View Full Version : From A to Z -- Why?
12-01-2003, 02:41 PM
A question about the alphabet: namely, why and how did the "order" of letters (from A as the first letter to Z as the last) come about? I know that even ancient alphabets have their equivalent or similar letters ordered identically (such as Alpha being first and Zeta being last in Greek, etc.).
So, was there a reason why letters were listed in a certain order so long ago? Why would A/Alpha/whatever be the "first" letter? Why are vowels scattered through the alphabets instead of lumped in a group?
12-01-2003, 03:06 PM
I couldn't answer your question, Stanislav, but I can correction you on a small error: Zeta is not the last letter in the Greek language -- Omega is.
12-01-2003, 03:06 PM
I couldn't answer your question, Stanislav, but I can correct you on one small error: Zeta is not the last letter in the Greek language -- Omega is.
12-01-2003, 03:07 PM
Zeta isnt last in greek. Omega is. The reason for the order is the song, duh.
12-01-2003, 03:19 PM
The Greek Alphabet (http://www.ibiblio.org/koine/greek/lessons/alphabet.html)
I don't know where the order came from...but it's at least as old as the Romans. The Romance languages (Spanish, French, Italian, etc.) have basically the same order, and English also uses the Roman alphabet.
The Romans borrowed a lot, directly and indirectly, from the Greek alphabet. The order got changed considerably, though.
12-01-2003, 03:36 PM
Wow, an early Christmas present! I was hoping somebody would ask this very question since I had just read the following in Language Visible: Unraveling the Mystery of the Alphabet from A to Z, by David Sacks (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0767911725/qid=1070314131//ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i0_xgl14/103-5278390-7621439?v=glance&s=books&n=507846):
We known that aleph was the first letter of the alphabet in at least 1300 B.C., the approximate date of the oldest Canaanite letter lists uncovered by modern archaeology. Letter lists from Phoenicia, a few centuries later, likewise show aleph first. Because letters generally stay in the same order over time except for some very good reason, modern scholars consider it a sure bet that aleph was the first letter of the original alphabet of about 2000 B.C.
How and why aleph was chosen for first place, we will never know. No modern explanation satisfies - especially not references to the sacredness of the bull in ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern cultures. Some letter had to start off the mnemonic string of letter names for the student, and "ox" was a clear concept and image. Because aleph came first for the Bronze Age Semites, the letter A comes first for us..
12-01-2003, 04:47 PM
Also, remember the reason we call it the Alpha-Beta in the first place, saying "know the alphabet" is basically like saying know your "A, B C's", or your Alphabetcet, only shortened.
Therefore, If A wasn't first, you wouldn't be able to ask why is A first in the Alphabet?
Instead, you would probably ask, why is the letter B first in the Betacet?
12-01-2003, 07:05 PM
wish i knew the answer to this, but i guess it's up to the power of speculation. Aleph being the first letter of the first alphabet, i would have to say is just coincidental. With anything, we all have to start somewhere. It's a good question, don't get me wrong...but might as well ask something like "why is the highest ranking person of the army called 'general' and the lowest called 'private'?" It's just a run around question, i would have to say it is just totally coincidental, and like the law, life is based off of precedents. So under this condition, we accept A as the first letter and B as the second, etc.. And since we have grown up accepting the fact that this IS the way that the alphabet is, there is really no question about it (makes me wonder about religion)
just remember, it's all about precedents....
(i realize that the president is the leader, commander in chief, of the army, but general fit better in the metaphor)
12-01-2003, 07:35 PM
Your metaphor is just fine, the president is a civilian and thus not in the army.
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