Have you ever discovered that two friends you met independently actually knew each other? Imagine how amazing it would be if through they were from totally different countries they were actually related! Now imagine that happened with alphabets. Now imagine no longer because it’s real!
Ok, clunky introduction (almost worthy of #AccidentalPartridge) but this is completely fascinating. You are going to love this. A few years ago I learned the Greek alphabet and more recently the Hebrew one. Both seemed really different and Hebrew especially unusual. Now I find they both share a common ancestor, not only to each other but also to our modern English alphabet as well. The Phoenician alphabet, which was just consonants, was the precursor to both Hebrew and Greek and then the Latin alphabet (our one) came from the Greek one. Woooo.
Phoenician -> Greek around 8th Century BC
Phoenician -> Aramaic around 7th century BC
Aramaic-> Modern Hebrew possibly around 400BC
Aramaic-> Arabic possibly around 400AD
The Greeks needed to write down their vowel sounds as they played a more crucial role in their language and as they didn’t need all of the consonants they used them to represent vowels. For example, the Greeks had no glottal stop so Alef became the vowel Alpha. They had no “h” so “he” became the “e” vowel. They didn’t have enough spare letters so I think that’s where diphthongs came in (two vowels together making a new vowel) and also could explain why some vowels cannot be distinguished ie long and short a. This is sooooo exciting!
For more info check out:
“Oh, Alef, you know Alpha? Wow. Small world! Come and meet my friend the letter ‘Ay’…”. And on that bomb shell…