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Chapter 1. Why Writing Matters > Break the Code - Pg. 9

Why Writing Matters Phonemes are the sounds of a language. 9 Sometime around the eighth or ninth century B.C.E. , the Greeks borrowed the Phoenician writing system and used it as the basis of the alphabet we use today. When the Greeks adopted this writing system, some symbols didn't correspond to any sound used in spoken Greek. The Greeks, a clever bunch, used the leftover symbols for the vowel sounds they needed for Greek. The rest of the letters were kept as consonants. The Greeks also standardized the direction of the lines to read from left to right. Voilà! A real alphabet was born, circa 800 B.C.E. The Romans knew a good thing when they saw it, and decided to use this writing system as well. By 700 C.E. , the Roman alphabet was being used in Old English. The Greek alphabet also gave rise to the Cyrillic alphabet, devised by two Greek missionaries, St. Cyril and St. Methodius, in the ninth century C.E. This alphabet is still used in Eastern Europe and Russia. The North Semitic alphabet also gave rise to the Aramaic alphabet, which spread eastward to develop into the Asian alphabets, such as Hindi. The creation of the alphabet revolutionized writing. Why was the alphabet such a great thing for writing? · The alphabet can represent all the significant sounds, or phonemes, of a language with only a few characters. · The alphabet was much easier to learn. · The alphabet was much simpler to use than picture systems. · The alphabet helped standardize written communication. · The alphabet helped prevent tragic miscommunication.