Is there any significance to the pattern we get when the Roman alphabet (upon which English is based) is arranged by giving vowels a "lead" column (which I hope you will be able to see as a grid)?

For instance, are gutturals grouped together, etc?Roman alphabet vowel arrangement

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    Do you consider that originally Roman alphabet had only 21 letter?
    – Matt
    Jul 29, 2015 at 19:42
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    I suggest you start your researches here - oxforddictionaries.com/words/… Jul 29, 2015 at 19:51
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    Whoa, weird. Have you noticed that, when the vowels are given a lead column, all consonants seem to be in following columns (i.e., they appear to the right of the vowels)? What's more -- what are missing are not just letters, but words! Jul 29, 2015 at 19:58
  • Yes, chasly, I know of Marshall and McDonald's article. Sadly, it does not really explain why the sequence appears so visually neat. My question was prompted by a similar grid of the Devanagri alphabet which is clearly grouped round similar sounds - see shalinibosbyshell.com/pronunciation.pdf Jul 29, 2015 at 20:29
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    @Jake Modern additions to the alphabet (for many languages) are fairly well documented and understood. It's the rationale behind original Phonecian arrangement (which was imported by the Etruscans, then Greeks, then Romans, then English, Spanish, French...) that's lost to the mists of time.
    – Dan Bron
    Jul 29, 2015 at 20:55

1 Answer 1


No, this pattern is an accident. It developed from ancient alphabets which had a similar order but no similar pattern because their collection of letters was different.

For all the adaptations and mutations, the alphabet's order of letters has been relatively stable. In the 1920s, archaeologists found a dozen stone tablets used in a school in Ugarit, a city in what is now Syria, that are from the fourteenth century BC and preserve two orders of the Ugaritic alphabet. One, the "Northern Semitic order" is related to the Phoenician and Hebrew alphabets and features bits and pieces of an order familiar to Modern English speakers: a, b…g, h…l, m…q,r.


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    I would like to vote positively for this answer, but you have given me no choice but to sift through a long article that I would rather not read. Jul 29, 2015 at 21:09
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    All very interesting. However, if a non-Roman alphabet sequence like Devanagri (which has given birth to so many regional developments) has settled for a sound pattern sequence for learning its visual alphabet would not an equivalent motivation have been at the origin of the current Roman alphabet, even if it has now lost such a pattern? Jul 29, 2015 at 22:04
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    @MichaelMoore: The Roman order is mostly derived from the Greek order (maybe partly by way of Etruscan); the Greek order is derived I believe from Phoenician, which is derived from the same all-consonantal source as the Semitic alphabets. I don't believe the reason for the ancient Semitic order is known.
    – herisson
    Jul 29, 2015 at 22:29
  • Edited to include the directly relevant section.
    – Luke
    Jul 30, 2015 at 12:37
  • @MichaelMoore There certainly could be an equivalent motivation at the start of this. But such a motivation couldn't have led to the precise grid pattern you've drawn because of all the changes in the alphabet that have taken place.
    – Luke
    Jul 30, 2015 at 12:48

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