Latin alphabet
1798 Georgian calligraphy
Egyptian hieroglyphs 32 c. BCE

Hangul 1443 (probably influenced by Tibetan)

The Latin alphabet or the Roman alphabet is a writing system originally used by the ancient Romans to write the Latin language. By way of its use throughout Europe in English, French, and Germanic variants, Romanized writing has grown to become the preferred alphabet globally (see Latin script), being used officially in China (separate from its ideographic writing), and being semi-adopted by Slavic (Russia) and Baltic states. The Latin alphabet evolved from the visually similar Cumaean Greek version of the Greek alphabet, which was itself descended from the Phoenician abjad, which in turn was derived from Egyptian hieroglyphics. The Etruscans who ruled early Rome adopted the Cumaean Greek alphabet which was modified over time to become the Etruscan alphabet, which was in turn adopted and further modified by the Romans to produce the Latin alphabet.

During the Middle Ages the Latin alphabet was used (sometimes with modifications) for writing Romance languages, direct descendants of Latin, as well as Celtic, Germanic, Baltic, and some Slavic languages. With the age of colonialism and Christian evangelism, the Latin script spread beyond Europe, coming into use for writing indigenous American, Australian, Austronesian, Austroasiatic, and African languages. More recently, linguists have also tended to prefer the Latin script or the International Phonetic Alphabet (itself largely based on Latin script) when transcribing or creating written standards for non-European languages, such as the African reference alphabet.

The term Latin alphabet may refer to either the alphabet used to write Latin (as described in this article), or other alphabets based on the Latin script, which is the basic set of letters common to the various alphabets descended from the classical Latin alphabet, such as the English alphabet. These Latin-script alphabets may discard letters, like the Rotokas alphabet, or add new letters, like the Danish and Norwegian alphabets. Letter shapes have evolved over the centuries, including the development in Medieval Latin of lower-case, forms which did not exist in the Classical period alphabet.

It is generally believed that the Romans adopted the Cumae alphabet, a variant of the Greek alphabet, in the 7th century BC from Cumae, a Greek colony in Southern Italy. (Gaius Julius Hyginus in Fab. 277 mentions the legend that it was Carmenta, the Cimmerian Sibyl, who altered fifteen letters of the Greek alphabet to become the Latin alphabet, which her son Evander introduced into Latium, supposedly 60 years before the Trojan War, but there is no historically sound basis to this tale.) The Ancient Greek alphabet was in turn based upon the Phoenician abjad. From the Cumae alphabet, the Etruscan alphabet was derived and the Romans eventually adopted 21 of the original 27 Etruscan letters:

This page was last edited on 23 April 2018, at 22:46.
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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