November 11, 2019 0

Who invented the alphabet?

Who invented the alphabet?


(phone rings) – Hi Doug. – Hi Jahid. – I have a question for you. Who invented the alphabet? – Ooh, that’s a great question. Who invented the alphabet? I think one of the things that makes this such and interesting
question, is the whole idea that there wasn’t always an alphabet. Today, we have both speaking and writing. So it’s tempting to think
we’ve always had both. But, we haven’t always had writing. We had speaking first. Isn’t that interesting? Someone had to invent the alphabet. Someone had to come up with
the very idea of writing. Stop and think about that for a second. How would your life be different if there were no such thing as writing? Now would be a good time to
pause the video and discuss. Okay, you ready? Just imagine what life
would have been like before we had any way to write. There would have been no
text messages, for sure. No writing letters or
notes to your friends. No books and whoa, think about that. That would me no way to learn or share from anyone who wasn’t
talking right next to you. Once writing was invented,
it must of been mind blowing for someone to see writing
for the first time. They might have said, “Wait,
wait, we can all speak, “but this here, these are
symbols for what we speak? “Something written down? “Something you can hold and take with you? “That’s weird.” It might have seemed almost like magic. Think about it. Now, people would be able
to send each other messages from far away places. They could even send
messages to the future. Writing down important stories, memories, or things they learned, to help make sure it wouldn’t be forgotten. So, who came up with all of this? Who invented the alphabet? Well for starters, you
might be interested to know that there’s not just one way of writing. There’s not just one alphabet. There are actually a lot
of different alphabets used by different languages. These ways of writing
use different symbols than the symbols we use in our alphabet. For example, in the Korean alphabet, the symbol for the
letter S, the ssss sound, looks like this. The symbol for the H sound,
ha ha, looks like this. These are just two examples and you can see how different these are from the symbols used in the
alphabet we use in English, or in the way of writing used in many parts of India, called Devanāgarī. The symbol for the ah
sound, looks like this. The symbol for the ba sound,
looks like this, and more. In fact, many of these
alphabets use not just different symbols, but totally
different ways of writing. For example, in Arabic
writing, it’s always written from right to left. The opposite direction that we write when we write in English. Or in some languages like
Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, it’s possible to write not just
side to side, which they do, but also, up and down,
which sometimes writers in these languages will do. You can find a lot of
books written that way. Some languages, like Chinese,
even use a completely different way of writing. Where many of the symbols
aren’t sounds at all, but instead stand for entire words. For example, this symbol, is
the symbol for the word home. Or this one, is the
symbol for the word cat. Because of the way that
Chinese writing uses symbols for words rather than sounds, becoming a master of reading
and writing in Chinese takes a lot of years. It’s considered a great accomplishment. But what about the alphabet
that we use in English? How did it get invented, and by whom? Well, most historians, the
people who study the past, think that the credit for
inventing the alphabet belongs to an ancient group of people called the Phoenicians. It’s thought that thousands of years ago, the Phoenicians came up with
the idea of using symbols to stand for sounds. This symbol for the ah sound. This symbol for the ba sound, and so on. Then, another group of
people, the ancient Greeks, heard of this idea and borrowed it. Making their own symbols. Symbols that were similar but not exactly like
the Phoenicians’ ones. In fact, the names of
the first two letters of the Greek alphabet reveal
something interesting. The letter for the ah sound in the Greek alphabet is named Alpha. The letter for the ba sound in the Greek alphabet is named Beta. Alpha, Beta, you see
why this way of writing started to be called an alphabet? But these letters of the Greek alphabet still look a little unfamiliar. They’re not quite like the letters you’re used to in English. There’s one last piece to this story. And that’s the ancient Romans. They took the Greek alphabet
and made their own symbols. Ones that looked more like this. Look familiar? This is the same alphabet
that we use in English. Because these exact shapes
of the letters we use were created by the ancient Romans, sometimes we call our
alphabet the Roman Alphabet. And English definitely
isn’t the only language to use the Roman alphabet. Lots of other languages
use this same alphabet to stand for the sounds
of their languages. Including Spanish, German,
French, and many more. So, in summary, our alphabet
that we us in English, the Roman Alphabet, was inspired
by the ancient Phoenicians. A group of people who
invented the first alphabet thousands of years ago. But, the letters or our alphabet are not the only way of writing. You can be on the look our
for some of the world’s other alphabets and other ways of writing. That’s all for this weeks question. Thanks Jahid for asking it. Now for the next episode, I reached into my question jar and picked out three
questions sent in to us, that I’m thinking about answering next. When this video’s done playing,
you’ll get to vote on one. You can choose from, Why are some rocks round and others sharp? What makes glue sticky? Or, how is syrup made? So submit your vote when the video’s over. I want to hear from all of you watching. There are mysteries all around us. Stay curious and see you next week.

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