ALPHABET. By an alphabet we mean a list of symbols which represent conventionally to the eye the sounds which are heard in the speech of a nation. An alphabet will therefore be perfect if the number of its symbols exactly corresponds to the number of simple sounds which are commonly distinguishable in the spoken language. But this alphabets have failed, either by defect, i.e., from not representing all the simple sounds; or by redundancy, in having more than one symbol for the same sound. They must also necessarily become imperfect by lapse of time. No nation keeps the sound of its language unaltered through many centuries: sounds change as well as grammatical forms, though they may endure longer, so that the symbols no longer retain their proper values; often, too, several different sounds come to be denoted by the same symbol; and in strictness the alphabet should be changed to correspond to all these changes. But little inconvenience is practically caused by the tacit acceptance of the old symbol to express the new sound; indeed the change in language is so gradual that the variation in the values of the symbols is imperceptible. It is only when we attempt to produce the exact sounds o the English language less than three centuries ago that we realize the fact that if Shakespeare could now stand on our stage he would seem to us to speak in an unknown tongue; though one of his plays, when written, is as perfectly intelligible now as then. Such changes of sound are most developed in countries where many dialects, through conquest, immigration, or otherwise, exist side by side: they are checked by the increase of education and by facility of locomotion --- both of which causes tend to assimilate all dialects to that one which by some lucky chance has become the literary speech of the nation.
The term alphabet has come to us from the Latin alphabetic, which, however, occurs in no prose writer before Tertullian. It could not have been used, for metrical reasons, by Juvenal, when he wrote, "Hoc discount omnes ante alpha et beta puellse" ---their A B C. But there is no reason why it should not have existed earlier: the word was borrowed from the Greek, as seems clear from the compound ava ________, which is as old as the comedian Philyllius (Meineke, Com. Frag. ii. 857), and he was alive in 392 B.C. It does not seen likely that this compound adjective would have been coined if the noun itself had not already existed in the same sense which it now bears.
The symbols of our alphabet are nearly those of the Latin; these in their turn were borrowed from a Greek alphabet; and there seems no reasonable ground for doubting the common tradition that the Greeks derived their characters from a Phoenician source. All these borrowings will be fully described hereafter. At this point absolute certainly ends. We cannot prove to demonstration the origin of our alphabet; but positive facts and analogical arguments may be adduced which enable us to attain a very high degree of probability. It is now commonly believed that the characters were originally hieroglyphics, and in that ultimate form were devised in Egypt. There, for convenience of writing, they took a simpler form (called hieratic). In this shape they were borrowed by the Phoenicians; and thus, in their long course down to us, they passed gradually from being the written expression of an idea into the written expression each of a single sound. It is true that the proof is not clear throughout: sometimes the links are feeble, and here we have to employ the analogy of other languages, in which the particular step which we want to prove has undoubtedly been made under similar circumstances. Still, it may with some truth be said that we can only prove the possibility of such a process, while any given alphabet may have had a perfectly independent origin; the Phoenician alphabet may have been developed in Phoenicia itself, and never been hieroglyphic at all. But this is very difficult to conceive. The a priori argument for the derivation of phonetic from hieroglyphic characters is strong. Heiroglyphics have unquestionably been the first attempt of many nations in a role in a rude state to record their thoughts in a permanent and universally intelligible form. It is also certain that these hieroglyphics have undergone progressive degradation of shape, so that their visible connection with the thing signified was often lost; they became in many cases the expression of those combinations of sounds by which the things were denoted in the spoken language, though they still generally retained their original value as well. Here, at all events, a certain connection between hieroglyphics and sounds establishes itself; and a priori it is more probable that all alphabets should have derived the single sounds of which they consist from hieroglyphics, through the medium of their derived phonetics values, than that any alphabet should have been produced independently of hieroglyphics (which are admitted to have existed), by some arbitrary process of formation for which absolutely no testimony can be adduced. As we gave said above, such a process is not impossible, and may be true for any particular alphabet; but the opposite theory has the most internal probability and all the evidence of which the case admits. Against this it seems insufficient to urge (as has been done) that there exist upon earth savages who have never developed any alphabetic writing out of their rude attempts --- a fact which may be readily granted; or that civilized men often return to the simple methods employed by uncivilized nations, such as cutting notches on sticks or typing knots in strings --- such return being apparently adduced to prove that two totally different methods of expression can co-exist without there being any tendency to pass from one to the other; nay, it is added that in Egypt the hieroglyphic and the common (or demotic) character did certainly exist side by side; and if the later were borrowed from the former, it would have superseded it, which it did not do. Now, in answer to this, reasons will appear shortly why the hieroglyphic characters lingered so persistently, even when the later phonetic character was in common use --- nay, in the very same inscription or document with the hieroglyphic. Still, the argument would have some weight if it were not grounded on the false assumption that the demotic alphabet was a purely phonetic one, totally unconnected with its more aged rival. But modern research has proved incontestably that the demotic characters can be traced back to their original hieroglyphic shape through the medium of the hieratic; in fact, that the cumbrous hieroglyphics were successively put into more and more abbreviated shapes, for convenience of writing, as its use increased.
Excluding, then, attempts of savages such as have been mentioned above, which were durable nor intelligible enough to make them of service, except for the smallest number of men during the most limited time --- excluding these as not deserving the name, we derive all real writing from hieroglyphics, such hieroglyphics being either purely pictorial, the expression of visible objects in the external world; or symbolic, when some external object is conventionally chosen to represent some action or some abstract idea. These two methods were probably nearly contemporaneous in their origin, because the necessity of writing at all supposes as considerable advance in civilization, and therefore a consideration development of ideas. To this system as a whole the convenient term ideography is now generally applied. From this men have passed to phonetic writing, first, apparently, in the form of syllabism, in which each syllable of a word is regarded as an independent whole and represented by a single sign; then from this to alphabetism, in which the syllable is no longer denoted by an indivisible, but is resolved into vowel and consonant, each with its own accepted sign.
It seem probable that all known, alphabets (with one or two possible exceptions) may be traced back to four or five parents. These have differed much in fruitfulness, but all were originally hieroglyphic. These five systems of writing are the Egyptian, the cuneiform, the Chinese, the Mexican or Aztec, and the curiously cumbrous characters of Yucatan and central America: these last may be seen interspersed with figurative painting in a facsimile given by M. de Rosny at p.20 of this very useful little summary. Les Ecritures Figuratives des Differents Peuples Anciens et Modernes. O these, the first three alone can be said to have hand any great extension; and the first, if the Phoenician, and by consequence the European alphabets, were derived from it, far exceeds in importance all the rest together. These systems were perfectly independent, and developed themselves in the main to a different degree. At certain points in their history all but one became crystallized, and remained to show us the steps by which the process to phonetism can be made. We do not propose to describe here fully any of these systems of hieroglyphics. We are only concerned to point out their relative degrees of development, their deficiencies, and the consequent motives which must have impelled men by degrees to the production of a genuine alphabet.1
There are obvious deficiencies even in the most highly developed hieroglyphics. In the first place, they must have excessively burdensome to the memory. They speedily lost their original form, which was in most cases too cumbrous to be retained when writing became frequent; their pictorial value was therefore lost, and the new form could not generally have intelligible to a learner, who was thus obliged to acquire by memory an enormous number of symbols, compared with even the Sanskrit alphabet may be regarded as easy. Secondly, it is impossible by hieroglyphics to express grammatical relations: the order, indeed, in which the symbols are placed may denote the distinction between subject and object; some even of the relations in space, denoted in more advanced languages by cases, may be pictorially rendered; but all these helps do not go far to remedy this obvious want. Experience, however, shows how much inconvenience a nation will undergo rather than make any radical change in its phonetic system. We have only to look at our own alphabet, with its numerous and universally confesses deficiencies and redundancies, and then remember the fruitless attempts which have made to work a reform in it, to be convinced that no people will of its own accord strike out a thoroughly new system of writing. Such revolutions can only be produced by the meeting of two different civilizations, and the receptions by the one of the arts and ideas of the other. But such a meeting may, and more commonly does, only stimulate the inferior race to some partial development. For the new ideas new names are required: these may be metaphorically represented out of the old vocabulary, as when the Romans called the unknown elephant the Lucanain ox, and of course wrote it so. But suppose the inferior people to be one which has not yet advanced beyond hieroglyphic writing: their simplest and most obvious plan will be to take the strange name, and express it by those symbols out of their old stock which denote the nearest sounds to that of the name required. Such symbols then cease to represent ideas only, as they used to do: they are consciously employed to represent mere sounds, and thus arise the first beginnings of phonetism. A good example of this process may be found in the Aztec (Lenormant, i 29; De Rosny, p. 19, who also gives others). When Christianity was introduced into Mexico, the Lords Prayer was reduced to writing in the following manner: --- The Mexican symbols nearest to the two syllables of pater were a flag (sounded as pantli), and a rock (tetl): pater was therefore represented pictorially by a flag and a rock: we cannot tell whether it was sounded as pan-tetl, or only as pa-te --- the nearest possible equivalent in the Mexican language, which has no r. Similarly, noster was phonetically represented by noch-tetl, pictorially by the Indian fig (nochtli) and the rock as before. Here, then, we have the application of symbols to denote sound without regard to the original sense; just as we might draw the figures of an eye. A saw and a horse, and convey by them the ideas, "I saw a horse". The Aztec would not long have the ideas of a flag, a rock, and a fig presented to his mind when he read these symbols; and so the first conception of phonetism was gained, the first move from hieroglyphic to alphabetic writing. Yet he had not attained the first real step in the progress --- i.e., syllabic writing --- because if he had decomposed his new words, pan would not have represented to his mind merely so much sound --- a syllable by itself meaningless: it would have given him only the idea of a flag.
And further than this Aztec language did not pass: probably it only reached this stage incompletely with a small number of words. The great advance to syllabic writing is to be found elsewhere: first in the Chinese, perhaps through the accident of the monosyllabic nature of the language; but with a clearly-developed purpose in the Aramaic cuneiform inscriptions.
In the Chinese written character we find a considerable number of symbols which were unquestionable at first pictorial. Though but very slight vestiges of their original meaning can now be seen in them, yet they can be traced back to older forms which are unmistakable; and their origin is further attested by the name images," which the Chinese give them, as distinguished from others which they call "letters." These symbols were simple, and denoted very ingeniously natural objects --- the sun (by a circle with a dot inside), the moon (by a crescent with a line inside), a mountain (by three peaks side by side), rain (by drops under an overarching line), a child (thus GREEK SYMBOL), a mother (GREEK SYMBOL, a figure expressing the arms and bosom effectively enough), &c. These symbols could be combined: thus the symbols for water and eye combined denoted tears, an ear and a door expressed hearing and under standing; but such combinations of pure hieroglyphics were rare, as they would have been liable to be confused with combinations of the same kind used in a different way, as will be seen immediately. There were also some hieroglyphs used symbolically; e.g., a hand to denote a workman, the two valves of a shell-fish to denote friends. These also are few in number, and not very ingenious. Last in this class come some symbols which are essentially pictorial, though they represent no visible object; e.g.,"above" was expressed by a dot above a horizontal line; "below," by a dot below it; the numerals, one two, three, by so many horizontal lines; "right," by the symbol GREEK SYMBOL, "left," by GREEK SYMBOL, &c. So far, we have simple hieroglyphs, or ideograms (a more convenient term), pictorial representations, expressing not merely visible objects, but also abstract ideas, and even actions, but each of these could also have the phonetic value of the name of the object which it depicted.
District from these are the "letters" --- in use, though not in origin. These have two parts --- one, a symbol which was originally an ideogram, and which could still be used as such, but which in this particular combination lost its ideographic value, and retained only the phonetic value of the name of its object; the other, an ideogram, which laid aside its phonetic value, and only restricted to a particular class the phonetic symbol which it accomplished. Thus, for example, the ideogram of a ship had also the phonetic value tcheu i.e., the name denoting ship in the spoken language; the ideogram of fire had the phonetic value hvo: these two symbols combined were still pronounced tcheu, and meant the flickering of flame. The second symbol dropped its phonetic value altogether, but kept the generic idea of fire: the ship was lost, but the idea of undulating motion modified that of fire, and the complex symbol combined the two ideas, with the one sound tcheu. Similarly, the ideogram ship and speck combined expressed loquacity, and this in the spoken language was also tcheu, the phonetic value of the symbol for speech being dropped, just like that of the symbol fire above. In this was there are ten different ideas given by Endlicher (p.10), all called in the spoken language tcheu, and all expresses to the eye by different complex symbols formed on this principle. These symbols, he reckons, form at least 2/3 9/0 ths of the written language.
This is a very imperfect sketch of the Chinese system of writing, and into the history of the "keys," which indeed belong rather to Chinese lexicography, we do not propose to enter. But it is enough to throw light on some questions connected with our subject. First of all, we see ideography and phonetism existing side by side; and even the same symbol, having in most cases (not in all) either an ideographic or a phonetic value at will. Therefore, in this case the passage from the one system to the other may be considered as certain; but how it was made there is not sufficient evidence to show. It must have been earlier than the combination of pure ideograms mentioned above. It was probably greatly facilitated by the Chinese being a monosyllabic language; each syllable is a complete word in itself, expressing a complete notion: hence the idea of completeness and individuality would attach to such a combination of sound more easily than would be possible in polysyllabic language: and it would seem more natural to give that sound a symbol for itself, quite apart from its ideographic meaning. Further, as the whole number of single syllables of which the language consists is only 450, the effort of remembering the symbols could not be great, and the memory must have been already trained in that direction, because the symbols (even in their ideographic acceptation) had lost their obviously pictorial character, and must have been kept by the memory, not recognized each time by the eye; just as children, in learning to read, commonly remember short and familiar words as a whole, without analyzing them into the component letters.
The explanation of the cumbrous "letters" described above is simple; and it will show us, secondly, how so apparently monstrous a system of writing could be maintained, and has been in its essence maintained, down to the present day. With so few radical sounds in the language, it was inevitable that many different objects must have been expressed, as ideas grew and multiplied, by the same sound, as we saw above that there were eleven different ideas (including the ship itself) all called tcheu. These could be distinguished in the spoken language by tone or accent, and actually were so distinguished. But how were they to be distinguished in writing? Now, writing is but the visible exponent of language, and therefore is naturally formed under the same conditions --- those conditions which, because the effect is obvious while the reason is often difficult to detect, we vaguely call the genius of the language: and it must accommodate itself to the defects as well as the strength of the language. There is an inherent evil in Chinese speech --- inevitable in a monosyllabic language with a limited number of radicals that the same combinations of sound should serve to express many different ideas. A combination, therefore, of symbols is absolutely necessary, which shall represent to the mind through the eye the fact that the sound which is heard has changed its meaning to meet that of another sound which is not heard --- that tcheu no longer means a ship, but means the flickering of flame, or something else quite different. It would have been easy enough to have had different symbols for the different meaning of tcheu; but it would not practically have been so convenient, because it would not have represented so well the facts of the language. If the Chinese had chosen in their speech to do universally what they did occasionally, to form compounds like "ear-dooring" for "hearing" a thing, the native genius for pictorial representation would have produced a symbolism which might have supplied all its wants down to the present day. But that was not the bent of the language; and the writing therefore remains to the present day a mixture of ideography and phonetism, and is perhaps better so. Still, a great deal of confusion is possible. In modern writing, according to Endlicher, each syllable has several symbols, partly because of the extra-ordinary number of meanings belonging, as we have seen, to each combination of sound, partly from considerations of calligraphy, because it is not every symbol which will combine neatly with every other; and therefore for particular combinations a different symbol with the same phonetic value is required, so that the shapes of the mixed symbols increase in number. Also, the pictorial symbols being comparatively few, and many of these being employed phonetically for the same syllable, it is obvious that, with the growth of ideas, many new symbols must have been required. To meet this want, the mixed symbols so often mentioned were employed purely phonetically, each in new combination on the old principle with an ideogram, whose meaning was disregarded, Generally these symbols kept their phonetic worth, but sometimes in combination with particular ideograms they change. Thus we see a double evil arise in the language. Not only have we several symbols for each combination of sound, but also the same symbol can under certain circumstances have different phonetic values. But difficulties thus caused seem greater to a stranger than to a native; and the Chinese have never been moved thereby to exchange their picturesque but unwieldy system. The impure syllabism marked cut for them by the genius of their language has been their furthest development. It was reserved for the Japanese to borrow the Chinese characters, and, expelled all ideographic associations, to comply them simply as syllables, thus advancing to a pure syllabic writing. This borrowing and extension of a system by a foreign nation will be more fully dwelt upon hereafter. It should perhaps be added that the expression of many different senses by one symbol, which has so largely modified the Chinese writing, is not peculiar to monosyllabic language. It is found in all languages, though not to the same extent: roots of different sense have been worn down by phonetic decay till they reach the same form, and this cause may have operated to some extent in China, though it cannot have been very important.
The cuneiform writing, so called from the wedge-like shape of the character GREEK SYMBOL or _, which compose it, was employed by different nationalities. It was first deciphered by Grotefend on inscriptions of Persepolis, and was found to be the exponent of the Aryan spoken by the conquering Persians, which belonged, as is well known to the Indo-European family of languages. But cuneiform inscriptions in three languages were found on a monument at Behistun: the first was the Persian, and much the simplest in form; the second and third were composed of elements of the same shape in much more unwieldy combinations.1 It was obvious that the three inscriptions were identical in meaning, but in different languages; and principally by the help afforded by recurring proper names, whose value could be compared with the known values in Persian, the characters of the last two inscriptions were deciphered, and found to belong, one to the language of the Assyrian and Babylonian subjects of Darius, the other to the old Scythian population o Media, who used a Turanian speech. Other languages, the old Armenian and that of Susa, were found afterwards to be represented by the same characters; and to these different systems the collective name Anarien (i.e. non-Aryan) has been given by French writers (Oppert, &c.), to distinguish them from the Aryan-Persian, which is a purely phonetic character.
It seems clear that the origin of this system was Turanian, and that it was borrowed by the Semitic races who used it. It was originally hieroglyphic, though the stiff combinations if wedges give but little indication of such as origin. But both in Assyrian and Babylonian there is and older character and a newer one, and the older forms can again be traced back to a still more archaic shape, which was unquestionably the original of both, and which is not cuneiform, but composed of straight lines only.2 These show little of the brilliancy of invention of the Chinese; they seem to appeal to the reason rather than to the eye; they are obviously intended to recall the image of the object, but they must have been first explained in order to be intelligible at all, and they might be remembered. For example, a house was denoted by (GREEK SYMBOL); a town by (GREEK SYMBOL). Neither of these are symbols which will be intelligible as soon as seen by a person who has not been taught them. This is probably due to the fact that they were produced, not by the hair-pencil of the Chinese, but by the chisel; they were intended to be written on rock, and for this straight lines are more convenient; and the wedge shape which they assumed afterwards may be explained by the ease with which it can be made by two strokes of the chisel --- perhaps no other figure so clear can be produced with such facility.
This system seems to have reached syllabism before it was adopted by the Aramaic peoples. But the syllabism was still mixed up with ideography, just as we have seen was the case in China --- that is, the same symbol denoted ideographically the object, and phonetically the sound, of the name of the object ; as though in English we should denote by the symbol B both the insect bee and the sound be. But there is a difference between this idiom and the Chinese; it was polysyllabic, whereas Chinese was syllabic. When, then, the name of the object contained more than one syllable, the first alone was taken to be denoted phonetically by the symbol. The evidence for this is small in quality, owing to the scantly remains of the language of that Turanian element of the Chaldee nation from which the cuneiform writing was borrowed. To this language the name Accadian has been given by Dr. Hincks, and this name seems to be now generally received. But the Medo-Scythic, mentioned above, which is a closely-connected dialect, supplies us with forms sufficiently close in the old Scythian spoken originally by all the Turanian stock in that part of Asia. Thus one symbol in Assyrian denotes ideographically God and phonetically an; now the name for God in Medo-Scythic is Annap. Another denoted a city and but; batin is a city in Scythian. Another denoted is a father is atta. (Oppert, ii.79; Lenormant, i. 41.) This evidence will doubtless be strengthened with time, but even now it is conclusive; and the principle thus established, the arbitrary selection of the first part of a name to have a particular phonetic value, seems to be exactly the principle which we should a priori have expected to find if we had tried to conceive the possible ways in which ideography could pass into phonetism.
The confusion which was occasioned by the imperfection of Assyrian writing was immensely increased by the fact of their characters being borrowed, not indigenous, as in China. There is first of all the obvious difficulty of adapting Turanian symbols to a Semetic language, in which the short vowels were not written, and the meaning of the radical group of consonants in any particular place had to be determined by the context. Instead of being able to retain the same symbol to excess a root in its modified forms, e.g. in the conjugation of a verb, a new symbol would be necessary for each person-form, which could be expresses by mere vowel change in the root, and these symbols might be totally unconnected, so that all sense of the connection of different parts of a verb would be lost. This is bad enough, but it is an evil inherent in the borrowing of such a system of writing to express a language whose genius was so essentially different. But there was another evil, much greater, which might have been avoided, and was not. This is polyphony --- the expression of many different sounds by the same symbol. When the Assyrians took an Accadian symbol, they would have taken only its phonetic value, or one of them, if it had more than one, and in this way they might have acquired a purely syllabic character, as the people of Susa afterwards actually did. But, as was not unnatural at the time, they took it with all its value, ideographic and phonetic, and added more of their own. A striking example given by Oppert (ii. 85) will make this plain. In Accadian this symbol (GREEK SYMBOL) was the ideogram for an open hand, doubtless originally in a more elaborate form. In the Spoken language a hand was called kurpi, and therefore, by the principle mentioned above, this symbol had also the phonetic value kur. But by a metaphor the hand symbol had the further ideographic values of seizing, processing, and understanding. To seize in the spoken language must have been mat, or something very like it (imid occurs in this sense in the Seythian), for this phonetic value also belonged o one symbol. Nut further, in Accadian a mountain was called kur; sunrise, kurra; earth was mat; to go was mit; and these sounds, identical or nearly identical, were one expressed by the same phonetic values, kur and mat; and in this wretched condition it was taken by the Assyrians, and employed by them in all these different senses. But this was not all. In the Assyrian language kur was the name of a furnace, and mat meant to die; and as it must have been to obtain a visible exponent for those sounds that the foreign symbol was adopted, both of these ideas were necessarily denoted by it. Again, in Assyrian, " to understand" was pronounced as nat, and to "possess" was nal; and so were added two more phonetic values by reason of the metaphonetic value shat, because that was the Assyrian name for a mountain, which we saw was denoted in Accadian by kur. Thus, when as Assyrian came upon this little plain-looking symbol he had to determine whether it meant the earth, a mountain, sunrise, a furnace, or seizing, processing, understanding, going, or dying; or whether it had only one of the phonetic values, kur, mat, shat, nal, or nat. And a large list of other symbols is given by M. Oppert, which, in a similar way, has two, three, four, and even six different phonetic values. It may seem incredible that a people under such difficulties should ever have able to express what they wished to say, much to understand what was written. It is a great witness to the strength of the feeling which must have existed in these old people that ideography was the natural and proper method of writing, and phonetics were only a supplement to eke out its deficiencies. To us such feeling is at first incomprehensible, but after such an example we cannot doubt its existence. With respect, indeed, to the difficulty caused by one symbol having many ideographic values, we have only to think of the many different significations expresses in our own language by the same combinations of sound, without any confusion arising, because the particular meaning is marked out by the context; for instance, when the one sound but denotes a conjunction, a verb, and a noun with two senses --- one original and one derived, but now quite different, --- we should therefore only see in the Assyrian an aggravated case of this want of clearness. But the difficulty is much more serious when the same symbol has different phonetic values; and much help cannot have been obtained from the grammatical list which have actually been dug out under the superintendence of Mr. Layard, in which the Assyrian kings state, avowed for the instruction of their subjects, the different values which each symbol could possess. (See Oppert, ii. 53) By these lists some limit might undoubtedly be put to the further multiplication of values for the same sign, but it could not help a reader to trace which of all the authorized values he was to give to a symbol at any particular time. It would appear that in the cuneiform, as unquestionably in the Egyptian, conventional phonetic symbols could be used as complements to other symbols, which might represent an idea of a mere syllable, and by these phonetic complements to other symbols, which might represent an idea or a mere syllable, and by these phonetic complements the special sense could be defined with some approach to exactness. But into these remedies of the ills of polyphony we need not further enter.
S It is far beyond the scope of the present article to describe fully the development of hieroglyphism in Egypt, the country in which the last step to alphabetism --- the separation of the vowel-symbols from those which mark the consonants --- was undoubtedly taken, though with much faltering, and even turning back. According to M. Leonormant, the Egyptians passed through every stage which we have already seen successively reached by different peoples; and at one of which every one of these peoples halted, without even achieving for themselves the triumph of alphabetic writing. And evidence of each stage, more or less distinct, certainly lingers in the Egyptian, producing and extra-ordinary medley, little suited for popular or even literary use, but well adapted for the transmission of occult records and rituals, the purpose for which the Greeks not unnaturally supposed the whole hieroglyphic system to have been invested by the priest. As we have already described the phenomena of each stage with some fullness, it is not necessary to do more here than to indicate their occurrence in Egyptian. The hieroglyphs themselves are certainly the finest of their kind. Whether they represent the full contour of the object with all the assistance of vivid coloring, or whether they are simply formed by lines which convey its essential character --- a practice which doubtless owed its origin to the increased use of writing --- it is impossible not to admire the extraordinary completeness of the representation. Nothing can be more perfectly pictorial than the portraiture of the different emotions, each by the figure of a man effected by it: the position of the body and the gestures of the arms are simply perfect. These belong in the main to the symbolic use of the hieroglyphs: this use we saw in Chinese was but slight, but in Egypt it was immense. Thus, the sun with rays streaming from it, denoted to the Egyptian light and clearness; the moon, with its horns turned downward, denoted the month, --- in these cases the cause is put for the effect. Sometimes the part is put for the whole; two arms, one4 holding a shield and one an offensive weapon, express battle; two legs with the feet denote movement, forward or backward according to the direction of the fee, (GREEK SYMBOL) or (GREEK SYMBOL); an arm holding a stick denoted force. Sometimes the symbol is purely metaphorical: as when a king is expressed by a bee; knowledge by a roll by papyrus; or justice by the feather of an ostrich, because all feathers of that bird were supposed to be of equal length. Such symbols are clearly of later origin than the other; they imply the existence of conventional riles, which could acquire currency for meaning quite unintelligible in themselves. These symbolic ideograms were not very often used alone; most commonly they accompanied other symbols used phonetically, merely to determine their special meaning in each place; as such they are commonly called determinatives; this practice we also saw in China, less skillfully employed. Thus, for example, on the Rosetta stone --- whose trilingual inscription, hieroglyphic, demotic and Greek, is the basis of all our knowledge of Egyptian writing --- the word for a decree is expressed by characters, consonant and vowel, which denote the sounds of which it is composed, just as in any modern writing; but at the end of these, forming part of the word, though adding nothing to its pronunciation, is the figure of a man a with his hand raised to his mouth, which adds the idea of passive obedience to the phonetic combination, and limits it to the idea of a decree. In like manner, the arm with the stick, which as we said denoted force, is added as a determinative to express actions which require force; and the ideogram of motions is also very frequent. This seems to us unnecessary and cumbrous; but when a phonetic combination might have two different meanings, they could hardly have been differentiated in amore intelligible manner. A good list of these symbols may be seen in De Rosny, p. 46.
The traces of the rebus stage which we saw in the Aztec, in which a symbol could be transferred from one object to another, because the names of the two had the same sound in the spoken language, are not very distinct, and have not been fully examined; on this point we may hope for more light from M. Lenormant. He points out that the same symbols denoted "holiness" and a" slave." No metaphorical explanation seems possible here; but are sounded hen in the spoken language, and the community of symbol becomes at once intelligible. In such a practice as this we see at once a cause of great confusion, especially when the same symbol was employed to denote two things the names of which were not exact homophones, and yet sufficiently near in sound to allow themselves to be expresses by the same symbol; e.g., when the circle which denoted the sun was also taken to denote the sun was also taken to denote the idea of day, the sun was called ra, the day hru, and so the symbol became a polyphone; it had two not very different sounds. It is true that here the application of the symbol for the sun to denote the day was not caused only by the similarity of sounds in the two words --- it was probably employed at first metaphorically; but there can be little doubt that it was helped to its double use by the indistinctness of the Egyptian vowel-sounds, which caused the two words to be sounded nearly alike. From this and similar caused arose that polyphony which necessitated the use of the determinative described above. Vestiges of the syllabic stage in Egyptian exist beyond a doubt, and they point to a slowly-effected transition from the older to the newer form of writing. Thus the symbol of a fish represented at the syllabic stage the syllable an; later on, the letter a alone came to be denoted by a reed, and n by a waving line. Now we find the syllable an represented not merely by its own simple exponent, the fish, but also the reed and fish together, that is, in phonetic value, by A. an; by the reed above the waving line (an/n); and even by all three (A. an/n) (Lenormant, ii. 44). This surely points to a stage at which the alphabetic values of the reed and line were not yet so firmly fixed that the writer could dispense with the older and more familiar sign of the fish to specialize the other two. Of Egyptian alphabetism proper it is not necessary to give examples; we are sufficiently acquainted with the use of letters pure and simple, and their use in Egypt is not denied.
To what cause are we to assign the progress of the Egyptian beyond the Assyrian method of writing? What circumstances enabled the one nation to develop at least an imperfect alphabetism, while the other never advanced beyond syllabism? No certain answer can be given; but at least a probable suggestion is made by M. Lenormant. The Egyptian vowel-sounds were indistinct: the consonants were clear and definite. Therefore it was natural (as Lepsius pointed out) that in each syllable the consonant should come to be regarded as the important element, and should finally extrude the following vowel altogether. Thus a large number of symbols, which originally represented syllable beginning with the same consonant but followed by different vowels would become in time absolutely identical in value, the different representatives of the same consonant. And a great abundance of such homophones is actually found in Egyptian. The method, therefore, which was followed in passing from the syllable to the mere alphabetic sign, was identical with which we have already pointed out in Assyrian, by which the symbol of polysyllabic word was taken to have the phonetic value of the first syllable of the word; in each case it denoted the first element of the name --- the syllable in Assyrian, the single sound in Egyptian. And in each language the symbol thus applied to a new use still retained for a long time its old value as the hieroglyphic or at least conventional exponent of a material object or of an idea. Thus in Egypt nefer meant good. This word in writing is expressed in two ways: first, by a single symbol which had originally been the pictorial representation of some material object, but was afterwards the conventional symbol of the idea of goodness; secondly, by this same symbol followed by two others, which had also from being originally hieroglyphic, acquired the phonetic values of f and r; that is to say, one symbol could at will express the whole word nefer and its initial letter n. This is the natural, perhaps the only possible way of eliminating the single sound; but it in obvious that great difficulties would attend it at the outset. There could be at first no convention to restrict the symbol for n to that of the particular word nefer; any other beginning with n would have served. There was no law to prevent a writer taking as many symbols for n as took his fancy; and in fact each letter in this way did have several different symbols.
It follows that while Egypt must be credited with having first invented an alphabetic system, and must for ever claim for this the gratitude of the world, yet that system was far too imperfect to become the instrument of a popular literature. It suffers equally from the opposite diseases of homophony and polyphony, from the expression of the same sound by many different symbols, and from the use of one symbol to denote many different syllables. And each of these evils was only aggravated by time. The earlier Egyptian writing is much more simple than the later, wherein homophones increased to a degree to which there was practically no limit except the strength of the memory; and the numerous phonetic devices to unravel this confusions of polyphony must have been equally burdensome. It might have expected that polyphony at least would have become extinct with time; that different symbols for the same syllabic would all have been worn down into single letters, and thus, though homophony might have multiplied, polyphony would have perished. This might have been the case if there symbols had ever become perfectly clear of their originally pictorial or conventional origin. But this was never the case. To the last, the employment of a symbol to express an object or idea continued side by side with its employment as a single letter, The spirit of hieroglyphism, real if not apparent, could not be vanquished by alphabetism; and in order that ideography may be finally expelled, it would seen that circumstances are needed more favorable than can be often found combined at any period of any nations history. In fact, a purely phonetic alphabet is most likely to be produced when one nation borrows from another such portion of that nations symbols as it required for its own confusion. We have already seen indications of this fact.
Many circumstances combine to render it difficult for a nation to reach of itself pure phonetism in writing. There is the strong disinclination to change, of which we have before spoken. It is always easier to put up with difficulties to which we have been accustomed all our life thus, to make any radical change, especially when that change, especially when that change causes at one serious difficulties at every moment. It was easier for the Egyptians to retain the odd mixture of ideographic, syllabic, and alphabetic writing, and occasionally to add some new key for unlocking the difficulties to the formidable list which was already in use. The ingenuity of these grammatical devices almost surpasses belief. We can only refer the curious to the hieroglyphic grammar in the fifth volume of Bunsens Egypts Place in Universal History. In the second place, a good deal must be allowed to the restraining influence of religion. It is well known that most of the ancient nations ascribed divine origin to their systems of writing. It might well seem to them to be too wonderful a thing for the result of human ingenuity. Thus in one of the Assyrian lists of the different values of syllables, published, as has been already the god Nebo has revealed to the kings, his ancestors, the cuneiform writing, which he thus endeavors to simplify for the better understanding of his people (Oppert, ii. 53). The Sanskrit character, which is now known to be due to Phoenician source, was called Devanagari, " belonging to the city of the gods," unless, as Prof. M. Muller suggests (Sanskit Grammar, p.1), we are to understand by the gods here only the Brahmans; but whatever the name may mean, their belief in its divine origin is certain enough. And M. Lenormant points out (i.80) that the native Egyptian term for writing meant "writing heavenly words." Now it is clear that no nation among which this belief lingered in any degree would be likely to alter fundamentally the spirit of their system of writing. Lastly, it is possible, though, as we have suggested above, not very probable, that the obscurities of the existing system may have recommended it to the priest. These reasons may suffice to show that it was not in Egypt that we should that was not in Egypt that we should expect to find the development of a purely phonetic system. But just as the Japanese took the Chinese characters, and gave them a development which they have never had in the land of their creation --- just as the people of Susuana look the cuneiform writing and made it purely phonetics, without any remnant of ideography, --- so the work of extracting order out of the chaos of Egyptian writing was reserved for the Phoenicians.
The Phoenicians were peculiarly fitted to perform this inestimable part in the history of human development. An active and enterprising nation, they were early brought into commercial relations with Egypt, and must of necessity have learnt something of their system of writing; they could see its advantages and its perfectly remediable faults: the advantage of one definite symbol for one sound, and the disadvantage of a dozen; the desirability that this symbol should signify that sound only and the undesirability of its denoting a horse or a man as well. And the religious scruples which may have affected the Egyptians need have no weight for strangers. If the characters were divine for the priest of Isis, they were a convenient instrument to supply every-day wants for the sailors of Tyre1
These considerations do not, of course, amount to a proof that the Phoenician alphabet was derived from Egypt. It is of course possible that it disengaged itself by degrees out of an earlier hieroglyphic system at home. But of such a system no vestiges remain; and the correspondence between the Phoenician characters and those of the earlier Egyptian hieratic is sufficiently striking to warrant us in regarding it as at least provisionally true that what was natural and perfectly possible did actually take place.2 The general testimony of the early Greek and Roman writers, that the alphabet was invented in Phoenicia, must then be limited to the sense in which Tacitus says that the Phoenicians had this credit --- tanquam repererint, quae acceperant.
It cannot be known with certainly whether the Phoenicians took, together with the Egyptians symbols, the phonetic values which the Egypt, or whether they totally disregarded those values, and simply assigned to the symbols the value of their own sounds at will. The first view, however, seems clearly the more probable. The Phoenicians could only become acquainted with the Egyptian symbol and sound together; the one would naturally suggest the other; and we should expect that they would first take the symbols belongings to those sounds which exactly corresponded in Egyptians sounds which did not exactly correspond to their own, but which seemed in each case the most analogous to them; but that there would never be any violent rupture between the symbol and its old sound. Yet it seems quite certain that there is no connection between the names which the letters bore in Phoenicia and the original object of which the Egyptian character is the debased representation. Thus the first letter of the Phoenician alphabet (corresponding to the Hebrew aleph) was named from its fancied resemblance to an oxs head., the second (Hebrew beth) to a house, and so on. But the symbol which strangely seemed to the Phoenicians like an ox is only the form, rapidly drawn, of an eagle; beth, in like manner, is the quickly-drawn figure of a crane. It would seem, then , that the Phoenicians borrowed sound and symbol, but no name. They cared nothing for the history of the symbols; and when they found it convenient to have a name for each symbol they chose some object whose name began with the letter in question; and we should have said that it was totally impossible that any similarity in form between the letter and the object whose name it borrowed could have helped o give currency t the nomenclature, did we not see evidence of similar and apparently equally impossible fancies in the names of the constellations, let the origin of those names be what it may.
Such, very briefly traced, seems to have been the origin of the Phoenician alphabet, the parent of almost every alphabet, properly so called, existing on the earth. For the main ramifications of this alphabet in subsequent times we cannot do better than translate the summary of an author already often referred to M. Francois Lenormant. He distinguishes (p.110) five main stems. These are ---
1. The Semitic stem, wherein the values of the letters have remained exactly the same as those of the Phoenicians, except in a few derived alphabets framed in Persia and the countries immediately adjacent, which being employed to write Indo-European languages, turn the soft breathings of the Phoenician into genuine vowels. This stem subdivides itself into two main branches the Hebraeo-Samaritan and the Aramaic.
2. The Central stem, whose province includes Greece, Asia, Minor and Italy. The transformation of the symbols of the smooth, and even of the rough, breathings into symbols of vowels is here the invariable rule. This stem contained first the different varieties of the Hellenic alphabet, then the alphabets derived from the Greek, including three families --- the Albanian, Asiatic (talking Asia in the same sense as the old Greek did), and the Italian. In the Asiatic family we distinguish two groups --- one for the Phrygian alphabet only, which is made up of elements whose origin is exclusively Greek, the other containing the Lycian and Carian, where these elements are mixed up with Cypriote characters. The Italian family must also be subdivided into an Etruscan group and a Latin group, between which stands the Faliscan alphabet, of a mixed character.
3. The Western stem, containing the system of writing which resulted from the spread of the alphabet by the colonists of Tyre among the indigenous inhabitants of ancient Spain. This stem reckons but one single family. It has, as that which precedes it, for its fundamental character the change for the value of the Phoenician breathings. But the direction in which the forms for the letters vary is signally different. . . . . .
4. The Northern Stem, containing only one branch, the runes of the Teutonic and Scandinavian peoples, who were settled at a particular epoch in the north of Europe, but had arrived from Asia, where they still lived during a part of historic time, and where they must have had imparted to them the alphabet produced by the Phoenicians. Some elements in the runic writing seem to point to a direct reception of the writing from the seamen of Canaan; others, on the contrary, bear a certain stamp of Greek influence
5. The indo-Homerite stem, distinguished by the appearance of a new principle, the expression of vowel sounds by means of conventional adjuncts attached to the symbol of the consonant, and thus sometimes considerably modifying its shape. The place of its origin seems to have been Southern Arabia. From thence it has radiated on the one side to Africa, where the Abyssinian and the African systems form a separate family with the Himyaritic, or alphabet of the old inhabitants of Yemen; on the other side to Ariana, where a special form of writing established itself; and to India, whose most ancient alphabet. Magadhi, now referred by A. Weber to a Phoenician origin, has given birth to an enormous list of derivatives, which can be classified among six families --- Devanagari, Pali, Dravidian, Transgangetic, Oceanic, and Thibetan --- which we here enumerate in their chronological order of descent.
It will of course be observed that this classification of alphabets runs entirely counter to the universally-accepted classification of languages into certain well-recognized groups under three main heads --- Indo-European, Semitic, and that family which, rather because its members differ from the two first-named than from any special bond of union among themselves, is called Turanian. This is in nowise surprising. There is no necessary connection whatever between the sound and the symbol which signifies it --- between the language and the alphabet. The languages of nearly all Europe are Indo European (or Aryan, as they are sometimes called); the alphabets are universally Semitic --- that is the fact, explain it as we may. In fact, if we wish to maintain that sound and symbol correspond, so that the second is the only natural exponent of the first, we must form two hypotheses which refute themselves --- first, that it was possible that any race of men, when they first felt the need of an alphabet, deliberately set themselves to form their letters so as to represent the different positions of the organs of speech as each sound was produced; secondly, that such forms could have been exactly preserved through long lapse of time, so as to convey to subsequent generations exactly the same idea as they gave to their inventors. But each supposition is clearly impossible. An alphabet so formed would also be an artificial alphabet, such as could never entered the minds of men who needed to supply just their actual wants as they arose, not to construct a scientific table of signs to denote all possible sounds. But the construction of such a pictorial alphabet as we have supposed is quite possible, and it has actually been formed most ingeniously by Mr Nelville Bell. In this system, which he calls "Visible Speech," consonants are denoted by curved lines, which represent the position of the tongue or lips in their formation. For example, in forming the gutturals k,g,ng, the back of the tongue is raised, and this is expressed by the curve (GREEK SYMBOL); in pronouncing y, the front of the tongue is arched, and this is denoted by (GREEK SYMBOL); in pronouncing dentals, the point of the tongue is raised, and this expressed by (GREEK SYMBOL); in sounding labials, the lips are closed, and this denoted by (GREEK SYMBOL); where the passage of the mouth is completely closed by the symbolized organ (as in k,g,t,d,p,b), the ends of the curve are shut by a connecting line ---thus (GREEK SYMBOL) denoted k; the consonants which are voice articulations (i.e., in producing which the chordae vocales vibrate, and so produce voice), as g, d,b,&c., are further distinguished by a short straight line within the curve, the physiological sign which is chosen (conventionally, it must be allowed) to represent voice being (l) a straight line; and the other distinguishing marks of the consonants are similarly expressed either by added marks or by slight modifications of the primary curve,. Equally ingeniously, the vowels are expressed by the straight line which is the sigh of voice, a subordinate symbol, or "definer." being added to denote the part of the mouth which modifies the vowele.g., a hook or a solid point at the top or bottom of the vowel-line, a bar across the line express that the lips are contracted or drawn across the aperture of the mouth. &c. We need not enter further into minutize of the system; enough has been said to show the principle on which is formed. It is obvious that there would be no greater difficulty in teaching this alphabet to a child than in teaching it a,b,c, except that he number of symbols is greater, because one is provided for every sound in the language, which our alphabet certainly fails to do; still, to learn wither our alphabet or "visible speech" must for a child be simply an effort of memory. And one great practical gain which would be derived from the general adoption of such a system is the case with which foreign languages could be mastered. The great difficulty in learning to speak a foreign language doest not consists in the mere mastering so many declensions,; it lies in the fact that two alphabets may composed of exactly the same symbols, and yet many of these symbols may expresse to the two nations quite different sounds. This is preliminary difficulty which must be mastered at once and it would be immensely lessened if the dismissal sounds --- as e.g., German, Freach , and English, u were not all presented to the learner under the same symbol. It seems certain that, with the lapse of time and the progress of invention, the intercourse between nations must be largely increased; and the need of some more perfect instrument of speech between them must increase proportionately. But in spite of the obvious gains, it is utopian to suppose that the world will ever be converted to a system of universal writing; and the real and immense gain of such a method is the power which it gives to a linguistic inquirer to denote accurately on paper the exact sounds heard in any dialect spoken in any part of the world, civilized or uncivilized; for it is as competent to register the click of the Hottentot as the most subtle vowel sound of Europe. With our present it is utterly impossible to represent adequately the strange sounds of some out-of- the-way dialect (which for students of language may be as important as the literary speech) in such a way as to be generally intelligible, because there often is no symbol to correspond exactly, and naturally no two inquirers agree upon the nearest out of the existing symbols. The science of language is therefore greatly indebted to Mr. Bell for providing so effective a method fore preserving for ever those dialectic peculiarities which are vanishing with startling rapidity in these days of constant communication between different parts of a country. Another system, equally valuable scientifically, has been invented by the eminent philologer, Mr. Alexander J. Ellis. In his "Palaeotype" only the ordinary symbols are employed but they are printed in different ways to denote different sounds --- sometimes as capitals, sometimes in italics, sometimes turned upside down; so that, despite the familiarity of the letters, a page of palaeotype is at least as appalling to the uninitiated as the curves and lines of "visible speech".
We may proceed to trace the variations from the Phoenician alphabet to our own, down the central stem of Greece and Italy. The Phoenician alphabet consisted of twenty-eight letters, which for convenience we may call by the names of their Hebrew equivalents. These were (1) Aleph, (2) Beth, (3) Gimel, (4) Daleth, (5) He, (6) Vav, (7) Zayin, (8) Chelt, (9) Teth, (Yodh), (11) Kaph, (12) Lamedh, (13) Men, (14) Nun, (15) Samekh, (16) Ayin, (17) Pe, (18) Tsadhe, (19) Koph, (20) Reah, (21) Shin, (22) Tav. None of these were vowel sounds. Aleph was the lightest guttural or rather faucal sound, being pronounced below the guttural point at the very top of the larynx: it can have been barely audible even before a vowel. He corresponded nearly so our h. Cheth was a strongly-marked ch, a continuous guttural sound produced at the back of the palate. Ayin represents a faucal sound peculiar to the Semitic race, varying between an evanescent breathing and a g rolled in the throat.
The Phoenicians employed hardly any vowel signs: in Hebrew the three principal sounds a, i, u (see article A) were sometimes expressed in writing, and long i and u were denoted, not by special signs, but by consonants akin to them yodh and vav: a was regularly omitted except at the end of a word, where it was denoted by he and sometimes by Aleph. In fact, in all Semitic languages the practice was to ignore vowels in writing, leaving it to the reader to fill in, according to the context, the unvarying framework of consonantal sounds: the Hebrew vowel-points were a later invention, rendered necessary when language had ceased to be spoken.
When the Greeks received the Phoenician alphabet it is obvious that they must have made considerable changes in the value of the symbols. Several of them would be unnecessary, for they had no sounds in their language to correspond to them: while for other most important sounds, e.g., the vowel, no symbol was provided. It is clear how imperfect any previous alphabet of the Greeks must have been when they adopted in its stead another so foreign to the genius of t5heir language, which developed the vowels and marked strongly the momentary consonants and nasals, but rejected as far as possible the continuous consonants, both palatal and labial, and even under many circumstances the dental s, the one sibilant they employed. But they ingeniously adopted the strange signs to new ends. Aleph, He, and Ayin were turned without difficulty into a,_, and o; Yodh became I, as it seems that the semi-vowel y had totally disappeared from Greece even at that early period: on the same principle Vav might have served to express v, although apparently the w-sound was still sufficiently common to require the retention of Vav with its consonantal value. But from what source they took their upsilon cannot be known with certainly. Professor Key thinks that it is the Hebrew form of Ayin, which differs much in shape from the nearly perfect circle of the old Phoenician. This is possible enough, for the sound of Ayin was not more like o than u; and if the Greeks knew the two forms, it is not likely that they may have taken both. On the other hand, it is equally possible that v may be a remnant of an earlier native alphabet. Among the consonants _, _, _, _, _, _, _ ,&Mac185; , _ , _ were borrowed with little change of form, and probably of value. And these letters (with o and the vowels already mentioned) are stated by tradition to have been the only ones brought to Greece from Phoenicia by Cadmus, other having been added by Palamedes, Semonides, or Epicharmus; but which were the letters added by each of these is a question on which the different authorities do not agree; and being incorrectness of most of them is proved by the letters found in Greek inscriptions before the time of their supposed inventor. In fact, all tradition on this point is worthless, unless it is borne out by inscriptions. It is at least probable that the whole alphabet was borrowed at one time, for all, or nearly all, the characters occur on the oldest inscriptions we process. Thus on inscriptions of Thera dating from Olympiad 40 (see Franz, Epigraphice Graeca, pp. 51-59; Kirchhoff, Studien zur Geschichte des Griechischen Alphabets, p. 41), we find Chelth in the form (GREEK SYMBOL) , denoting mainly the rough breathing h, but also applied to denote e, as it afterwards did regularly by the name Eta: Teth occurs as (GREEK SYMBOL), nearly the later Theta; and Koph as (GREEK SYMBOL), koppa, a symbol which was once current throughout Greece, and remained universally as the numeral 90, though as a letter it was retained only by the Dorians, and passed with the Doric alphabet into Italy as Q. It may be observed that in this alphabet, and in some later ones of Crete, Corinth, and Corcyra, Iota appears not as a straight line, but in many curves shapes, approximating much nearer to the old Phoenician; and the same is true of Pi, which has the top rounded like a crook. We have then left only the four sibilants, Zayin, Samekh, Tsadhe, and Shin. These are believed to have had the values dz, s, ts, sh respectively. We have already said that the Greeks had no great affection for sibilants; witness the manner in which _ was constantly dropped, e.g., in ______ for _____-__ It was therefore not to be expected that they could employ all the wealth of the Phoenicians; and one symbol (Tsadhe) appears in no Greek alphabet. The name, however, recalls the name Zeta; but the shape of Zeta (always GREEK WORD) is unquestionable that of Zayin; and its place in the alphabet agrees to this. It seems, therefore, most probable that the Greeks confounded together the two compound sounds dz and ts, and kept but one symbol, perhaps with the name of the other (Tsadhe), because it was most like that of the neighboring letters Eta and Theta. This confusion of the two sounds seems the more probable when we remember that no symbol was required for the compound ts at the time when a special symbol for ps was added, and that for ks (another analogous compound) perhaps revived. There is also much uncertainly with regard to the relations of Samekh and Shin in their Greek dress. Xi (=ks) occupies the place of Samekh, sigma of Shin. One form of Samekh seems unquestionable to have furnished that of the Greek _ (see the forms, p. 600); another (GREEK WORD) is exactly the Greek _ of all the inscriptions. Sigma had the sound (s) of Samekh, and cannot be shown ever to have had the sound (sh) of Shin. Two names were preserved among the Greeks, sigma and san. Herodotus (i. 139) speaks of the "same letter which the Dorians call ___, the Ionians _____; and though san was no letter of the Ionic alphabet, the compound sampi ( =___+&Mac185;_) denoted 900. The name san is obviously the Semitic shin or sin: it is just possible that _____ may be an attempt to turn samekh into a form which should explain its meaning to Greek ears. The oldest Greek alphabets known to us --- those of Thera, Melos, Crete, and the earlier forms of those of Argos, Corinth, and Coreyra --- have the form (GREEK WORD) to denote s, ---that is, the equivalent of Shin. It seems fair to infer that this was originally the case in the other alphabets also. Then this symbol was dropped by degrees to avoid confusion with m, while one form of samekh, with the name sigma, was introduced into its place: another form was kept in its old place to denote the compound ks (xi).
We now come to the apparently non-Phoenician letters of the Greek alphabet, _, _, _, _. Of v we have already spoken: we may add its sound was not a pure u, but modified, perhaps as is the German u. This appears from the fact that, when the Romans borrowed Greek words in the later times of the republic (when Roman taste has grown more scrupulous), they did not use their own symbol u to denote the Greek upsilon (as their forefathers had done), but together with the sound borrowed the symbol also: which clearly shows that the sound of upsilon was different from the ordinary u. We now take the aspirates _ and _. It is most probable that the sounds of the Greek aspirates _, _, _, were not those of the German ch, and the English th and f: that is, they were probably not continuous consonants, but momentary sounds, followed in each case by a slight but distinctly audible breath; so that _ might be represented in English characters by kh, though the following breath is not so distinct as an English h, --- if it were, we should have a compound, not a simple sound. Now two of these aspirates were actually written in the oldest alphabets KH and (GREEK SYMBOL) H (pi having the right down-stroke much shorter than the left): for the dental the single symbol _, borrowed from the Phoenician, sufficed. Afterwards the symbols _ and _ (variants _ and +) were taken to supply the place of these compound, from what source cannot be certainly known; but it is not impossible that they may have been characters of an older Greek alphabet which originally had the values p and k. This draws some probability from the history of _. That letter was originally written (GREEK SYMBOL); and _, of which we have already spoken, written as K_ (or KM).But each of these also appears as __ and X_; so that here at least _ and _ appears as no more than p and k: the compound (GREEK SYMBOL) remained permanently in the Western alphabets. It is to Epicharmus that tradition (here with some probability) ascribed the establishment of _ in the alphabet. The history of _ is closely connected with that of _. At an early period, certainly before the 40th Olympiad, in the eastern part of Hellas an attempt was made to distinguish the different kinds of e. The symbol _ had hitherto denoted both _ and the diphthong el, where the i was probably not a much more important sound than the y --- e.g. in our day. The habit of writing the two symbols came in late in the Ionic alphabet, and so spread through Greece. But at the earlier time of which we speak the symbol H began to denote some e. It is commonly supposed that this was long e as distinguished from epsilon, which, by the way, does not mean short e, but "e unaccompanied," perhaps by that after sound of i mentioned above, though a different reason is commonly given for the name. It seems very strange that the Greeks should have introduced symbols to express long e and o, and none to mark the length of the other vowels, which must have been just as urgently needed: surely this would have been done at Athens at the time of the formal introduction of the Ionian alphabet. Again, there are a great many recognizable varieties of sound which border closely on pure e and o (but none of importance near i and u), and such varieties are clearly marked in the south of Europe now. For these two separate reasons, it seems at least more probable that _ was adopted to express a sound the same, or nearly the same, as the open e of the Italians. For the same reasons, it seems probable that _ was taken not to denote long o, but a more open sound; perhaps something between open o and the English au. The form _ is of doubtful origin . It is found in an alphabet of Miletus of about Olympiad 60; not earlier. It looks like a conscious modification of O.
Greek writing in the earliest times was from tight to left, following the example of Phoenicia: several specimens of this still exist. The more convenient practice of writing from left to right soon became universal. It was preceded however, by an intermediate method, in which the direction of the lines was alternatively right to left and left to right, so that it was not necessary to carry the eye back, as with us, from the end of one line to the beginning of the next. This was called ____________, because the lines were made in the same way as the furrows by oxen in ploughing.
Kirchhoff distinguished two main divisions of Greek alphabets --- the East and the West; not that this geographical distribution is exact, but it is the most convenient. The eastern includes first the alphabets of the towns of Asia Minor ---- Halicarnassus, Ephesus, Teos, Miletus, Colophon and Rhodes, which agreeing essentially, became that Ionic alphabet that was adopted at Athens 463 B.C., and is the Greek alphabet with which we are familiar; secondly, those of the _gean island ---- Thera, Melos, Crete, Paros, Siphnos, Thasos, Naxos, --- in which _ does not stand for Omega, but occasionally appears as well as o for Omicron, and there are other minute differences in the shape of the letters; thirdly, some of the alphabets of the mainland of Greece, which have a closer affinity of the Ionic than to their neighbours, viz., the old one of Attica, down to Ol. 94 ----Argos, Corinth and its colonies, Corcyra, and even Syracuse. The western division includes the remainder of the towns of Greece proper and their Sicilian and Italian colonies; these are marked by peculiar variations of certain characters, especially g. e. h, th, l, r, and s, by the use of h as the aspirate only, by the absence of omega, and by the universal application of the symbol (GREEK SYMBOL) or (GREEK SYMBOL) to denote, not ps, but ch, whilst X or +, the symbol of ch in the eastern alphabets, here denoted x. Compare with this last variation what we have said above of the used of X: there can be little doubt that it was from the occurrence of X in this collocation, and no other that this new value for it arose, and _ was dropped. It is significant that inn the old Latin alphabet XS appear instead of X. The difference in value of (GREEK SYMBOL) in the eastern and western alphabets is perplexing: it seems that in one or the other the original value must have been consciously changed, but it is not easy to say in which. The most important alphabet of this group for our purpose is that of the Chaldician colonies of Sicily and the west coast of Italy --- Cum, Neapolis, &c. --- because from this was derived the Latin alphabet, the direct progenitor of our own. It is distinguished from other of the same class by the rounded form of the Gamma (GREEK SYMBOL), by the peculiar from of the Lambda (GREEK SYMBOL), by the very old Mu (/W), and by a rounded Sigma (GREEK SYMBOL), though it has also the two other ordinary forms (GREEK SYMBOL) and _: in common with some other western alphabets, it has a double rho (P and R). (See p. 600).)
From this Chalcidian alphabet is seems clear that all the Italian alphabets were derived. They fall into two families, which differ from each other considerably, but principally in the loss of old letters and the insertion of new --- differences which do not militate against their common origin, but show the cause of their separate development. The first family contains the Etruscan, Umbrian, and Oscan alphabets: the second the Latin and Faliscan. Into the peculiarities of the members of the first group we do not propose to enter at length: they agree in the total rejection of O and X, and the addition of a strange symbol 8. denote the f sound, vau being retained the symbols modified form for v: the Etruscan retains the symbols _ and V which the other two dropped, and the Etruscan and Umbrian agree in rejecting the soft mutes. The Umbrian, however, has a new symbol for a modified d, peculiar to itself, and also for a modified k; the Oscan has new symbols for a modified i and a, and in general shows a difference in the shape of its characters from all the other Italian dialects, which does not seem due to any other foreign influence so much as to its own individuality. These three languages are all written from right to left, in which the Faliscan agrees with them: the Latin alone, from the earliest time of which we have any records, was written from left to right; but there can be little doubt that it did not originally differ from its fellows, but changed at a later time, just as the Greek alphabet itself had done. The fact that X, found in the Latin and Faliscan alphabets, has the value of x, and not of ch, and that (GREEK SYMBOL), as already mentioned, is found with the value of eh in Etruscan, shows that the common source of these five alphabets was western, not an eastern Greek alphabet: and the rounded form of C, and the peculiar L ( V, not _ ) limit the choice to the Chalcidian family. The points in which the Latin differs from the Chalcidian alphabet of Cumae, from which it was probably derived through commercial intercourse, lie ---
(1) In the application of the symbol vau (F), to denote not the v but the f sound, which was probably strange to the Greeks.
(2) In allowing K to fall almost out of use --- it was employed only in abbreviations, such as the first letter of a prænomen, as Kaeso, or for Kalendae, &c. --- and employing C instead , which had of course in the present Greek alphabet the power of g. This change may point to a time when the distinction of the sounds k and g was obliterated, to be afterwards restored.
(3) In the formation of the new symbol G --- i.e., C with a distinguishing line --- to mark the soft gutturals, when the want of distinctive symbol was again felt. This was some time in the 3d century B.C.; but instead of replacing K for the hard guttural sound, they preferred to leave C in its old place, but with a new value, K instead of g; while the modified form G was inserted into place of I (Z), which may have been taken y Romans 9As it certainly was found in the other Italian alphabets), but which fell out of use absolutely without any record.
(4) In absence of the aspirates , GREEK SYMBOL, GREEK SYMBOL and GREEK SYMBOL; these sounds were not natural to the roman tongue, and therefore the symbols were never regularly received into their alphabet, though they were taken to represent numerals, Their forms, however, were much altered, and so in process of time they became confused with other letters: thus GREEK SYMBOL denoted 50; but it came to be written GREEK SYMBOL, and so naturally passed into the quite meaningless L: GREEK SYMBOL denoted 10, but being too cumbrous to write, the circle was dropped, and the cross(x) alone remained. A variant form of the letter (GREEK SYMBOL) seems to have originally represented 100, and either to have been shortened into the common form C, or C superseded it as being the first letter of centum. GREEK SYMBOL was taken for 1000, but for convenience of writing it was broken up into CI GREEK SYMBOL, and this was the more easily done because the parts were characters in use; nut this symbol also was replaced by M. the first letter of mille. It is probable that GREEK SYMBOL was simply divided, and the half of it (D) then stood for half of 1000, or 500; and half of X, ten, became V, five. Neither D nor V have any other propriety as symbols.
(5) In the addition, in the 1st century B.C., of the two symbols Y and Z after X (which had long been the last letter of the alphabet) to express the Greek sound v and Z. In borrowed words these in earlier times had been roughly denoted by u and ss: but in Ciceros day greater precision was desired: and not being able to compound two characters of their own to denote the strange sound (as they did for the aspirated kh, th, ph, formerly denoted only by k, t, and p or b), they took sound and symbol together, so that ______ appeared, not as Bruges, but as phryges: ___&Mac185;_____ ceased to be tarpessita, and sona became zona, &c.
The Latin alphabet agrees with the Chalcidian in the retention of koppa (GREEK SYMBOL); the downward stoke became by degrees more oblique. This symbol had a much wider use in Latin than it had in any Greek language: it was needed to express a modified k-sound which the Latins likes, wherein a slight w sound was heard after the k. This sound was distasteful to the Greeks, and consequently they changed this kw (or qu) into p; so also did the often Italians (compare equos, _&Mac185;&Mac185;__; epona, &c); but the Romans liked it, and therefore, alone in Italy, kept the GREEK SYMBOL to denote it. It is true that Q was generally followed by a written u, though not always in the older inscriptions; but it was fully recognized that this u was not a real letter. It was only a symbol expressing further, and somewhat unnecessarily, the indistinct after-sound which made Q different from K; it would have been more logical to have written Q. alone, as was actually attempted under the empire, where we find on inscriptions forms such as gis, gidem, gaerella; but this never became general. The Latin and Chalcidian alphabets are again at one in not having the symbol M for s, differing in this respect from the alphabets of South Italy, and also from Etruscan and Umbrian, which had both forms, Lastly, the Chalcidian (as we saw) had two forms form for _, P and R; of these the Latin chose the last, and generally employed the first for p; though for that letter the genuine Greek form (GREEK SYMBOL) also appears rarely.
The Romans did not retain the Greek names for the characters of the alphabet. The vowels were known by their sounds only. The momentary sounds and h were denoted but their own sound followed by a vowel, as be, ce, de, ge, pe and te, but ka, ha,; q, as we saw, had sufficient vowel sound to float it, on the other hand, the continuous consonants were preceded by the by the vowel, as ef, el, em, en, er, es; x was called ix. The difference in the names of the consonants obviously was caused by their nature: momentary sounds are produced by a complete closure and opening of the organs required in each case; when this opening is made, the organs are so placed as to form a vowel, which naturally is produced by the remnant of sound required for the consonant; whereas a vowel cannot be produced before any one of these sounds without conscious effort: hence it was simpler to call k, ha than to call it ak. But the continuous sounds are pronounced when the necessary organs only approximate more or less closely to each other; the channel through which the sound passes from the larynx to the lips is never closed altogether, and by reason of this slightly open position a certain amount of vowel sound tends to escape just as the organs are drawing together to produce the consonant, and thus is heard before it; but to sound a vowel after one of these consonants the organs must be intentionally put into the proper position. Thus, then, exactly the same principle --- the conscious or unconscious striving for ease of articulation produces exactly opposite results in the case of the momentary and the continuous consonants. The same reason caused a different vowel to be employed for h and k from that which is used for the other letters. In sounding a the organs are in nearly the same position as in sounding these two gutturals, only a little more open; whereas the position of e is more nearly that of all the other consonants. It must of course be remembered that a Roman, if he had wished to speak of his A,B,C, would not have said, as we do, a-bee-see, but ah,bay,kay.
The arrangement of the letters of the alphabet has caused musch ingenious speculation. It has been more than once pointed out (as by Prof. Key, The Alphabet, p. 28) that there are certainly traces of regularity of arrangement. The three soft momentary sounds b, g, d, were placed together; and it is possible that p, k, t, (if denoted by Pe, koph, Tau), may have once been together, and separated by later intrusions; l,m, n, have an affinity more apparent than real, which was perpetuated by their meaningless designation as "liquids;" still, the appearance is sufficient to justify the idea that they may have been purposely put together. It has been suggested that the alphabet was at first composed of "four quaternions" of letters, each headed by a vowel, and the scattered positions of the vowels lends itself to this arrangement; but it must be remembered that the arrangement of the European alphabets is certainly the same as that of Phoenicia, and in the Phoenician there were breathings but no vowel symbols. Besides, the remaining letters are just as necessary as any sixteen which we might so arrange, and to all appearance just as ancient. The author of the New Cratylus, indeed (p. 170, ed. 3), actually drew up his list of fours: the three soft momentaries headed by aleph; then came h, followed by vau, chelth, and teth, oddly grouped as aspirated; then the three "liquids," with samekh behind them; and lastly, pe, koph, and tau, under the care of ayin. This, of course, renders it necessary to "omit caph, which is only a softened form of coph, the liquid resh, and the semi-vowel yodh, which aremore recent introduction." Also it is "quite certain that at the first there was only one sibilant samekh." In this was Dr Donaldson satisfies himself that the "original Semitic alphabet contained only sixteen letters." We give this futile attempt at arrangement with no wish to sneer at a philologer who did good work in his day, but simply to show the arbitrary nature of all such attempts, resting as they must do simply on internal evidence. If we bear in mind the history of the derivation of the Phoenician alphabet, as we have attempted to give it, from the Egyptian hieratic, we shall conclude that it is hardly probable that symbols borrowed for practical used should have been arranged upon any scientific method; that chance guided the general arrangement, though a few sounds obviously similar may have been put intentionally together. No argument can be drawn (as by Rodiger in his Hebrew Grammar) from the juxtaposition of two letters meaning a hand (yodh and kaph), two meaning a head (koph and resh), &c.; reasons have been given above for believing that these names have no relation to the original import of the signs, but were merely fanciful analogies drawn by the Phoenicians themselves; and it seems as possible that the juxtaposition may have suggested the idea of the names as that the names caused the arrangement. But if the argument be sound, it is valid against the supposition that the order was fixed throughout on scientific grounds.
It is quite certain that the Teutonic tribes of north-western Europe possessed characters of some sort before they received the Greek or Latin alphabets. These characters are generally called runes, and have been the subject of some sound scholarship and much baseless speculation. They may be divided into three main classes --- the Anglo-Saxon, the German, and the Scandinavian; each of these contain a number of list of characters, which, however, do not differ from each other more than the Greek alphabets; and there is so much likeness in the whole family that we may infer a common origin for all. The term rune is recognized as the name of a German letter by Venantius Fortunatus at the beginning of the seventh century, in the lines ----
Barbara fraxineis pingatur rhuna tabellis;
Quodque papyrus agit, virgule plana valet.
i.e., these characters were cut on smoothed ash-boughs. The meaning of the word run in Anglo-Saxon is a "secret;" and the verb rynan, which is derived from the same, means "to whisper" --- the same verb which appears in the now disused phrase, to "round in the ear." Runa denoted a magician, the word is contained in the German alruna, the well-known designation of those prophetesses whom the German tribes venerated, which appears corrupted by Tacitus (Germ. C. viii.) into aurinia. There is sufficient evidence to show that the knowledge of these runes was confined to a small class; that they were used as magical characters, and also as means of augury. It was for this reason undoubtedly that they were generally proscribed on the introduction of Christianity; and the reception of the Latin characters by the Anglo-Saxons was regarded as important as their reception of the Christian doctrines.
It is impossible to believe that the barbarous inhabitants of the German forest should have worked out for themselves a genuine alphabet before they came into intercourse with the civilized nations of the south. When we remember the long process through which a pure alphabet was reached by the highly-developed nations which dwelt on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, it is utterly incredible that such success should have been achieved, as it were, per saltum, under so much more unfavourable circumstances in the West. It must be asserted with some confidence that if the runes were genuine alphabets (which there seems no reason to deny), they must have been derived from the Phoenicians in process of commerce. There is quite sufficient similarity in several of the characters to make this view antecedently probable, but any historical proof would be extremely difficult, if not impossible. It is true that even where the characters resemble the Phoenician the names of the letters differ altogether; but this, as we have before seen in the case of Phoenicians themselves, is nowise unnatural when an alphabet in borrowed; the form is important, the name signifies little, and new names are attached according to the fancy of the borrowers. It is highly probable, both from the meaning of the word rune itself and from the evidence of foreign writers, that these symbols were not used by their owners for any of the ordinary ends of an alphabet (except, perhaps, for inscriptions) until the Teutonic nations came into contact with Greek and Romans civilization; by the mass of the people they were probably looked on simply as charms, the unknown symbols of an occult science. Nay, it might be held that even to the initiated they had merely a sort of hieroglyphic value, and were developed into phonetic significance only by the contact of the Greek and Roman alphabets. For this view, indeed, there is no evidence, and it is not in itself probable. But we should be driven to it if we were to suppose that the runes were the creation of the Teutonic intellect.
These ancient characters occur plentifully on memorial stones, rings, coins, &c., in Scandinavia. In England they have been found principally in Northumbria, Mercia and East Anglia. It has been suggested (by Mr Haigh) that this may be due to the milder principles of the Irish mocks, who restored Christianity to the north of England after its fall with Edwin in 633, and did not pursue that system of eradicating every trace of paganism which had been originally commanded by Gregory. Runie writing was even employed in the service of Christianity. Mr Kemble (Archaeologia, vol. xxviii. P. 349) interpreted with great ingenuity the mutilated inscription on the famous cross discovered at Ruthwell, and showed that it refers to the Crucifixion. But the Anglo-Saxon alphabet was soon --- early in the 7th century --- conformed to the Latin type, those letters of the older form alone being retained which were required to denote sounds that had no counterparts in Latin; there were _ (wen), and _ (thorn), the latter of which expresses the surd breathing heard in "thin:" in order to express the corresponding sonant (heard in "that," and confusedly denoted by the same compound th) a stroke was drawn across the simple d ( _), an d the new letter was called edh. The symbol _ is sometimes found instead of y. Curious admixtures of tunes with Latin characters occasionally occur even to late times. Thus, in the Codes Exoniensis (p. 400. ed. Thorpe), an enigma occurs in verse and the parts apparently of the subject to be guessed are written in runes; the odd effect is increase by these runes being written in the regular way --- (sometimes they were written ____________ --- from right to left, contrary to the general run of the words. Kemble, in the Archoelogia, has given an interesting translation of an Anglo-Saxon poem, each stanza of which begins with the name of runic letters; thus the first stanza begins with Fesh, "money," the name of f, the first runic letter, and goes on to say ----
"Money is a consolation
To every man:
Yet shall every man
Liberally distribute it;
If he will that, before God,
Honour shall fall to his lot."
The second stanza is dedicated to the bull, Ur (u), the third to thorn (th), &c. This poem accordingly gives the order of the alphabet, which agrees in the main with that of all other runic alphabets. Yet the poem is not old, for the name of s (Sigel, " the sun") is treated by the writer as though it has been Segel "a sail" ---- clearly a mistake of a later time, when the true name had passed out of use. It may be added that the names of this alphabet are sometimes strangely abstract; thus we find "gift," "hope." "need," "war," which differ much from the very concrete objects which the Phoenicians chose to denote their letters. In consequence of all these old alphabets beginning with the letters f, u, th, o, r, c, in the same order, the alphabets are called by some antiquarians "futhorcs," just as we commonly speak of the ordinary alphabet as the A B C.
The doctrines of Christianity were first presented to a Teutonic people in a written form by Ulfilas, who though not the first successful missionary to the Goths, has thereby established his claim to be regarded as the apostle of his race; and while body of the Goths, spurning the weak control of Rome, poured westward in their fierce career of victory towards Italy and Spain , a remnant was left in Maesia, to whom Ulfilas gave the gospel in their own tongue. This was at the end of the 4th century of our era. He employed an alphabet of twenty-four or twenty-five letters, some of which are unmistakably Greek in form; other are common (or nearly) to the Greek and the runic alphabets, and may therefore have been derived from either; but if they were runic, they at least received a more rounded form, it being no longer necessary to retain those angels which (as we saw above in describing the cuneiform characters) were most convenient in days when writing meant cutting on stone or wood. But some of the letters seem to be beyond doubt runic: most clearly so are f, r, u, y, and the symbol for the compound sound kw; and the reason for all these (except r) appears to be the lack of a proper equivalent in Greek. The letter which Ulfilas adopted to denote the surd breath th is not runic, so that the Gothic and Anglo-Saxon alphabets here differ: it is apparently the Greek _. It would seem, therefore, that this letter still denoted an aspirate (ph) in Greek, and not a breath, otherwise it would surely have been taken for f; here, on the contrary, it seems to have been selected at random from a list of symbols which denoted no corresponding sounds in Gothic. On the same lack of principle ____ was taken to denote hw. X was the exponent of the breath ch, as heard in German words: here the difference between the true aspirate and the breath is not great. Long o formed a symbol which is very like omega.
Another alphabet which has had an important influence on Europe, and which may be destined to a yet wider extension as the alphabet (in a modified form) of the great and progressive Russian empire, is the Cyrillic. This was the work of Cyril, a monk of Constantinople, who, together with Methodius, preached the gospel among the Sclavonic tribes of Bulgaria and Moravia, in the 9th century, long after the Teutons has come under the influence of Christianity. Cyril held the services of the church among his new converts in the vulgar tongue, into which he also translated certain books of the Scriptures. The alphabet which he employed for this purpose is more thoroughly Greek than that of Ulfilas; but since the Greek alphabet was not nearly sufficient to express all the Sclavonic sounds ----- especially the numerous sibilants --- he added further signs, the history of which is not clear. This alphabet has been largely adopted by the eastern branches of the Sclavonic race, including the Russians, Bulgarians, and the Illyrian division of the Sclaves. The old Bulgarian (coomonly called the Ecclesiastical Sclavonic) is the language into which Cyril translated the Scriptures; in philology it holds the same rank as the Gothic has among the Teutonic language: it is the parent, however, only of one of the least important dialects, the modern Bulgarian. The Illyrian family is divided into the Servians on the one hand, and the Croats and Slovenian peoples on the other. These parties are separated by difference of religion: the Servians belongs mainly to the Greek Church, while the others are exclusive Roman Catholic; and the members of the Greek Church naturally cling to the Cyrillic characters, while the Catholic have adopted the Latin alphabet. It is not easy to predict which characters will ultimately predominate. The Latin letters are insufficient to express the Sclavonic sounds; but this deficiency can be eked out by diacritical signs, and the greatest literary activity is shown by the Latinising party. Lastly, the Cyrillic alphabet has been adopted by the Wallachians, through the influence of their Sclavonic neighbours, though it is little adapted to express their essentially Latin speech, derived from the colonists whom Trajan settled in the new Roman province of Dacia. Most of the needless symbols have been dropped in the newest forms of the wallachian alphabet. (See Max Muller, Survey of Languages, pp. 39-84.)
Cyrils original alphabet consisted of forty-eight symbols, but some of these are slightly different representations of the same sound; others are tachygraphies for combinations of sounds, as sht, ts, &c. The names were not Greek, with the exception of three ---- ksi, psi and thita --- which were relegated to the end as unnecessary, but they retained their original Greek place as numerical signs, The alphabet is printed at the end of this article. It will be seen that B occupies the third place, while a modified B stands seconds: the reason is, that B had come to denote the v sound in Greek, and therefore carried this value into the Sclavonic. The modified letter denotes the old b sound. The 7th letter, which is not Greek, had the sound of English soft j, a letter softer than the French j in jamais. The 8th and 9th symbols are the Greek s and z: they are supposed to have had the same sounds, that of the soft English z (not dz) --- perhaps one of then may have originally denoted dz, a sound which easily passes into dj; dj had a special symbol bith in the Servaian and Wallachian, though it had none in the Cyrillic, probably because the sound had not then been produced; if it had, we may conclude, from the exactness which the Curillic alphabet everywhere shows, that it would not have been left without a mark. The 9th letter has been expelled from the Russian alphabet as superfluous: the
Russianbs have no dj sound. The 10th and 11th letters were sounded alike as i, the 10th is the Greek Eta, which had therefore become undistinguishable from Iota in Cyrils day, as it is in modern Greek. The 12th letter, I, pure and simple, denoted the semi-vowel y. The 22d was t, followed by a parasitic y. The 23d and 24th are only different ways of writing the same combination ou; the Greeks having changed the u, as the Greeks themselves did. The Russian has one symbol (Y) to denote this sound: it is probably a tachygraphy of the 24th. The 25th and 26th denoted respectively the breathings f and German ch. We may recall here the different treatment of _ by Ulfilas; it seems a fair inference that the sound of _ had changed from an aspirate to a breathing between the times of Ulfilas and Cyril. The 27th and 28th are the Greek Omega in the simple and in a modified form; they denoted the sounds heard in note and not respectively; these have been dropped in all the derived alphabets, in which the 17th letter does work for both. We now come to a series of letters (29-44) which are not Greek, and denote sounds which were probably unknown, or at least had no separate exponents, in the Greek system. The first four are sibilants, simple or compound. It will be remembered how the Greek dropped the large Phoenician stock of sibilants, through their own disinclination to such sounds. Cyril, however, did not go back to the original types, but had recourse to the inartistic expedient of using two or three upright strokes, will small modifiers below. Letter 29 is the compound ts, 30 denoted the fuller compound tsch (english ch in "church"), 31 is the simple sht, which in Russian is said to be expressible only by schtsch, unquestionably a very strong sibilant; the newer form of Wallachian used 29 to express dj. The letters 33-36 were attempts to express the neutral vowel (heard in English in fir, sum, &c.), the first two in its aspect nearest to u, the last two nearer to i. The first and last are important in Russian: They are written, but not pronounced; but the first hardens a preceding letters, or, if it be a continuous consonant, makes it be sounded as though it were double. The 36th, on the contrary, softens a preceding letter, giving it the mouille sound. The 34th letter has been dropped in Russian; the 35th has a peculiar kind of I sound. The 37th letter has an e sounds; it was apparently introduced into the alphabet in consequence of the polyphony of the original e, which in Russian does the work of e, o, and ae, and also of each of these preceded be the semi-vowel y; but as the new letter of these sounds, there is much gain of clearness. A third symbol, however, has been introduced --- an inverted e, GREEK SYMBOL, which did not however belong to the Cyrillic alphabet; it is used at the beginning of words where the pure e sounds is heard --- not ye, and also in foreign words beginning with _. Letters 38-40 are compounds expressing the u, an, and e sounds, preceded by y. The combinations seem to us needless , but the Greek has no symbol for y; therefore Cyril probably thought it necessary to connect the I-symbol with following vowel in order to show that tit was only the semi-vowel, not a full , which would have caused another syllable, The first of there symbols have been retained in Russian unchanged; the second is now written rather like an inverted r, _; the third was suffered to drop ---- whence arose the confusion respecting e which we have just mentioned. Nos. 41 and 42 denote nasalized vowels, e and o, as heard in the French en and on: these sounds seem to have fallen out of all Sclavonic languages, except the Polish. 43 and 44 denote the same vowels "pre-iotised," like the three 38-40: these also are now unknown. Then came the Greek Ksi and Psi, the characters being very slightly altered: they have fallen out of use altogether. No. 47, Thita, is retained in Russian, but sounded as an f, which has thus two exponents _ and _. Lastly came the equivalent of the Greek Upilson called ijica: this is employed in Russian in words borrowed from the Greek.
Fourteen of these letters have been expelled from the Russian alphabet, namely 8, 11, 22, 27, 28, 34, 40 46; their list of 35 letters is made up by the addition of the inverted e, which stands in the 31st place of the alphabet. The forms of the letters are more rounded than those of Cyril, as will be seen by a comparison of the two. This reform, among others, was due to Peter the Great, who printed the first Russian periodical at Moscow in 1704. (Max Muller, Servey, p. 49)
The Servian alphabet differs from the Russian chiefly by the insertion of symbols to denote modification of sound caused by following y. Thus we find a character to express dy (equivalent to the Hungarian gy heard in " Magyar"); another for ly, denoting the sound of the Italian gli; another for ny, the Italian and French gn; and one for ty, a softer sound than the tsch, the symbol for which is common to Russian and Servian.
The Wallachian adopted nearly all the Cyrillic characters, except the superfluous vowel-symbols and the nasalized vowels. The list was soon considerably shortened as was natural in a language originally non-Sclavonic, though in the course of time it has naturally borrowed many words from its neighbours. Since it has been used for literary purposes, it has been further diminished to 27 symbols by the loss of the short sibilant (32), the second e, and the iotised a; the other iotised vowels had gone before. The forms of the characters have also been much assimilated to the Latin types: instead of the peculiar symbol for sch, which the Russian retains, the new Wallachian has a J with a wavy stroke through the middle; n is written as N, not as H; and Cyrils combinations of perpendicular lines are more rounded than the Russian. The Wallachian has one special symbol (GREEK SYMBOL) to denote the sound __.
We have thus described the alphabets used in modern Europe. The only others which have any special interest for Englishmen are the different Indian alphabets; but these are too numerous and complicated to be fully described here.
TABLE :CYRILLIC AND RUSSIAN ALPHABETS.