Saturday, October 08, 2005

The Matrix

Many writing systems are taught in a two dimensional layout or matrix. This matrix may be an arrangement of letters by their phonetic class, it may be a full scale syllabary or a book of rhyme tables.

This is how I learned the Greek alphabet. I also had to learn the alphabetical order but that was secondary.

p t k
b d g
f th ch
ps dz ks
l m n r s
a e ee i u o oo

Oddly enough I am not familiar with any standard chart or two dimensional layout for the Latin alphabet apart from an IPA chart. However, when learning another script this is one of the first things I look for.

I couldn't find this arrangement for Greek on the internet as a chart but in bits and pieces it can be asembled from this site. I would be very interested in hearing if such a table is ever used now for teaching the Greek alphabet.

Addendum: I have altered the image in this post, not out of vanity, but I don't want to post again on the same topic for a new image and I am trying to improve the aesthetic quality of my images as well as correct any obvious errors.


Blogger Bridget Samuels said...

I wasn't taught the Greek alphabet that way in my language class (then again, the teacher didn't care if we knew it in alphabetical order or not, either), but in linguistics classes they usually line up the three stop series by place and do the combo letters at the very end, separately.

3:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I learned this from an old primer intended for high school use. It wasn't associated with learning linguistics. I think it derives from a classical organization of the letters possibly in Aristotle. I'm not sure.

3:26 PM  
Blogger Simon said...

I am Greek and I was not taught this organisation of the alphabet at (public) school. I suppose it's more useful for people learning Greek as a second language.

I am setting up a session to teach non-Greek speakers how to read Greek (without having to understand what they say, of course), and I'll show this organisation of letters :)

It's quite possible this organisation is used in Spanish/Spain, if memory does not fail me.

Regarding the vowels, I think the order should be

α ε η ι υ ο ω

as Υ is an Eee sound. There is repetition of the Eee sound with Η Ι Υ.

I like very much the simplicity of spanish, a e i o u. No duplicates, each letter has distinct sound, perfect. For Greek, to get the u (spanish) sound, you need to use two vowels, ου/ΟΥ.

8:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Simon,

I will try and redo the picture. I subconsciously used the English vowel order. I may try a different font also.

This chart may reflect an older British view of the Greek alphabet - I don't really know.

I do know that for ancient grammarians in Greek and Latin the alphabet was divided up into mutes, semivowels(continuants l,m,n,r,s) and vowels but this sense seems to have been lost as we always talk of an alphabet now having vowels and consonants.

I studied classical Greek in both high school and university so my formative years were spent writing Greek.:) I still feel that I print better in Greek than in English since the letters don't double back on themselves the way the Latin letters do.

3:19 PM  
Blogger Simon said...

I gave the small session on learning Greek.
See for some pictures and comments :)

3:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Simon,

It looks like a lot of fun. I am quite sure that your students did not miss the 'matrix'. Choosing to learn the alphabet and a few words was a good choice. Very cool.

The phonetic organization of the consonants seems to be an ancient practice better restricted to books and blogs.

9:11 PM  

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