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Quiz about Into the origins of Western language alphabets
Quiz about Into the origins of Western language alphabets

Into the origins of Western language alphabets Quiz


Alphabets are one of the most useful inventions, contributing immensely to the development of our world. Still, more people know in which school Madonna studied than where and how their writing system developed. To change that, play THIS Quiz!

A multiple-choice quiz by zanazana. Estimated time: 6 mins.
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Author
zanazana
Time
6 mins
Type
Multiple Choice
Quiz #
259,250
Updated
Dec 03 21
# Qns
10
Difficulty
Tough
Avg Score
6 / 10
Plays
2434
Awards
Top 10% Quiz
Question 1 of 10
1. The first written language appeared around 3300 BC and used cuneiform (wedge-shaped) elements instead of the previous pictograms, and writing direction was changed to left-to-right in horizontal rows. Which is that language? Hint


Question 2 of 10
2. The first Semitic language developed around 2500 BC, in the Mesopotamia Region. Which was it? Hint


Question 3 of 10
3. The Egyptian hieroglyphs dating from 3100 BC are signs which could represent anything from a single consonant to a whole word and even "determinatives" that help the reader understand a group of preceding signs. Although very different, they can be considered the source of all Semitic writing systems. Two undeciphered scripts, dated 1800 and 1500 BC, form the evidence for an intermediate script form. In which (modern days) country were they found? Hint


Question 4 of 10
4. English letters have names that do not relate to anything other than the identification of the letter. The Semitic alphabet signs, however, although representing in many cases the same sound, have names with more ramifications. What do these names represent? Hint


Question 5 of 10
5. This alphabet's appearance is registered to the 19th century BC and is predecessor to almost all the Semitic alphabets (and the Thai and Mongol in the East, but that is another quiz). It had 30 elements and the Hebrew alphabet is its closest living descendant. What is the name of this ancient alphabet? Hint


Question 6 of 10
6. The Greek alphabet, the direct predecessor of the Latin alphabet (among others) and consequently of most of the current western world, is actually a 9th century BC close adaptation of an extinct Semitic alphabet. Which alphabet was it? Hint


Question 7 of 10
7. The Greeks did not invent the alphabet, but modified it so as to facilitate its use and consequently its popularity. Which was this welcomed modification? Hint


Question 8 of 10
8. At around the 8th century BC, a new influential Afro-Asiatic language emerged, with scripts found in today's Yemen and Iraq. Curiously, the scripts showed that the language was written in a completely different alphabet than the one actually used today. Which language made this alphabetic switch? Hint


Question 9 of 10
9. In 1000 BC the Hebrew language used the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet, but by 500 BC, during the exile to Babylon, it adopted the alphabet of the language used by most of the Middle East region population at the time. Which language was it? Hint


Question 10 of 10
10. Here is a question about text directionality. Modern Greek is written from left-to-right (dextroverse), while others, such as Arabic and Hebrew, are written right-to-left (sintroverse). The Egyptian hieroglyphs, among other writing systems, are written in the boustrophedon method. What direction is this? Hint



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Quiz Answer Key and Fun Facts
1. The first written language appeared around 3300 BC and used cuneiform (wedge-shaped) elements instead of the previous pictograms, and writing direction was changed to left-to-right in horizontal rows. Which is that language?

Answer: Sumerian

Sumerian ("native tongue") of Sumer was spoken in Southern Mesopotamia (today's southeastern Iraq) from 4000 BC and their first use of a writing system was registered in the city of Uruk and Jamdat Nasr (3300 BC).

The Sumerian writing system is classified as logophonetic, meaning that its signs represent both meaningful words (morphemes) and sounds. Wet clay tablets were the medium used to register commercial transactions and later laws. Five millennia later, the Hebrew word Ha'kak means both to engrave and to legislate.

The spoken Sumerian language virtually died by the 18th century BC, but its writing system was in use until 100 CE. Thus, Sumerian died at the age of 4000.
2. The first Semitic language developed around 2500 BC, in the Mesopotamia Region. Which was it?

Answer: Akkadian

Akkadian language developed from Sumeric and was named after the city of Akkad (close to today's Baghdad) with the rise of the Akkadian dynasty. It was also spoken by Assyrians and Babylonians.

Since the Sumerian and Akkadian spoken languages are very different, the Sumerian signs were adopted for their sound rather than meaning and became more syllabic (usually consonant + vowel). At this point in time, our writing system have "only" 800 signs.
3. The Egyptian hieroglyphs dating from 3100 BC are signs which could represent anything from a single consonant to a whole word and even "determinatives" that help the reader understand a group of preceding signs. Although very different, they can be considered the source of all Semitic writing systems. Two undeciphered scripts, dated 1800 and 1500 BC, form the evidence for an intermediate script form. In which (modern days) country were they found?

Answer: Egypt

Stone carved inscriptions, dated to 1800 BC, were found in Wadi el-Hol, Quena (along the Nile), by John and Deborah Darnell.

The second group of inscriptions, which are carved graffiti, was found in the Sinai peninsula (in Serabit el-Khadim) by William F. Petrie and is dated to 1500 BC.

Both locations are considered to be on important commercial paths, suggesting the critical role of trading in cultural development.
4. English letters have names that do not relate to anything other than the identification of the letter. The Semitic alphabet signs, however, although representing in many cases the same sound, have names with more ramifications. What do these names represent?

Answer: Names of real world objects

Presumably translated from the hieroglyphic script system through the Proto-Sinaitic, the element names of several Semitic alphabets are related to the shapes of objects that were represented by the Phoenician alphabet.

For example, the letters named Daleth and Kaph had the shape of a "Delet" and a "Kaph" (a door and a hand in Hebrew), respectively. This graphical correspondence was preserved only partially in Hebrew.
5. This alphabet's appearance is registered to the 19th century BC and is predecessor to almost all the Semitic alphabets (and the Thai and Mongol in the East, but that is another quiz). It had 30 elements and the Hebrew alphabet is its closest living descendant. What is the name of this ancient alphabet?

Answer: Proto-Sinaitic

The people living in today's Sinai area were conquered by the Egyptians, from whom they adopted 30 signs to represent the sounds of their own Semitic language. It spread to Canaan (it is also known as Proto-Canaanite) and developed into Phoenician after 500 years.

Curiously, we know almost nothing about the people that created the first pure consonantal alphabet and consequently reduced the number of signs to a manageable number.
6. The Greek alphabet, the direct predecessor of the Latin alphabet (among others) and consequently of most of the current western world, is actually a 9th century BC close adaptation of an extinct Semitic alphabet. Which alphabet was it?

Answer: Phoenician

The Phoenician people were marine merchants who needed an instrument to write spoken languages, and ended up spreading their alphabet as far as Ireland. As is the case today, differently-spoken languages were written using the same set of elements.

Greek, the oldest (spoken) language in use today, has a documented history of 3,500 years. It is also one of the earliest attested Indo-European languages, matched only by the Anatolian languages and Vedic Sanskrit.
7. The Greeks did not invent the alphabet, but modified it so as to facilitate its use and consequently its popularity. Which was this welcomed modification?

Answer: They introduced the written vowels, as previous alphabets had only consonants

The Phoenician alphabet, like all Semitic alphabets, is an abjad (consonantary) alphabet. Abjad (derived from the first 4 elements of Arabic) alphabets are those alphabets in which consonants ("things that sound along"), but not vowels, have representations.

In semi-abjad alphabets, like Hebrew and Arabic, vowels exist in the form of characters and Nikud (dots), and their use is optional.

The Greeks added vowel symbols to accompany consonants, thus generating a pronounceable unit, reducing the need to learn the pronunciation of each and every word.
8. At around the 8th century BC, a new influential Afro-Asiatic language emerged, with scripts found in today's Yemen and Iraq. Curiously, the scripts showed that the language was written in a completely different alphabet than the one actually used today. Which language made this alphabetic switch?

Answer: Arabic

Arabic, a Central Semitic language, is closely related to Aramaic and Hebrew and has the largest number of speakers among the Semitic family (>200 million).

The first inscriptions (the Hasaean) in (spoken) Arabic language were written in a variant of the epigraphic South Arabic musand (related to today's Ethiopian), not the Nabataean, the ancestor of modern Arabic alphabet. Thanks to the spread of Islam, non-Semitic languages, like Persian and Urdu, adopted the Arabic alphabet.
9. In 1000 BC the Hebrew language used the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet, but by 500 BC, during the exile to Babylon, it adopted the alphabet of the language used by most of the Middle East region population at the time. Which language was it?

Answer: Aramaic

The Aramaic language, the language spoken by Jesus and today by the Assyrians, used the "cursive" Phoenician alphabet before creating a variation of it, introducing the "square" style. In turn, variations on the Aramaic alphabet created the (old) Hebrew and Nabataen alphabets.

The adoption of the Aramaic alphabet, and consequently the Aramaic spoken language, led to the virtual extinction of Hebrew language from daily use; it remained as a literary and liturgical language. Also, the Hebrew alphabet was used to write, in Aramaic language, the Daniel and Ezra books of the Hebrew Bible and the 400-600 AD Jewish oral laws known as the Talmud.

On the other hand, the adoption of the Aramaic alphabet forced the use of a few characters also as vowels (like "aleph" and "yodh" for "a" and "e", respectively), as not all Hebrew sounds were represented (Greek vowels were not used as consonants). The "Nikud" system to represent vowels is a 9th century CE invention.
10. Here is a question about text directionality. Modern Greek is written from left-to-right (dextroverse), while others, such as Arabic and Hebrew, are written right-to-left (sintroverse). The Egyptian hieroglyphs, among other writing systems, are written in the boustrophedon method. What direction is this?

Answer: Starting horizontally in one direction, than turning at the end of the line and reversing direction

In hieroglyphs, the elements "face" the beginning of the line, so the reader must consider in which direction the "bird", for example, is looking. But the boustrophedon ("ox-turning") direction is not an Egyptian exclusivity. It was one of the possibilities (among dextroverse and sintroverse) of writing Greek before the adoption of the modern dextroverse in the 5th century BC.

In contrast, traditional Chinese has been written vertically (top-to-bottom), from the right to the left of the page. The only top-to-bottom, left-to-right script is the Mongolian, actually an adaptation of a Semitic direction to the Chinese style. Several scripts in Indonesia and Philippines are written with lines away from the writer, from bottom to top.
Source: Author zanazana

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