Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Alphabet of Home

This beautiful site about the Armenian alphabet is fascinating, beguilingly inscrutable and mysterious for a non-Armenian. If you click on each letter or number it opens up a page about that letter -- an intriguing graphic representation of the letter made out of birds, animals, flowers or other designs. On that page you can click on the individual letter or words made out of that letter and hear it pronounced. There's also Armenian music, other information, and even links to games. (I mentioned a link to a great site about orthography and writing systems, as well as more about Armenian, this post about Choreographies of the Readable.)

To me, as an English speaker, each letter of the Armenian alphabet is like my own alphabet -- the Roman alphabet-- seen as a reflection in a window, turned upside down, or seen like a shadow in the periphery of one's vision. It seems that if I were just to refocus and concentrate, perhaps turn the page upside, read it in a mirror or backwards through the light of a window, I should be able to read it. It reminds me of this little paragraph demonstrating how our minds make sense of texts, assembling them the way we assemble elements to form and read faces.

I said 'my own alphabet.' I don't know if I've ever identified it like that. My alphabet. The way I might say 'My country.' And indeed, on Monday, returning from a trip to Honduras, stepping over the red line at customs in Toronto airport, I had, as I always have, a strong sense of coming home, a kind of comfort and security in returning to Canada, the way I might feel climbing into my bed at night. There are alphabets that I love, that I enjoy visiting and exploring, that I have strong memories and associations of (for example the Cyrillic alphabet, the Hebrew alphabet) but 'my alphabet' is home.

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