The idea behind the alphabet - that language with all its wealth of meaning can be recorded with a few meaningless signs - is an extraordinary one. So extraordinary, in fact, that it has occurred only once in human history: in Egypt about 4000 years ago. Alpha Beta follows the emergence of the western alphabet as it evolved into its present form, contributing vital element...more
Until it isn't. I swear the last chapter was meant to lead into something wonderful that he forgot to write. We're learning about the Glagolitic alphabet and the history of the Russian church and the invention of Cyrillic letters and their spread to Mongolia an ...more
- evolution of language over time - how pictograms/cuneiform were sufficient for basic mercantile records but became limited for more complex and universal writing (e.g. Egypt's scribe class alone could master literacy), and so societies developed alphabets under certain conditions (but the book also stresses that richly nuanced and ...more
In his excellent book, John Man traces its origins to the region between Ancient Egypt and the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East. He speculates (convincingly) that the alphabet was the work of merchants who modified the ideograms of Egypt and rendered them as sounds.
I was particularly impress ...more
The writing style is solid and engaging really drew me into the book. There are several anecdotes and side-stories that pop up as you read through the text that help keep everything exciting and interesting.
I would say any ...more
If anyone wanted to read this book, I would tell them not to get intimidated :) It's not a ha ...more
Were I to clamor for a re-make, I'd ask for
* more graphics
* clearer discussion of the orthographic terms (I'm not sure if I was at an advantage or disadvantage as a linguist; I thought he did not address the linguistically salient points between a lot of the terms but I also felt that layfolk would be confused)
* re-organize! tangents are ...more
Worth reading if you're interested in the subject but know next to nothing about it, otherwise I ...more
I would go as far as to say that this book was mind blowing to me. Such an intense and different look into world history than what we are used to.
Some very interesting information and speculations are brought to light, that I was completely unaware of.
A unique and ambitious look into human history and the development of nations and theo ...more
He studied German and French at Keble College, Oxford, before doing two postgraduate courses, a diploma in the History and Philosophy of Science at Oxford and Mon ...more