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The Early Alphabet (Reading the Past) Paperback – December 4, 1990

ISBN-13: 978-0520073098 ISBN-10: 0520073096

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Product Details

  • Series: Reading the Past (Book 9)
  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (December 4, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520073096
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520073098
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,049,058 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By rareoopdvds VINE VOICE on March 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
This little book, although only 62 pages, is chock full of information. Setting out from the consonantal alphabets of Proto-Sinitic forms and Ugaritic taking you through time to Greek, Latin, Hebrew and Arabic, which seem to be derived from the ancient Semetic languages of East and West and the devleopment of vowels. The book is filled with many pictures and diagrams of alphabets from ancient cultures, which help the clarity. Although the book is filled with good information, dont let the size fool you. There are lots of different lanugages and alphabets here with many names to remember. Its not exciting reading, mostly scholarly text and not any narrative to help the reader along. While this is a good book for someone who already has some knowledge of historical alphabets, I would not suggest this as an intro. Reccomended to those that already have an introuctory course in linguistics and historical alphabets.
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Format: Paperback
"The Early Alphabet" is part of the British Museum's "Reading the Past" series. This volume summarizes the scholarly consensus on the early history of alphabetic writing, that is writing where each letter represents a sound. It traces the history of alphabets from their roots in syllabic systems of writing, through several Semitic alphabets, to the introduction of alphabetic writing into Europe, first to Greece, from whence our modern Roman and Cyrillic alphabets are derived. The author is John F. Healey, a scholar of Semitic languages who has a particular interest in Ugaritic and Aramaic, so the book offers a bit more detail about those scripts than it does for some others. But "The Early Alphabet" shouldn't be considered detailed; it's a sweeping overview in just 64 pages.

The two great achievements with which this survey is concerned are the development of the consonantal alphabet in the early 2nd millennium BC and the addition of vowels in the early 1st millennium BC. The results were phonetic alphabets that made it easy for large populations to become literate, a transformative development if there ever was one. The book traces the evolution of alphabets from the first consonantal alphabets that appeared in the Sinai and Palestine to Phoenician, which informed the Hebrew, Aramaic, and later, Greek alphabets. It goes into variations on Aramaic through the ages, some of which inspired Arabic.

The author also discusses some scripts which are not in the ancestry of European languages, like Ugarit, which emerged around the same time as Phoenician but used an alphabetic cuneiform script. And the South Arabian alphabet, a progeny of very early alphabetic scripts that is the root of modern Amharic.
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