Language geeking - in fact, script geeking - ahead. You have been
Extremely brief script geeking, since i'm in a rush.
This is a collection of links and notes about the evolution of
western scripts, and in particular the letters we've lost on the
- What i knew was that Etruscan -> Greek -> Latin; what i didn't
realise was that Etruscan also -> Alpine (various long-dead scripts) ->
Runic. This is cool, because it means that when northwestern Europeans
adopted the runic letters thorn and wynn, it was actually getting
back letters that had been lost centuries ago (thorn is derived
from the same Etruscan letter that gave the Greeks theta; not sure where
wynn comes from - sounds like an omega but looks like a rho).
- Also didn't realise that before he invented Cyrillic, St Cyril came
up with the Glagolitic script. Whereas Cyrillic is basically Greek with
a few extra letters, Glagolitic is almost completely made up, and it
really shows - the letters are incredibly complicated. Most of the new
letters in Cyrillic are recognisable as derivatives of Glagolitic
letters, though. Okay, so it turns out Cyril just invented Glagolitic,
and Cyrillic itself emerged later - or something; scholars
- So, the Cyrillic letter that looks like x is pronounced like a hard
H, but it's blatantly a khi that's lost its edge. The letter that looks
like an asterisk and is pronounced 'zh' must be derived from khi - it
looks like a khi with a line through it, and sounds like a voiced khi (i
think - it's not like a western 'zh'). So where does the 'ch' letter
(looks like a curvy y or a half psi) come from? Is it another St Cyril
- 'Sorting the
letter thorn' is about just that, but it gets there through an
immense digesssion on the history of western alphabets - i love the
story of G.
- English had thorn, wynn, yogh and eth. Thorn is the reason we have
the word 'you' instead of 'thou'.
- Icelandic still has thorn.
- Greek had digamma, koppa and sampa.
- Russian had a bunch of wacky letters, if i remember my Unicode
tables correctly. Can't recall the details. Crazy Russian letters.
- Is ezh just completely made up what?
- Runes are still cool.
- Ligatures aren't letters, even though we are (or may be) losing
them. Even the Dutch ij, Icelandic ae and German ss don't count. Except
maybe the German ss, which i understand is now illegal.
- There's a new letter in Cyrillic! It's called palochka, looks like
'I', and has some use in writing various random ancient Caucasian
languages which i don't fully understand.
- Unicode - gotta love Unicode. NOW ALL GLYPHS UNTIL THE
- If Greek lost digamma and koppa, how come Latin still has the sounds
(and the letter, in the case of koppa) - eg Widew/idew/video? I suppose
Latin didn't come from classical Greek, but from some earlier form which
still had them. Okay, so it seems Latin script came directly from
Etruscan, which explains it.
- Christ - Gothic script. Thought that just meant big black-letter
- Aaaah, good old Ogham.
- In 'On beyond zebra', Dr Seuss describes further letters - yuzz,
wum, um, humpf, fuddle, glikk, nuh, snee, quan, thnad, spazz, floob,
zatz, jogg, flunn, itch, yekk and Hi. He has drawings of some (all?) of