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origins of the Greek alphabet
StevePool posted a topic in Language LearningJohn V. Day, Ph.D., The Alphabet Code: The Origins of Our Alphabet and Numbers (2019) At present, almost every scholar follows the unreliable Herodotus about the Greek alphabet being created by non-Indo-European Phoenicians (despite an earlier tradition attributing the invention of writing to the legendary hero Palamedes). Whereas my book, The Alphabet Code, argues that Indo-Europeans created the alphabet. One problem with the orthodox story, as Isaac Taylor pointed out in the 19th century, is that the Greek letters and their alleged Semitic forerunners suffer from a ‘nearly absolute dissemblance of form’: for example, zēta and Semitic zayin, mu and Semitic mem; san and Semitic tsade; rhō and Semitic resh. Furthermore, as Barry Powell admits, ‘The signs of the West Semitic signaries bear little resemblance to the objects they are said to name.’ Α, for example, supposedly depicts the head of an ox, although only after being rotated by 180°; Β, a house; Θ, a hand; Π, a mouth. Yet no one doubts the Phoenician hypothesis. The orthodox opinion holds that the Greek letters depict a jumble of unrelated ideas. In contrast, The Alphabet Code reveals that the alphabet has a structure. Specifically, the sequence of letters begins with birth and ends with death, Α depicting a woman giving birth and Ω depicting a tombstone. So Greek alpha has nothing to do with Semitic oxen; rather, it derives from Indo-European *al- [*h2el-], to give birth. Other derivatives of *al- proving this meaning include Latin alvus, a belly; and Middle Breton alall, Latin alius, Greek allos and Tocharian B allek, all meaning other; Welsh alu and Old Norse ala, to give birth, and Hittite haliya-, to kneel — because expectant women in Roman, Germanic and Greek myths give birth when kneeling; Greek alalazō, to cry aloud; Armenian ałałel, to shout; Hittite halzai-, to cry out; and Greek algos, pain; Latin alga, a thing of little worth, and Sanskrit alpa-, small; Armenian ałt, the skin enclosing the foetus or afterbirth; Latin algeō, to feel chilly — because one in three postpartum women feels chilled; Old Irish alt, to feed; Latin alō, to suckle; Old English alan, to raise; and Greek aldainō, to make grow. As for Greek ōmega, it derives from Indo-European *ō- [*h3eh1-], to die. Other derivatives of *ō- proving this meaning include Latin ōtium, inactivity; Greek ōlingē, a short nap; Greek ōkhros, pale; Greek ōmos, gruesome; and Greek ōlese, destroyed; Lithuanian uolē, a hollow or a cave, and Old Russian jama, a grave; and Old English ōra, a shore, and Lithuanian uola, a cliff — because such heroes as Achilles and Beowulf were buried in tombs near the shore; Greek ōkhra, yellow ochre, and Latin ōvum, Latvian uola and Greek ōon, all meaning an egg — because ancient tombs in Europe often contained ochre and real or artificial eggs; Greek ōlenē, a reed mat — because ancient tombs in Xinjiang were often covered by reed mats; Latin ōmen, an omen, and Old Saxon ōbian, to celebrate solemnly; Old Norse ōthal, a hereditary property or an inheritance; Latvian uôzol, an oak-tree, and Lithuanian uosis and Russian jasen, an ash-tree — because in Baltic mythology the souls of men are ‘reincarnated … in oaks, birches and ash trees’; and the Old Norse god Ōthinn, described by the Prose Edda as ‘Father of the Slain’. (It’s not a unique occurrence for the final Greek letter to represent death. The runic alphabet ends the same way. Treating the last of twenty-nine runes, the Old English Rune Poem says: ‘Earth is loathsome to every man, when irresistibly the flesh, the dead body begins to grow cold …’) Incidentally, every guide to the Indo-European vocabulary alludes to two other letters depicting everyday objects: *bhī-, a bee — which gave rise to Greek phī or Φ; and *gwhī-, a thread — which gave rise to Greek khī or Χ. The Alphabet Code gives an Indo-European etymology for all twenty-seven letters of the Greek alphabet, adhering strictly to the laws of sound correspondences. The book is written in plain English, has over 860 references and over 50 illustrations. Amazon (USA) sells the paperback for $7.99 and a Kindle version for $3.05: https://www.amazon.com/Alphabet-Code-Origins-Our-Numbers-ebook/dp/B07GLCVB8H Amazon (UK) sells the paperback for £6.60 and a Kindle version for £2.31: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Alphabet-Code-Origins-Our-Numbers-ebook/dp/B07GLCVB8H