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date: 22 January 2021

alphabet, Greeklocked

  • John William Pirie,
  • Lilian Hamilton Jeffery
  •  and Alan Johnston

Extract

In early Greece various forms of alphabet were current but all derived from a *Phoenician (Semitic) source, which must have reached the Aegean by the earlier 8th cent. (before our earliest Greek examples of c.760). Recent arguments dating the transfer much earlier are not supported by any material evidence. The alphabet was taken in the order of the Semitic model: ΑΒΓΔΕϝZΗΘΙΚΛΜΝΞΟΠΜΦϘΡΣΤ; not all states used all letters, but all probably retained them in the mechanically repeated order. Certain states found no use for ϝ (‘vau’, ṷ), others for Ξ (properly, perhaps, a more complicated sibilant than is implied by our x), or Ϙ (‘qoppa’, the k before o and u); and for s some used Σ, but others preferred Μ (‘san’, perhaps corresponding to the English pronunciation of z). The most striking feature in the Greek adaptation of the Phoenician model is that by altering (consciously or unconsciously) the original significance of ΑΕΙΟ and adding Υ Greek, unlike Phoenician, achieved an independent representation of vowel-sounds.

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