Every popular and most widely spoken language in the world has evolved over the centuries. For centuries, languages like Korean and Japanese lacked a writing system until experts customized a writing system specifically for them.
In contrast, languages like Greek initially had a greater number of letters and characters, which were subsequently simplified to facilitate easier and standardized writing formation
Even the English language which we speak and understand today has been under a lot of experiences by different scholars and missionaries.
Table of Content
- What is An Alphabet?
- Historical Background of Alphabetic Writing
- How Many Letters are in the English Alphabet?
- Evolution of the English Alphabet
- How Many Letters are in the Spanish Alphabet?
- How Many Letters are in the Chinese Alphabet?
- How many Letters are in the Greek Alphabet?
- How Many Letters are in the Hawaiian Alphabet?
- How Many Letters are in the Hebrew Alphabet?
- How Many Letters are in the Arabic Alphabet?
- Final words
What is An Alphabet?
Alphabets are the letters that a language uses collectively. Its order is fixed and depends on the custom of users. Alphabets are used for writing purposes and symbols that they use for writing are known as letters.
There is this phoneme related to the one sound or related. There are words then which come into being with a reading direction. These are incorporated with punctuation markets, alphabets, and words that can be read easily.
Taking it as a Riddle
It is also important to note that this sentence – how many letters are in the alphabet – has gone viral as the riddle on social media and other platforms. So reading it at first, people start jumping to conclusions when they say the 26 alphabet which is not true. It actually asks about the letters of “the alphabet” which are 11. So 11 is the right answer.
Historical Background of Alphabetic Writing
There are not many details about the alphabetic writing of all languages. English, however, and its alphabetic writing date back to four thousand years ago.
A lot of scholars believe that alphabetic writing developed in Egypt between 1800 and 1900 BC. It originated as a quite not well-known form of writing which was Proto Sinaitic.
It was after 700 years that the Phoenicians worked on an alphabet that had its earlier foundations. This was immensely in use in the Mediterranean including North Africa, the Iberian Peninsula, Southern Europe, and the Levant. The alphabet consisted of 22 letters, all of which were consonants.
During 750 BC, the Greeks added vowels to the Phoenician alphabet, transforming it into a combination of the true alphabet. This is when it turned out to be a combination of the true alphabet. Latins seized it and combined them with Etruscan characters such as ‘S’ and ‘F’.
Later on, around the 3rd century, ancient Latin script removed the letters G, J V/U, W, Y, and Z. During the era of the Roman Empire, the Romans derived the Roman alphabet from the Latin version through letters, but they still removed J, U, V, and W.
How Many Letters are in the English Alphabet?
As for the English language, people have taken this statement both as technical and as a riddle. The old English alphabet as per the sources had 29 letters. These were
Those letters were A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, V, X, Y, Z, &, ⁊, Ƿ, Þ, Ð, Æ.
Later, the experts added three more letters to the English language during the sixteenth century: J, U, and W. However, they considered W as an independent letter. They removed additional letters from modern English. These were &, ⁊, Ƿ, Þ, Ð, Æ.
Modern English now has 26 letters.
Evolution of the English Alphabet
The Latin language made its way to Britain with the Roman Empire. Anglo-Saxons were controlling Britain at that time. It was a Germanic tribe that used old English as their main language. During that time, people used an older alphabet called Futhoric, which they named the “runic alphabet”.
The combination of the Latin alphabet and the runic alphabet of Futhorc gave birth to the modern English alphabet. A few additions from runic alphabets got ‘thorn’ and had ‘th’ sound ‘wynn’ that made a sound of ‘w’.
It is important to note that there was no letter ‘w’ in the Latin alphabet during the middle ages. Later, when people in Britain stopped using the old runes, they eventually replaced the letter thorn with ‘th’, and the runic letter ‘wynn’ became ‘uu’ and later evolved into ‘w’.
During the same period, they introduced the letters ‘j’ and ‘u’, which increased the total number of letters to 26. Nonetheless, letter combinations like ‘æ,’ ‘œ’ and symbols included an ampersand (&) in the alphabet.
The lowborn class was using old English during the time when Normans invaded Britain. All the distinguished classes including scholars, clergies, and nobility people were speaking and using either Latin or Norman.
It was after two centuries of Norman rule that English writing got into trend again. It also required removing some of the English letters. Geoffrey Chaucer, a famous English poet, and father of English literature used Middle English in his Canterbury tales Wife of Bath.
William Caxton introduced the printing press to Great Britain during the 15th century. Over time, people standardized the English language. They separated V and U, with V becoming a consonant and U becoming the vowel.
The First English dictionary published by Robert Cawdrey in 1604 was The Table Alphabetical. This was when the letter J also became part of modern English.
How Many Letters are in the Spanish Alphabet?
Spanish alphabets are also a variant of the Latin alphabet this is why there are 27 letters in the Spanish language. Interestingly this language has the same alphabet as English. The additional letter is “ñ,” and it comes after “n”.
Interestingly, til 2010, there were 29 letters in the Spanish language. However, additional two letters “ch” and “ll” were added to the language later and both of these have distinct pronunciations.
The Spanish letter with 27 words are
A (A), B (be), [C (ce), Ch (che)], D (de), E (e), F (efe), G (ge), H (hache), I (i), J (jota), K (ka), L elle), M (eme), N (ene), Ñ (eñe), O (o), P (pe), Q (cu), [R (ere), RR/Rr (erre)], S (ese), T (te), U (u), V (uve), W (uve doble / doble u), X (equis), Y (ye, i griega), Z (zeta).
It is interesting to note that these 27 letters combine together to create about 30 different phonemes, it is a number that can’t be fixed due to the fluidity of the Spanish.
A more refined term for this fluid is dialectal variation.
How Many Letters are in the Chinese Alphabet?
It is surprising and interesting to know as well that there is no defined writing system for the Chinese language. So, there is no alphabetic script. Moreover, China has a Pinyin system that has to use characters.
There are more than 100,000 Chinese characters and it is next to impossible to count these all precisely. However, the number of useful characters lies between 3000 to 6000. Most of these characters require two characters. The word “house” for instance is written like 屋(Wū).
How many Letters are in the Greek Alphabet?
Back during the 5th century BCE, people divided the Greek alphabet into two principal branches known as the Iconic and the Chalcidian.
Furthermore, in 403 BCE, they used the iconic alphabet in Athens, and it eventually became the standard one. Today, we know it as the classical Greek alphabet.
Modern Greek alphabets comprise 24 letters and seven vowels. These 24 letters in upper and lower case look as:
Α α, Β β, Γ γ, Δ δ, Ε ε, Ζ ζ, Η η, Θ θ, Ι ι, Κ κ, Λ λ, Μ μ, Ν ν, Ξ ξ, Ο ο, Π π, Ρ ρ, Σ σ/ς, Τ τ, Υ υ, Φ φ, Χ χ, Ψ ψ, Ω ω.
These include the lower and upper cases both. It is also interesting to note that before 500 BCE, the Greek alphabet had the writing direction of right to left but it later changed to left to right.
How Many Letters are in the Hawaiian Alphabet?
Hawaii had its own language and culture before the colonized British. The alphabet of the Hawaiian language consists of only 13 letters.
It is a colonized version of the language and culture. The missionaries who attempted to translate the Bible during the 19th century cultivated the Hawaiian language.
When letters are added with or without accents, this language becomes tough and complicated. However, this represents the basic gist.
Another interesting fact about the Hawaiian language is that it groups all vowels at the beginning and follows a different order compared to English.
The alphabets are
A, E, H, I, K, L, M, N, O, P, U, and W.
How Many Letters are in the Hebrew Alphabet?
Written from right to left, Hebrew is a Semitic language. It has 22 characters (while some argue, it has 23). All of them are consonants. The first letter of Hebrew is Alef and the last one is Tav. Alef-bet is the name for the Hebrew alphabet. This name is due to the first two letters in the Hebrew alphabet.
Some letters have two different versions. These include Kaf, Nun, Mem, Peh, and Tzadeh. While appearing at the start or middle of a word, they have a different writing shape compared to when they appear toward the end of a word.
One interesting thing about “alef-bet” – it has no vowels in it. People with fluency in the language can read Hebrew without needing any vowels. And most of the written words in Hebrew are without vowels.
Here is what all Hebrew characters look like:
א ב ג ד ה ו ז ח ט י כ ל מ נ ס ע פ צ ק ר שׂ שׁ ת
How Many Letters are in the Arabic Alphabet?
Arabic is an ancient language. It is indeed a beautiful language and also the second most widely used alphabet writing system in the world. The number of characters in Arabic is quite similar to the English language. The Arabic language has 28 letters. The most interesting part of these consonants is Arabic alphabet represents consonants.
This language is written from right to left, unlike other Indo-European languages. It is written in cursive style. It further uses a lot of symbols out of the alphabet itself including short vowel markers and pronunciation as well.
The 28 Arabic letters are
غ ظ ض ذ خ ث ت ش ر ق ص ف ع س ن م ل ك ي ط ح ز و ه د ج ب أ
Letters in the alphabet may vary with languages. A few of the languages keep these in the range of 20s and a few others also go above 30. The English language has 26 letters and there are 28 letters in Arabic. Whereas the Hawaiian language has only 13 letters. Moreover, the Chinese language consists of hundred thousand letters, with the most frequently used ones ranging between 3000 to 6000.