Saturday, January 14, 2012

Why is the sequence of alphabets ABCD…?




It is shown here that the ABCD sequence of the English letters has a hidden phonological order similar to that in the Devanagari script used for Sanskrit, Hindi and other Indic languages. It is proposed that some ancient Indic phonetic alphabet table such as that of the Brahmi script probably degenerated into a linear sequence of Phoenician alphabets which evolved with few changes to European, and West Asian and African scripts.
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The English alphabet has the typical singsong sequence ABCDEFG. It has always intrigued the linguist and the layman that there is no apparent reason for this ABCD alphabetic order. It is believed that even 2800 years ago a minor variation of the ABCD order of sequence was in use in the Phoenician script and that it has been passed on with few changes to European, Semitic and African scripts (1,2,3).   Most of the Indic languages are written in the Brahmi / Devanagari script group (Indic scripts). The letters in the Indic scripts are arranged in a well-defined phonological order (4-5). The Brahmi / Devanagari phonological order is used in several scripts in South Asia, Tibet, Korean hangul and Japanese kana. It is believed that the phonological order found today in Devanagari was known in Brahmi script even 2500 years ago in the times of Panini, the great Sanskrit grammarian (6).

Letters/ VARNA in Devanagari are arranged in tables. The Devanagari VARNMALA वर्णमाला (table of the letters) consists of four major groups, viz. vowels, consonants, semivowels and fricative consonants. Letters in each group are placed according to the place from where they are generated in the vocal tract, namely guttural, palatal, cerebral, dental or labial. Letters in each sub-group are further arranged in the sequence of being un-aspirated voiceless, aspirated voiceless, un-aspirated voiced, aspirated voiced and nasal. There is a gradation of sound in letters of each group, e.g. the all the sounds of the in the pa-group (pa-varg in Sanskrit) viz. pa, pha, ba, bha, and ma originate in subtle variation of the lip movements. 
On writing the English letters in the phonetic format of Devanagari, an interesting table of letters with an unmistakable periodicity of sounds begins to appear (Table 1), i.e. the letters / VARNA of the Devanagari table appear in the ABCD sequence of English at nearly regular periodicity.


Table 1. The English letters arranged according to the phonetic principle of the Devanagari VARNMALA  or table of letters.
The first number in each box refers to the order of sequence of the English letters. The last line in each box show that periodicity in the ABCD sequence at which a letter appears in the same phonological column with reference to the previous letter in the same column. Equivalent letters of the Devanagari scripts are also shown along with the English letters.
Vowel
Labial
Fricatives
Dental
Palatal
Guttural
Semi-vowels
1
A
a/
2
B
ba/
3
C
sa/
4
D
da/



5
E
e/
n+4
6
F
pha/
n+4
8
H
ha/
n+5


7
G
ga/


9
I
i/
n+4



10
J
ja/
11
K
ka/
n+4
12
L
la/


13
M
ma/
n+7

14
N
na/
n+10



15
O
o/
n+6
16
P
pa/
n+3



17
Q
*kya/क्य
n+6
18
R
ra/
n+6


19
S
sha/
n+11
20
T
ta/
n+6



21
U
u/
n+6





22
V
va/
n+4






23
W
*vhaव्ह
n+1




26
Z
*ja/
n+16
24
X
xa/क्ष
n+7
25
Y
ya/
n+2
Average Periodicity
5.2
4.7
8.0
8.0
13.0
5.7
3.2
*not considered to be independent letter in Devanagari.
Note that to unravel the phonetic orderliness, the sequence of English letters had to be changed only at two places: (a) GH to HG and (b) XYZ to ZXY. The salient features of the newly generated table of English letters are as follows: (1) all the vowels are placed in the first column, (2) all the consonants in a particular column are produced in the mouth in the similar way: palatal, labial etc., (3) the average periodicity of appearance of letters of a phonetic group in the ABCD sequence is 5, 4.7 and 5.7 for vowels, labials and gutturals respectively.

The phonetic classification of letters in the Devanagari VARNAMALA has a strong parallel in the world of chemistry. Till the early 1860s, students of chemistry had to remember the names of 56 elements known till that time. Elements were not listed in any particular sequence. In 1869, Dmitri Mendeleev bought order to the list of elements by rearranging them in a table on the basis of periodic occurrence of similar chemical properties (7). Reminiscent of the Mendeleev’s periodic table of elements, there are holes in the periodic table of English letters. The holes in the Mendeleev’s table were used to predict properties of undiscovered elements that were eventually discovered. The holes in the table of English letters presented above are the places vacated by letters that have been deleted over the years, e.g.  þ (thorn), Ð (eth), Ƿ (wynn) and Ȝ (yogh); or the letter that need to be incorporated in the script in order to make it a perfect vehicle to express all sounds. It may be pointed out here that the Devanagari has 14 different vowels and 38 consonants as compared to five vowels and 21 consonants in English. There are only three dental consonants (D, T, N) in English as compared to five in Devnagari. Five cerebral consonants are also missing in English.
Notwithstanding the holes in the table, the hidden phonological order in the English letters raises questions about its origin. Is the hidden order a mere coincidence or a part of some planned design by the ancient linguists? Based on the periodicity of phonological properties in the English alphabetic order, it is tempting to speculate that a phonologically structured Brahmi alphabetic table might have degenerated in ancient times into the ABCD sequence in three steps:
(a) reshuffling of the sequence of columns in the process of memorisation
(b) loss of letters that were not required in the western languages
(c) memorising the rows of letters instead of the phonological columns.

References
1.     "Alphabet." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 13 Jan. 2012. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/17212/alphabet >
2.     Alphabet. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alphabet>
3.     The origins of abc | I love typography, the typography and fonts blog—Aug 26, 2010.  <http://ilovetypography.com/2010/08/07/where-does-the-alphabet-come-from/>
4.     "Devanāgarī." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 13 Jan. 2012. 
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/159937/Devanagari>.
5.     Wikner, C. 1996. A Practical Sanskrit Introductory. Lesson 2. http://sanskritdocuments.org/learning_tutorial_wikner/
6.     "linguistics." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 13 Jan. 2012. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/342418/linguistics>. 

7.  "Dmitry Ivanovich Mendeleyev." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 14 Jan. 2012. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/374765/Dmitry-Ivanovich-Mendeleyev>.

25 comments:

  1. Dear Sir,
    The evolutionary perspective of the words have been nicely explained here. It was amazing to read that in strict sense alphabets,too, can have such deep roots on an evolutionary time scale.
    I will certainly follow your blogs on this new dimension.
    Alok Arun

    ReplyDelete
  2. Like every other script, Devanagari also is not a all-perfect script. I can not express many aspirated vowels, and it has "z" later added. The very common "O" or "awe" (as in Only, Orange) sound of east indian langauges like Bengali that replaces the Uh-like A of Hindi or Sanskrit has been added later (As in Devanagari "Doctor").

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Aniket. I fully agree. There is a need to evolve a new version of Devanagari to incorporate all the known sounds.

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  3. Replies
    1. Thanks Shilpa. Welcome to walks with ancestors to search for the DNA of our languages.

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  4. Please, take a look at my well researched, documented and copiously illustrated study:
    "Alphabet or Abracadabra? - Reverse Engineering The Western Alphabet"

    Freely available in printable pdf format:
    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/4615372/Alphabet/Alphabet%20Booklet%20PDF2.pdf"

    "Alphabet or Abracadabra? - Reverse Engineering The Western Alphabet"
    A groundbreaking discovery:
    3700 Years ago the Western alphabet sequence of characters (abecedary) got copied from a Pre-Sanskrit alphabet (abugida).
    In spite of it looking quite disorderly the Western alphabet letter sequence (abecedary) follows an orderly pattern invented more than 3700 years ago in what is now Pakistan's and India.
    This study traces how the Western "abecedary" was originally modelled after a Pre-Sanskrit, early Brāhmī alphabet (abugida).
    During the copy process the copier made two errors which resulted in the current apparent disorder of the Western 'ABC' character sequence...
    The discovery of those errors enabled me to date and reconstruct when and how the current Western "abecedary" developed.

    - Wim (William) Borsboom

    Facebook site:
    https://www.facebook.com/AlphabetOrAbracadabra?ref=ts&fref=ts

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Mr Borsboom. I have just now read your very interesting study. What an amazing convergence of interests with almost same conclusions! I feel very happy. I have been working on this idea since 2003. I sent this paper to some reputed journals for publication. However having being rejected by the editors, I finally put it on this blog.

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    2. Good

      Many Minds converging

      U'r know cld be well used to decipher our Heritage

      Haresh Gala




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    3. There is more complex VEDIC Sanskrut with More Matras etc

      is there any matrix for the same ?

      or how to accommodate them in u'r 3-d picture


      Haresh Gala

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    4. Thank you.

      "Many Minds converging" -- that is the beauty of the Internet. It has connected all minds.

      VEDIC Sanskrit and Mantras : I have tried the formula proposed in another post
      http://dnaofwords.blogspot.in/2012/02/search-for-mother-tongue-of-world-genes.html

      and yes it works on Vedic Sanskrit and the mantras. I will present that in future posts.

      Delete
  5. sir,
    one more
    blog may interest You,

    http://chandrakantmarwadi.com/

    haresh gala

    ReplyDelete
    Replies

    1. .. " Many Minds converging" -- that is the beauty of the Internet. It has connected all minds. ....


      Just Jigshaw puzzle - putting many bit-pieces together ..........

      Haresh Gala
      https://www.facebook.com/galaharesh

      Delete
  6. DNA is now-days playing with me for many months

    here is more Interesting BLOG , also based on DNA , and very Interesting...

    have a Look at it ............... More Food for thoughts...


    http://ajitvadakayil.blogspot.in/2013/03/secrets-of-shankh-or-conch-product-of.html

    haresh gala

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Rajendra,
    I like the way you so succinctly summed it all up:
    (a) reshuffling of the sequence of columns in the process of memorisation
    (b) loss of letters that were not required in the western languages
    (c) memorising the rows of letters instead of the phonological columns.

    I would love to quote you in an upcoming edition.

    In 2009 I presented my Abugida/Abecedary findings (quite informally) to a select group of renowned archeologists and linguists at an international conference held at the Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles on the origins, locations and culture of the ancient Harappan Civilization in the Sapta Sindhu-Sarasvati Valley.
    I remember that I, just like you, used the term "periodic table" of sounds. Some of the presenters were "remotely" interested, and one magazine editor showed deep interest, however eventually we lost contact as he changed profession...
    I was invited to that conference by an Indian friend of mine. She also led a film-crew and conducted interviews.
    I was lucky that I got to meet all those great people personally... Little did I know then, that a few years later I would translate and interpret a substantial number of Indus Valley seals and tablets (the oblong narrative tablets and a number of "procession seals").
    I'm in the process of putting a book together on that subject, excerpts of which can be found on:
    https://www.facebook.com/wim.borsboom/notes (The chapters are in reverse order.)
    and on Dr. Kennoyer's Harappa.com's facebook site, all in the members' photo section:
    https://www.facebook.com/AncientIndus?ref=ts&fref=ts&filter=2

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is fantastic! How similar!! I have delivered two invited lectures in Delhi University in Sept 2012 and March 2013 and my presentations had slides on the 'Periodic Table of Sounds'. I am also working on Indus seals. Thanks for the links. I will go through the papers and I look forward to read your forthcoming book. Shall be in touch with you. Best regards.

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  8. Dear Rajendra,
    I am at the moment (until approx July) in Vienna (Austria), we did a ten months home exchange with a family from Vienna, they now live in our home in Victoria, British Columbia Canada. While in Europe we are traveling quite a bit, just came home from ten days in Venice.... drinking from the fountains of ancient culture (plus wine :) So, at the moment not much time to do any extended research, writing and editing. My original plan was to visit India again in early 2014... but plans can change... well who knows what the future brings...
    Wim

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. seshanchaslam / saxons

      When Belgic tribe of Seshanchalam ..Vemktesh Balaji reached Vitalia..Italia..They named Sactum sedes and Vatican...When same Belgic tribe of Balaji rached Germany they named Sachsen -Anhalt...when same tribe reached Britain along with Druid priest..they were called Saxons...The main deity of Venkteswara is called DRud Bera.. and saxons had Druid priests with them....Hey Ram...

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  9. Dear
    Aftre Ram now Lav nandan in Vanvas

    Original name of London is Lav nandan...We sanatani people ever remember Ram but never remember Lav -Kush.Ramayana syas that Lav -Kush borned at bank of river Tamas in Valmiki Ashram. Dear oroginal name of river Thames is Tamas. You check History of Uttarakhand (UK).Dear United Kindom (Uk)is replica of Uttarakhand. Uttarakhand history of Raj Barah (12) matches with 12 Olympians...Almora.

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  10. Dr Rakesh Pandey on Facebook on 26 May 2015. An eye-opener research Rajendra ji. How could you see through this invisible similarity. I would rate your work with the remarkable and almost out of the world invention of Periodic Table.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Comparison with the work of Dmitri Mendeleev! Thanks for the huge compliment Rakesh Pandey ji. I bow my head to the memory of the great scientist. In fact, the ancient Indians (may be Panini) made the VARNAMALA which we may call, the 'Periodic Table of Sounds'.

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