Phoenician Alphabet

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
"To this day, the only other royal citadel where such an archive has been identified is that of Idalion, where hundreds of inscriptions were found in the Phoenician alphabet. The Palaepaphos sherd inscription will redefine many historical facts concerning the economic management system of the Cypriot city-states."
And for about the same length of time--about three millennia--trade organized from the cities on this coast was inextricably entwined with the people's aptitude for mobility and their adoption of practicable written communication through the Phoenician alphabet.
In a word during the encounter, Al-Tinni said: "The Greek-Lebanese relationship is long-standing and the ancient Greek culture was spread by the Phoenician alphabet." He stressed on the importance of deepening economic relations between Lebanon and Greece, which would help open a channel for Lebanese produce to European markets.
Dressed in varying shades of Tyrian purple, the court's dancers entertain the guests with a ritual dance, then present the Egyptians with the gift of the Phoenician alphabet, said to the first widely used alphabet.
Kilamuwa wrote in Phoenician and the Aramaic alphabet is essentially a modification of the Phoenician alphabet. Sama'ali Aramaic is so mixed with Phoenician words and influence that is almost a creole.
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.
The development of alphabets results in a Phoenician alphabet with 22 consonants around 1000 B.C.
The Israelites adopt a variation of the Phoenician alphabet and eventually begin writing.
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. In this guise, knowledge of aleph the ox spread along with the economic and military power of the Phoenicia west across the Mediterranean, through the Greek islands, Malta, Sicily, Carthage, and the Betis of Iberia.
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.