Alpha, the beginning.

 In MoraliaAmmonius asks Plutarch what he, being a Boetian, has to say for Cadmus, the Phoenician who reputedly settled in Thebes and introduced the alphabet to Greece, placing alpha first because it is the Phoenician name for ox.. 
"Nothing at all," Plutarch replied. He then added that he would rather be assisted by Lamprias, his own grandfather, than by Dionysus' grandfather, i.e. Cadmus. For Lamprias had said that the first articulate sound made is "alpha", because it is very plain and simple — the air coming off the mouth does not require any motion of the tongue — and therefore this is the first sound that children make.
According to Plutarch, alpha was connected with the Moon.


  1. language acquisition in children is a fascinating topic. supposedly, the child's first word for "mother" all over the world is "ma" or "mom" or "mum" or some close variation because the sequence m + vowel is easiest for the infant to see displayed on the parent's lips and so to imitate. "f" is also a labial, but a bit more complicated than "m" so "father" is harder tham "mother" and develops second (with exceptions, of course) -- indicating the relative closeness of the parents to the child ...

    do you happen to know derrida's "plato's pharmacy"? he discusses the introduction of writing in greece as a poison that weakened memory (among other things)

    1. I know of it, but I know very little.
      Derrida interrogates Plato's claim, delivered through Socrates, of the existence of metaphysical and indisputable truth (aletheia).
      I know that somewhere in there Derrida turns to the notion that words have fathers. Before long noting Socrates's claim that the relationship between spoken words and their "fathers" is more direct, more immediate, than the "miserable" relationship between written texts and their authors...

  2. What a revelation. A is the first sound to come from a baby's mouth because it requires no effort. Thanks for that.

  3. wow that is such a great insight. It does make sense, although I do move my tongue a bit when I say alpha :)

    Just followed you!

    Greetings from the A to Z trail,
    Sylvia @ Playful Creative

  4. I love the association between alpha and the word for "ox." Nice post.

    A-Z @ Elizabeth Twist

  5. Greetings! Very interesting post. I love learning the history of words and language. Good luck this April!


  6. I agree with everyone in that this is an incredibly insightful explanation of why babies make the "A" sound! Julie