Alphabets

I have always been intrigued by alphabets, which may go hand-in-hand with my delight at reading dictionaries. Whilst I know learning Latin and Greek until I was sixteen may have been part of this fascination, it extends to an interest in all alphabets from cuneiform to the beautifully fluid scripts of classical Sanskrit and Mandarin Chinese. The seemingly simply identification of certain sounds with certain designs on a piece of paper, carved into stone or cut into clay has given us a means of communication without which we could not have created a meaningful legal system, and without that we could not have developed large societies.

But putting the identification aside, what we have centred are minds upon is in fact, art.

The development of letters, begun crudely and without sophisticated writing materials, has accompanied us on our travels to understand ourselves and the universe around us, and is in essence ‘design with meaning’. Alphabets are all wonderfully creative, with ties to nature and history in every stroke. As we dash off a quick note, or scribble a wayward signature in a hurry to be done with it, I wonder how often we think that we are touching everything we are and everything we know and everything we wish we could be.

Perhaps our alphabets know more about us than we do ourselves.

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August 2018
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