Talk:Phoenician alphabet

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Provide citation for origins of brahmi script. usualy weasels hid behind "many historians beleive...." —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:04, 15 May 2009 (UTC)

I just noticed Page has been vandalised on OCT 23/06.. Not a wiki geek so someone needs to revert it.

This chart is missing teth, samekh, and tsadi. Are they not attested in that version of the Phoenician alphabet? -phma

No, they are not present in my source. If I find a more complete version I shall update the chart. -- user:Heron

Still not right. You now have gimel twice (C and G), waw twice (F and W), samekh and zayin in the wrong place (they should be after nun and waw respectively), and no teth or tsadi. BTW, the Phoenicians sometimes used the order MNXPOQ instead of MNXOPQ. -phma

I found this link that might be of interest [1].
/ Mats 16:13, 4 Oct 2003 (UTC)

oy, the common descriptor of GIMEL as meaning "camel" is a later change. originally it meant "rabbitstick" (literally, "crooked"), which later was applied to the camel. but camels weren't common until the second millenium BCE, but rabbitsticks were standard hunting equipment and also used as weaponry from the earliest times. em zilch 06:44, 2005 May 27 (UTC)

Seconded. All the resources i've been able to find that give the topic more than a cursory examination seem to point to "camel" as a later interpretation. The precise term varies, but it's usually some kind of bent stick (cane, hunting-stick, and so on). Lucky number 49 17:21, 29 September 2006 (UTC)

The current text sais Fenician alphabet can be dated to 3500 BCE, which all my other sources confirem is an ERROR, as it can be dated to 1200 BCE (and the earliest (Semitic) alphabet itself can be dated to around 2000 BC). I am going to correct his error and add an external link to an onlince source. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus 14:50, 12 Jun 2004 (UTC)

The name[edit]

Phoencians/Canaanite are Semitic they are Hamitic. We don't know who created this alphabet it was used by many people. It be called the Meso-levent-ian or the Mesoleventian Alpabet. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:24, 7 April 2008 (UTC)

Proto-Mesoleventian is a new more recent term encompassing that region not a people. The ancestor of the script story is like the Chicken and egg, was it Proto-Sinaitic or Proto-Mesoleventian that came first were the Semitic alphabet were ancestors, there no proof, only old bias beliefs, no harecore are ever facts presented, Phoencians people are doubtfully the ancestors of this alphabet. Phoencians are the proable ancestors of the Greek alphabet. But there no real conclusive proof Phoencians are ones that invented this system. It could have been used by ancient Semites long before them.-- (talk) 04:56, 9 April 2008 (UTC)

Preparing alphabet table[edit]

Phoenician is under ballot for Unicode, but I'm adding the Unicode values to this table. After the ballots close, and Phoenician is formally encoded, I'll replace the table in the article with this one. Evertype 17:40, 2005 Jan 1 (UTC)

Letter Name Unicode Meaning Transliteration Corresponding letter in
Hebrew Arabic Greek Latin
Aleph ʾāleph 𐤀 ox ʾ א Α, α A, a
Beth bēth 𐤁 house b ב Β, β B, b
Gimel gīmel 𐤂 camel g ג Γ, γ C, c / G, g
Daleth dāleth 𐤃 door d ד Δ, δ D, d
He 𐤄 window h ה Ε, ε E, e
Waw wāw 𐤅 hook w ו (Ϝ, ϝ) / Υ, υ F, f / U, u
Zayin zayin 𐤆 weapon z ז Ζ, ζ Z, z
Heth ḥēth 𐤇 fence ח Η, η H, h
Teth ṭēth 𐤈 wheel ט Τ, τ (Does the original phonecian sound like the Hebrew Tet (English 'T' as in 'Tight') [if so then 'τ' would be the correct Greek transliteration and the correct Hebrew would be ט; or the icelandic Ð (English Th as in 'The', 'Thought' in which case 'θ' would be the correct Greek transliteration and there would be no equivalent Hebrew transliteration, the Icelanding character is labiodental while the Hebrew character is Alveolar - Clarification needed from someone who knows) T, t
Yodh yōdh 𐤉 arm y י Ι, ι I, i / J, j
Kaph kaph palm k כ Κ, κ K, k
Lamedh lāmedh goad l ל Λ, λ L, l
Mem mēm water m מ Μ, μ M, m
Nun nun fish n נ Ν, ν N, n
Samekh sāmekh fish s ס Ξ, ξ
Ayin ʿayin eye ʿ ע Ο, ο O, o
Pe 𐤐 mouth p פ Π, π P, p
Sade ṣādē 𐤑 papyrus plant צ (Ϻ, ϻ)
Qoph qōph 𐤒 monkey q ק (Ϙ, ϙ) Q, q
Res rēš 𐤓 head r ר Ρ, ρ R, r
Sin šin 𐤔 tooth š ש Σ, σ S, s
Taw tāw 𐤕 mark t ת Τ, τ T, t


I've added a Cyrillic column to the table. Please review and correct. I've tried to add variations of letters that have roots in the old Cyrillic alphabet (Ukrainian Є and І), but not newer derived forms (Ґ, Ў). I haven't addressed some of the obsolete Cyrillic forms, which I think were essentially Greek letters. Don't know if the Yers and Yuses belong here. Michael Z. 2005-08-11 18:09 Z


imho, it is irrelevant to list the dotted variants of Arabic letters. The point of the table is to compare letter shapes. dab () 11:59, 14 February 2006 (UTC)


Please add IPA transcriptions to the chart. Alpha Omicron 21:13, 29 March 2006 (UTC)

I have made the following changes[edit]

  1. "qof" can mean either "a monkey" or "an eye of a needle". I think the latter is more probable here, judging from the shape of the ancient letter. Qof is believe to the sun on the horizon

in most ancient script.

  1. "kaf" can mean only "palm of hand" and not "palm" as a plant. drork 05:32, 12 September 2006 (UTC)


Would thorn (Þ) be eligible as the Latin alphabet equivalent of teth? Lemmy Kilmister 15:47, 13 September 2006 (UTC)

No. Phonetically Teth was probably pronounced as a velarized [t]. Think of the difference between the [l] sound in "link", and the [l] sound in "love", the former is a plain [l], while the latter is a velarized [l] ("dark l"). The sound of Teth is basically /t/ with an extra quality of velarization. There are other theories about the way Teth was pronounced, but none of them suggests that it was pronounced like thorn. Graphically speaking, thorn is derived from a Runic symbol, and has no connection to any Phoenician letter. drork 17:00, 13 September 2006 (UTC)


The image in the upper right Infobox named "Phoenician alphabet", in the field "sample=Phoenicianstone.jpg" is actually that of a forgery known as Jehoash Inscription. While alphabetically and stylistically almost flawless, do we really want a fake inscription image to appear here? Guybas 14:56, 12 June 2007 (UTC)

Thanks for posting that, I hadn't noticed the image had been added. I've replaced it with a computer rendering of script: not as pretty, but at least it's not pretending to be anything more than it is. I've actually adde the image to the Jehoash Inscription article, as it's more appropriate there. — Gareth Hughes 15:15, 12 June 2007 (UTC)
  • question* is there any way to use/download the phoenician alphabet as it is?

Hieroglyphs to letters?[edit]

I don't get it. How did the Phonecian script evolve from Egyptian hieroglyphs? They seem like two totally separate entities. - Christopher 01:18, 14 July 2007 (UTC) Egyptian hieroglyphs shifted somewhat in usage over the course of their use to record the Egyptian language. From simple tick marks such as began the Sumerian Cuneiform script, the Egyptians began with ideograms, essentially little drawings of the things they represented in the message. Like simple drawings of a human or a house. To record more complicated information, particularly for words without a physical basis, they put together a mixed syllabic and alphabetic phonetic system, similar to the syllabic-dominated cuneiform. The phonetic values of these symbols derive from the word attached to name the letter. Thus, for example, the Egyptian word for the glyph with the phonetic value of M is an Egyptian word, that started with M, and can be considered cognate to the later Aramaic and Hebrew words for water, which in those languages is spelled MEM. Basically the Egyptian hieroglyph symbol uses a wavy line that became the letter M in our Roman script. The relationship of shape as well as sounds is clearest for letters representing sounds that are found in both the language of the parent script and the language written in the offspring script. Sounds not shared by a language in a script series adopted various letters, some of which are not shared with the English language script this is written in. Basically when a modified script was created to deal with changed use of sounds in a new language, they copied the obvious matches among their knowledge of the parent symbols, then switched some letters from sounds not used in the derivative script language to represent sounds in that language not found in the parent script language. (talk) 07:32, 24 August 2010 (UTC)

Not a good example; for the most part, only the Egyptian picture was borrowed, but not its Egyptian reading. Basically, they borrowed the shapes of the pictures, but they used them to denote the first consonants of their own words for the things depicted in those pictures.-- (talk) 21:55, 26 August 2010 (UTC)

BC or BCE?[edit]

Am I the only one who finds the terms "CE" and "BCE" to be stilted and arrogant? I think the only reason one would use these abbreviations is to pose as being morally superior to those who would rather use the traditional terms. Many people who encounter CE and BCE think that those terms mean "Christian Era" and "Before Christian Era" so the meaning of these new terms is lost on most people. I believe that people who use them are trying, in their own impotent little way, to be confrontational. Unfortunately, it comes across as being comically pretentious. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Rodak1 (talkcontribs) 13:02, 21 July 2007.

Please read the Manual of Style guidelines on this. In some articles, one format is to be preferred. Eras should only be changed after discussion. Otherwise, the original system should be kept. It is inadvisable to change eras. — Gareth Hughes 21:18, 23 July 2007 (UTC)
My opinion is that the dates should be consistent with other scientific sources. As this is a scientific article about progression of the aphabet, BCE should be preferred, and used in the same manner as other scientific articles, as well as the other connected articles about alphabet systems.
As for "Eras should only be changed after discussion" argument, that may be a personal view, but is not the view of scientists. We are not currently in the "christian era". (We currently exist in a time with a multitude of religions, christianity being but one, and a multitude of calendar systems, the latin calendar being but one. We don't need to wait until every last christian is history before we consider the christian era to be history. The time of Christ, his disciples and their teachings is long past.) But setting philisophical or religious arguments aside, this is an article about the study of alphabet systems, and not a religious article. The alphabet systems discussed did, in fact, precede christianty, and so, the christian era -- Hence, BCE. (talk) 16:01, 18 November 2007 (UTC)

this article has historically used BC. dab (𒁳) 19:43, 7 October 2008 (UTC)

"Sound" column in the table[edit]

What system is used in this column? What does a symbol like ḥ mean? Wouldn't it be more useful to use a widely understood system like IPA? Grover cleveland (talk) 03:11, 17 December 2007 (UTC)

This is the mainstream Semitological transcription, it shouldn't be discarded. Using IPA for long-dead languages is not very wise in any case.-- (talk) 21:52, 26 August 2010 (UTC)

General improvement of the article=[edit]

TiME PERIOD: "... and gradually died out..." - This is valid for the Levant, not for Africa. Punic script, the script of Carthage and its colonies, continued to be used till ca. 200 A.D. Punic shewed all long vowels, using `alp, hê, ´ain, yad and waw for â, ê, ê, î, û. 

... "(with the addition of matres lectionis). - Quite a late invention.

The box '"Parent systems" is still hypothetical, not proven - this ought to be mentioned.

 The small table exhibits strange transliterations. Why not scientific h., t., s., and t ?

"The Phoen. alphabet SEAMLESSLY continues..." - "differed only in letterform and time..." - That is not correct! The Phoen. LANGUAGE underwent severe changes - it lost 5 phonemes, that merged with other phonemes, and thus thanged from 27 to 22 consonantal sounds. To wit: dh --> z

        th --> sh
        gh --> ´ain
        h_ -->  h.
        z., i.e. interdental emphatic fricative  -->  s.
        lateral fricative  l- (written s^)       --> sh.

"The Phoen. adaptation of the alphabet was extremely successful..." is not the full truth. In fact, it was the ONLY AVAILABLE script that had survived the Sea Peoples' devastations. The oldest Aramaic ´still had MORE than 22 phonemes, Olkd Hebrew still had ghain and s´în apart in speech - but they lacked an extra letter to express them.

 "Old Italic" should be specified - I think it was only Messapic; anycase the Etruscan alphabet came from the Greek city Cumae.
 The Chapter Letter names bases on pure speculation. And NOELDEKE's approach is noe 108 years old ...!
  "One of these local Greek..." - why not NAME it? It was the variant from Miletus, adopted in 403 BCE to Athens; the other was the alphabet of Khalkis in Euboea which wandered from the Greek city of Cumae to the Etruscans.
  The CHART needs revision as well. `alpu is different from ´ainu.  -  Furthermore, signs added to the end should come by the end: Y, X, Latin Z.
   The Chapter Derived alphabets is funnily imprecise and incomplete.

Palaeo-Hebrew was used from 900 [Gezer calendar, Lakhish stairs] till 135 CE - it ceased to be used after the Bar-Kokhba revolt.

  Samaritan "is purported by some" ? It IS its continuation and successor.
   Arabic is used from the Atlantic ocean (Mauritania) through Kashmir and Pâkistân.
  To sum up: The article might be enlarged, purged of speculative assertions and then re-edited.     García Ángel García (talk) 20:51, 9 February 2008 (UTC)

Hebrew from Phoenician or Phoenician from Hebrew?[edit]

General question:

Since we can trace the development of the alphabet clearly from:

Egypt -> Sinai -> Canaan -> Phoenicia Approx 1200BC

If there is any historical value whatsoever to the book of Exodus, which scholars believe occured between 1500BC - 1200BC which traces the migration of the Hebrews out of Egypt to Sinai to Canaan, why is there no recognition of this with regard to the development of the alphabet?

It would seem to make imminent sense for the people enslaved to carve them would have an intimate knowledge of the Egyptian hieroglyphs and how to use them.

What's the truth? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Skywatcher5 (talkcontribs) 01:46, 31 March 2008 (UTC)

Because there no agreement. Mesopotamian> Levent? the is date unknown. Phoenicans/Canannites are not Semites they Hamites as Egyptians. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:18, 7 April 2008 (UTC)

"Hamite" is an outdated and useless term. What do you mean by it? (talk) 17:31, 23 March 2010 (UTC)

What it seems he means by Hamite is that the Phoenicians/Canaanites were descended from Ham (Hebrew - חם), whereas a Semite is descended from Shem (Hebrew - שם). —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:34, 7 October 2010 (UTC)

Unicode characters.[edit]

I am fine with language articles containing unicode renderings in general, but when that rendering is so obscure that the user is not likely to have a font that even includes it, what is the point? Are there about six people who have ever seen this page where the characters render as they are intended to? Less than six? -- (talk) 23:26, 24 May 2008 (UTC)

Indeed, the font is very obscure. This should be looked into Firebat08 (talk) —Preceding undated comment was added at 18:19, 7 October 2008 (UTC).

in my experience, this will fix itself over time. Just wait for a year or so, and this codepage will be supported out-of-the-box by most systems. It isn't worth the effort to work around something that will fix itself in a couple of months anyway. dab (𒁳) 19:37, 7 October 2008 (UTC)
Well, more than a couple of months have passed and nothing. Do you seriously think that 'most systems' will come with a font for a script that's been out of use for millennia? I think it's very stupid of Wikipedia to force Unicode everywhere, it just makes the articles useless. People who just want to learn about a script won't go to the trouble of finding a usable font for it. They'll just go to another website, made by more reasonable people —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:03, 15 December 2009 (UTC)
I have no idea what happened, by I can't see the second column in the table properly. And I have 5 or six Unicode fonts in the system + everythin is set up to work as it should. This is the first page that I'm having troubles with. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:24, 21 January 2010 (UTC)
Same here, one year later. New System, newest Software (Win7, Opera 11.10), everything updatet and I see the column named "UCS" only as squares. Soo...why is it this way? Why bother doing this stuff, when nobody sees the content? I wonder how many people actually see the correct content. To me this is more than useless. Yet maybe someone can enlighten me as to explain what I would need to do to see the actual content. (talk) 12:28, 19 April 2011 (UTC)
Two and a half years after the first post, using the most recent versions of both Chrome and Firefox (generally regarded as the most modern browsers), and neither shows this font. All the articles that refer to letters in the Phoenician all just show squares. I don't think browsers are ever going to come with Phoenician standard. Can't we use images or something? — Sam (talk) 02:34, 2 November 2011 (UTC)

Hebrew Cursive Script[edit]

Would it not be helpful on this page and its attendant pages to tabulate not just Hebrew-Aramaic square script, but also Hebrew cursive, which shows continuity from Phoenician more clearly. Krivuk (talk) 11:45, 24 May 2009 (UTC)

The Hebrew cursive script is a much later development, so any continuity from the Phoenician it might seem to reflect is accidental. (talk) 14:08, 11 February 2010 (UTC)

Merge Proposal: Paleo-Hebrew alphabet and Phoenician alphabet[edit]

Proposal rationale in a nutshell: The term "Paleo-Hebrew script" doesn't seem to refer to a different alphabet than the Phoenician one, but rather to occurrences of this alphabet in the Hebrew language. Objectors: please present any distinguishing characteristics that exist between the glyph-sets of Paleo-Hebrew and Phoenician, or explain in which way these two Alphabets differ.

The two alphabets displayed in these articles are identical. Some archaeological specimens show trivial variations, comparable for example with font differences (e.g. "a" as opposed to "a", see this table). Could the difference between the terms be one of a cultural-ethnic point of view rather than a substantial one? Dan 18:11, 11 July 2009 (UTC)

disagree. the difference is that palaeo-hebrew also refers to the artificial/continued use of the script long into a period after it was defunct and replaced by another script. palaeo-hebrew is then often characterized by the use of this script in a time that post-dates the initial use of the script. yes, the hebrew language adopted the phoenician script. it then adopted the aramaic 'square' script. yet, some documents, coins, etc. still employed the old (palaeo) script long after it was defunct. thus, palaeo-hebrew and phoenician are two different ideas. my $0.02. XKV8R (talk) 00:33, 15 July 2009 (UTC)
I'm trying to understand what you mean, so please correct me if I misunderstood: you agree that the actual system of glyphs is for all intents and purposes the same one, but when referring to its occurrence in periods where it was not in common use any more, publications refer to it as "Paleo-Hebrew" and not as "Phoenician"? Dan 12:06, 15 July 2009 (UTC)
Peter Daniels says "Phoenician: Sufficient materials survive from the first millennium bce (more plentifully from the later periods, of course) to follow the development of the abjad from its early Phoenician form to the considerable diversity of scripts that were in use as long as the diversity of Semitic languages persisted. While most communities allowed the abjad to change gradually over the generations, the tradition represented initially by the Hebrews and to this day by the Samaritans was very conservative, and has preserved a set of letter forms that is close to the ancestral shapes of 3,000 years ago. When the Dead Sea Scrolls were written, this script was still recognized as (ancient and thus?) holy. A few of the Scrolls are entirely in a revival of it called Paleo-Hebrew script, and in others, the Tetragrammaton appears in it, embedded in text using the Square Hebrew which is current to this day." p. 20, The Semitic languages By Robert Hetzron —Preceding unsigned comment added by Dougweller (talkcontribs) 12:47, 15 July 2009 (UTC)
Thanks Dougweller for the quote; however, the quote just says that the Hebrews' and the Samaritans' orthographic traditions of the Phoenician glyphs were more strictly defined than other traditions; Daniels then says that the Phoenician script within the Dead Sea Scrolls is a revived Phoenician script and is called "Paleo-Hebrew script", but he specifies no distinguishing characteristics between it and the Phoenician. This implies that the term "Paleo-Hebrew script" doesn't refer to a different alphabet but rather to occurrences of this alphabet in Hebrew. I'm still trying to understand what distinguishing characteristics exist between the glyph-sets of Paleo-Hebrew and Phoenician. Is the only difference: the different languages for which they were used? Dan 00:47, 16 July 2009 (UTC)
don't forget to vote agree or disagree on whether we should merge these two completely different articles into one. ;-) XKV8R (talk) 02:41, 16 July 2009 (UTC)
Maybe we don't have to rush into voting: a relaxed discussion clearing up the issue first would be productive too. Dan 14:56, 16 July 2009 (UTC)— talking about discussing – XKV8R, you haven't responded yet. Is the difference between the "two different ideas" you referred to well described as being that of "the different languages for which each script was used" or is there a different distinguishing characteristic you feel is more prominent? Dan 15:01, 16 July 2009 (UTC)
dan, i get the feeling that thus far, no one wants to do this but you. am i wrong? XKV8R (talk) 13:08, 21 July 2009 (UTC)
A more accurate description of the state of affairs is: nobody except the two of us seems to care. XK, I'm merely trying to find out what reasons could justify keeping the articles separate. You're against it, but are unwilling to take part in a productive dialogue. Please don't see this as some kind of fight or competition: I'm completely willing to be persuaded, if only you or anyone would simply offer some matter-of-fact response to the simple question, "is it the case that the term Paleo-Hebrew script doesn't refer to a different alphabet than the Phoenician one, but rather to occurrences of this alphabet in the Hebrew language". If this is the case, there still well may be good reasons to not merge the articles, but the sole argument "Paleo-Hebrew refers to a continued use of the Phoenician alphabet" doesn't seem satisfying. Dan 23:24, 21 July 2009 (UTC)

Disagree: this proposal seems to me is more motivated by an "Israeli" nationalist agenda rather than a solid scientific argument, by merging the two the water would be muddied and eventually "evidence" -based on the article confusion- would start showing that the phoenician alphabet was a Hebrew "thing" kinda like the pyramids of Egypt -:)... —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:01, 3 August 2009 (UTC)

Absurd. May I ask in which way exactly is the statement "The term Paleo-Hebrew script refers to occurrences of the Phoenician alphabet in the Hebrew language" Israeli-nationalist? Dan 12:55, 3 August 2009 (UTC)

Disagree: OK, I’ll rephrase my argument, Merging the two articles does not make sense because the relationship between the two is one of inheritance, per analogy it’s like saying we should merge the article about the indo-European languages with the one about the Slavic languages just because there’s a relation, By the same token why not group everything in an article called Semitic alphabet and be done with it, Which too does not make sense for obvious reasons, the paleo_hebrew equate the following: Paleo suggest primitiveness and inadequacy, my earlier comment is based on my observation and study of history, the Hebrews have a great history indeed, however ultra nationalist and zealots have been making wild and unreasonable claims that things had become ridiculous absurd and incredible… Mark. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:16, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

Your analogy is irrelevant. Whereas any Slavic language and Indo-European obviously differ from each other, the two alphabets in question are completely identical. Concerning your assumed hidden agendas: nothing of the like is intended, only a greater clarity about a question that nobody seems to be willing to clarify: what difference is there between these two alphabets (apart of their usage, i.e. their being used for writing different languages in different time periods). Dan 10:20, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
Disagree: So much for clarity, when lumping together two scripts separated in time and historical context, it's as if somebody has an illustrious father with a Wikipedia article/biography then somebody else –you- insist that the article should be lumped with the one about the son. and yeah sure, no agenda here I’m taking your word for it -:). Mark —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:53, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
Only these aren't "two scripts separated in time and historical context": this is one script separated in time and historical context. But George's argument pretty much convinced me, see below. Dan 23:37, 6 August 2009 (UTC)

disagree - I think Dougweller's source makes it pretty clear that they are different. One is the original language, the other is a revival of it that was used at some point later in history. Even if they used the same alphabet, they were fundamentally different (like comparing a painting with a reproduction of that painting made years later). ← George [talk] 22:27, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

George: Of course the languages are different. But these articles are not about languages but about alphabets. Your reply makes no sense in reference to these alphabets and the difference between them. Dan 10:20, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
Alphabet articles in general seem to also discuss things like pronunciation, history of usage, and other alphabets that descended from them. These two alphabets differ considerably in those regards, even if their letters are the same. ← George [talk] -07:53, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
You're right. In this case these issues seem blurry to me, since both articles completely lack an account of pronunciation, and differences in their history of usage seem to be a direct function of the different languages used. This sentence, e.g., implies differences that seem not to exist: "The Paleo-Hebrew alphabet, used to write early Hebrew, was a regional offshoot of, but was rooted in Phoenician; it is nearly identical to the Phoenician one." If the articles remain separate then these issues should be made clear; especially: if no graphic difference between these alphabets exists, then this should be stated clearly. Dan 23:37, 6 August 2009 (UTC)

Letter names[edit]

The letters' names, said to have been "reconstructed by Theodor Nöldeke in 1904", are no "reconstructions" at all but are in fact exact transliterations of the letters' Hebrew names. provides other names that seem more likely: alf, bet, gaml, delt, he, wau, zai, het, tet, yod, kaf, lamd, mem, nun, semk, ain, pe, sade, qof, rosh, shin, & tau; also other publications (one example) use these. Since the only justification for the existence of two separate articles for Phoenician and Paleo-Hebrew alphabets is a discussion of pronunciation, usage etc., providing the modern Hebrew pronunciation in Hebrew of these names in this article is, well, questionable. Dan 21:35, 3 December 2010 (UTC)

I've changed to the unicode names from the source you provided. I also removed the translations of the English meanings of the word in both Hebrew and Arabic. They are no doubt the result of one upmanship, POV-pushers trying to relate their own semitic language derivative more closely with its Phoenician ancestor, and they've results in a lot of tags for things being unsourced or dubious. The fact is that since this is the English Wikipedia, we only care about the English meaning. ← George talk 22:20, 3 December 2010 (UTC)

"meaning" in alphabet table[edit]

I fail to see the relevance of some of these entries. Some of them make sense (e.g. gīmel → camel (Arabic: جمل/بعير‎) ['ʤamal] (Hebrew: גמל‎) [ga'mal]). But:

  • dāleth door (Arabic: باب‎) [ba:b]?
  • sāmekh fish (Hebrew: דג‎) [dag]?
  • ṭēth good (Arabic: جيد/طيب‎) ['tˤaj:eb] or ['ʤaj:ed] (Hebrew: טוב‎) [tov]?

why are these translations included if they have nothing to do with the etymology of the letter's name? Dan 23:57, 17 July 2009 (UTC)

Copyright question[edit]

Does anyone know where I should address a copyright question regarding the linked letter images (such as File:Phoenician_aleph.svg), which are based on images that I created a few years ago? The question, in case anyone here knows the answer, is why was my PD license changed to PD-ineligible? Aren't fonts covered by copyright law? Udzu (talk) 12:47, 30 December 2009 (UTC)

The numeral 5[edit]

The section says there was a special symbol for 5, but then it goes on describing the symbols for 1, 10, 20 and 100, ignoring 5. (It seems it also doesn't have a Unicode point.) So was there a numeral 5 which is not properly treated in the section, or is its mentioning from the first place a mistake? (talk) 14:10, 11 February 2010 (UTC)

Letter waw\vav[edit]

Was it pronounced vav like in Hebrew or waw like in Arabic? The article suggest that it was waw, is there any source for that? TFighterPilot (talk) 16:17, 25 June 2010 (UTC)

It's generally accepted. Just check the article about Proto-Semitic. It was originally a /w/ and remained so in all the Semitic languages until a very late stage. That's why it made sense for the Arameans and Jews to use the same letter to express the long vowel /u:/, since it sounds pretty much identically to /uw/, just as with /y/, /i:/=/iy/. You shouldn't be surprised, the modern Hebrew pronunciation is hardly ever a good guide for ancient Semitic phonology.-- (talk) 21:47, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
Neither is Arabic. The truth is most probably somewhere in between. Also note that in Farsi (although not Semitic) the letter is also pronounced as vav. Modern Christian Aramaic and Syriac have been too much effected by Arabic to be used as references. TFighterPilot (talk) 13:29, 10 September 2010 (UTC)
Nah, you're just wrong here. There is no doubt that Arabic is much, much closer to ancient Semitic phonology in nearly every respect. Hebrew (apart from Yemenite) has lost the original distinction between the plain and the pharyngealized series of consonants, between the short and the long series of vowels, even between aleph and ayin in the dominant Ashkenazi pronunciation. On the unusual archaicness of Arabic phonology, here are some citations. Bomhard & Kerns (1994): "Within Semitic, Akkadian is the most archaic language as a whole, though Arabic preserves the original phonological structure better than any of the other Semitic languages." Bergsträsser & Daniels (1983): "Except for the language of the South Arabic inscriptions, it is Classical Arabic that has best preserved the consonant inventory of old Semitic, and likewise the vocalism, so that the old inflection has not been destroyed by the loss of the endings." Bowersock, Brown & Grabar (1999): "In its phonetic and many of its grammatical features, classical Arabic represents a highly archaic type of Semitic speech."
As for /waw/, Farsi /v/ was also originally an Indo-Iranian [w] and there was no other Aramaic or Arabic letter than waw to express a [v] in any case. The sound of waw is reconstructed as /w/ in all literature on Proto-Semitic: check out, e.g., "Comparative semitic linguistics: a manual" by Patrick R. Bennett, "Introduction to the Semitic languages" by Bergsträsser & Daniels, "Semitic languages: outline of a comparative grammar" by Edward Lipiński, "A history of the Hebrew language" by Sáenz-Badillos and Elwolde, etc.. The development from /w/ to /v/ is extremely common, it has also happened in the Italic and the Germanic languages. -- (talk) 13:22, 11 September 2010 (UTC)
BTW, the original pronunciation of waw should also be obvious from internal evidence within modern Hebrew, as the form ve still alternates with u. The only way these two forms have anything in common becomes clear when we consider that the ve was originally a ue (with a non-syllabic u, i.e. a w).-- (talk) 14:13, 13 September 2010 (UTC)

But how do you explain that the name דוד has been Latinized to David rather then Dawid? As far as I know Latin didn't have the tendency to turn W into V TFighterPilot (talk) 18:06, 18 September 2010 (UTC)

Good question. The answer is that Latin did in fact have that tendency (that's what I meant by "Italic languages" above). All the written Vs of Latin were originally pronounced as W (there was no V sound). Veni, vidi, vici was actually /we:ni/, /wi:di/, /wi:ki/. And accordingly, there was no difference between the letters V and U in Classical Latin, just like there was no difference between I and J. As for the letter W, the Romans couldn't have used it for the sound W even if they had wanted to, because the letter W (actually a digraph, i.e. a letter combination of two Vs or Us) only arose much later in other languages using the Roman alphabet (namely in English and in German), long after Latin was dead.-- (talk) 10:10, 20 September 2010 (UTC)

Bad historical summary?[edit]

In the section Spread of the alphabet and its social effects, it is stated:

...the script was the first widespread phonetic script. Its simplicity not only allowed it to be used in multiple languages, but it also allowed the common population to learn how to write. This upset the long-standing status of writing systems only being learnt and employed by members of the royal and religious groups of society, who used writing as an instrument of power to control the access of information by the larger population.[9] The appearance of Phoenician disintegrated many of these class divisions, although many Middle Eastern kingdoms would continue to use cuneiform for legal and liturgical matters well into the common era.

Speaking only from a position of general knowledge, these assertions seem to me to resemble historical romance (i.e. fiction) rather than factually based conclusions. Let me offer a counter example: the ostraca found in workmen's villages associated with Egyptian funerary construction; some of these appear to contain schoolboy exercises of children learning to read and write Ancient Egyptian. Or to put it another way, the fully literate men (and women?) who designed the extensive inscriptions found in many ancient Egyptian tombs were skilled artisans, not "members of the royal and religious groups of society".

If literacy was not widespread in ancient society, it was because (a) the writing systems were devilishly complicated (notably the Egyptian systems and many versions of cuneiform), and ordinary people likely had neither the time nor the inclination to master them and (b) if ordinary people needed something written or read, there were professional scribes to take care of it. Widespread illiteracy has been common well into modern times, yet modern writing systems are abjads, alphabets, syllabaries, and abugidas for the most part, systems all fairly easy to master. Notable exceptions to this simplicity are Chinese and Japanese, yet literacy rates are high in both China and Japan.

I am not an expert in these matters, but the text quoted above is very suspicious. It definitely needs attention by someone who is an expert on such matters. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Floozybackloves (talkcontribs) 16:05, 30 July 2010 (UTC)


What does Armenian have to do with this? I just read the article about it and it does not say Armenian developed directly, graphically, from any of those alphabets, it was just "modelled" on Greek, but the actual letter shapes were designed apriori.-- (talk) 17:57, 9 August 2010 (UTC)

Daughter Scripts?[edit]

The sidebar graphic comparing alphabets is nice looking, but the addition of arabic letters is absolutely contrived and irrelevant. Arabic letters look nothing like Phoenician letters and it is absurd to suggest that they were so derived is ridiculous. Also, using the phrase "daughter scripts" is unnecessary social propaganda that has no place in neutral encyclopedia. — Preceding unsigned comment added by John Chamberlain (talkcontribs) 15:03, 22 March 2012 (UTC)

The Arabic letters do look very little like the Phœnician letters they are derived from, but that is a matter of changing handwriting styles over a long period of time. The derivations are accurate. The term "daughter scripts" is neither propaganda nor "social", whatever that may mean, but is an accurate (and therefore neutral) statement of a historical reality: the Arabic letters evolved by a long series of slight alterations to the Phœnician by hundreds of generations of scribes. That is a fact, amply attested in the very substance of the historical record. The Hebrew square script and the Syriac scripts descended from Estrangela also bear little resemblance to the ancient Phœnician, but their descent is as easily proved.RandomCritic (talk) 13:37, 24 March 2012 (UTC)

Letter names II[edit]

The names given in this article are about as different as possible from those given in the article History of the alphabet -- a major discrepancy. And while I agree with the criticism that the latter names are substantially those of Hebrew (with the occasional omission of consonant spirantization), Unicode is not an appropriate "source" for these names. I expect that any such list of names must be a reconstruction, but even as a reconstruction, the list of letter-names in this article is inexact and unscientific (as indeed the lack of diacritics shows). For instance, the name of the first letter in the Phœnician alphabet cannot have been "alf" -- it must have been *ʔalp or *ʔalpʰ or *ʔælpʰ. "Bet" is contracted from *baytu, and so must have a long vowel: *beːtʰ. Likewise, there appears to be no good reason to reconstruct "delt" -- backformed, I guess, from Greek delta -- the Phœnician must have been something like *dæltʰ. And so forth. The Hebrew forms, while certainly inaccurate for ancient Phœnician, are at least derived for the most part from Phœnician forms, whereas the forms appearing in this table appear to be no more than convenient labels for a unicode list. RandomCritic (talk) 13:37, 24 March 2012 (UTC)

I second the overall point of the post above.-- (talk) 13:29, 10 February 2013 (UTC)

Literacy in Pre-Buddhist India[edit]

Literacy in pre-Buddhist India (before 600 BC)

Please find my collection of papers on literacy in Pre-Buddhist India

Before mature phase of Indus valley civilization (before 2600 BC)

- There are some potters marks but none qualify as full writing

Indus valley civilization (2600 BC to 1900 BC)

1. The reconfirmation and reinforcement of the Indus script thesis (very logical and self explanatory paper)

2. The reintroduction of the lost manuscript hypothesis (the case for this thesis has obviously become much stronger in the recent past)

Post-Harappan India (1600 BC to 600 BC)

1. Literacy in post-Harappan india (obviously literacy in post-Harappan India existed in certain pockets & were limited to very small sections of society- alphabetic scripts were brought from West Asia and the Indus script also continued – this a very logical and self-explanatory paper and anyone can cross-verify the conclusions)

Sujay Rao Mandavilli — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:27, 5 March 2013 (UTC)

Recent edit I've removed to hear on current research[edit]

"Some recent experts on Indus Valley linguistics have explored the possibility that the not yet conclusively-deciphered Indus script was the first phonetic script that influenced the subsequent development of other such scripts like Phoenician. This is significant because unlike Egyptian hieroglyphics, which are pictorial not phonetic, the Indus script's entropy characteristics using computational linguistics analysis, are very similar to known phonetic scripts. Further research in this area is ongoing." This needs reliable sources and evidence that it is significant enough to meet WP:NPOV. We need to see that this is being seen as important by experts in related fields. Dougweller (talk) 20:37, 13 June 2013 (UTC)

There is also the opposite theory that is circulated in some scientific circles[edit]

Ι have recently come across some books and especially online sources which disagree that the Phoenician alphabet was the basis on which the Ancient Greeks developed their own. Without taking sides, also because the matter has been highly politicized thus very controversial, it sounds rather implausible that the Greeks could not come up with an alphabet so they "borrowed" from the Phoenicians but were actually able to add their own consonants and even their own unique vowels plus change the phonetic values to suit their needs. Especially when there is evidence that different Greek cultures which existed long before the creation date of the Phoenician alphabet already had their own "scriptures" which if not exactly the same they do include consonants and vowels present in the so-called "borrowed" Phoenician method of writing. I also came across an interesting theory, that the Phoenicians were actually descendants of the Mycenean/Minoan civilization who colonized the area known today as Palestine thus the name Philistines came to be. So even though Herodotus can not be considered 100% as an accurate source he must have had a better idea than us since he is the closest to that time period. Again, I am trying to get to the bottom of it, not taking sides just trying to find the truth. I just find highly impossible that Ancient Greeks since at least 2,000 BC had a multifaceted civilization by far superior than the one the (mostly shipping/merchants) Phoenicians created, yet we accept as a fact(?) that they were incapable to come up with a system for writing their own language. In closing I feel this article would be a bit closer to the truth if it included some scientific arguments from the "other" side, e.g. the one that claims that the Ancient Greeks were the first to create a non-pictorial, phonetic alphabet, so that wikipedia readers can make up their own mind without bias or influenced exclusively by the one or the other perspective - Anyway what is your opinion about all this?! (talk) 23:19, 12 November 2013 (UTC)

The evidence is very clear that the Phoenicians had the alphabet first, and that the Greeks borrowed it. We don't know exactly when, where, or from who they borrowed it (see for example Alphabets of Asia Minor), but AFAICT no-one seriously disputes that the Phoenician alphabet, or at least one very closely related to it, was the ultimate source. (Tracing it back further than that is much more speculative.) However, there is a long, anti-Semitic and pseudo-historical tradition in NW Europe of trying to prove that the Greeks invented the alphabet, and these days, for all I know, there may be a Greek nationalist component as well. But the evidence is just too convincing for anyone to take these claims seriously. — kwami (talk) 01:56, 13 November 2013 (UTC)