Teach yourself to read Russian in 33 minutes

Preface | Before you go on | Origin of Russian Alphabet | Introduction | Table | Comments | Conclusion | Exercises


The alphabet family tree http://phoenicia.org/alphabet.html


Ancient Phoenicians invented alphabet (by about 1200 B.C.). Phoenician alphabet was used to form the other alphabets in Europe (via Greek, Etruscan, Latin) and Middle East (Hebrew, Arabic). It was a significant step in abstraction: transition from pictorial to phonetic presentation of information. The extreme cases of these two approaches are:

  1. One word - one sign (picture, hieroglyph) - a word is elementary part of a language (one has to remember all of them).
  2. One sound - one sign (letter) - a letter is "an atom" of a language, which it is built of. The advantage of this approach is that the number of sounds used in any language is much less then number of words (but strictly speaking is infinite too, by the way).

None of real alphabets and languages belongs to the extremes. Even some of Egyptian hieroglyphs presented sounds.

 Russian is pretty close to the second case. Because of this in Russian there is no spelling problem. However it does not completely satisfy the principle "One sound - one letter". In many cases it is so but there are some exception.

  Because of exceptions, It would be correct to define a syllable as an atom in Russian. A syllable is a vowel ( vowels ) surrounded by consonants (from zero to probably not more than four). Example:  strashno  (scaring) consists of two syllables. short i is the short variant of I but formally belongs to consonants because it does not form syllables.

 Repeated letters represent repeated sounds. In the case of consonants one is the end and another the beginning of adjacent syllables:    - dlin-no-she-ye-ye. This native Russian word means, "long-necked" (obviously dinosaur, which proves that Russia is the origin of these creatures as well as other natural wonders and technological achievements).

Remark. The above language tree is a simplified picture, see e.g. this remark.

Origin of Russian Alphabet


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©Nikolai Shokhirev, 2002-2010