Archive for the ‘Alphabet’ Category

Goveret cuts reove letters ‘m’ and ‘n’ from alphabet

Posted on April 25th, 2011by Michelle
In Alphabet, English, Words | Leave a Comment »

.Another day, another amusing language-related story from NewsBiscuit. This one is about the government removing the letters ‘m’ and ‘n’ from the alphabet due to cuts.

The real cleverness is in the writing of the article though – it contains no ‘m’s or ‘n’s:

David Caero ade the shock aouceet i the house of coos today that the alphabet would shrik to just twety four letters with iediate effect, sayig that “Labour left us owig billios ad billios of pouds ad tough decisios have to be ade”.

Ed Illibad was the first of the Labour P’s to code the ove as cyical ad uecesary, sayig that agai the goveret had got it wrog cuttig too quickly ad to deeply affectig the poorest ad ost vulerable i society. Ick Clegg supported the coalitio lie o this issue sayig, “I kow i proised ot to reduce the uber of letters before the electio but I had y figers crossed” leadig to shouts of Resig! Resig! from the labour beches.

Surprisingly it’s still fairly easy to read these paragraphs. It reminds me of the internet meme saying a researcher at Cambridge University had found that you can still read words where the letters are jumbled up, as long as the first and last letters are correct. More on the science (and truth) behind that here

Worldwide spelling alphabets

Posted on November 3rd, 2009by Michelle
In Alphabet, English, Spanish, Words | Leave a Comment »

Spelling alphabetRecently I tried to use the spelling alphabet (Alfa, Bravo, Charlie) when I needed to spell something here in Spain (haven’t completely grasped the Spanish alphabet yet). To my surprise, I found out it is not as universal as I thought.

In fact, there are different countries have their own spelling alphabets, as this site (although old) shows. Spain’s spelling alphabet begins Antonio, Barcelona, Carmen, for example.

The alphabet I was using is known as the NATO phonetic alphabet, or the international radiotelephony spelling alphabet. It’s been adopted by many military and civilian organisations around the world, including the Federal Aviation Administration and International Telecommunication Union, which I suppose is why I assumed people would know it here. It’s also been used for art, and a comment on language.

Looking at the various alphabets, it seems that most are based on names, particularly of people. The names appear specific to each country (Désirè for example), which would not be useful for an international alphabet. I particularly like the older English alphabets, which include gems such as Xantippe (British A), Monkey, Nuts (British Royal Air Force from 1924-1942) and Xerxes (British Royal Navy – 1917).

Do you know a spelling alphabet? What words are used?

Hangul and native languages

Posted on October 9th, 2009by Michelle
In Alphabet, Culture, Indigenous languages, Korean, Language acquisition | 2 Comments »

Following my earlier post about Hangul Day, or Korean Alphabet Day, I was reading further about the alphabet.

The Koreans have immense pride in their alphabet, and are keen to share it. One woman also thinks Hangul’s use can be extended outside of Korea. The Hunminjeongeum Research Institute was founded by Lee Ki-nam in 2007, and aims to apply Hangul to native languages which are becoming extinct due to a lack of their own writing system. Currently, the Institute has a memorandum of understanding with the city of Bau-Bau of southwestern Indonesia to use Hangul, and it is being used by the Cia-Cia tribe to transcribe their language.

There are some issues surrounding the project however:

In Indonesia, where the government is encouraging its 240 million people to learn a “language of unity,” Bahasa Indonesia, for effective communication among a vast array of ethnic groups, Ms. Lee’s project raises delicate issues.

“If this is a kind of hobby, that’s fine,” Nicholas T. Dammen, the Indonesian ambassador to South Korea, said recently, referring to the decision by the Cia-Cia ethnic minority to adopt Hangul. “But they don’t need to import the Hangul characters. They can always write their local languages in the Roman characters.”

Shin Eun-hyang, an official at the Korean language division of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in Seoul, said: “This is diplomatically sensitive. The government is limited in how much direct support it can provide to such projects.”
The government says it does not provide money to Ms. Lee’s group, but she said it offered indirect support by giving linguists grants to pursue their work, which can include teaching Hangul abroad. (Source: New York Times)

Read more about the Cia-Cia project, and the full article from the New York Times. What do you think? Is it appropriate to apply the Korean alphabet to completely different languages?

Happy Hangul Day!

Posted on October 9th, 2009by Michelle
In Alphabet, Culture, Events, Historic | 1 Comment »

HangulToday in South Korea is Hangul Day, or Korean Alphabet Day.

The day celebrates the invention and proclamation of hangul, the native Korean alphabet. The Koreans are the only people in the world to celebrate their alphabet, and are justifiably proud of it!

Hangul was devised by King Sejong the Great, and revealed in 1446. Previous to this, there was no written Korean alphabet, and the few elite that could write relied on modified Chinese characters.

Hangul Day has been commemorated on various days since, but October 9th was marked as the official national holiday in 1945, after the creation of the South Korean government. Although it no longer retains its status as a holiday, October 9th is still a national commemoration day in South Korea.

Originally consisting of 28 letters, modern Hangul now has 24, 14 consonants and 10 vowels. The letters are combined together into syllable blocks. Korean can be written in horizontal lines running from left to right, or in vertical columns running from top to bottom and right to left. The alphabet represents all the sounds of Korean and is reportedly easy to learn!

Melbourne Exhibition: Books and Ideas

Posted on May 14th, 2009by Michelle
In Alphabet, Events | Leave a Comment »

Books and IdeasIf you’re lucky enough to be in or near Melbourne, Australia at the moment, the State Library of Victoria has a great exhibition called Mirror of the World: Books & Ideas.

The introduction to the exhibition states that

books are mirrors of many worlds: worlds here and distant, past and present, real and imagined. Through text and image, they act as keepers of ideas, of knowledge and of stories.

With many of the rare and historically significant books in the Library’s collections on display, it includes a cuneiform tablet from approximately 2500 BC. Cuneiform is one of the precursors to the modern twenty six letter alphabet we use today.

On display are books from approximately the Middle Ages through to the present day, and explore different themes including the early history of books and printing, which includes a leaf from a Gutenberg Bible.

More recent books include a collection of Penguin paperbacks and a display on Peter Carey, one of Victoria’s most prominent authors (he wrote the True History of the Kelly Gang which won the 2001 Man Booker Prize).

Definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re a book geek like me.