From Greek to Latin: Visualizing the Evolution of the Alphabet
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From Greek to Latin: Visualizing the Evolution of the Alphabet

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Visualizing the Evolution of the Alphabet

From Greek to Latin: Visualizing the Evolution of the Alphabet

Over the course of 2021, the Greek alphabet was a major part of the news cycle.

COVID-19 variants, which are labeled with Greek letters when becoming a variant of concern, normalized their usage. From the Alpha variant in the UK, to the Delta variant that spread from India to become the dominant global strain, the Greek alphabet was everywhere. Seemingly overnight, the Omicron variant discovered in South Africa has now taken the mantle as the most discussed variant.

But the Greek alphabet is used in other parts of our lives as well. For example, Greek letters are commonly used in mathematics and science, like Sigma (Σ) denoting a sum or Lambda (λ) used to represent the half-life of radioactive material.

And the study of linguistics shows us why using Greek letters in English isn’t completely farfetched. This visualization from Matt Baker at UsefulCharts.com demonstrates how the modern Latin script used in English evolved from Greek, and other, alphabets.

It’s All Proto-Sinaitic to Me

Before there was English, or Latin, or even Greek, there was Proto-Sinaitic.

Considered the first alphabet ever used, the Proto-Sinaitic script was derived in Canaan, around the biblical Land of Israel. It was repurposed from Egyptian hieroglyphs that were commonly seen in the area (its name comes from Mount Sinai), and used to describe sounds instead of meanings.

Proto-Sinaitic Letter (Reconstructed Name)Original Meaning
ʾalpox
baythouse
gaml throwstick
dagfish
haw/hillulpraise
waw/uphfowl
zayn/zaytoxhide ingot/sword
ḏiqqmanacle
ḥaṣr courtyard
ḫaytthread
ṭab good
yadhand
kappalm
lamdgoad
maymwater
naḥašsnake
ṡamkpeg
ʿayneye
ġabicalyx
pʿitcorner
ṣadayplant
qobaneedle/nape/monkey
raʾšhead
šimšsun
śadehfield
ṯannbow
tāwmark

As the first Semitic script, Proto-Sinaitic soon influenced other Semitic languages. It was the precursor to the Phoenician alphabet, which was used in the area of modern-day Lebanon and spread across the Mediterranean and became the basis for Arabic, Cyrillic, Hebrew, and of course, Greek.

Evolving into the Greek, Roman, and Latin Alphabets

Over time, the alphabet continued to become adopted and evolve across different languages.

The first forms of the Archaic Greek script are dated circa 750 BCE. Many of the letters remained in Modern Greek, including Alpha, Beta, Delta, and even Omicron, despite first appearing more than 2,500 years ago.

Soon the Greek alphabet (and much of its culture) was borrowed into Latin, with Archaic Latin script appearing circa 500 BCE. The evolution into Roman script, with the same recognizable letters used in modern English, occurred 500 years later in 1 CE.

AlphabetUsage (Year)
Proto-Sinaitic~ 1,750 BCE
Phoenician~ 1,000 BCE
Archaic Greek~ 750 BCE
Archaic Latin~ 500 BCE
Roman~ 1 CE
Modern LatinToday

Many of the letters which first came from Egyptian hieroglyphs made their way into modern English, but they took a long and convoluted journey. As the graphic above highlights, some letters evolved into multiple forms, while others fell out of use entirely.

And this is just a snapshot of the many scripts and languages that the modern English alphabet evolved from. Lowercase letters came from Roman cursive, which evolved into the Insular and Carolingian scripts before becoming modern lowercase English.

Like many things in the long arc of human culture, alphabets are not as far removed from each other as you might think.

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Misc

Visualized: The Most Googled Countries

This series of visualizations uses Google trends search data to show the most googled countries around the world, from 2004 to 2022.

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Visualized: The Most Googled Countries, Worldwide

View a higher resolution version of this network diagram.

Analyzing societal trends can teach us a lot about a population’s cultural fabric.

And since Google makes up more than 90% of internet searches outside of the Great Firewall, studying its usage is one of the best resources for modern social research.

This series of visualizations by Anders Sundell uses Google Trends search data to show the most googled countries around the world, from 2004 to 2022. These graphics provide thought-provoking insight into different cultural similarities and geopolitical dynamics.

A Quick Note on Methodology

The visualization above shows the most googled country in each nation around the world over the last couple of decades.

For example, the arrow pointing from Canada to the United States means that, between 2004 and 2022, people in Canada had more searches about the U.S. than any other country globally.

And since this study only looked at interest in other countries, queries of countries searching for themselves were not included in the data.

Finally, each country’s circle is scaled relative to its search interest, meaning the bigger the circle, the more countries pointing to it (and searching for it).

The Top Googled Countries Overall

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the U.S. is the most googled country on the list, ranking first place in 45 of the 190 countries included in the dataset.

CountryTop Googled Country
🇦🇩​ Andorra🇪🇸​ Spain
🇦🇪​ The United Arab Emirates 🇮🇳 India
🇦🇫​ Afghanistan🇮🇷 Iran
🇦🇬 Antigua and Barbuda🇺🇸 The United States
🇦🇱 Albania🇮🇹 Italy
🇦🇲 Armenia🇷🇺 Russia
🇦🇴 Angola🇧🇷 Brazil
🇦🇷 Argentina🇪🇸​ Spain
🇦🇹 Austria🇩🇪 Germany
🇦🇺 Australia🇺🇸 The United States
🇦🇿 Azerbaijan🇹🇷 Turkey
🏴󠁢󠁡󠁢󠁩󠁨󠁿 Bosnia and Herzegovina🇷🇴 Romania
🇧🇧 Barbados🇬🇧 United Kingdom
🇧🇩 Bangladesh🇮🇳 India
🇧🇪 Belgium🇫🇷 France
🇧🇫 Burkina Faso🇫🇷 France
🇧🇬 Bulgaria🇷🇺 Russia
🇧🇭 Bahrain🇮🇳 India
🇧🇮 Burundi🇫🇷 France
🇧🇯 Benin🇫🇷 France
🇧🇳 Brunei🇲🇾 Malaysia
🇧🇴 Bolivia🇦🇷 Argentina
🇧🇷 Brazil🇺🇸 The United States
🇧🇸 The Bahamas 🇺🇸 The United States
🇧🇹 Bhutan🇮🇳 India
🇧🇼 Botswana🇿🇦 South Africa
🇧🇾 Belarus🇷🇺 Russia
🇧🇿 Belize🇺🇸 The United States
🇨🇦 Canada🇺🇸 The United States
🇨🇩 The Democratic Republic of Congo🇫🇷 France
🇨🇫 The Central African Republic🇫🇷 France
🇨🇬 The Congo🇨🇩 The Democratic Republic of Congo
🇨🇭 Switzerland🇩🇪 Germany
🇨🇮 Côte d'Ivoire🇫🇷 France
🇨🇱 Chile🇦🇷 Argentina
🇨🇲 Cameroon🇫🇷 France
🇨🇳 China🇺🇸 The United States
🇨🇴 Colombia🇺🇸 The United States
🇨🇷 Costa Rica 🇺🇸 The United States
🇨🇺 Cuba🇪🇸​ Spain
🇨🇻 Cabo Verde🇺🇸 The United States
🇨🇾 Cyprus🇬🇧 United Kingdom
🇨🇿 Czechia🇩🇪 Germany
🇩🇪 Germany🇺🇸 The United States
🇩🇯 Djibouti🇫🇷 France
🇩🇰 Denmark🇩🇪 Germany
🇩🇲 Dominica🇺🇸 The United States
🇩🇴 The Dominican Republic🇺🇸 The United States
🇩🇿 Algeria🇫🇷 France
🇪🇨 Ecuador🇺🇸 The United States
🇪🇪 Estonia🇷🇺 Russia
🇪🇬 Egypt🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia
🇪🇷 Eritrea🇪🇹 Ethiopia
🇪🇸 Spain🇺🇸 The United States
🇪🇹 Ethiopia🇺🇸 The United States
🇫🇮 Finland🇸🇪 Sweden
🇫🇯 Fiji🇦🇺 Australia
🇫🇲 Micronesia🇺🇸 The United States
🇫🇷 France🇺🇸 The United States
🇬🇦 Gabon🇫🇷 France
🇬🇧 United Kingdom🇺🇸 The United States
🇬🇩 Grenada🇺🇸 The United States
🇬🇪 Georgia🇷🇺 Russia
🇬🇭 Ghana🇺🇸 The United States
🇬🇲 Gambia🇬🇧 United Kingdom
🇬🇳 Guinea🇫🇷 France
🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea🇪🇸​ Spain
🇬🇷 Greece🇬🇧 United Kingdom
🇬🇹 Guatemala🇸🇻 El Salvador
🇬🇼 Guinea-Bissau🇵🇹 Portugal
🇬🇾 Guyana🇮🇳 India
🇭🇳 Honduras🇺🇸 The United States
🇭🇷 Croatia🇩🇪 Germany
🇭🇹 Haiti 🇺🇸 The United States
🇭🇺 Hungary🇺🇸 The United States
🇮🇩 Indonesia🇯🇵 Japan
🇮🇪 Ireland🇬🇧 United Kingdom
🇮🇱 Israel🇺🇸 The United States
🇮🇳 India🇺🇸 The United States
🇮🇶 Iraq🇹🇷 Turkey
🇮🇷 Iran 🇹🇷 Turkey
🇮🇸 Iceland🇬🇧 United Kingdom
🇮🇹 Italy🇺🇸 The United States
🇯🇲 Jamaica🇺🇸 The United States
🇯🇴 Jordan🇪🇬 Egypt
🇯🇵 Japan🇺🇸 The United States
🇰🇪 Kenya🇺🇸 The United States
🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan🇷🇺 Russia
🇰🇭 Cambodia🇹🇭 Thailand
🇰🇮 Kiribati🇫🇯 Fiji
🇰🇲 Comoros🇫🇷 France
🇰🇳 Saint Kitts and Nevis🇺🇸 The United States
🇰🇵 North Korea🇺🇸 The United States
🇰🇷 South Korea🇯🇵 Japan
🇰🇼 Kuwait🇮🇳 India
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan🇷🇺 Russia
🇱🇦 Laos🇹🇭 Thailand
🇱🇧 Lebanon🇸🇾 Syria
🇱🇨 Saint Lucia🇬🇧 United Kingdom
🇱🇮 Liechtenstein🇨🇭 Switzerland
🇱🇰 Sri Lanka🇮🇳 India
🇱🇷 Liberia🇺🇸 The United States
🇱🇸 Lesotho🇿🇦 South Africa
🇱🇹 Lithuania🇷🇺 Russia
🇱🇺 Luxembourg🇫🇷 France
🇱🇻 Latvia🇷🇺 Russia
🇱🇾 Libya🇪🇬 Egypt
🇲🇦 Morocco🇫🇷 France
🇲🇨 Monaco🇫🇷 France
🇲🇩 Moldova 🇷🇺 Russia
🇲🇪 Montenegro🇷🇸 Serbia
🇲🇬​ Madagascar🇫🇷 France
🇲🇰 Republic of North Macedonia🇷🇸 Serbia
🇲🇱 Mali🇫🇷 France
🇲🇲 Myanmar🇯🇵 Japan
🇲🇳 Mongolia🇯🇵 Japan
🇲🇷 Mauritania🇫🇷 France
🇲🇹 Malta🇬🇧 United Kingdom
🇲🇺 Mauritius🇮🇳 India
🇲🇻 Maldives🇮🇳 India
🇲🇼 Malawi🇿🇦 South Africa
🇲🇽 Mexico🇺🇸 The United States
🇲🇾 Malaysia🇯🇵 Japan
🇲🇿 Mozambique🇧🇷 Brazil
🇳🇪 The Niger🇫🇷 France
🇳🇬 Nigeria🇺🇸 The United States
🇳🇮 Nicaragua🇺🇸 The United States
🇳🇱 The Netherlands🇩🇪 Germany
🇳🇴 Norway🇸🇪 Sweden
🇳🇵 Nepal🇮🇳 India
🇳🇿 New Zealand🇦🇺 Australia
🇴🇲 Oman🇮🇳 India
🇵🇦 Panama🇺🇸 The United States
🇵🇪 Peru🇪🇸​ Spain
🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea🇦🇺 Australia
🇵🇭 The Philippines🇯🇵 Japan
🇵🇰 Pakistan🇮🇳 India
🇵🇱 Poland🇩🇪 Germany
🇵🇸 Palestine🇮🇱 Israel
🇵🇹 Portugal🇧🇷 Brazil
🇵🇾 Paraguay🇦🇷 Argentina
🇶🇦 Qatar🇮🇳 India
🇷🇴 Romania🇮🇹 Italy
🇷🇸 Serbia🇽🇰 Kosovo
🇷🇺 Russia🇺🇸 The United States
🇷🇼 Rwanda🇺🇬 Uganda
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia🇪🇬 Egypt
🇸🇧 Solomon Islands🇦🇺 Australia
🇸🇨 Seychelles🇮🇳 India
🇸🇩 Sudan 🇪🇬 Egypt
🇸🇪 Sweden🇺🇸 The United States
🇸🇬 Singapore🇯🇵 Japan
🇸🇮 Slovenia🇭🇷 Croatia
🇸🇰 Slovakia🇨🇿 Czechia
🇸🇱 Sierra Leone🇬🇳 Guinea
🇸🇲 San Marino 🇮🇹 Italy
🇸🇳 Senegal🇫🇷 France
🇸🇴 Somalia🇮🇳 India
🇸🇷 Suriname🇳🇱 The Netherlands
🇸🇸 South Sudan🇺🇸 The United States
🇸🇹 Sao Tome and Principe🇵🇹 Portugal
🇸🇻 El Salvador🇺🇸 The United States
🇸🇾 Syria🇱🇧 Lebanon
🇸🇿 Eswatini🇿🇦 South Africa
🇹🇩 Chad🇺🇸 The United States
🇹🇬 Togo🇫🇷 France
🇹🇭 Thailand🇯🇵 Japan
🇹🇯 Tajikistan🇷🇺 Russia
🇹🇱 Timor-Leste🇸🇬 Singapore
🇹🇲 Turkmenistan🇷🇺 Russia
🇹🇳 Tunisia🇫🇷 France
🇹🇴 Tonga🇳🇿 New Zealand
🇹🇷 Turkey🇺🇸 The United States
🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago🇺🇸 The United States
🇹🇼 Taiwan🇯🇵 Japan
🇹🇿 Tanzania🇰🇪 Kenya
🇺🇦 Ukraine🇷🇺 Russia
🇺🇬 Uganda🇺🇸 The United States
🇺🇸 The United States🇲🇽 Mexico
🇺🇾 Uruguay🇦🇷 Argentina
🇺🇿 Uzbekistan🇷🇺 Russia
🇻🇨 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines🇧🇧 Barbados
🇻🇪 Venezuela 🇨🇴 Colombia
🇻🇳 Vietnam🇯🇵 Japan
🇻🇺 Vanuatu🇦🇺 Australia
🇽🇰 Kosovo🇦🇱 Albania
🇾🇪 Yemen🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia
🇿🇦 South Africa🇬🇧 United Kingdom
🇿🇲 Zambia🇿🇦 South Africa
🇿🇼 Zimbabwe🇿🇦 South Africa

While it’s the top googled country in neighboring places like Canada and Mexico, it’s also number one in countries much farther away like Nigeria, Sweden, and Australia.

The U.S. is currently the world’s largest economy by nominal GDP, and one of the biggest cultural influences globally. However, it’s worth noting that China, the world’s second-largest economy and the most populated, had very little search interest in comparison, at least based on Google Trends data.

Zooming into Specific Regions

In addition to the network map highlighting the overall top googled countries, Sundell created a series of videos breaking down the data monthly, by regions. Here are the videos for the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

The United States

Since 2004, there have been a high number of searches for Canada, Mexico and India in America.

The searches for Mexico seem to be concentrated in the Western U.S., which is also where a large portion of the country’s Hispanic population lives. In contrast, searches for India seem to come mostly from the eastern side of the country.

Europe

The U.S. is by the far the most commonly googled country across Europe, ranking number one consistently over the last two decades.

However, Russia stole the limelight in 2014, the year that they invaded and ultimately annexed Crimea.

Asia

In the early 2000s, the U.S. held the top googled spot in Asia, but over time, relative searches for the U.S. go down. India stole the top spot to become the most googled country in Asia for a majority of the 2010s.

One anomaly occurred when Japan briefly took the top spot in March 2011, which is when a magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit the northern coast of Japan, causing a devastating tsunami.

What will future search results reveal about the global landscape? Were any of the results surprising?

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Politics

Which Countries Trust Their Government, and Which Ones Don’t?

There is a clear correlation between trust in government and trust in public institutions, but a few countries buck the trend.

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Which Countries Trust Their Government, and Which Ones Don’t?

In many countries around the world, vast portions of the population do not trust their own government.

Lack of faith in government and politics is nothing new, but in times of uncertainty, that lack of trust can coalesce into movements that challenge the authority of ruling parties and even threaten the stability of nations.

This visualization uses data from the Ipsos Global Trustworthiness Monitor to look at how much various populations trust their government and public institutions.

Tracking Trust in Government

Since the beginning of the pandemic, global trust in government has improved by eight percentage points, but that is only a small improvement on an otherwise low score.

At the country level, feelings towards government can vary widely. India, Germany, Netherlands, and Malaysia had the highest government trust levels.

Many of the countries with the lowest levels of trust were located in Latin America. This makes sense, as trust in politicians in this region is almost non-existent. For example, in Colombia, only 4% of the population consider politicians trustworthy. In Argentina, that figure falls to just 3%.

Trust in Public Institutions

Broadly speaking, people trust their public services more than the governments in charge of managing and funding them. This makes sense as civil servants fare much better than politicians and government ministers in trustworthiness.

chart showing global trust in professions. Politicians and government ministers rank the lowest.

As our main chart demonstrates, there is a correlation between faith in government and trust in public institutions. There are clear “high trust” and “low trust” groupings in the countries included in the polling, but there is also a third group that stands out—the countries that have high trust in public institutions, but not in their government. Leading this group is Japan, which has a stark difference in trust between public services and politicians. There are many factors that explain this difference, such as values, corruption levels, and the reliability of public services in various countries.

While trust scores for government improved slightly during the pandemic, trust in public institutions stayed nearly the same.

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