on Origins of Cyrillic Alphabet
The Cyrillic alphabet is younger than all known graphic writing systems. This alphabet is one of the two early Slavic alphabets (the other one is Glagolitic). The Glagolitic alphabet was created in the 9th century by brothers Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius, Greek missionaries. It is said that their disciple, Saint Climent of Ohrid, created the early Cyrillic alphabet in the 10th century and named it for Saint Cyril.
Modern Belarusian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Russian, Serbian, and Ukrainian languages have been formed on the basis of the Cyrillic alphabet. In the 1920s – 1930s, many nations of the former Soviet Union (including non-Slavic ones) accepted this alphabet with modifications to reflect the specificity of their native languages. The Cyrillic alphabet has been used to write about 60 languages, both Slavic and non-Slavic. Today, the Cyrillic alphabet is officially used in eight Slavic European countries (Belarus, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Russia, and Ukraine) and in some non-Slavic countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan).
The early Cyrillic alphabet was Greek-like, that is letters of the Greek alphabet served as prototypes for early Cyrillic letters. In addition, new letters were created for Slavic sounds that had no equivalents in Greek.
The early Cyrillic alphabet was composed of 24 upper-case Greek letters (А, В, Г, Д, Є, Z, Н, І, К, Л, М, N, О, П, Р, С, Т, Ф, Х, Ω, Ψ, Θ, Ξ, V) and special new letters created for unique Slavic sounds. In opinion of scholars, the new letters were adopted from Glagolitic, which had symbols for those sounds. (The exact composition of the early Cyrillic alphabet is not known).
Each Cyrillic letter had its own name. For example, азъ - “я” (“I”), боукы - “буквы” (“letters”), веди - “знаю” (“know”), etc. Names helped to remember the letters quicker. Cyrillic letters also had numeric values that corresponded to values of identical letters of the Greek alphabet: А - 1, В - 2, Г - 3, etc.
An inscription made in 931 in a cave monastery near the village of Krepcha, Bulgaria, is the earliest dated Cyrillic artifact known today. The earliest known parchment Cyrillic manuscripts are Sava’s Book dated between the end of 10th century and the beginning of 11th century, Codex Suprasliensis dated 11th century (both survived and were found on territories that belonged to Kievan Rus, the first eastern Slavic state) and Enina Apostle dated 11th century that was found in Bulgaria. The oldest known exactly dated Cyrillic book is the Ostromir Gospels of 1056-57.
In 10th – 12th centuries the Cyrillic alphabet was used side-by-side to the Glagolitic alphabet but replaced the latter gradually. Over the years, Cyrillic changed many times. The form and quantity of letters in the Cyrillic alphabet changed along with changes in Slavic languages. The only language that has preserved the initial Cyrillic alphabet is Old Church Slavic, the language of religious worship in Russia and other countries of Eastern Europe.
|Glagolitic letter ||Cyrillic letter ||Sound ||Name ||Meaning ||Number |
|Speech, verb||3 |
|Kindness, good||4 |
|Therefore, as, since||10 |
|He, that||70 |
|Solid, hard||300 |
|[ję]||Юс малый йотированный|
Yus small iotated
|[jǫ]||Юс большой йотированный|
Yus big iotated
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