What's in a Word | All Blogs


A camel, a house, an ox and our ABCs

By Debra Dobbins

Have you enjoyed a good book recently? Read the sports pages or comics in The Daily Sentinel? Read a bedtime story to a young family member? Nice, huh? The ability to read is truly a wonderful skill.

We can thank the ancient Phoenicians, in part, for our reading pleasure.

They’re the ones credited with trimming a system of a few thousand signs for words and concepts down to a relatively few signs, each of which represented a different sound. Their revised system was the precursor to what we call our alphabet.

“For their signs, the Phoenicians used some marks that were already being used to represent words,” Isaac Asimov writes in Words from History. “The sign for an ox (‘aleph’ in Phoenician) was used to represent the sound ‘ah’ with which the word for ox began. The word for house (‘beth’) represented ‘b,’ the word for camel (‘gimel’) represented ‘g,’ and so on. These signs became what we call ‘letters.’”

The Greeks latched onto the system, Asimov also writes, but made a few changes. “’Aleph’ became ‘alpha,’ ‘beth’ became ‘beta,’ ‘gimel’ became ‘gamma,’ and so on.”

The Romans also picked up the system, Asimov continues, but they, too, modified it. “Their alphabet became the basis of our own, the familiar A, B, C ….”

Symbols of Phoenician alphabet
Illustration courtesy of Wikipedia

Illustration special to the Sentinel
 

COMMENTS

Please Login or Register to leave a comment.




Recent Posts
Lettuce reconsider
By Penny Stine
Friday, May 22, 2015

Freshman year is one for the books
By Robin Dearing
Thursday, May 21, 2015

The List: Keeping kids busy this summer
By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Thursday, May 21, 2015

I escaped Target for less than $100!
By Julie Norman
Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What not to do when planting asparagus
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, May 20, 2015


TOP JOBS




THE DAILY SENTINEL
734 S. Seventh St.
Grand Junction, CO 81501
970-242-5050; M-F 8:00 - 5:00
Editions
Subscribe to print edition
E-edition
Advertisers
Advertiser Tearsheet
Information

© 2015 Grand Junction Media, Inc.
By using this site you agree to the Visitor Agreement and the Privacy Policy