The Lost Letters Of The Alphabet | Michael Rosen

February 13, 2015 3:37 PM

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It's easy to think of the alphabet we recite and use as something fixed but, like almost everything in language, it changes. We call it Roman, but the Romans wouldn't have recognized our 'J,' 'U' or 'W.' Their 'I' covered the noise we usually make with 'J,' and their 'V' covered some of the sounds we denote with 'U' and 'W.' Another twist of history, the origins of English do not lie with the Romans but with the Germanic peoples of northern Europe. However, in the time when these folks thought that migrating to the British Isles was a good idea, they didn't use the Roman alphabet. The few of them who could write used runes.

These beautiful letters, many of them looking like diagrams of depleted feathers, have their own story but they can be spotted on monuments and stones all over the British Isles. There's also a famous runestone in Solem, Minnesota, discovered by a Swedish-American farmer in 1898. The inscription rea...

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