Friday, June 03, 2005

Abecedaria and Syllabaria

Since I only have volume 2 of Isaac Taylor's The Alphabet , it seemed natural to just let it fall open and start reading. Chapter 7, section 7 is called The Abecedaria. This simply refers to the writing the letters of an alphabet in sequence for practise in reading or spelling. In 1882 a famous abecedarium was found on a blackware vase in Formello near Veii by Prince Chigi. This has been called the Formello alphabet.

The oldest complete abecedaria are grafitti on the walls of Pompeii but many ancient alphabets have been found engraved on vases, bowls, ink-bottles and the drinking-cups of children. These are sometimes accompanied by a syllabarium, the writing out of several series of syllables.

Modern abecedaria include alphabet books, illustrated alphabets, photographic alphabets, animated alphabets, acrostics and poems. An abecedarium is the linear representation of the alphabet in a fixed order. A syllabarium is the two-dimensional representation of the writing system in a matrix.

The term syllabarium was used to label the visual representation of Cree, Inuit and many other writing sytems of the Aboriginal Peoples of North America. The term means the representation of the characters in a syllable chart, it does not serve to classify the script as a syllabary. Unfortunately, today the syllable chart is usually called a syllabary and the term syllabarium has been lost.

Chinese writing has usually been represented by a chart of the 214 radicals or keys. However, it was also represented by books of rhyme tables. These were, in effect, syllabaria.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent, that was really well explained and helpful

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Actually Chris Harvey maintains the distinction and uses the term syllabarium consistently.

11:02 AM  

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