Full Text

Greek alphabet

Subject Linguistics

Place Southern Europe » Greece

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631214816.1999.x


The first fully phonetic system of writing which represents both C and V segments by individual letters arranged in a linear fashion, the Greek alphabet is a successful adaptation of an earlier north Semitic script, generally thought to be Phoenician or Canaanite. The Greek alphabet is a prime example of the developmental tendency of writing systems to undergo a change of type when transferred to languages unrelated to that for which they first evolved. What distinguishes the Greek alphabet from all earlier systems of the eastern Mediterranean is that it represents Cs and Vs by means of independent letters of the same kind rather than relying on diacritics or C letters for V indication. It is not known exactly when the Greeks first used the Semitic script for their own language, but an increasing corpus of early Greek inscriptions suggests that the borrowing took place around the turn of the second millennium bce . Table 7 Greek nowel values assigned to Phoenician consonant letters Although there are ways of indicating Vs in Semitic scripts, the 22 letters of the Phoenician alphabet include no V signs. In the Greek adaptation five Phoenician C letters were reinterpreted and assigned vocalic values ( table 7 ). Whether this happened by accident or ingenious design is not clear, but it seems that these changes were made in a single move for, apart from omega , the classic vowels ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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