History of the Alphabet (Hebrew, Greek, Cyrillic, Latin, Arabic)

Canonical

on 22 August 2011

The BBC just put up a five-minute audio slideshow “The story of how we got our alphabets” about the development of western writing, starting in 3,000 BC in Mesopotamia with various attempts at proto-writing systems and then Cuneiform script.

It shows the history of the alphabet, stemming from the Phoenician alphabet and continuing to the Semitic alphabets based around consonants (Arabic and Hebrew) and those derived further via Greek and its addition of vowel sounds (Latin and Cyrillic).

With the development of the Ubuntu Font Family we’re getting to the stage where it’s possible to demonstrate some the similarity using the font itself. The diagram on the right shows Hebrew on the left, Arabic on the right and Greek, Cyrillic and Latin in the centre columns. As Dr James Clackson notes in the slideshow, things are fairly consistent up until T/Τ/Т, after which the additions and expansions of letters diverge in each alphabet system.

The term Alphabet comes from the first two letters in the Greek—and other similar—alphabets: ΑΒ, АБ, AB, אב, اب.

The diagram in this first cut can likely be improved with input from a knowledgeable linguist/palaeolinguist. Please get in contact, or leave suggestions and corrections below if you know how to improve it!

Talk to us today

Interested in running Ubuntu in your organisation?

Newsletter signup

Select topics you're
interested in

In submitting this form, I confirm that I have read and agree to Canonical's Privacy Notice and Privacy Policy.

Related posts

Design and Web team summary – 2 July 2021

The web team at Canonical runs two-week iterations building and maintaining all of Canonical websites and product web interfaces. Here are some of the...

Design and Web team summary – 28 June 2021

The web team at Canonical run two-week iterations building and maintaining all of Canonical websites, product web interfaces and much more. Here are some of...

How’s my snap faring on different distributions?

The life of an application can roughly be divided into two: everything that happens before it goes live – building, packaging, publication – and then,...