The Amazing Evolution of Language

“May blessings be upon the head of Cadmus, the Phoenicians, or whoever it was that invented books.” 

 -Thomas Carlyle

It’s difficult to overstate how much of an impact the ancient Phoenicians had on language. The fact that you’re able to read these sentences with such ease and clarity is thanks to innovations made by this ancient culture thousands of years ago. 

The Phoenicians originated in the Levant, or present-day Lebanon, and flourished in the Mediterranean region through culture and maritime trade 1550 BCE to 300 BCE.


So what was it like before the Phoenicians transformed written language? Before the Phoenicians arrived on the scene, people were limited to systems like cuneiform and hieroglyphics. Although advanced and complex, these early Sumerian and Egyptian writing systems were based on pictograms rather than an actual alphabet. 

archaic cuneiform

Instead of using a number of symbols to make up a single word, pictographic writing systems use one symbol to represent an entire word. As you might expect, this leads to a lot of symbols being used, and memorizing all of them is a serious challenge. 

On the other hand, the Phoenician alphabet consisted of just 22 symbols, with each representing a different consonant sound. Suddenly, you didn’t need to be a priest to understand a universal written language. Furthermore, the seafaring nature of the Phoenician people allowed them to spread their new language across the Mediterranean.  Below is a map discovered in the Phoenician port city of Byblos, located about 30 miles north of present-day Beirut. There are obviously more than 22 symbols in the representation below as it is an early artifact and contains non-alphabetic information.

An artifact of the Phoenician alphabet and other symbols

Interestingly, Byblos, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, derives its name from the Greek. Papyrus, a formative invention in the evolution of language – as people obviously needed something to write on, was called byblos (byblinos) in ancient Greek because it was often traded through the city of Byblos by the Phoenicians to the Aegean.

Phoenicia was an empire of the sea, or a thalassocracy — a state of primary maritime realms

Soon enough, the Greeks adopted the Phoenician alphabet and improved upon it by adding vowels. In turn, Greek led to the creation of Latin by the Romans -and this language forms the root of most Western European languages today.  They are referred to as Romance languages, not because they are especially romantic compared to other linguistic systems, but because Latin was the language of the Roman empire, the capital of which was Rome.

Just like Phoenician traders crossed vast seas to spread their language and ideas thousands of years ago, today we use the internet to innovate and spread important messages. When a business or a writer needed to voice their opinion before the digital era, they were as limited as ancient Egyptian priests scrawling complex pictographs that only a select few could read or understand. 

Today, you can amplify and spread your voice across the entire planet with the content needed to make an impact. New technologies and techniques in the digital marketing sphere continue to push our abilities even further. 

Just like the Phoenician alphabet transformed into Greek and then into Latin, the way we communicate and write today is constantly evolving. New techniques in digital marketing, SEO, and content creation emerge every single day. With Paradigm Content Solutions, you can make sure you’re always at the forefront of these changes. Using the latest methods, we can take your digital presence to the next level. 

Content creation for almost any industry! Digital marketing experts. Writers for hire
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Don’t get left behind. History is filled with individuals and entire societies who have remained stagnant, unwilling to change their ways and adapt to the ever-changing world around them. Just like the Egyptians and Sumerians, their stories become lost in the sands of time. 

The digital sphere provides you with the opportunity to have your voice heard, but not if you’re drowned out by the background noise. To make a genuine impact on history, it’s important to speak in a way that reaches the masses. After all, history is written by the victors. 

Choose Paradigm Content Solutions, and carve out a lasting digital presence. 

Published by AB

Writer, editor, content creator, digital marketing analyst, small business owner, educator, client success manager, storyteller, writing coach. Family, spirituality, travel, camping/outdoors enthusiast, yoga and meditation student

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