Phoenician Alphabet


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Phoenician Alphabet

 

a writing system used by the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, as well as the ancient Hebrews and Moabites. Records written in the alphabet date from the second half of the second millennium B.C to the fourth century A.D.

The Phoenician alphabet, together with the Ugaritic and South Semitic (Thamudene, Safaitic, Lihyanite, and ancient South Arabic) alphabets, apparently derives from the ancient Canaanite syllabic or consonantal pictographic writing. Versions resembling the original Canaanite writing system are represented in pseudo-hieroglyphic writing from Byblos and in inscriptions from the Sinai and Palestine dating from the first half of the second millennium B.C; the Lycian, Lydian, and Carian alphabets of Asia Minor appear to be derived from the Canaanite system as well. The Phoenician alphabet used 22 graphemes, as opposed to the probable 29 or 30 of the parent system.

Almost all phonetic writing systems can be traced back to the Phoenician alphabet. The Samaritan and Aramaic systems derived from the Phoenician; Aramaic, in turn, is an ancestor of the Hebrew, Nabataean, Arabic, and other alphabets of Southwest Asia. Georgian and Armenian are indirect descendants of Aramaic, and the Sogdian, Uighur, and Mongolian alphabets also derive from the Aramaic system. The early, unattested versions of the Phoenician alphabet were the source for the Phrygian and Greek writing systems and their derivatives, which include Latin, Cyrillic, and many others. They were also the source for Brahmi writing and its derivatives—the writing systems of India, Southeast Asia, and Tibet.

REFERENCES

Tainy drevnikh pis’men. Compiled, edited, and with a preface by I. M. D’iakonov. Moscow, 1976.
Dunand, M. Byblia grammata. Beirut, 1945.
Driver, G. R. Semitic Writing From Pictograph to Alphabet. London, 1954.
Gelb, I. J. The Study of Writing, 2nd ed. Chicago, 1963.
Jensen, H. Die Schrift in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart, 3rd ed. Berlin, 1969.
References in periodicals archive ?
Kilamuwa wrote in Phoenician and the Aramaic alphabet is essentially a modification of the Phoenician alphabet.
Chinese characters, Phoenician alphabet of 22 letters was adapted in part by the Greeks who added some vowels, the Romans adapted the Greek alphabet and during the 1st to 10th centuries AD added 3 more letters to produce an alphabet of 26 letters.
In fact, funerary inscriptions found on Ahiram's sarcophagus, dating to 1000 BC, reveal one of the earliest representations of the Phoenician alphabet.
The development of alphabets results in a Phoenician alphabet with 22 consonants around 1000 B.
The Israelites adopt a variation of the Phoenician alphabet and eventually begin writing.
Perhaps one of the most precious items at the national museum is the sarcophagus of Ahiram, upon which the Phoenician alphabet is engraved.
For example, the Phoenician script was descended from, and inspired by, Egyptian writing (the Phoenician alphabet was itself inspired in part by the proto-Canaanite script, itself descended from the Egyptian system).
Before the last hieroglyphic texts had been inscribed, the image of the taurine aleph profile passed from the Hamitic south to the Semitic north of the levantine coast, to acquire sound and meaning as the first of the 22 letters of the Phoenician alphabet.
The secret of the Phoenician alphabet was eventually unlocked by a French priest, Barthelemy, in 1758, when he managed to decypher a bilingual Greek-Phoenician inscription.
Inventions such as Sumerian tablet writing in the third millennium BC and the Phoenician alphabet in approximately the 10th century BC testify to humankind's innate ability to organize data.
Beginning in the West with the Phoenician alphabet some 3,500 years ago, it has caught on nicely, and there are few places where you'll find people with absolutely no access to paper and pencil or pen or marker.
And the Etruscans based their signs on the early Greek alphabet (eighth century BC), not on the classical Greek alphabet (fifth century BC and after), and thus the Etruscan alphabet includes, for example, four distinct signs for `s'--the last three of which had been inherited by the early Greeks from the Phoenician alphabet but were later reduced by the classical Greeks to two signs.