The earliest forms of writing began with
the expression of ideas through pictures that is now studied under a
branch called Ideography. This mode of expression enabled
people of different origins to communicate with each other. This
however soon became inconvenient and time consuming.
Such impatience led to the development of
the next stage of writing, studied under the branch of Logography
whereby people exchanged thoughts and ideas through signs
that stood for certain words. Instead of drawing a basket of fruits,
for example, people now drew only one sign for the basket and
another for fruits.
People then started following a Syllabic
system in which a particular sign could be used for any other
phonetic combination that sounded like that word. This form of
writing is also called Rebus writing.
The Alphabet system was finally
invented in which individual signs stood for particular
sounds. Most important written languages of the world follow the
History of the alphabet
How the alphabet developed may briefly be encapsulated in
The earliest was the Egyptian writing,
which was a sort of "picture writing". Structurally, it was word and
syllabic writing. It was invented around 3000BC. In this system of
writing, several hundred signs stood for full words or syllables.
They could either represent the whole word by a single sign or with
appropriate signs for each sound. These signs did not specify vowels
comprised of a set of 22 signs, developed about 1000B.C.
Structurally similar to the Egyptian style, these signs too only
specified consonants in syllables and not vowels. Early Phoenician
writing was a mixture of borrowed pictographic forms and invented
The Cypriot style of writing
developed by the people of the Cyprus islands was a collection of 56
The Greek alphabet
was invented about 800 B.C. The Greek style was greatly influenced
by the Phoenician writing, whose symbols were modified to form the
twenty-four letter Greek alphabet. The Phoenician alphabet included
more consonants than the Greeks used and as a result, the Greeks
introduced more vowel sounds. The Greek alphabet could now be used
to spell out any word.
and their signs, in most cases, were adopted by the Greeks for their
alphabet. For example, the first letter of the Phoenician alphabet
called aleph became alpha; the second, beth
became beta and so on.
The Etruscan alphabet
was influenced by the Greek alphabet and was developed about
The Roman alphabet
was a modification of the Etruscan style, initially consisting of
twenty letters, gradually gaining three more.
Sculptors carved the Roman alphabet on a
memorial in honor of Emperor Trojan. They developed the thick and
thin strokes we use today. They also added serifs (little
finishing strokes) at the tops and bottoms of many letters, which
added grace to every letter.
The English alphabet
developed from a number of early writing systems. The Romans had
given most capitals their modern form by A.D.114. But the letters J,
U and W were not added to the alphabet until the Middle Ages.
Linguists today use an almost perfect
alphabet, the International Phonetic Alphabet, which has more than
eighty characters because the regular English alphabet today is not
suited to writing words in English. That is to say, the regular
English alphabet does not have a separate character for every
distinctive sound in the language.
Arabic, Hebrew and Sanskrit
as well as most other Indian scripts developed from the Phoenician
Chinese is the only language
that does not have an alphabetical system of writing. They mostly
make use of pictographic characters. Some Chinese characters can be
used in expressing syllables of proper names or foreign words.
Japanese is basically copied from Chinese; the only difference
being that their characters represent either syllables or words.