By John Man

Compliment for Alpha Beta
"This publication comes on the excellent second as we rediscover the significance in early examining of cracking the alphabetic code. the tale of the way that code got here into being is an interesting one, and guy is the suitable author to inform it." occasions academic Supplement

"A richly soaking up exploration, from B.C. to desktops, of the evolution of the main primary characters of our cultural background, the alphabet we quite a bit take with no consideration. John guy writes with a compellingly stressed interest and immediacy. The ever dazzling, exotically precise narrative in his informative e-book makes it as undryly relaxing as a winning archaelogical dig of 1 of Alan Moorehead s colourful histories of African exploration." David Grambs, writer of The Describer s Dictionary and The Endangered English Dictionary

"Text that's crisp, taut, and as transparent as a bell.... a desirable tale with many a beguiling subplot alongside the way." New Scientist

"Letter ideal the easiest histories and mysteries of our ABC s!" Jeff McQuain, writer of by no means sufficient phrases and gear Language

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Extra info for Alpha Beta: How 26 Letters Shaped the Western World

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In it, Sebeok analyses the task: to devise a message, a code and a channel of communication that guarantees < previous page page_30 next page > < previous page page_31 next page > Page 31 both reception and understanding. Each section of the task has its problems. Channels of communication are unreliable, because every channel is subject to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, that everything dissipates in the end. All messages decay with time and distance. A CD may last longer than a whisper or a smoke-signal, but on geological time-scales even CDs evaporate.

The images and feelings have an immediacy and a humanity that seem independent of time, cultures, and language. I hope by now you can see the outlines of a conclusion – that non-alphabetical scripts do not necessarily limit literary flair or emotional responses. Whatever separates the two systems – non-alphabetical and alphabetical – is to be sought in more than the alphabet’s greater efficiency and simplicity. A script’s survival seems to depend more on the nature of the culture, on the materials used and on the determination of its scribes to preserve it and transmit it unchanged down the generations.

Many historians think it is too much of a coincidence, and that the idea of writing diffused from < previous page page_51 next page > < previous page page_52 next page > Page 52 Mesopotamia to the Nile. Perhaps Egyptian traders, ambassadors or warriors carried the message home: guess what – those guys send messages by making marks on bits of clay. However it happened, Egyptians adapted pictures and moved to ‘proper’ writing by way of the rebus principle. But unlike cuneiform, hieroglyphic was initially cut into, or painted on rock, and not limited by the size of the note-pad or the shape of the writing instrument.

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