Why do Arabs write right to left?

Many europeans think it's strange that Arabic is written right-to-left. They would probably be surprised to know that many middle east/european alphabets (including latin, greek and arabic) all come from the same source. They have each evolved in different ways, and it's now difficult to see any similarity.

The original alphabet was created about four thousand years ago by Semitic people that lived at the eastern end of the Mediterranean sea. It was spread by Phoenician traders around the mediterranean area. This semitic script was probably originally written from the top of a page to the bottom.

Around three thousand years ago, this semitic script was used as the basis for the greek alphabet, which went left to right, and the latin and arabic alphabets, which went right to left.

Yes, that's right, latin writing originally went right to left, like arabic writing. Here is an example from about 700 BC...

It's not clear why, but in about 600 BC, the Romans decided to switch to left-to-right writing.

Mike Green 21May2014

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