Free Republic
Browse · Search
General/Chat
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Who Invented the Alphabet: The Semites or the Greeks?
Archaeolgy Odyssey ^ | Winter 1998 | Barry B. Powell

Posted on 01/17/2011 6:27:27 PM PST by SunkenCiv

I would make the startling suggestion that the alphabet was invented by a single human being, who created this remarkable technology to record the Greek hexameters of the poet we call Homer.

Certainly everyone agrees that the invention of the alphabet made possible the development of philosophy, science and democracy, some of the finest achievements in the history of human culture. But who invented the alphabet? Was it really the Semitic-speaking Phoenicians, as many of us learned in grammar school? Or was it actually the Greeks, to whom the Phoenicians supposedly passed it?

I don't believe the Phoenicians actually had an alphabet. The alphabet was a Greek invention. I would even make the startling suggestion that the alphabet was invented by a single human being, who created this remarkable technology to record the Greek hexameters of the poet we call Homer...

For convenience, I call this supreme inventor of the Greek alphabet the Adapter. The Adapter chose five signs from the West Semitic syllabary to use as vowel sounds, as reflected in every early Greek alphabetic inscription. Both the number of signs (five) and the particular signs chosen are arbitrary. Ancient Greek has many more than five vowel sounds; indeed, in later Greek inscriptions, seven vowel signs are employed, and there could have been more.

(Excerpt) Read more at basarchive.org ...


TOPICS: History; Science; Travel
KEYWORDS: alphabet; cadmus; cuneiform; epigraphyandlanguage; godsgravesglyphs; hebrew; lineara; linearb; marysettegast; nikadamos; nikmed; nikomedes; phoenician; phoenicians; platoprehistorian; protosinaitic; serabitelkhadem; ugarit
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-2021-4041-52 next last
Picture Picture Picture Picture
Picture Picture Picture Picture

1 posted on 01/17/2011 6:27:32 PM PST by SunkenCiv
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; 1010RD; 21twelve; 24Karet; 2ndDivisionVet; 31R1O; ...

· GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother, and Ernest_at_the_Beach ·
· join list or digest · view topics · view or post blog · bookmark · post a topic · subscribe ·

 
 Antiquity Journal
 & archive
 Archaeologica
 Archaeology
 Archaeology Channel
 BAR
 Bronze Age Forum
 Discover
 Dogpile
 Eurekalert
 Google
 LiveScience
 Mirabilis.ca
 Nat Geographic
 PhysOrg
 Science Daily
 Science News
 Texas AM
 Yahoo
 Excerpt, or Link only?
 


To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.
 

· History topic · history keyword · archaeology keyword · paleontology keyword ·
· Science topic · science keyword · Books/Literature topic · pages keyword ·


2 posted on 01/17/2011 6:29:22 PM PST by SunkenCiv (The 2nd Amendment follows right behind the 1st because some people are hard of hearing.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv

According to Rev. Farahkahn, it was someone who had NOTHING to do with white devils. Oh, and the number 19 was also in there, somewhere.


3 posted on 01/17/2011 6:29:35 PM PST by Mr. Jazzy (God bless the United States of America and protect her from the enemies of freedom.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv

The name being derived from “Aleph-Bet” might be a clue.


4 posted on 01/17/2011 6:37:12 PM PST by RegulatorCountry
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv

Phoenicians’

http://www.phoenician.org/alphabet.htm


5 posted on 01/17/2011 6:38:13 PM PST by silentreignofheroes
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv

Read Robert Graves’s “The White Goddess”.
Five is the number of fingers, the alphabet began on segments of the fingers.


6 posted on 01/17/2011 6:38:24 PM PST by kabumpo (Kabumpo)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv
The Muppets. And they're not at all happy about someone else taking the credit.

This post is brought to you by the letter M

7 posted on 01/17/2011 6:44:06 PM PST by Alex Murphy ("Posting news feeds, making eyes bleed, he's hated on seven continents")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]


It was careless of me to omit this link -- completely different author, article: -but not this- Greece/Greeks Greek Language Homer Phoenicians
8 posted on 01/17/2011 6:44:49 PM PST by SunkenCiv (The 2nd Amendment follows right behind the 1st because some people are hard of hearing.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv
There is a very credible theory that says the first man, Adam, wrote Genesis 2:4 - 5:1, using as a model tablets written by the Creator Himself, and found in Genesis 1:1 - 2:3. I do not have the time or the energy to defend this assertion, but would be happy to provide links to anyone seriously interested in the documentation.

POINT: You can't write without symbols (code), and, by definition, those symbols would constitute the first alphabet.

9 posted on 01/17/2011 6:47:47 PM PST by LiteKeeper ("Psalm 109:8")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv

Oldest Greek writting is from ~800 BCE. The Wadi el-Hol inscriptions are 1000 years older as are the Serabit inscriptions. I am not, as some fools have, going to suggest that the hbrw/Hebrew/Israelites created the alphabest. Rather the Canaanites, Phonecians, and the Canaanites in Egypt and the Sinai did. Or rather these groups created thr oldest known alphabets. Herodotus claimed that a Canaanite prince gave the alphabet to the Greeks. The names “Alpha-bet” and phonics are caled these for a reason.
Case closed.


10 posted on 01/17/2011 6:53:53 PM PST by rmlew (You want change? Vote for the most conservative electable in your state or district.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: LiteKeeper

Pictographs or cuneform are not an alphabet. You don’t have an alphabet until glyphs are seen as sounds or phonics in a distinct reproduce-able manner.


11 posted on 01/17/2011 6:56:36 PM PST by rmlew (You want change? Vote for the most conservative electable in your state or district.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: kabumpo
The Babylonians used a "base 60" counting system. There are a variety of reasons given for that choice ~ but no one really knows why.

A more ancient structure relies on a "base 12" counting system. You can derive 12 groups of 1, 6 groups of 2, 3 groups of 4, and 4 groups of 3, and 2 groups of 6.

You can also subdivide the structure into a "base 10" count of 2 groups of 5, 10 groups of 1, 5 groups of 2 ~ and all of it with a "bracket".

You can add "closed fist", "open fist", and so forth, and combine all of that with a three tiered totemic structure. The premier layer are the animals ~ each with basic meaning associated with common elements of life in the Paleolithic. The second layer could very well be assigned to various human virtues, and a third layer associated with natural virtues/events (storms, lightning, etc.).

Simply pairing a number with a totemic symbol can yield a very large number of symbols ~

Such systems are known. They haven't all been worked out but they're out there, and they are very old.

Any good explanation of the development of the Sumerian hieroglyphics invariably harkens back to the association of counters with a simple picture of the items being counted.

You could have 27 associated with a cow, or 38 associated with a bull ~ and that would mean about all you'd need in a society of pastoralists (like the folks who founded civilization in Mesopotamia). Once they had sheep, goats, flocks of ducks, chickens and so on, you'd have more characters, and finally, if trade advanced to tools and ceramic or clay products, there'd be even more characters.

Or, as is more likely, the scribes and accountants of the earlier pastoral groups knew another much more ancient system and simply selected out of it "ideas" that were of use to them as they trekked around the countryside chasing cows. The good stuff was left behind at the tribal graveyards.

Relating "letters" to "sounds" probably didn't work out well before 2000 BC simply because travel was too difficult, distances too far, divisions among related linguistic groups too easy. However, once an "alphabet" became feasible it popped up just like earlier hieroglyphic systems, and before them ideographs, and grave marking systems.

12 posted on 01/17/2011 7:08:04 PM PST by muawiyah
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv
Photobucket
13 posted on 01/17/2011 7:15:44 PM PST by null and void (We are now in day 727 of our national holiday from reality. - 0bama really isn't one of US.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: LiteKeeper
Yeah, send me the references. My own thoughts are that we've had some sort of symbolic representational system for the last 10,000 to 20,000 years ~ but most of it is simply buried and we don't know about much of it ~ but we do know some of it.

I hope everyone realizes that as recently as the 1950s we were still of the impression that the Bible was derived from oral tradition ~ and whole libraries of books were written attacking the Bible as a fable.

The Sumerian texts had been discovered, in part, a number of years before but none of that sunk in until good translations were produced. Then, all at once the Bible didn't look at all that ancient~ kind of a "newcomer" in fact.

The tablets at Ebla were discovered, translated, and names like those of ancient Hebrews began popping up.

Genesis still contains basic instructions for creating a Memory Palace if you wish ~ think of an Ark ~ lots of cages, many levels, a handful of people each with different skill levels ~ that's the first one. Then, there are the genealogies of the prophets, et al ~ very similar to the lists of French Kings that you can use to help you organize historic timelines for your readings.

I think it just now occurred to me why the full set of instructions for using the Memory Palaces wasn't provided ~ e.g. the one for the Garden of Eden was really truncated ~ down to one plant and one critter for example!

It would be contact with writing, and lo and behold, Abram was known to have visited places where Sumerian writing was known and taught. Once you had writing, the discussions of Memory Palaces became less important.

14 posted on 01/17/2011 7:19:05 PM PST by muawiyah
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: rmlew
In the Phoenician alphabet the letters' names mean something--what the character was originally a picture of (aleph--ox head, beth--house, etc.). In Greek the names are based on the Phoenician names but have no meaning beyond being the name of the letter. The only way you could say that the Greeks invented the alphabet is to say it wasn't a true alphabet until the vowel signs were added, but that's just quibbling...worthy of Bill Clinton maybe.

"Phonics" has nothing to do with "Phoenicians" (who didn't call themselves that anyway), but derives from the Greek word phone meaning sound or voice (the O is an omega whereas the corresponding syllable in "Phoenicians" has an Omicron-Iota diphthong).

Powell isn't the first to suggest that the alphabet was invented to write Homer's epics--H. T. Wade-Gery made a similar suggestion many decades ago (he died around 40 years ago). More likely it was invented to be used by merchants in trade.

15 posted on 01/17/2011 7:19:42 PM PST by Verginius Rufus
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: RegulatorCountry

Aleph was the semetic word for “ox” and the Phonecian Aleph had a reasonable resemblance to a stick figure of an oxen. Ditto, Bet(h) was house and the correspondence of the Phonecian character to as stick drawing of a house was pretty good. Alpha and Beta mean nothing in Greek, other than the names of letters.


16 posted on 01/17/2011 7:21:12 PM PST by Lonesome in Massachussets (Socialists are to economics what circle squarers are to math; undaunted by reason or derision.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv

Campbell's!

17 posted on 01/17/2011 7:26:21 PM PST by Liberty Valance (Keep a simple manner for a happy life :o)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: muawiyah
Tablet Theory
18 posted on 01/17/2011 7:35:46 PM PST by LiteKeeper ("Psalm 109:8")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv

Phoenicians all the way. They were traders who didn’t have time for a cumbersome system of hieroglyphics.


19 posted on 01/17/2011 7:36:40 PM PST by GenXteacher (He that hath no stomach for this fight, let him depart!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Verginius Rufus; Lonesome in Massachussets

Thanks.


20 posted on 01/17/2011 7:38:38 PM PST by SunkenCiv (The 2nd Amendment follows right behind the 1st because some people are hard of hearing.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]


Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-2021-4041-52 next last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
General/Chat
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson