Saturday, 7 November 2015

The Story of ‘A’

The other day I was wondering about how the written language as we know of it today originated. This, again, was for a training program on the art of writing.

That was when I started looking out for more information on the story of the alphabets. I reached out to my soul mate, the internet, and as usual I was not disappointed.

Very soon I was immersed into Wikipedia, thanking google for connecting me to the most sought after information repository.It all began with the clay tablet that stood testimony to the evolution of the various ancient languages. Of course the dried leaf was country cousin to the clay tablet in lending itself to the human race and their literary quests!

The ancient humans began representing objects using symbols which has come to be known as the proto-writing. As the scope of communication expanded due to trade, hieroglyphic writing took the center stage.

In this type of writing, the ‘word’ consisted of three parts - the sound (phonetic representation), the symbol of the object and a third part which was a determinant that represented the context.

Initially, when man wanted to trade, he drew the shape or the symbol of the object. He repeated it as many times as the number of the object that he wished to trade.

Gradually, the symbol was depicted once and adjacent to it, the number was represented by a series of symbols indicating the count. At this stage three symbols were used – one for the number 1, one for the number 10 and a third for the number 60. 71 was represented using the symbol for 60, 10 and 1.

This is perhaps the reason why we follow the number 60 as the maximum number while denoting time!

The animal traded most often was the ox. The ox’s head was represented as . The curve sometimes cut through the clay tablet and the part of the tablet began to fall off when dry. So the curve was dropped and the symbol became.

The Greek word for ox is alpu and thus began the letter as we know it today!

Beginning sometime during the 3000B.C. in Egyptian civilisation, our friendly alphabet beginner, has travelled through time and across cultures.  Transforming itself into t a symbol from a descriptive ox’s head during the Sinai culture in 1850B.C, ‘A’, shed its curve for humanity during the ‘Phoenician Aleph’ during around 1200B.C.

The Greek alpu or alpha happened during the 600B.C. before ‘A’ became the Roman ‘A’ during 114A.D.

A long journey, indeed!