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Q: Did the Greeks adapt their alphabet from the Semites, who are Arabs and Jews? ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Did the Greeks adapt their alphabet from the Semites, who are Arabs and Jews?
Category: Reference, Education and News
Asked by: zaker-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 27 Apr 2004 00:07 PDT
Expires: 27 May 2004 00:07 PDT
Question ID: 336828
I beleive that delilah7b-ga was wrong in saying in her comment dated
02/02/04:that the Greeks adopted their alphabet from Hebrew. She said,
"the romans stole more than language from the greeks, and the greeks
stole much of their alphabet (and probably some of their words, not
this one though) from hebrew." Unquote. I read the following on the
web:  "It is believed that the Greek alphabet was brought to Greece
via Phoenician traders ... from this Phoenician alphabet, as well as
the Aramaic, Hebrew, Arabic and a ..."
< Phoenician.alphabet> and "The
Greek alphabet is thought to be the ancestor of all major European
alphabets today. Although the script was adapted from the Semites
around the tenth or ninth century BCE"
< >

Is it true that "the Greek alphabet was brought to Greece via
Phoenician traders"? and when.  Thanks.
Subject: Re: Did the Greeks adapt their alphabet from the Semites, who are Arabs and Jews?
Answered By: till-ga on 27 Apr 2004 00:39 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
As a matter of fact the Hebrew source seems to be wrong and the
sources are indeed phoenizian.
The greek alphabet is a
"writing system that was developed in Greece about 1000 BC. It is the
direct or indirect ancestor of all modern European alphabets. Derived
from the North Semitic alphabet via that of the Phoenicians, the Greek
alphabet was modified to make it more efficient and accurate for
writing a non-Semitic language by the addition of several new letters
and the modification or dropping of several others. Most important,
some of the symbols of the Semitic alphabet, which represented only
consonants, were made to represent vowels: the Semitic consonants
Ĉalef, he, yod, Ċayin, and vav became the Greek letters alpha,
epsilon, iota, omicron, and upsilon, representing the vowels
a,e,i,o,and u, respectively. The addition of symbols for the vowel
sounds greatly increased the accuracy and legibility of the writing
system for non-Semitic languages.

Before the 5th century BC the Greek alphabet could be divided into two
principal branches, the Ionic (eastern) and the Chalcidian (western);
differences between the two branches were minor. The Chalcidian
alphabet probably gave rise to the Etruscan alphabet of Italy in the
8th century BC and hence indirectly to the other Italic alphabets,
including the Latin alphabet, which is now used for most European
languages. In 403 BC, however, Athens officially adopted the Ionic
alphabet as written in Miletus, and in thenext 50 years almost all
local Greek alphabets, including the Chalcidian, were replacedby the
Ionic script, which thus became the classical Greek alphabet.

The early Greek alphabet was written, like its Semitic forebears, from
right to left. This gradually gave way to the boustrophedon style, and
after 500 BC Greek was always written from left to right. The
classical alphabet had 24 letters, 7 of which were vowels, and
consisted of capital letters, ideal for monuments and inscriptions.
From it were derived three scripts better suited to handwriting:
uncial, which was essentially the classical capitals adapted to
writing with pen on paper and similar to hand printing; and cursive
and minuscule, which were running scripts similar to modern
handwriting forms, with joined letters and considerable modification
in letter shape. Uncial went outof use in the 9th century AD, and
minuscule, which replaced it, developed into the modern Greek
handwriting form."
( The Encyclopedia Britannica Deluxe CD ROM Version 2003 )

It were indeed most probable the phoenizian traders that brought the
writing system to greece:
The phoenizian alphabet is a
"writing system that developed out of the North Semitic alphabet and
was spread over the Mediterranean area by Phoenician traders. It is
the probable ancestor of the Greek alphabet and, hence, of all Western
alphabets. The earliest Phoenician inscription that has survived is
the Ahiram epitaph at Byblos in Phoenicia, dating from the 11th
century BC and written in the North Semitic alphabet. The Phoenician
alphabet gradually developed from this North Semitic prototype and was
in use until about the 1st century BC in Phoenicia proper. Phoenician
colonial scripts, variants of the mainland Phoenician alphabet, are
classified as Cypro-Phoenician (10th?2nd century BC) and Sardinian (c.
9th century BC) varieties. A third variety of the colonial Phoenician
script evolved into the Punic and neo-Punic alphabets of Carthage,
which continued to be written until about the 3rd century AD. Punic
was a monumental script and neo-Punic a cursive form.

The Phoenician alphabet in all its variants changed from its North
Semitic ancestor only inexternal form?the shapes of the letters varied
a little in mainland Phoenician and a good deal in Punic and
neo-Punic. The alphabet remained, however, essentially a Semitic
alphabet of 22 letters, written from right to left, with only
consonants represented and phonetic values unchanged from the North
Semitic script."

The origin og the greek alpabet seems to go back to the 8th century BC:
"The Greek alphabet derived from the North Semitic script in the 8th
century BC. The direction of writing in the oldest Greek
inscriptions?as in the Semitic scripts?is from right to left, a style
that was superseded by the boustrophedon (meaning, in Greek, ?as the
ox draws the plow?), in which lines run alternately from right to left
and left to right. This change occurred approximately in the 6th
century BC. There are, however, some early Greek inscriptions written
from left to right, and after 500 BC Greek writing invariably
proceeded from left to right."
Both quotes from the same source as above.

I hope this answers your question. If you need meore assistance please
post a clarification request.

zaker-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $2.00
Great and Thorough

Subject: Re: Did the Greeks adapt their alphabet from the Semites, who are Arabs and Jews?
From: femme208-ga on 04 May 2004 10:11 PDT
According to the "International Encyclopedia of Linguistics"
researchers are unable to distinguish which people first represented
language by using pictures or codes, but the "invention of writing
happend only a few times - possibly only once"(Writing Systems 223) 
The first identified writings are from the kingdoms of Sumer and
Egypt, both dating from about 3200 BCE.  All writing systems after
that, including the Phoenicians, are derived from either the Sumerian
or Egyptian alphabet.  According to "An Introduction to Language" 7th
edition by Fromkin et al, the Phoenicians "were aware of hieroglyphics
as well as ...Sumerian writing.  By 1500 B.C.E.. they had developed a
writing system of twenty-two characters, the West Semitic
Syllabary...The ancient Greeks tried to borrow the Phoenician writing
system, but it was unsatisfactory as a syllabary because Greek has too
complex a syllable structure...when the Greeks borrowed the system
they used the leftover symbols to represent vowel sounds. The result
was 'alphabetic writing' [bold in original]."  So, as you can see,
YES, the Greeks did borrow the Phoenician alphabet, however, the
Phoenicians originally borrowed from the Egyptians and Sumerians and
(I have no proof of this) I believe that it was the Egyptians who
originated writing.  However, all research does support the fact that
the Phoenicians borrowed from the Egyptians and the Sumerians.  I hope
that helps to answer your question.  Please be aware that the Greeks
borrowed most of their "innovations" from the Egyptians.  Their art,
medicine, government, sciences were all "borrowed" from the Egyptians.

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