In article <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Thomas Bushnell, BSG <email@example.com> wrote:
>It is true that the near-eastern "alphabets" are not properly >alphabets. The real test is whether they represent every phoneme. >Because the near-eastern scripts leave out vowels, they aren't proper >alphabets.
>But this is also a matter of degree. The classical Greek alphabet >does not distinguish long and short alpha, for example, which is a >phonemic difference. Similarly, until accent marks were invented, it >did not distinguish different accents, which are also phonemic in >ancient Greek.
Not many languages, I think, have a distinct representation for each phoneme. Certainly not English. Maybe some languages with a restricted set of phonemes. Is the International Phonetic Alphabet the only true alphabet for the English language?
>However, you are incorrect about there being some natural reason for >near-eastern scripts to not need vowels but IE languages to need >them. Fr xmpl, y cn rd ths prtt wll, cnt y? nglsh cn b rlbly rd b >ppl wtht vwls, mst f th tm. And Hebrew did finally decide to start >writing in the vowels because things had gotten too hard.
The Hebrew vowel marks (nekudot) were invented for biblical texts, where for religious reasons it was important to get the pronunciation right even if you didn't understand the meaning. They are not generally used in modern Hebrew.
Robert Israel firstname.lastname@example.org Department of Mathematics http://www.math.ubc.ca/~israel University of British Columbia Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z2