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The Forgotten Story of Alphabets
The Forgotten Story of Alphabets

Alphabets, which are symbols used to systematically convert language to writing, show differences according to the languages. The Latin alphabet used today, has its roots from 3 thousand years ago, to the times of the Phoenician civilization in Lebanon

World Bulletin / News Desk

Alphabet is a word stemming from the Greek language, a combination of the terms  'alpha' and 'beta', which defines a system of symbols that are used to convert language to writing. İn many languages the written systems are expressed with the first two alphabets, according to the ranking of the alphabets which describe sounds.

The Middle Eastern languages express their alphabets with the terminology 'ebced' .  The reason is because 'elif', 'be', 'te' and 'cim' are letters which are ranked in the beginning as the first letters in the alphabet.  Alphabets are devided into two categories, based on the method of expressing the sounds. The first are languages which use pictures. An example of the geography of theese langıages is the far east.  Theese languages generally use figures that resemble pictures.

The other alphabet category which is used to express sounds, uses symbolic characters.

Phoenician Alphabet : source of modern alphabets

The alphabet we use today was invented 3000 years ago in the ancient city of Biblos. The alphabet which spread to the rest of the world, from Biblos which is a city in the borders of modern day Lebanon, also changed human history.  Before the Phoenician alphabet, writing was composed of many little pictures that were stringed along together.  For example, to say bird, a picture of a bird was drawn.

However, the Phoenicians did something extraordinary.  They used sounds for writing instead of pictures.  They stringed along side by side theese sounds in order to make words.  The alphabet which started with the letters 'Alef', 'bet', gimel' and 'dalet' is comprised of 22 consonants.  The system they invented in order to record their calculations for trade, actually changed human history. 

The alphabet spread in a short timespan, where their trading partners the Greeks added the vovels, and the Romans changed their shape to transform the alphabet to the for we use today as the Latin alphabet.  When the Torah was written, almaost the same alphabet was used.  Modern day hebrew still starts with 'alef', 'bet','gimel' and 'dalet'.  Even though the letters have been changed in format, the 'Phoenician Alphabet' also affected arabic, which is inthe same category of languages. A clear example is it starts with 'alif', 'be' and includes and includes letters  like 'vav', 'ayin' and 'sin'.

Today, when we write and read in all languages, we stilll use the system from 1000 BC and with that system keep the world in order. Even when we say alphabet today, in reality we are reading the first two letters of the extraordinary invention of the Phoenicians : Alef, bet ...

Latin alphabet : the most common alphabet

Today it is placed importance on the meaning of the alphabets rather than their technical categorisation.  Any alphabet which is unable to represent all the sounds of a language is deemed inadequate, and languages which can use letters to express all sounds is considerd as a real alphabet.

According to written records, there have been 29 alphabets used in history to date.  The most widespread used alphabet in the world is the 'Latin alphabet'.

As technology advanced, devices such as the printing press, the typewriter and the computer were designed to use the latin alphabet, and consquently, many countries had to make changes in their existing alphabet in order to comply.

The Greek alphabet has 24 letters

The Greek alphabet which has survived from the ancient Greek times till today, has accompanied may unforgettable works from philosophers, writers and poets like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and Cavafy. This  rooted alphabet consists of 24 letters, which is comprised of 7 vovels and 15 consonants. However, three of the vovels are used for the 'i' sound and two are used for the 'o' sound.  The alphabet which doesnt comprise of the 'ü', 'ö', 'ı' sounds, uses two leters side by side for 'u'.  To express the 'İ' sound it uses 6 letters and letter combinations.

This makes reading and writing in Greek very difficult, as the reading changes depending on how the vowels come side by side and positioned in the words.  As every letter expresses a different sound depending on where its used, and every sound can be comprised of different leters and combinations thereoff, whithout any rules and regulations, makes frequent spelling mistakes inevitable.  Even those who have Greek as their mother toungue, can use the wrong letters and make spelling mistakes.

Russian use of the Cyrillic alphabet

The 'cyrillic alphabet' used all over the Russian geography is a writing system dating back hundreds of years.  The alphabet which was named after Orthodox priests Kiril and Metodius, was bor in the year 900 in the Byzantine.

The alphabet which was adapted by the Slavic world over a period of time, also incorporated some slavic sounds which do not exist in Greek.

İn Russia this alphabet was used as capital letters in the early stages of the medieval period. İtalics which were preferred as hand writing were later included.  İn the beginning of the 18th century Petro the great took out the Greek letters from the writing system, to make the alphabet much simpler. During the Soviet Revolution, some letters deemed useless were removed from the alphabet.

Kirghiz first alphabet 2500 years old

The first alphabet used by the Kirghiz, is known to be the 'Göktürk alphabet', dating back 2500 years. Gokturk alphabet, which is known as runic writing in the western world, can also be come accross in Gokturk inscriptions.

Another alphabet used by the Kirghiz , came together with the acceptance of 'Islam' is the 'Arabic alphabet', which was developed in the Karahans period.  İn 1928, the 'arab alphabet' was abolished and replaced with the 'Latin alphabet', with the accompanied reason that it was more suitable for the sounds of the Kirghiz language.  However in 1941, all countries in the soviet union started using the 'cyrill alphabet', one after the other.

Even though it has been said that the main reason for this was to encourage communication amongst the people living in the soviet union, it is thought that the actual reason was to cut mutual ties of the central asian countries and Turkey.

Kazakh use of Arabic alphabet until 1929

The 'Arab alphabet' which was commonly used in Kazakhistan untill 1929, began using the 'Cyrill alphabet' from 1940 onwards.  Today, Khazakhistan is preparing to convert to 'Latin alphabet'.  The changes  which are to be completed by 2025, under the orders from the president Nursultan Nazarbayev, have the purpose of bringing Khazakhistan closer to neighbouring Turkic republics.

The alphabet of the Quran

Arabic which is the writing language of the Quran, the holy book of Islam, is also the official language of 22 Arabic nations.  Arabic consists of 28 letters. As there are only 3 vowels in the 'Arabic alphabet' , to make it easy to read the other sounds for people not familar to the Arabic language, it uses symbols that are named 'hareke'.

İn order to write Arabic, you need to know how each of the letters are written, in the beginning, the middle and the end of a word.  One of the most important features of the arabic alphabet is the uniqueness of also including the letter which makes the 'dad' sound. For this reason the arabic language is also known as the 'dad' language.  The Arabic alphabet which consists of letters written from right to left also shows uniquness in the use of punctuation.

First Turkish alphabet was 38 letters

The first alphabet of the Turkish language, is the 'Orhun alphabet' which was seen on the 'Orhun inscriptions' , which belonged to the Gokturks , and used from 150 BC to 10 AD.  The 'Orhun alphabet' which is comprised of 38 letters which was used to write 'Orhun monuments', preserves its place in history as the first written forms of the Turkish language.

Even though in history Turks have used diffrent alphabets, with the coming of İslam, since the 10th century, the Arabic alphabet was used by Turkic-Islam nations. Even though the Arabic alphabet consisted of 28 letters, the alphabet used by the Turks consisted of letters ranging from 31 to 36 .

The alphabet which was written from right to left, was also used in different Turkish dialects.

Along with the Turkish Republic which was established in 1923, there was also a letter revolution, and in 1928 there was a transformation to the 'Latin alphabet'.  İn addition to the 'latin alphabet' which consists of 23 letters, there were letters included that were the correspondence of Turkish sounds which were not existent in western languages, being the letters 'ç', 'ğ', 'little ı', 'bigİ', 'ö', 'ş' and 'ü'.














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