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Alphabet - Part3

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Alphabet - Part3 Empty Alphabet - Part3

Post by Admin on Mon Jul 09, 2007 10:56 pm

IV ALPHABETS FOR UNWRITTEN LANGUAGES

Sequoyah
Native Americans did not use a written language before the immigration of Europeans to America. In the early 1820s the Cherokee leader Sequoyah developed an alphabet and written language for his native tongue. Many Cherokee learned the new written language readily, and in 1828 they published the first Native American newspaper, written in both Cherokee and English.
THE BETTMANN ARCHIVE
Most alphabets evolved gradually or were adapted from older prototypes. Some alphabets, however, were constructed for languages previously unwritten, or for nations hitherto using alphabets of foreign origin. An outstanding example is the Armenian alphabet invented by Saint Mashtots (also called Mesrop or Mesrob) in 405 and still in use today (see Armenian Language). Mashtots’s Armenian alphabet, like Cyril’s Glagolitic alphabet for Slavic, roughly follows Greek alphabetic order, but the shapes of the letters resemble those of no other alphabet. Georgian also has a unique alphabet, which was created shortly after the Armenian alphabet, although the two languages are unrelated. Another early effort was Gothic, an alphabet devised for the now extinct Germanic Gothic language by bishop Ulfilas in the 4th century. Also of great interest is the Mongolian hP'ags-Pa script, which was created at the order of Mongol leader Kublai Khan about 1269 and written vertically from top to bottom.
During the 19th century Christian missionaries invented several scripts to translate the Bible into Native American languages. They based these systems on the Roman alphabet and in the Pacific Northwest, where Russian missionaries worked, on the Cyrillic alphabet. One script, a syllabary, was invented for the Cree in northern Canada. It consisted of 35 main signs, arranged in groups. Not all scripts were invented by missionaries, however. A Cherokee syllabary was invented soon after 1820 by the Native American leader Sequoyah. Sequoyah knew very little English and could not read it. His syllabary emerged from the idea of writing, and he freely invented its 86 characters to represent the sounds of the Cherokee language.
Many nations of Asia and Africa gained independence in the second half of the 20th century. The peoples of these nations, including many linguistic and ethnic minorities, had a strong sense of the value of their own traditions and languages. They wished to perpetuate their language and literary traditions, which had been transmitted orally for hundreds of years, through writing. In addition, governments felt the need to establish literacy and effective communication to facilitate economic development. An intensive effort to develop new alphabets followed. Most of the new alphabets were based on a selection of Roman letters, heavily supplemented with other symbols to represent special sounds. When linguists developed the alphabets, they typically drew additional characters from the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) or from some variation of it. The IPA, developed in 1880, was originally intended to have a distinctive symbol for every sound made in human language. Although such a goal was dropped as impractical, a shortened IPA continues to be widely used.

V THE CHANGING ALPHABET
Any alphabet used by peoples speaking different languages undergoes modifications. Such is the case with respect both to the number and form of letters used and to the subscripts and superscripts, or diacritical marks (accents, cedillas, tildes, dots, and others), used with the basic symbols to indicate modifications of sound. The letter c with a cedilla, for instance, appears regularly in French, Portuguese, and Turkish, but rarely, except in borrowed words, in English. The value of ç in French, Portuguese, and English is that of s, as in the word façade. In Turkish ç represents the ch sound as in church. It once represented ts in Spanish, but that sound no longer exists in standard Spanish. So, too, letters have different sound values in different languages. The letter j, for example, as in English jam, has a y sound in German, as in the word ja, meaning “yes.”
Although alphabets develop as attempts to establish a correspondence between sound and symbol, most alphabetically written languages are highly unphonetic, largely because the system of writing remains static while the spoken language evolves. As the spoken language changes, the result is nearly always a decrease in correspondence. Thus, the spelling of the English word knight reflects the pronunciation of an earlier period of the language, when the initial k was pronounced and the gh represented a sound, since lost, similar to the ch in the German word Ich, meaning “I,” or the English loch. The Roman alphabet as used by English contains three totally unnecessary consonant letters: c, q, and x. The two sounds of c, for instance, could be written with the letters k (“kat”) and s (“sity”); qu could be written kw (“kwit”); and x could be written ks (“oks”). The divergence between the written and spoken forms of certain languages, particularly English, has prompted movements for spelling reform in the past.
At present, English spelling and pronunciation are only slightly related, as in the words leave, brief, light, bomb, know, and scenery. Moreover, many words with similar spelling are pronounced differently: tough and cough, wind and find, flood and brood. On the other hand, words with the same pronunciation may be spelled quite differently: ate and eight, bare and bear, peace and piece. Spelling reform would require a corresponding reform of the alphabet to achieve the ideal relationship of one letter for each sound. Some letters would have to be added. For example, the sound sh is written four different ways, as sh in shape, as ch in chartreuse, as ti in nation, and as s in sugar. Spelling reform would create a single symbol for that sound. Vowels present even more problems than consonants. The letter a, for example, is pronounced five different ways in the words same, cat, ball, any, and star. The letter o is pronounced differently in hot, to, go, and for. Conversely, one vowel sound may be spelled in many ways; the oo sound is written eight ways in the words soon, chew, true, tomb, rude, suit, youth, and beauty.
A major problem in English spelling reform would be determining whose speech to use as a model. Every language has speech varieties; some differences result from geographic region, others arise from social class. For many speakers of American English, the words dog and fog have the same vowel sound. But for some, the vowels differ: dog is pronounced as if it were spelled dawg and fog as if it were spelled fahg.

VI ADOPTION OF NEW ALPHABETS
Adoption of a foreign alphabet has occurred many times in history. Generally, political domination or the necessity of a common writing system for purposes of commerce has been responsible for adoption of new alphabets. The rapid spread of Greek, Latin, and Arabic is traceable to such causes. In a few instances, new alphabets have been adopted at least partially for reasons of reform. In the most dramatic instance, Turkish, which had been written in Arabic script until 1928, was converted to a Roman alphabet under the orders of Turkey’s president at the time, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Atatürk’s desire to modernize and Westernize Turkey entered into the decision to adopt Roman script, but he also wished to provide an alphabet more suitable to the Turkish language and more easily learned than Arabic.
Other languages that have changed alphabets include Mongolian, which converted to Cyrillic in 1939, and Vietnamese, which has officially used the Roman alphabet since 1910, in place of an alphabet based on Chinese characters. The Roman alphabet for writing Vietnamese was devised by French and Portuguese Jesuit missionaries in the 17th century and was used along with the Chinese alphabet for many years. In both cases a number of modifications were made in the borrowed alphabet in order to make it useful and accurate. Vietnamese, for example, uses accented forms, such as à, to denote tones.
Adoption of a completely new alphabet, for a people who already have one, is a relatively recent idea. Although many have been invented and proposed for purposes of reform, none has yet been adopted. British playwright George Bernard Shaw maintained that a new alphabet should be adopted and left money in his will to develop one. The resulting alphabet of 48 letters (24 vowels and 24 consonants) was published in 1962. Although phonetically accurate, it was so totally different from accustomed writing that it was never adopted. Other efforts have been made to alter English writing for the purpose of helping children and adults who cannot read learn to read, before exposing them to the irregularities of English spelling.
See also articles on the individual letters and languages.


Reviewed By:
Robert A. Fradkin
Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2007. © 1993-2006 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

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