Phoenician


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Phoenician

1. a member of an ancient Semitic people of NW Syria who dominated the trade of the ancient world in the first millennium bc and founded colonies throughout the Mediterranean
2. the extinct language of this people, belonging to the Canaanitic branch of the Semitic subfamily of the Afro-Asiatic family
www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/430phoenicia.html

Phoenician

 

the language of the Phoenicians, spoken from the second or first millennium B.C. to the early first millennium A.D. in Phoenicia and in Phoenician settlements in the Mediterranean, including Cyprus, Sicily, Sardinia, Massalia, Spain, and North Africa. In North Africa, Late Phoenician, or Punic, survived until the Arab conquest in the eighth century A.D. In Phoenicia itself, the language died out in the second century A.D. Phoenician is represented by inscriptions dating from the middle of the second millennium B.C to the second century A.D. in Phoenicia and to the third and fourth centuries A.D. in the western Mediterranean.

Phoenician belongs to the Canaanite subgroup of the Semitic languages. Its morphology and lexicon are similar to those of Hebrew. The alphabet used indicates that only 22 of the 29 consonants common to the Semitic languages were retained, a result of the loss of the opposition between certain sibilants and between uvular and pharyngeal fricatives. However, transcriptions in foreign languages show that certain consonant distinctions not reflected in the writing system were preserved in early Phoenician or in some dialects. The greatest differences between Phoenician and other Semitic languages were in the vowel system: Proto-Semitic *a and became Phoenician ō (Hebrew ā) and ū (Hebrew ō), respectively, as in Phoenician labōn (“white”) and lašūn (“tongue,” “language”). Phoenician used the Byblos pseudo-hieroglyphic script and, later, the Phoenician alphabet.

REFERENCES

D’iakonov, I. M. Iazyki Drevnei Perednei Azii. Moscow, 1967.
Shifman, I. Sh. Finikiiskii iazyk. Moscow, 1963.
Friedrich, J. Phönizisch-punische Grammatik. Rome, 1951.
Jean, C. F., and J. Hoftijzer. Dictionnaire des inscriptions sémitiques de l’ouest. Leiden, 1965.
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