The origin and development of any language can be traced back to the rudimentary symbols the primitive people used in their verbal interaction. These symbols when used over a long period take an established pattern thus giving rise to a new language. But the growth of a language does not stop at oral communication – a script for writing is develped on the way. But when did the first alphabet appear that enabled man to express himself in writing?
The earliest people used pictures for writing which we call pictograph. The stone age people used this form in their writing. In pictograph a particular sign represents an object such as a treee or a bird which in turn communicates a specific meaning or idea. Ideas could be communicated thorough picture writing in the sense that the picture of a bird might mean flying. The ancient Egyptians also used picture writing. But this form had its limitations. It required thousands of pictures, which were also called characters, to symbolise a few things. This drawback of pictograph led to the discovery of signs that represented sounds used in verbal communication. These signs representing different sounds were grouped differently to form new words. But when did the sound-signs first appeared which we now call alphabets?
About 3,500 years ago, the Phoenicians in eastern Mediterranean, invented the first alphabet. Later the Greeks and Romans developed their own alphabets which were improvements of the Pheoenician script in fact the word ‘alphabet’ is derived from two words alpha (α ) bets (β) which were the first two letters in the Greek alphabet.
The 26 letter in the English Alphabet came from the Roman alphabet of 2500 years ago.
The appearance of alphabets made it easier to create thousands of words using a few alphabets. For example, there are only 26 letters in English alphabet but just imagine how many words we make out of these 26 letters! Pictograph lacked this advantage since one picture represented only one meaning or idea. Now most of the languages in the civilised world have their own aphabets but the number of letters in the alphabets and the pronunciation differ from language to language.
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