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Golden Age of Greek Civilization

The Greek alphabet was simpler and more efficient than any of the writing systems that had come before it. As such, it was superior to both the hieroglyphic style which was based on the representation of words in the form of pictures or ideograms, and the syllabic style which was based on "the systematic representation of syllables rather than words by signs" (Murray, 1980, p. 91). There is a great deal of evidence to support the claim that the Greeks adopted their alphabet from the Phoenicians, a Semitic group with whom the Greeks engaged in trade. In fact, the Greeks themselves originally referred to their alphabet as phoinikeia, which means "Phoenician objects" (p. 91). In adopting the Phoenician alphabet to their own use, the Greeks made some minor but significant changes. For example, the Phoenician symbols were still somewhat pictographic in that each letter represented an object (aleph stood for "ox," beth stood for "house," and so forth). In the Greek system, each letter simply represented a phonetic sound. This made the Greek alphabet more flexible in its usage than the Phoenician system. In addition, the Phoenician alphabet was designed to represent only the consonants of the language, with the missing vowels supposedly being understood by the reader. It may be noted that this trait of leaving out the vowels is still common among the languages which have stemmed from the Semitic branch, such as Arabic and Hebrew. The inventors of the Greek alphabet changed this by taking the Phoenician letters that represented sounds not used in the Greek language and using them to represent vowel sounds. Thus, Phoenician letters "derived from Semitic glottal stops, and breathings, were employed to signify vowel sounds" (Grant, 1988, p. 224). The resultant changes produced a new alphabet which possessed many inherent advantages. For example, with only twenty-four symbols, it was a simpler writing system than the earlier syllabic...

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Golden Age of Greek Civilization. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 17:31, April 26, 2017, from
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