Top positive review
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An Unconventional and Stimulating Look at Expressing Ideas
on 22 September 2001
If you are like me, this book will surprise you. I expected something like 26 chapters with each saying something about each letter of the alphabet and its origin.
Instead, the book tries to find the earliest precursors of the modern alphabet, and connect the dots from there to the use of modern languages on the World Wide Web. In doing so, the book relies on a combination of interesting conjecture, reviews of well-established but little-known scholarship, and cutting-edge, in-process research that will be new to most readers who are not in linguistics.
In reading Alpha Beta, the insights you get will be different from what you expected. An alphabet works well because it fits a lot of languages equally poorly. As such, it is a form of "fuzzy logic" that mathematicians love. Korea has developed the alphabet that is most closely connected to its base language. Most alphabets succeed because of the military and commercial strength of the culture that favors them, rather than how good they are. The mixtures of ancient alphabets, languages, and religions are much more complex than you probably ever imagined. The process of taking an oral tradition, and making it into a written one is also powerfully explained (as happened with both the Bible and Homer's masterpieces).
I graded the book down because it tended to tell me more than I wanted to know about how each of the cultures evolved, and less than I wanted to know about the details of how an alphabet's creation solved specific language problems.
After you finish this book, think about what the potential benefits could be of reforming the alphabet to eliminate more of the confusions inherent in expressing English. What would make it easier to be precise in this language, while making the language easier to learn?
Make your point clearly!...