Back In The CCCP
mong the the world’s writing systems, the one closest to the Roman alphabet we use for English would probably be the Greek alphabet. It’s pretty close, especially if you look at the capital letters. Their “Α” is the same as our A, just as Κ, Μ, Ν, and Τ are also the same as their Roman counterparts. On the other hand, the Greek letter “Η” is pronounced “eh”, and “Ρ” is said like our R. (Greek uses “Π” for the P sound.) “B”, meanwhile, used be said as B but now sounds more like V. The Cyrillic alphabet, used in Russian and a few other languages, also has letters in common with the Roman alphabet. The alphabet’s inventors, St. Cyril and St. Methodius, based their creation on Greek writing, so — just like in Greek — А, K, М, and Т are all read the same or almost the same as they would be in English. But there are similarly misleading letters: “Р” = R (like in Greek, they use “П” for P) “Н” = N “В” = V (they use “Б” for B) And meanwhile, “С” is always pronounced like an S. As a result of all this, the Russian word for “restaurant” is written: ΡЕСТОРАН which looks like it should be pronounced “pek-to-paw” but is actually “ree-stuh-rahn”. During the Cold War, most non-Russian speakers could recognize “СССР” on the side of Soviet rockets, This is the Cyrillic version of “U.S.S.R.,” the abbreviation of “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics”. The first “C” stood for “Soyuz” (Союз), which means “Union”, followed by “C” for “Soviet” (Soviet- skee), “C” for “Socialist” (Sotzialist-eecheskee), and “P” – the Cyrillic R – for “Republics” (Respooblikee). Cyrillic also has some letters that look like mirror images of Roman figures. For example, the “backwards R” Я is pronounced “ya.” It’s the last letter of the Cyrillic alphabet, and in Russian it means the first-person pronoun “I”. Meanwhile, “backwards N” И is also a vowel, pronounced as “ee”. By itself, it means “and”. o all this may be a little confusing for those who grew up on the Roman alphabet, but really it’s far, far easier than the Cherokee script, as you’ll see in a moment. Most native North American languages didn’t have their own writing system when the Europeans arrived, so they just adopted the Roman alphabet for their own use. Even the Aztec language — Nahuatl — and some of the Mayan languages, which did have their own writing systems, ended up with Roman letters. There are some exceptions. Many of the aboriginal languages spoken in Canada, including Cree and Inuit, use a special syllabary (syllable-alphabet) invented in the 1800s. As an example, the Cree word for “Cree” is written: ᐃᔨᔫᒡ But perhaps the most famous Native American writing system is the one used for Cherokee. It was developed by the silversmith and linguist Sequoyah, who had each letter stand for a syllable in his language. The forms of many of the letters were loosely based on those in the Roman and Greek alphabets, so that a good number of Cherokee letters look just like Roman ones. However, the sounds for those letters are totally unrelated to what they are in Latin, Greek, English or any other language, since Sequoyah didn’t read any of the European languages. So for instance: is pronounced “ah” is pronounced “loo” is pronounced “mee” There are also distinctions between Roman-looking letters that don’t exist in English. So, is “lah”, but is “tah”, even though both just look like different forms of “W” to English speakers. And of course Cherokee also has many letters that look nothing like those in European writing systems, such as “gah” “tee” “tlo”
A
S
Back In The CCCP
mong the the world’s writing systems, the one closest to the Roman alphabet we use for English would probably be the Greek alphabet. It’s pretty close, especially if you look at the capital letters. Their “Α” is the same as our A, just as Κ, Μ, Ν, and Τ are also the same as their Roman counterparts. On the other hand, the Greek letter “Η” is pronounced “eh”, and “Ρ” is said like our R. (Greek uses “Π” for the P sound.) “B”, meanwhile, used be said as B but now sounds more like V. The Cyrillic alphabet, used in Russian and a few other languages, also has letters in common with the Roman alphabet. The alphabet’s inventors, St. Cyril and St. Methodius, based their creation on Greek writing, so — just like in Greek — А, K, М, and Т are all read the same or almost the same as they would be in English. But there are similarly misleading letters: “Р” = R (like in Greek, they use “П” for P) “Н” = N “В” = V (they use “Б” for B) And meanwhile, “С” is always pronounced like an S. As a result of all this, the Russian word for “restaurant” is written: ΡЕСТОРАН which looks like it should be pronounced “pek-to-paw” but is actually “ree-stuh- rahn”. During the Cold War, most non-Russian speakers could recognize “СССР” on the side of Soviet rockets, This is the Cyrillic version of “U.S.S.R.,” the abbreviation of “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics”. The first “C” stood for “Soyuz” (Союз), which means “Union”, followed by “C” for “Soviet” (Soviet-skee), “C” for “Socialist” (Sotzialist- eecheskee), and “P” – the Cyrillic R – for “Republics” (Respooblikee). Cyrillic also has some letters that look like mirror images of Roman figures. For example, the “backwards R” Я is pronounced “ya.” It’s the last letter of the Cyrillic alphabet, and in Russian it means the first-person pronoun “I”. Meanwhile, “backwards N” И is also a vowel, pronounced as “ee”. By itself, it means “and”. o all this may be a little confusing for those who grew up on the Roman alphabet, but really it’s far, far easier than the Cherokee script, as you’ll see in a moment. Most native North American languages didn’t have their own writing system when the Europeans arrived, so they just adopted the Roman alphabet for their own use. Even the Aztec language — Nahuatl — and some of the Mayan languages, which did have their own writing systems, ended up with Roman letters. There are some exceptions. Many of the aboriginal languages spoken in Canada, including Cree and Inuit, use a special syllabary (syllable-alphabet) invented in the 1800s. As an example, the Cree word for “Cree” is written: ᐃᔨᔫᒡ But perhaps the most famous Native American writing system is the one used for Cherokee. It was developed by the silversmith and linguist Sequoyah, who had each letter stand for a syllable in his language. The forms of many of the letters were loosely based on those in the Roman and Greek alphabets, so that a good number of Cherokee letters look just like Roman ones. However, the sounds for those letters are totally unrelated to what they are in Latin, Greek, English or any other language, since Sequoyah didn’t read any of the European languages. So for instance: is pronounced “ah” is pronounced “loo” is pronounced “mee” There are also distinctions between Roman-looking letters that don’t exist in English. So, is “lah”, but is “tah”, even though both just look like different forms of “W” to English speakers. And of course Cherokee also has many letters that look nothing like those in European writing systems, such as “gah” “tee” “tlo”
A
S