Download e-book for kindle: Alpha Beta: How 26 Letters Shaped the Western World by John Man

By John Man

ISBN-10: 0471211699

ISBN-13: 9780471211693

Compliment for Alpha Beta
"This e-book comes on the ideal second as we rediscover the significance in early analyzing of cracking the alphabetic code. the tale of the way that code got here into being is an engaging one, and guy is the appropriate author to inform it." instances academic Supplement

"A richly soaking up exploration, from B.C. to desktops, of the evolution of the main primary characters of our cultural historical past, the alphabet we a lot take without any consideration. John guy writes with a compellingly stressed interest and immediacy. The ever superb, exotically precise narrative in his informative e-book makes it as undryly relaxing as a profitable archaelogical dig of 1 of Alan Moorehead s colourful histories of African exploration." David Grambs, writer of The Describer s Dictionary and The Endangered English Dictionary

"Text that's crisp, taut, and as transparent as a bell.... a desirable tale with many a beguiling subplot alongside the way." New Scientist

"Letter ideal the easiest histories and mysteries of our ABC s!" Jeff McQuain, writer of by no means sufficient phrases and gear Language

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Extra info for Alpha Beta: How 26 Letters Shaped the Western World

Sample text

It is a monolith, like the one in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, shall we say. It was built to last, and it has done so as well as the pyramids (which still endure, poking up through the floods of a vastly extended Mediterranean). On it are sets of pictures. Their purpose mirrors the worst and the best of a vanished civilization. Beneath the feet of the settlers, their distant ancestors tried to seal up the fuel that had once seemed a miracle, and became a curse. In their wisdom and deep concern, the ancestors wished to issue a lasting warning.

Eighty-five per cent of Uruk’s tablets keep account of food, livestock and textiles. Obviously, it was good enough as a shorthand for priests, who knew what they were talking about. But it was an imperfect accounting system. Is the sheep income, or a debt, or outgoing? Is it alive or dead? When was the transaction agreed, when fulfilled? Such problems multiplied as wealth and complexity grew, throwing up disputes over land ownership, irrigation rights, boundaries, inheritance. A pictorial, or ideographic, system simply won’t work for anything more than the most childlike forms of accounting.

Then there is the code, the form in which the message is couched. Words were out, because all linguistic links would have gone. CDs might encode enough information (though Sebeok’s advice predated computerized CDs) – but who would bet on the survival of electric power, let alone computers, let alone compatible ones? No ideogram could work, because its conventional context would have vanished. A human figure holding up a forbidding hand could be seen as a ritual welcome. The American ‘OK’ sign – thumb and forefinger forming a circle – elsewhere means ‘money’ (in Japan), ‘zero’ (in France) or an obscenity (in ancient Greece).

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Alpha Beta: How 26 Letters Shaped the Western World by John Man

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