From the Jerusalem Post: The Jews invent vowels.
"Roughly 3,000 years ago, in and around the area we now call Israel, a group of people who may have called themselves ivri, and whom we call variously ‘Hebrews,’ ‘Israelites,’ or more colloquially but less accurately ‘Jews,’ began an experiment in writing that would change the world."
That’s how I began the remarkable history that links the Jewish people to its historic language and identity. (In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language; NYU Press 2004). As Jews pause in the calendrical cycle to celebrate the Torah, it seems particularly apt to take note of the fascinating story that lies behind this experiment, without which writing would never have become widespread, and without which the world would have no Torah scrolls, books, newspapers or e-mail.
The key is the vowels.
Those of us who read and write take the technology for granted. It was an alphabetic experiment 3,000 years ago in Jerusalem that made widespread literacy possible. Before we look at what happened there, we need to understand the background.
There are lots of ways to write words. Three systems that never made it predated the one that finally did. [continue]