The Alphabet

Who Invented

Who invented the Alphabet? The ancient Mesopotamians invented the first alphabet and other alphabets were based on the Mesopotamian's original idea. Alphabets were developed in various forms as ancient civilizations developed writing systems to reflect a spoken or gestural language.

When was the Alphabet invented? The ancient Sumerians of Mesopotamia developed the first form of writing called "Cuneiform" c. 2900 BC using wedge shaped marks to make picture symbols on clay tablets and developed into an alphabetic script called Ugaritic. The unique invention of the Mesopotamian Ugaritic alphabet was copied and adapted to suit many different languages and gave rise to many other alphabets.

Definition of the Alphabet: The Alphabet is defined as the series of letters or signs, symbols and characters, arranged in a particular order, which form the elements of written language and used in a writing system.


Facts about who invented the Alphabet


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When was the Alphabet invented? The idea of the Mesopotamian alphabet led to the development of the Hebrew alphabet and the Phoenician alphabet c.3000 BC. The ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic script was independently developed c.2400BC The ancient Greeks built on the Phoenician alphabet and developed their version c.750 BC. The Greek alphabet was later appropriated by the Romans who developed the Roman, or Latin alphabet which formed the basis of the English alphabet, the most used alphabet today.

Fact 1: Who invented the Alphabet? The people of the ancient Mesopotamian civilization created the first system of writing and the first alphabet c. 2900 BC.

Fact 2: Who invented the Alphabet? Prior to the invention of the Alphabet the Mesopotamians were the first to invent Math around 3500 BC. The Mesopotamians had developed complex lifestyles living in large towns and cities with centralized economies that required the control, distribution and use of resources. Their needs led to the invention of math, and later invention of the first writing system and the first alphabet. (Refer to Mesopotamian Inventions).

Fact 3: Who invented the Alphabet? Mesopotamian: The Mesopotamian form of writing called "Cuneiform" developed into an alphabetic script called Ugaritic which was based on ancient Semitic Arabic, Aramaic and Hebrew languages of the Middle East.

Fact 4: Who invented the Alphabet? Mesopotamian: The Ugaritic alphabet combined the consonantal writing system of the Semitic abjad with cuneiform writing methods (pressing a stylus into clay). The Ugaritic script was written from left to right and consisted of 30 letters such as Aleph for the Ugarit sound of 'A' and Beyt for the Ugarit sound of 'B' . The Mesopotamian Alphabet is believed to have been invented by the Sumerians who were located in the south of Mesopotamia in the region called Sumer.

Fact 5: Who invented the Alphabet? Hebrew: The north of Mesopotamia was the original home of the Hebrews (Genesis 11; Acts 7:2) and knowledge of the Ugaritic alphabetic script spread quickly led to the development of the Hebrew alphabet. Several letters in the Hebrew script have striking similarities to the Semitic Ugaritic script.

Fact 6: Who invented the Alphabet? Phoenician alphabet: The Phoenicians were an ancient Semetic seafaring culture who flourished due to maritime trade.  Phoenicia, meaning "land of the purple", was located in the Eastern Mediterranean and was also referred to as was known as Canaan. The Phoenicians were famous for manufacturing the purple dye that was used in Tyre in the Levant for the robes of Mesopotamian royalty. The Phoenicians were therefore in close contact with the civilizations of Mesopotamia, copied their ideas and developed the Phoenician alphabet c.3000 BC.

Fact 7: Who invented the Alphabet? Phoenician: The Phoenician alphabet consisted of 22 letters, all consonants, the Phoenician script had no pure vowels. The Phoenician letter names included aleph for 'A', beth for 'B', gimel for 'c', daleth for 'D'.

Fact 8: Who invented the Alphabet? Egyptian: The Phoenicians were noted as great exporters of wood, especially the aromatic cedar wood, of which the ancient Egyptians were the most notable customer. Knowledge of the Phoenician alphabet would have spread to Egypt who independently developed their hieroglyphic script c.2400BC.

Fact 9: Who invented the Alphabet? Egyptian: The Egyptian form of writing, called hieroglyphics, used more than 700 'Glyphs' or pictures, signs and symbols to represent different objects, actions, sounds and ideas. The Ancient Egyptians used Papyrus around 3000 BC as an easily portable substance to write on.

Fact 10: Who invented the Alphabet? Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire (30BC - 641 AD) and Egyptian hieroglyphics were replaced with Latin. Within 100 years the meaning of the Egyptian hieroglyphics were forgotten and for 1500 years until the Rosetta Stone was discovered in 1799 and translated by Jean-Francois Champollion, a French linguist, in 1822.

Fact 11: Who invented the Alphabet? Greek: The Phoenicians were ultimately conquered by the Greeks led by Alexander the Great but even before this time the Greeks had learned of the Phoenician alphabet and adapted the idea to suit their language around 750 BC.

Fact 12: Who invented the Alphabet? Greek: The Greek alphabetic system was the first to have distinct letters for vowels as well as consonants. No ancient script, alphabetic or not, had pure vowels before the Greeks. The word 'Alphabet'  derives from the Greek word 'alphabetos' taken from alpha + beta, the names of the first two letters in the Greek alphabetic system.

Fact 13: Who invented the Alphabet? Roman / Latin: The Greek alphabet was later appropriated by the Romans who developed the Roman, or Latin alphabet, that spread across the Roman Empire and by about 600AD formed the basis of the English alphabet, that we use today.

Fact 14: Who invented the Alphabet? Runes: Before the Romans demanded that Latin be accepted as the common language across the Empire, runic alphabets were used by the Germanic, Scandinavians, Celts and Anglo Saxons from about 150AD. Angular letter shapes were used in the runic alphabets.

Fact 15: Who invented the Alphabet? Roman / Latin: The term "Latin alphabet" is usually used to describe the alphabet used to write Latin in classical times. The "Roman alphabet" is usually used to describe the adaptation of the Latin alphabet to write languages like French and English.

Fact 16: Who invented the Alphabet? Roman / Latin: The Latin alphabet originally consisted of 21 letters (the letters K, Y and Z were only used for writing words of Greek origin). The letters J, I, U, V and W were added at a later stage to write languages other than Latin such as English and French.

Fact 17: Who invented the Alphabet? Slavic: The Greek and Latin writing systems were used as the basis for the first Slavic (Cyrillic) alphabet that was developed in the 9th century by the missionary St. Cyril. The script was used for writing the Russian, Bulgarian and Ukrainian languages.

Fact 18: Who invented the Alphabet? The old Elizabethan alphabet contained only 24 letters. The old English letters "u" and "v" were interchangeable, used as the same letter as were the old English letters "i" and "j". Another letter, which resembled a "y", was used to represent the "th" sound. This explains why the translation of old Elizabethan documents can be quite difficult.

Fact 19: Who invented the Alphabet? Johannes Gutenberg invented the Printing Press in 1440 and it was introduction to Britain by William Caxton in 1476. The letters were eventually split and English became more standardized and modern English appeared and in 1604, Robert Cawdrey published the first English dictionary.

Fact 20: Who invented the Alphabet? Samuel Morse (1791 - 1872), the famous inventor of the Telegraph, and his assistant Alfred Vail (1807 1859) invented the Morse Code in 1838 an alphabetic system consisting of dots and dashes.

Fact 21: Who invented the Alphabet? The NATO Alphabet, a series of 26 code words representing one of the 26 letters of the English language was introduced in 1956 during the Cold War.

Ancient Chinese writing: The ancient Chinese independently developed a pictographic system of writing (not alphabetic), similar to ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. The earliest Chinese script yet discovered dates to the late Shang dynasty (c. 12001050 BC). The Chinese invented Paper during the Han dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD).

Ancient Chinese writing: The person credited with the invention of Paper is Cai Lun (AD 48 - 121) significantly improved the existing form of paper and standardized the paper-making process. The invention of paper did not reach Europe until 1150.

Ancient Chinese writing: The Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci published the first book to use the Roman alphabet to write the Chinese language. The Pin-yin system, also called Chinese Phonetic Alphabet, was developed in the 1950s to translate Chinese into the Latin alphabet.

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