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Read the text carefully and then answer the questions on the opposite sheet.

The western alphabet

Answer Sheet

The western alphabet, which is used in Europe, the Americas, Africa, Australia and New Zealand as well as in other countries, originated in the Middle East. The people who gave the world this alphabet were the Phoenicians, a people who established colonies all over the Mediterranean, including Carthage in Africa and Gades in Spain. In their alphabet, the letters were represented by little pictures which represented sounds.The Phoenician A was aelph, which means "bull", and it was made from a little picture of a bull's head. The letter B was beth which meant "house", and showed the round-roofed buildings which you can still see today in Syria.

The Phoenicians had contact with another nation of sailors, the Greeks, with whom they fought and traded. The Greeks also started to use the Phoenician alphabet. They changed the names so aelph and beth became alpha and beta. The shapes of the letters are the same but they have been turned sideways. If you know any Greek, you can try turning the letters around again, and see how they look. You will see that the curve on the right of the Greek A becomes the horns of a little bull.

Of course, the first two letters of the alphabet give it its name. Over the years there have been changes. Latin developed an alphabet with some different letters to the Greeks, and other letters have been added since. But really westerners are using the same system of writing which has served them so well for thousands of years.

  1. What is the purpose of this text?
    a. To tell something of Phoenician history.
    b. To tell the story of why we write as we do.
    c. To compare the western alphabet with other alphabets.
    d. To describe the history of the Greek alphabet.

  2. Which change did the Greeks make to the Phoenician alphabet?
    a. They changed the pictures to sounds.
    b. They turned the letters in a different direction.
    c. They altered the shape of the letters.
    d. They put a curve on the letter A.

  3. Where did the Phoenicians come from originally?
    a. Carthage.
    b. Gades.
    c. The Middle East.
    d. All over the Mediterranean.

  4. The information in the text is meant to be ...
    a. Interesting.
    b. Useful.
    c. Funny.
    d. Historic.

  5. Which picture, according to the text, represents beth.

    A.
    B.
    C.
    D.

 

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