SV: Vital Statistics

Lars Martin Fosse lmfosse at ONLINE.NO
Fri Jan 7 15:10:38 UTC 2000

Bharat Gupt [SMTP:abhinav at DEL3.VSNL.NET.IN] skrev 04. januar 1980 01:39:
> Take the case of Greek. Why have the Greeks not given up their script and
> changed to
> Roman script ?

Even if the Greek letters look slightly differently, the alphabet is based on
the same principle as the Roman system of writing. The Greeks have nothing to
gain from introducing the Latin alphabet, and there is VERY long tradition for
using Greek letters. They are also quick and easy to learn. However, in
scholarly publications texts in ancient Greek are sometimes given in the Roman
alphabet for the sake of typographical convenience. Nothing is lost, it just
looks funny (seen from the point of view of a classical scholar).

It is not just a matter of identity, it is also losing
> accesibility to
> ancient texts. In making the script simpler for modern Greek there is aready
> damage.
> The accents or rather the tones or svaras have been lost and thus
> pronunciation has been
> affected.

Originally, Greek writing did not use accents. The accents were introduced at a
fairly late stage paradoxically because spoken Greek lost them. The ancient
philologists then needed accents to know how the old texts were pronounced.
Accents come and go in languages: Lithuanian has tonal accents, but is losing
them, Norwegian has tonal accents but they are not written. Punjabi has
acquired tonal accents and lost aspirated stops instead.

The many varieties of the Roman script system shows that the principle of "one
phoneme - one letter" works well and is attractive. In English and several
other languages, there is such a thing as historical spelling, which
particularly in the case of English makes a mockery of this very central
principle of Roman script. I would add that any graphical representation of
letters based on the same principle ("one phoneme - one letter") would be
equally practical to Roman.

Otherwise, I would like to point out that from an esthetic point of view, both
Devanagari and Arabic writing are vastly superior to Roman, which for all its
practical value is a boring little alphabet.

Best regards,

Lars Martin Fosse

Dr. art. Lars Martin Fosse
Haugerudvn. 76, Leil. 114,
0674 Oslo
Phone/Fax: +47 22 32 12 19
Email: lmfosse at

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