9

On what logical basis are the English letters in the alphabet (a, b, c, ... x, y, z serially arranged? Is there a pattern in the occurrence of vowels (a, e, i, o, and u)? Is the sequence they follow adopted from another language?

  • It seems there is a sequence in the vowel order, roughly back-to-front, if we take the lips into account and not just the throat. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Feb 3 '15 at 13:52
  • 1
    They're in that order because of that song. youtube.com/watch?v=nMZpkeVV9mw :-) – Jay Feb 3 '15 at 14:52
  • What I want to know is if 'a' is at the beginning of the alphabet because it's descended from the Greek letter 'alpha', why isn't 'o' at the end of the alphabet since it was taken from omega? – Mark Feb 3 '15 at 17:23
  • 6
    @Mark The letter o is derived from omicron, not omega. It's in the same position as omicron, between nu and pi. – Andrew Leach Feb 3 '15 at 17:27
  • @Jay: one would expect their D's and T's to be more distinct. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Feb 3 '15 at 18:22
16

The short version is: the English alphabet is based on the Latinised version of the Greek alphabet, which in turn was inspired by the Phoenician alphabet.

The long version has little to do with English, although it can be a very interesting subject. You could start with this Wikipedia article.

3

It was the Greeks who inserted the vowel signs in their alphabet adopted from semitic alphabets which had no vowel signs. There seems to be some logic in the way they inserted the vowels in the alphabet but I have never read anything about it. They seem to have taken "a" as the first vowel with the fullest mouth opening, then by raising the tongue getting e and i and then by rounding the lips getting o and with more rounding getting u.

But I have no idea why the vowels have their special place in the alphabet. But astonishingly we have kept this order.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.