Thursday, 8 September 2016

Alphabet Soup

"'There's the alphabet, a Phoenician invention.'"
-Poul Anderson, "Ivory, And Apes, And Peacocks" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006), pp. 229-331 AT p. 251.

"...when the Greeks became literate again after their Dark Age it would be by borrowing the ancestral alphabet from the Phoenicians. The Romans would get it from the Greeks and then pass their version down to Western civilization..."
-SM Stirling, Against The Tide of Years (New York, 1999), Chapter One, p. 8.

In Anderson's History of Technic Civilization, Western civilization is followed by Technic civilization, speaking Anglic and, for trading purposes, League Latin. Meanwhile, we use Roman letters and Arabic numerals. L Sprague de Camp's time traveler, Martin Padway, introduces Arabic numerals to the Romans just as Stirling's William Walker introduces the Roman alphabet to the ancestors of the Greeks. Anderson's Time Patrol will speak Temporal and use post-Arabic numerals. We are comparing four fictitious timelines here, two by Anderson and one each by de Camp and Stirling.

The Phoenicians invented the alphabet in which each written letter represents a sound, not an image, idea or entire word. Apparently:

Roman letters developed from Greek which developed from Phoenician;
some words can be transliterated from Greek into English, e.g., the letters iota, delta, epsilon and alpha correspond to i, d, e and a, "idea."

By writing about time travel to ancient periods, Anderson and Stirling engage with issues like the evolution of language.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

And I'm sure the Anglic speakers of Technic civilization continued to use Roman letters. And I wonder how different the Anglic of Dominic Flandry's time would appear to us? Different enough that he had to read a translation of one of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poems, as mentioned in A KNIGHT OF GHOSTS AND SHADOWS.

And I remember how William Walker taught the Roman alphabet to an Achaean scribe in Mycenae. At first Enkhelyawon was anxious, thinking a script and alphabet so easy to learn would mean there would be little need for scribes like him. But, Walker assured him that was not so, the new script would mean there would be MORE need for scribes. So they could staff the civil service Walker was planning to set up.


David Birr said...

Creating a BUREAUCRACY. He truly IS Evil.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, David!

Ha, ha, ha!!! I can and do see what you mean! All the same, a bureaucracy, civil service, administrative staff, however you want to call it, is necessary. And all governments, good or bad, will have one.