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- Publisher: ARROW BOOKS LTD
- Format: Paperback | 400 pages
- Dimensions: 130mm x 194mm x 30mm | 322g
- Publication date: 7 October 2004
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 0099436825
- ISBN 13: 9780099436829
- Edition: New edition
- Edition statement: New edition
- Illustrations note: Illustrations, maps, ports.
- Sales rank: 1,518,731
There is a story behind each letter of the alphabet. Why is X the Unknown or shorthand for a kiss? Which letter came last, historically, in the alphabet? (J). How did a few squiggles, invented a thousand years ago to denote sounds of a now vanished Semitic language, survive to become our letters today? While China and Japan rely mainly on scripts of ideograms, three-quarters of humanity uses some kind of alphabet. Chinese writing requires 2000 basic symbols (but there's no language barrier), where an alphabet needs typically less than 30. From A-Z, David Sacks provides answers to the most fascinating questions about the way we talk, write and think in a book which will also be illustrated graphically throughout - not just with variations of individual letters but with maps, charts and general narrative images.
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Sacks is a freelance writer for New York Times Magazine, Wall Street Journal, Harpers, Elle etc. He now lives in Canada with his wife and two children. He is 53.
The simplest things are, always, the hardest to explain: energy, love, civilisation, culture, the alphabet. David Sacks makes a passable attempt at explaining the first four through an exemplary stab at the last. The alphabet we take for granted is so intrinsically linked to our notions of intelligence, awareness and what makes us human that is hard to isolate much less successfully analyse. Sacks' love of history is evident as he bravely dives headfirst where linguists fear to tread and brings together historical and cultural developments to show that the alphabet seems to have an existence as independent of ourselves as Nature. Indeed, what emerges as the book progresses is that we appear to have the innate ability to use the alphabet as a tool of expression irrespective of its origins. In The Alphabet Greeks use Phoenician, the Romans use ancient Greek, the English use Greek-Roman, the Arabs use Hebrew and the Japanese, Chinese. What emerges is the staggering implication that the alphabet may well represent an underlying, independent logical mode of expression we can instinctively grasp but never fully understand! Throughout all this Sacks remains focused, his humour wry and if anything the reader rues the fact that the book stops short at times, hampered by its authors sense of his own academic limitations. Hugely enjoyable, incredibly enlightening and one that you'll want to dip into again and again. (Kirkus UK)