The alphabetic order doesn’t have any apparent logic; it’s origin is a mystery.
The best explanation for the fact that b follows a and c, b is found in an article written by Gerrit Noordzij.
‘The consistency of the alphabetic order (for more than 3500 years) is an official problem in the official history of writing.’ (Letterletter, 2000)
‘It might be rewarding to consider the possibility that the alphabet has its origin in a set of numerals. Linguistic authors only see the thrilling idea of an analytic orthographic system which allows one to compose any word with a small number of signs. The invention of a practical system of signs for writing numbers would have required a more modest level of abstraction. If the system of orthographic signs could be considered as a next step, the invention of the alphabet would be easier to understand.’
‘The order of the alphabet, the Hebrew alphabet as well as its Greek descendant, is as consistent as the order 1, 2, 3 … a consistency requiring no further explanation.’
Chinese have something like an alphabet for their basic characters, the 千字文 (Thousand Characters Text). It contains one thousand characters in 250 lines of four characters grouped into four line of rhyming stanzas that make them easier to memorize.
The invariable order of characters or letters is certainly a mnemonic rule even if, as it is the case in the Thousand Characters Text and the alphabet, its meaning is unknown.
This is a rubbing of a sixth-century copy of Wang Xizhi’s (303–361) Thousand Character Text.
But Chinese publishers don’t organize dictionaries by any illogical system. Characters follow by stroke order. To find characters, users need to know the constructing strokes and their order. This shows the high graphic awareness necessary to manage Chinese characters.
Below I have organized the alphabet by strokes. Serif and vertical or oblique strokes are counted as a single stroke. The experiment might not be embraced by any Western dictionary publisher, but reveals that the Roman script is a system made up by a limited set of strokes.
The second, third, fourth and fifth strokes are added to complete the letters now graphically organized from f to y.