mysteries of our ABC s!" Jeff McQuain, writer of by no means sufficient phrases and tool Language

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Extra info for Alpha Beta: How 26 Letters Shaped the Western World

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But a syllabic script has a staggering range of ambiguities. Like all written languages, Sumerian cuneiform had words and syllables that mixed up spelling, meaning and sound. Some were spelled differently but sounded the same (like the English sun/son), or spelled the same but differed in meaning (like a bird’s bill, the name Bill, a bill for payment), or sounded the same but < previous page page_41 next page > < previous page page_42 next page > Page 42 differed in both spelling and meaning (like the ‘bill’ sound in building or ability).

Language breaks into numerous elements that create and recreate meaning. First in line for analysis are words. We reorder words to show who does what to whom: The dog bit the man, the man bit the dog. Word order involves some of the most basic rules of grammar, which children pick up effortlessly. Take just one ‘rule’ about never ending sentences with a preposition, and then listen to this bed-time complaint by a six-year-old: What did you bring that book I don’t want to be read out of from up for?

Sometimes single letters were reinforced by two- or three-consonantal signs, or more than one determinative was used to be extra-sure. Take the word for ‘cat’, a particularly charming example because the old Egyptian for ‘cat’ was pronounced miaow, or something like it. Egyptians wrote it as , which transliterates as mj-j-w-cat sign. The mj syllable meant ‘milk-jug’, though the apparent link was a coincidence. Then comes another ‘j’, a phonetic complement to reinforce the first (hidden) ‘j’. Then a ‘w’ and a ‘small feline’ determinative.

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