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Importance of vowels??

Printed From: WorldHistoria Forum
Forum Name: Linguistics
Forum Description: Discuss linguistics: the study of language
Printed Date: 16 Dec 2019 at 11:55
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Topic: Importance of vowels??
Posted By: franciscosan
Subject: Importance of vowels??
Date Posted: 10 Nov 2016 at 12:56
Ancient Greek adopts certain Phoenician letters for the use of vowels, and thus comes up with the alphabet.  Can anyone explain the significance of this development in language, transforming the syllabary into a audio depiction of the words?  It seems like this was key to separating written culture away from the monopoly of the scribes attached to the priesthood and the temples.  The 'addition' of vowels seems like such a small thing, but with an enormous impact, but it seems so huge that at the same time it is a little nebulous.  I would like to hear others perspective of this.

Posted By: franciscosan
Date Posted: 26 Nov 2016 at 11:16
If the written record reflects the spoken word, then you can expand your own reading vocabulary by sounding out words, after learning the alphabet of course.  If however, the written record does not reflect the spoken word, because there are no vowels, or even only pictograms, then one must rely on a scribal class that already is familiar with what they are reading and can supply, for example, the necessary vowels.  That scribal class is related to the priests, and thus you really don't have public literacy.  According to Havelock, you really don't have a public literacy until a literate public has developed in the 4th c BC Athens.  It is having the readers (not the writers) that determines when a literate public develops, and still that is only probably 10% of the population.  Although a basic familiarity with, say, the alphabet, goes beyond that 10%.

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