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The Alphabet

March 21, 2001

The ABCs are a tremendous tool: 26 letters that can help us read the more than 300,000 words in the English language. The alphabet is an innovative system in which symbols represent individual sounds of a language and are combined to form thousands of words. Learn your ABCs and how to alphabetize as well as discover how alphabets became important tools of expression and even works of art through these direct links on The Times Launch Point Web site:

Here are the best sites for getting your schoolwork done or for just having fun.

Level 1

Between the Lions: This Week's Adventure Map: From animated alphabet antics to alphabet soup, try an assortment of activities that help you learn your letters and have fun learning words.

Billy Bear's Alphabet Game: These four games help build alphabet skills ranging from word recognition to determining missing letters.

Alphabet Zoo: Can you help the animals at the Alphabet Zoo that are all mixed up? Learn how to alphabetize through this game, in which you place the animals in ABC order.

Level 2

American Sign Language: Learn the American Sign Language alphabet through photos, find out how various words are signed and try an online quiz in which words are signed and you have to figure out what they are.

Greece: Writing: An alphabet consists of symbols that stand for sounds, while pictographs (such as hieroglyphics or Chinese ideographs) stand for syllables or entire words. Find out how the Greeks modeled their alphabet on the one developed by the ancient Phoenicians and try translating some ancient Greek inscriptions.

Evolution of Alphabets: View animations that show how alphabets evolved. See how the ancient Phoenician alphabet was modified by writers of Greek and then of Latin, and eventually became our modern ABCs.

Level 3

Ancient Scripts of the World: The Alphabet: Read stories and view diagrams that explain how alphabets developed around the world.


Typography: Trace the history of mark-making through an interactive timeline and explore typography by learning about the anatomy of letters and how many typefaces can represent a single alphabet.

Greek Used in Mathematics: Get acquainted with the Greek alphabet and see how it is used today for many mathematical symbols such as pi, the lower-case Greek letter that refers to the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.

Launch Point is produced by the UC Irvine department of education, which reviews each site for appropriateness and quality. Even so, parents should supervise their children's use of the Internet. This column was designed by Carrie Targhetta, Kevin Brown, Laura E. Boyko and Anna Manring.


The answer to this Internet quiz can be found in the sites at right.

How did the Greeks come up with the word "alphabet"?

CLUE: See Greece: Writing (Phoenician Alphabet)

Find What You Need to Know: Have a project on California history? Need help doing a math problem? Launch Point covers more than 150 topics for getting your schoolwork done. Go to for the full list of subjects and direct links to the best Internet sites.

Answer to last week's Quest: Isolated mountains are usually volcanic.

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