Alphabet, Abjad and so forth

Scott Sadowsky lists at SPANISHTRANSLATOR.ORG
Fri Mar 15 04:22:34 UTC 2002

On 3/14/2002 14:52, James A. Landau wrote the following:

>I should have been a little more careful in my description.  It should
>have read that only the four main columns (those under A, B, C, and D)
>were being discussed.  The other letters were inserted (a little
>carelessly) only to show that, except for the C-G inversion, this tableau
>can be made to work with the Latin alphabet as used in English.

Thanks for your response.  In light of it, though, I'm a bit puzzled
something in the original message:

>Conclusion:  way back when (circa 1500 BC) the scribes who started using the
>alphabet knew enough about phonetics to sort the alphabet by related sounds.

Am I mistaken in understanding that this conclusion is based on how letters
created by speakers of one language are used by speakers of an entirely
different language some three millennia later?

>H, whether sounded or not, has no relatives in the Latin alphabet and no
>matter where it gets placed it is out of sequence.

Would it not be more prudent to question the validity of the sequence, or
the table itself, rather than that of the letter H?

>Is it scholarly consensus that Latin lacked a /v/ sound?

I don't know that that question has ever been answered definitively, but
Latin certainly did develop this sound at some point in its evolution, as
it exists in every Romance language I can think of except Spanish, where
/b/ and /v/ merged some time around 1500, give or take a century either way.

I imagine that some would argue that the Vulgar Latin that these languages
arose from isn't the real thing, though, further complicating things.

>The /ks/ diphthong is interesting because it is a hard C followed by a soft C.

I'm curious about this use of "diphthong" to refer to consonant clusters
instead of vowels.  Is this current anywhere?  I can't find a reliable
linguistic source that doesn't limit "diphthong" to vowels.

>   Whether that is relevant to anything, I really can't say.  Was X
> originally used in Latin as a guttural?  And if so, is it classified as
> voiced, unvoiced, or neither?

But is this table not supposed to apply to English, and not Latin?

>I don't know if pairing R and Y makes sense...

That would depend very much on just what R we're talking about.  A tap or
trill R would certainly have little in common with Y, except for
voicing.  An approximant R, on the other hand, would have both voicing and
method of articulation in common with Y (IPA [j]).

>  but if you do so then S and Z pair nicely and lets me claim there is at
> least one voiced consonant in the last row.

In the last row?  If this still pertains to English, V, Y and Z are all
voiced (U, too, for that matter).


Scott Sadowsky  --  Spanish-English / English-Spanish Translator

sadowsky at ยท sadowsky at
"We view the subject in language as decentering the transcendental ego,
cutting through it, and opening it up to a dialectic in which its syntactic
and categorical understanding is merely the liminary moment of the process,
which is itself always acted upon by the relation to the other dominated by
the death drive and its productive reiteration of the 'signifier'."

   -- Julia Kristeva, "Revolution in Poetic Language", conclusively
demonstrating that language can indeed exist independently of semanticity.

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