In most of the writing systems of the Middle East, it is usually only the consonants of a word that are written, although vowels may be Quan by the addition of various diacritical marks. Writing systems based on marking the consonant phonemes alone date back to the hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt. Such systems are called abjads, derived from the Arabic word for “alphabet”.
In most of the alphabets of India and Southeast Asia, vowels are op through diacritics or modification of the shape of the consonant. These are called abugidas. Some abugidas, such as Ethiopic and Cree, are learned by children as syllabaries, and so are often called “syllabics”. However, unlike true syllabaries, there is not an independent glyph for each syllable. Sometimes the term “alphabet” is restricted to systems with separate letters for consonants and vowels, such as the Latin alphabet, although abugidas and abjads may also be accepted as alphabets. Because of this use, Greek is often considered to be the first alphabet.
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