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Apart from its use in writing the Greek language, in both its ancient and its modern forms, the Greek alphabet today also serves as a source of technical symbols and labels in many domains of mathematics, science and other fields.

In its classical and modern forms, the alphabet has 24 letters, ordered from alpha to omega.

The Greeks adopted the alphabet from the earlier Phoenician alphabet, one of the closely related scripts used for the West Semitic languages.

However, the Phoenician alphabet is limited to consonants.

Greek was originally written predominantly from right to left, just like Phoenician, but scribes could freely alternate between directions.

For a time, a writing style with alternating right-to-left and left-to-right lines (called boustrophedon, literally "ox-turning", after the manner of an ox ploughing a field) was common, until in the classical period the left-to-right writing direction became the norm.

When it was adopted for writing Greek, certain consonants were adapted to express vowels.

The use of both vowels and consonants makes Greek the first alphabet in the narrow sense, Three of the original Phoenician letters dropped out of use before the alphabet took its classical shape: the letter Ϻ (san), which had been in competition with Σ (sigma) denoting the same phoneme /s/; the letter Ϙ (qoppa), which was redundant with Κ (kappa) for /k/, and Ϝ (digamma), whose sound value /w/ dropped out of the spoken language before or during the classical period.

When the Greeks adapted the Phoenician alphabet, they took over not only the letter shapes and sound values, but also the names by which the sequence of the alphabet could be recited and memorized.

Like Latin and Cyrillic, Greek originally had only a single form of each letter; it developed the letter case distinction between upper-case and lower-case forms in parallel with Latin during the modern era.

Sound values and conventional transcriptions for some of the letters differ between Ancient Greek and Modern Greek usage, because the pronunciation of Greek has changed significantly between the 5th century BC and today. The traditional orthography, which is used for Ancient Greek and sometimes for Modern Greek, has many diacritics, such as accent marks for pitch accent ("polytonic"), the breathing marks for the presence and absence of the initial In both Ancient and Modern Greek, the letters of the Greek alphabet have fairly stable and consistent symbol-to-sound mappings, making pronunciation of words largely predictable.

A form of western Greek native to Euboea, which among other things had Χ for /ks/, was transplanted to Italy by early Greek colonists, and became the ancestor of the Old Italic alphabets and ultimately, through Etruscan, of the Latin alphabet.

Athens used a local form of the alphabet until the 5th century BC; it lacked the letters Ξ and Ψ as well as the vowel symbols Η and Ω.

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Standardized formal transcription systems have been defined by the International Organization for Standardization (as ISO 843), During the Mycenaean period, from around the 16th century to the 12th century BC, Linear B was used to write the earliest attested form of the Greek language, known as Mycenaean Greek.

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