Customer Review

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but doesn't go far enough., 5 Jun 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Alpha Beta: How 26 Letters Shaped the Western World (Paperback)
This book is very much about the evolution of the Latin alphabet, and more or less stops after the Romans had finished its development in 200 BC or so. We get a quick tour of the history of the Cyrillic alphabet and its spread into non-Russian cultures, but next to nothing on how the Latin alphabet has been used in non-European countries. For example, the author tells us nothing about how Turkey changed from Arabic to Latin script in the 1920's, which has to be a tale worth telling. In an early section about how well different languages match spelling to sounds, he says that "Russsian isn't bad, because they had the benefit of a revolution", but fails to elaborate on that statement, either there or in the later chapter about Cyrillic.
Making this a book about the evolution of the Latin alphabet makes for a more straightforward story, but it left me wanting to know more about all the other alphabets out there, and how they ended up being so different from each other, despite sharing a common ancestry: alphabetic writing was only invented *once* and everyone else either copied their neighbour's alphabet or copied the idea of an alphabet from them.
Despite all of the above quibbles I did enjoy this book. The evolution of our alphabet is a fascinating story and John Man tells it well, but it is very much the story of *our* alphabet.
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