Alphabets - Research Article from Encyclopedia of Religion

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ALPHABETS. This article concerns lore, mystical beliefs, and magical practices involving the alphabet and its letters in the civilizations and religious traditions that use them. The term alphabet generally refers to those scripts derived from the original Phoenician aleph-bet that have roughly one sign and only one sign for every phoneme, or at least, as in Phoenician, Hebrew, and Arabic, every consonant phoneme. Logographic writing such as Chinese, and syllabaries such as the Maya "glyphs" (largely deciphered in recent decades), Japanese katakana and hiragana, Indian devanāgarī, and the Ethiopian "geʾez" are therefore excluded from the following discussions, even though the last two derive ultimately from the Phoenician script. However, Near Eastern precursors of the alphabet, such as cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphics and their offshoots, will be discussed.

Origin of Writing

The beginnings of writing can be traced back to the fourth millennium BCE and earlier in...

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This section contains 4,676 words
(approx. 16 pages at 300 words per page)
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Macmillan
Alphabets from Macmillan. Copyright © 2001-2006 by Macmillan Reference USA, an imprint of the Gale Group. All rights reserved.