Looking back in time, the use of alphabets started around four thousand years ago. Before going through the details of who invented the English alphabet, let us learn what is an alphabet and why it is so crucial to learn it. A world with no alphabets would be chaotic and communication would be difficult. Many important scriptures, records, and history were written using alphabets as the base.
1. What is An Alphabet?
Alphabets are the building blocks of language. They are a set of defined characters that represent speech sounds known as phonetics of a language. Each of these characters represents vowels and consonants rather than syllables. Both syllables and alphabets represent phonographic symbols. That means it was based on sounds rather than meaning.
Researchers have shown that the word alphabet has its history from the first two words of the Greek alphabet – alpha & beta. This word was first used in its Latin form known by alphabetum and later it was turned to alphabetos under Latin influence. The Hebrew alphabet had 22 letters with most of them as constant, and four of them represented long vowels. (See What are these symbols called in English?)
2. How was the Evolution of Alphabets?
The evolution of alphabets is still an ongoing process in many languages. Here are some important details regarding the evolution of English alphabet:
- Its evolution started with Egyptian hieroglyphs and Mesopotamian cuneiform. After that Greeks borrowed the Phoenician alphabet to their language which led to the first true alphabets having vowels equal to consonants. But the absence of some vowels in Egyptian, Phoenician, or Hebrew obstructed their use.
- However, on the other hand, Middle English began in the 15th century, which was the beginning of modern English. It underwent variations and developments followed by old English. In this period the old English had simplified in its grammatical features. The present modern English arrival was in the late modern English period. New alphabets were added to the list, making it equal to 26 alphabets that we have now in modern English.
- Above all the first root for all evolution in alphabets is Proto-Semitic which is divided into Northern Semitic and Southern Semitic. Moreover, the first dictionary was published in 1604 by Robert Cawdrey. (See Brownie Points Origin)
3. Who Invented the English Alphabet?
- The first alphabets came into being around 1800 – 1900 BC and were founded by Semitics in Egypt.
- The Greeks then modified the alphabet by adding vowels.
- The English alphabet was formed by Anglo-Saxon England back in the 5th century when Romans invaded it. England already had a runic alphabet with old English but later it absorbed some Latin too. It was because, both the Latin and runic had similar symbols for sounds.
- For the next hundred years, more letters were added to the alphabet which created 26 letters that we use at present.
Hence, it was the Phoenicians who invented the English Alphabet based on earlier foundations. (See What is the Peanut Gallery?)
4. Which Alphabets were Recently Added in English Language?
After the Semitic people, who invented the English alphabet, there were many changes made and several alphabets added. The Germanic tribes after being conquered by the Russians were conquered and assimilated by the locals. The alphabets came to be known as futhorc. The Anglo – Saxons used the features from the fifth-century Romans. The Letter J appeared first in the 1630s from France.
According to alphabetical order, Z is the last in alphabets and would be considered as the last alphabet to be added, but that’s not the case. The last letter which was added in English was J and before that, I was added along with W. (Also See Check out this English playwright)