The alphabets of English have been used by us in every bit of our life but have we ever stopped ourselves to ponder over the geometry of these letters???? Every object tends to attain a state of minimum energy n maximum stability in this universe. Interestingly same is the case with alphabets! It all started nearly 4000 years agowhen simple lines were used to represent spoken words. Building on this ancient foundation, the first widely used alphabet was developed by the Phoenicians about seven hundred years later which consisted of 22 consonants. This language became common in the Mediterranean, including in the Levant, the Iberian Peninsula, North Africa and southern Europe. The Greeks added vowels to Phoenician alphabets sometime around 750 BC. Considered the first true alphabet, it was later appropriated by the Latins (later to become the Romans) who combined it with notable Etruscan characters including the letters “F” and “S”. Although ancient Latin omitted G, J, V (or U), W, Y and Z, by about the third century, the Roman alphabet looked very similar to our modern English, containing every letter except J, U (or V) and W.

greek-alphabet

Uppercase Greek Letters

greek-alphabet-lowercase

Lowercase Greek Letters (Source)

It was the end of the Vth century B.C. that marked geometrical perfection and beauty of Greek capital letters. Different artists had their own ways of drawing those letters but they all had the same symmetrical elegance. It was the Roman influence that made them drawn with difference in width and with a little serif in the end.

In order to visualize more clearly the classic structures and the relations supported by each letter, we will analyze them within sets defined according to the width and height of a round letter (the «O» which, in the case of the Romans, enters within a square) and of a narrow letter (the «E» which in this case is half the width of the «O»). Circle is precisely the most stable geometrical shape in this universe. It is the sole reason as to why wheels are circular and also any drop of liquid attains a circular shape.  Inside these circular containers we mark the diagonal strokes and intersections with the circle, to take as references the width and other morphologic characteristics which will help us with the analysis.

1st

Round Letters: C, D, G, O, Q. These letters are derived from circle and represent optical corrections. In this case, upper and lower curves go slightly beyond the baseline. The «O» and the «Q» are as wide as tall, the «C», the «G» and the «D» are slightly narrower than taller.

Wide Letters: M, W. They go beyond the width of the module, that is, they are wider than the «O», and are the widest in the alphabet.

2nd
Rectangular Letters: H, U, N, T, A, V, Z. The width of these signs is approximately that of the rectangle defined by the intersection of the circle with the diagonals of the square

3rd

Narrow Letters 1: B, E, L, F, P, R, S. Their width is approximately half their height.

4th

Narrow Letters 2: I, J, K, Y. They are also narrow, but do not share the width with the ones above nor with each other. The «I» is the narrowest, followed by the «J»; the «Y» and the «K» are slightly wider than the narrow module.

5th

A, V, W, M: they are related by a central apex. The width of the «A» and of the «V» is 3/4 their height. The crossbar in the «A» is located below the geometric center to give it more stability and to compensate for its counter forms.

Tom Robbins said : True stability results when presumed order and presumed disorder are balanced. A truly stable system expects the unexpected, is prepared to be disrupted, waits to be transformed. The set of alphabets which we see are thus systematic use of geometrical shapes developed and transformed by humans keeping the basic tendency of finding stability in whatever we do. The language and its alphabets have been developing over the years, originality of few languages have been affected by intrusion of others. There has been a very significant and fascinating use of English while chatting with shortened words like: gr8(great), f9(fine), gd(good) etc. It leaves me to wonder whether after a few years humans would stop by to think as to exactly how ‘gr8’ came into picture.

0 thoughts on “The Designed Alphabet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *