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The ABCs Of The English Alphabet

We all know the alphabet song. But how did the alphabet get to be the way it is?
We all know the alphabet song. But how did the alphabet get to be the way it is?

If you grew up in the U.S., one of the first things you learned as a kid was probably the alphabet. We can all sing the song. 

The alphabet is the foundation for much of Western language. It’s how we find information and organize much of our lives.

But this idea that the alphabet rules all has potentially harmful implications for how we think about languages that don’t have an alphabet, like Chinese. 

And is it kind of…outdated?

From The Guardian:

I began to think that an alphabetical arrangement by theme might have introduced some refreshing randomness, allowing for quirky connections and digressions. Buried in the book’s dutiful attention to detail, though, lies an intriguing history not just of alphabetical order but of the human need for both pattern and intellectual efficiency.

It may be a good moment to tell the hidden history of alphabetical order, when computer algorithms seem ready to do away with it. Who bothers with an A-Z atlas or a phone book in the age of the smartphone satnav and the search engine?

What does alphabetical order accomplish? And are there any alternatives?

Copyright 2020 WAMU 88.5

Haili Blassingame

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