Talk:Ge'ez script

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I don't know if there is a standard transliteration. I realize that ሰ is Amharic [s], that's not the point. ሰ is descended from Proto-Semitic ś, and I believe it is transliterated as ś for this reason, but I have to check the literature; the exact pronunciation of 4th century Ge'ez is unknown anyway. If you don't want to transcribe ሠ as s, at least use š to avoid confusion with ś

regarding the listing of Phoenician letters, I would suggest only those theorized to be descended from the same Proto-Sinaitic glyphs. These are only a third or so of the 22 listed. dab () 11:11, 27 January 2006 (UTC)

There are rough similarities to most of the Phoenician letters, I think we should list them all, just to not leave any out. Which ones do you feel are specifically descended from which different P-S glyphs? ፈቃደ (ውይይት) 14:36, 27 January 2006 (UTC)

the ones I had listed; see the variants discussed at Proto-Sinaitic; ideally, we would also present the hieroglyphs. Glyphs that are certainly unrelated include h, ḥ. ḫ, see


-- we should not just list them without comment together with the related ones. I am not sure about alif and mem. ṭ and ṣ are also certainly unrelated. dab () 15:28, 27 January 2006 (UTC)

If you haven't already seen it, see the related chart I put at the bottom of am:ቅድመ-ሴማዊ ጽሕፈት. --ፈቃደ (ውይይት) 15:42, 27 January 2006 (UTC)
I hadn't; very nice; could you upload your Proto-Sinaitic glyphs (Proto-semiticA-01.png etc.) to commons? dab () 16:02, 27 January 2006 (UTC)
Well, I got them from commons, so it should appear above now if I just remove the : from before Image, let me try it... ፈቃደ (ውይይት) 16:31, 27 January 2006 (UTC)
Nice; however, the title is misleading. There is no such thing as "Proto-Semitic" glyphs. I believe these images are reconscructions of a Proto-Canaanite alphabet (but by whom), and are thus not intended to represent predecessors of the South Arabian script. We should use the images on Proto-Canaanite, and be very clear about the images we use here. 11:57, 30 January 2006 (UTC)
I may be wrong. I believe the images originate with de:Protosemitisches Alphabet, and compare [1]. But I do think these articles are confusing Proto-Sinaitic and Proto-Canaanite (but the confusion may be mine, also), and in any case they cite no literature, so they are really worthless for deciding the case. 12:00, 30 January 2006 (UTC)

Ge'ez Date[edit]

See this page and click on Hawulti inscription (date fromm 5-6th century BC and is definitely Ge'ez). I don't have time to give more links right now, but I'll add some more later.

Yom 14:52, 14 February 2006 (UTC)

The inscription obviously looks very different from modern Ge'ez and it looks similar to the South Arabian alphabet. Now, with my sketchy knowledge of the latter I cannot read it, so that's one for Ge'ez. However, it would be important to ask if vocalisations are an integral feature of the Ge'ez writing system. As it is classed as an abugida, the vocalisations are important. However, the script in question is clearly an abjad. --Gareth Hughes 15:47, 14 February 2006 (UTC)
It's not quite South Arabian, note the first letter Hawt of the word "Hawulti" is upside-down from S. Arabian, as in Geez, and the other letter forms are also closer to Geez... At a minimum, it is intermediary between the two (being an abjad) but the letter shapes are already the Geez ones... ፈቃደ (ውይይት) 16:58, 14 February 2006 (UTC)
Ge'ez and South Arabian script look very similar, but they are not the same. The text I linked too is certainly Ge'ez and not South Arabian. The only difference is the Ge'ez is unvocalized (the inscriptions in Ge'ez up to the 4th century are unvocalized as well, but no one says that they are not Ge'ez and are instead South Arabian or an intermediate form). (Let's not forget the possibility of the vocalization occuring earlier and an archaic style being used as well, too - though this is almost certainly not such an example) All letters there are almost identical to the modern forms; the only thing that gives me pause in reading it are the vertical | lines used as spacers instead of the modern : two dots in the shape of a colon. Every other letter varies fom modern letters much less than even the most precise of handwritting (other than the very precise writing of the priests).
Yom 17:37, 14 February 2006 (UTC)
Yes, I noticed that by turning some of the letters upside down you get a good glimpse of South Arabian. The language of the inscription is obviously Ge'ez, rather than South Arabian. However, it is useful to distinguish between which language the text is in, and which writing system is used. The writing system is clearly not classical Ge'ez, chiefly because it is an abjad rather than an abugida. I would suggest that the writing system used in this inscription and classical Ge'ez are as closely related as the Phoenician abjad and the Greek alphabetic script. The latter is clearly derived from the former, but there has been a Sea Change. In Ethiopia, vocalisations create the abugida; in Greece, vowel letters create a fully alphabetic system. Do you think I'm storing too much importance in the lack of vocalisations? --Gareth Hughes 18:34, 14 February 2006 (UTC)
I believe the writing system can indeed be said to be Ge'ez. As I said earlier, there are unvocalized texts prior to the 4th century that are still called Ge'ez (though the rulers may have been purposely using an out-of-date alphabet, according to Roger Schneider, who is quoted in the Ge'z Abugida article), the only difference being the vocalization. The vocalization is certainly important, but really the vocalization is not that different from the addition of vowel marks or diacritics. Certainly today the letters are learned as wholes (and not by the original letters + various vocalization rules), but in general a few vocalization rules for the changing of basic letters exist, unlike abugidas like Japanese, where ka and ki don't look at all like each other. Unless we separate the vocalized Ge'ez of the 4th century from the unvocalized Ge'ez of the 3rd Century~, though, the 5-6th century Ge'ez Script should still be called Ge'ez, even if it's an abjad and not an abugida. Perhaps the Template should have Ge'ez Abjad and then a Ge'ez Abugida subset under it? I feel that that might be too specific for an alphabetic transition that's not as important as those included in the current template, though.
~(Old and New/Classical Ge'ez? Or perhaps Old would denote a script separate from Proto-Sinaitic but not quite 500 BCE Ge'ez yet, Middle would be unvocalized Ge'ez whose forms are identical to modern bases, and Classical or New would be vocalized? - none of this is for Wikizens to decide, though).
Yom 20:18, 14 February 2006 (UTC)

Here is the Hawulti Inscription as well as the modern Ge'ez letters (the first form with the -eh (a with umlauts) vowel ending, not the actual vowel forms in the words).



As you can see the letters are almost identical. The only real change is that the more modern letters are a bit more rounded than the generally sharper older letters. This only came about in the 17th century (, so essentially, aside from the vocalization and later addition of new sounds, the alphabet has not changed very much. The original letters, in fact, have barely changed at all. Its only the addition of new letters (through vocalization and new consonants due to Agaw substratum) that has changed the alphabet. The script is most certainly Ge'ez also because it's easily distinguishable from SA. First of all, the "h" in the second line, 2nd word, last letter (first h in the halehame or HLHM order) in the script is definitely Ge'ez as it lacks a straight line under it. Secondly, the "f" in the 4th line, first word, 3rd letter, is without a doubt Ge'ez as the SA version is simply a diamond shape. Thirdly, the "t" e.g. first line, first word, last letter) cannot be SA because in SA it is more like an X than a cross. The "h." (e.g. first line, first word, second letter), which is the second H in HLHM order, is upside down in SA as well, which is not the case in this inscription. "m" (second line, second word, 3rd letter) is also sidewise in SA, but not here, and "s." or "d." or "ts" (fourth line, second word, second letter) has 3 legs and a small head in SA, whereas here it has a medium or large head and only 2 legs like in Ge'ez. The "R" in the table below is also very different from the "R" used above, as is the "Z" (although less visibly so). This site shows some slightly different SA letters (closer to what I have seen), where the "R" and "Z" are much closer to Ge'ez (though in the "Z" case, it apparently is "dj" in SA?)
h l m ś r s b t n ʾ k w ʿ z y g d f
South Arabian h l ḥ m š r ś ḳ t ḫ n ʾ k w ʿ z y g d ṭ ṣ ḍ f
No SA "B" is shown here, but it is the same as in Ge'ez (just boxier like in pre-17th century Ge'ez).
Yom 21:29, 14 February 2006 (UTC)
would it be wise to move this debate to Talk:Ge'ez alphabet at this point? dab () 21:45, 14 February 2006 (UTC)
It would. I'll do that now. If anyone has any objections of what I've posted make it at the Ge'ez Alphabet debate.Yom 22:08, 14 February 2006 (UTC)

Chapter 51 of Daniels & Bright, which gives a date of early first millennium CE for the Geez abjad, is eight pages long. There are also mentions of Geez scattered throughout the book.

Though they don't go into detail, they seem to be basing the Sabean/Geez distinction on the presence of specifically Geez letters: /p, p', kw, gw, kw', xw/. (They suggest /p/ may come from Greek.)

As for vocalization, "the appearance of vowel signs in the epigraphic record coincides with the advent of Christianity in Ethiopia, about 350 C.E." —kwami 18:44, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

That's a very bizarre basis for the distinction. "p" and "p'" I can understand, but kw, gw, k'w, and xw come much later in Ge'ez development. They're not part of the original 26 consonants that where multiplied by 7 vowels to become an abugida in c. 350 CE (wrt to p, the letter seems to be a variation of "t," though I can see how it might be related to pi). The differences in h (no tail), h. (upside down), m (sideways), and others, such as less easily recognized differences like "ayin" being a small circle in SA, whereas it is a larger, less circular shape in Ge'ez, seem like more than enough differences to show their difference. Obviously you can always argue that the Ge'ez script must include p and p' to count as Ge'ez, but then you're just arguing about labeling. I can show you an example of a contemporary SA inscription found in Ethiopia if you wish to see the difference more further.
These are all from around the 5th century BCE, but the script is clearly not the same, though it is similar.Yom 19:24, 15 February 2006 (UTC)
Also, "the appearance of vowel signs in the epigraphic record coincides with the advent of Christianity in Ethiopia, about 350 C.E." -- is this a direct quote from the Daniels and Bright book? If so, it seems like awfully presumptive scholarship. There was certainly a Christian community in Ethiopia long before this (some say going back to the government official baptised by St. Philip in Acts); presumably by "advent" they meant the date Ethiopia became "officially" Christian, with the baptism of Emperor Ezana, but that was certainly well before 350, probably closer to 325. --ፈቃደ (ውይይት) 19:40, 15 February 2006 (UTC)
Yes, the one is a direct quote. I think it was an approximation rather than a specific year, but may refer to vocalization specifically rather than the baptismal date. (Presumably, if liturgy were the motivation for the vocalization, there might be a few years' delay between the two.)
I may have misread the labialized consonant comment. They also mention the palatals in the same paragraph, but there they're clearly talking about a later development. So perhaps they are just going on the appearance of /p, p'/, reasoning that a Geez script would be able to write Geez phonemes. As you say, that's a matter of definition. A direct quote:
The Sabean/Minean script (or one related to it) which Ethiopic adopted was able to represent all consonants except for [p] and [p-dot]. The symbols for these became T and &, respectively. [Obviously I'm substituting ASCII here.] T seems to be a modification fo the Greek Π, while & is a derivative from the Ethiopic s-dot. [It then goes on to describe the labiovelars and palatals.]
D&B is of uneven quality. It's a compilation of authors. Some of the articles/chapters are good, others such as Japanese are disappointing. The Ethiopic chapter is by Getatchew Haile, but I'm not qualified to evaluate its quality. kwami 19:56, 15 February 2006 (UTC)
I don't know how reliable Getatchew Haile is either, but he doesn't seem to be very accurate. Regarding definition, any definition that includes the MeTera (Matara) inscription as an example of SA would also include any unvocalized Ge'ez script (i.e. the abjad is SA, the abugida is Ge'ez) as an example of SA, which seems to be the claim that D&B make. At the same time, however, they say that the existence of p and p. distinguish the two scripts. Presumably, p and p. didn't just spring into existence w/ the adoption of Christianity, which means a pre-vocalization Ge'ez would have the two letters p and p., distinguishing it from SA according to D&B, yet it would be prior to vocalization, which would categorize it as SA. Since this is obviously a contradiction, the existence of unvocalized Ge'ez script with the letters p or p. (which I'm willing to bet money on) would disprove their classification. Either way, any definition is a bit arbitrary, but the classification of the above script as Ge'ez seems to be the one that makes the most sense, since it is so much closer to modern Ge'ez where parallels exist (i.e. ignoring vocalization and letters added to represent new sounds form Agaw substratum), especially if you ignore the rounding of letters in the 1600s.Yom 22:32, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

I don't see a contradiction, or at least that's not how I read it. I interpret D&B as follows:

  1. SA and Greek were in use in Ethiopia.
  2. Later SA was adapted to Geez (early 1st millennium), taking /p/ from Greek.
  3. Still later Geez was vocalized, c. 350 CE.

That is, the Geez script is defined as SA customized to the Geez language, whether or not it's vocalized, but not just as an Ethiopian graphic variant of SA. The question then would be whether MeTera had /p, p'/. If it did not, then perhaps D&B knew of it, but considered it a local variant of SA that was the ancestor of Geez. However, if it did have /p, p'/, then we do have a contradiction. kwami 02:50, 16 February 2006 (UTC)

I didn't say anything to the contrary. I said that I'm willing to be that there was /p, p'/, and that if there was, then there is a contradiction. If you interpretation of D&B is correct, though, then the question is whether the differences between unvocalized Ge'ez script (ignoring /p, p'/ for a moment) and SA script are significant enough to call the former a different script and not just a variant. Let me enumerate the differences again (I'll use the modern Ge'ez letters, so just imagine the letters as a little more angular, a + means they are the same). SA transliteration from here, a proposition to include it in Unicode.
Ge'ez transliteration/SA transliteration/Ge'ez letter/SA letter/differences/
  • h/h/ / h / No tail in Ge'ez
  • l/l/ / l / longer tail in Ge'ez
  • ḥ/h./ / ḥ / upside down
  • m/m/ / m / sideways
  • ś/ś/ / š / sideways
  • r/r/ / r (there's another version which is similar to a crescent) / curve more at the bottom (compared to both the crescent and this version)
  • s/r / ś /+ (ignoring recent rounding in 17th c.)
  • ḳ/k./ / ḳ / line continues through the circle
  • b/b/ / b (this is one example of SA b, there's another exactly the same as in Ge'ez)/ +, straight line on top (same in other versions, different in this one)
  • t/t/ / t / slight rotation and change in angles, x vs. a cross
  • ḫ/h(/ / ḫ / change in U at top and stem changed
  • n/n/ / n /+
  • ʾ/ʾ/ / ʾ /+
  • k/k/ / k /+
  • w/w/ / w /+ (some small differences between old style Ge'ez & SA, but modern Ge'ez is very close).
  • ʿ/ʿ/ / ʿ / Larger in Ge'ez, and more triangular (base at top) in pre-rounding Ge'ez
  • z/dj/ / z / (I have also seen a version with only one line in the center) only one line in the center, different sound, also +
  • y/y/ / y / bigger circle at top in Ge'ez, maybe an angle difference, but that might not exist in pre-rounding Ge'ez
  • g/g/ / g /+
  • d/d/ / d / sideways, rounder head, and tails for the line on which the head rests (though the final is probably a more recent change, and the second one might be)
  • ṭ/th/ / ṭ / no bottom line, more spread out width-wise (as apposed to the leaner SA), different sound (from unicode prop. - emphatic or like "this" or like "the")?
  • ṣ/s. / ṣ / larger and more triangular (esp. prior to rounding) circle or head, 2 legs instead of one
  • ḍ(modern value s.)/d./ / ḍ / sound difference? (either "s." or "d." in old Ge'ez, but I don't know), + in shape ignoring rounding
  • f/f/ / f / triangular center (prior to rounding) as opposed to diamond, and a top line and a line to the right.
Out of 24 letters, we can say for sure that 6 are exactly the same. Of the other 18, 2 have alternate forms identical to the Ge'ez ones, and of those, one of them has a different sound. Furthermore, there's one letter whose shape is the same, but which may have had a different sound under Ge'ez. Since we really don't know, I'll include this with the six.
So out of 24 letters, we can say for sure that 17 are different in some way. Even taking away the 2 with identical alternate forms, more than half (15 of 24) have been changed. Now, if we look at the difference between the Latin and Greek alphabet (even where cognates do not exist, which makes them seem less similar than they really are, since in such a situation, the letter would automatically be a "change"), we see that (ignoring lower case, which came later late in the 1st millenium E) there are 10 of 24 Greek letters with identical Latin counterparts. Ignoring Sigma's final form,which is essentially an S, (the difference being no greater than that of waw in Ge'ez and SA, making it similar to the /z/ and /b/ situation above), the similarities above mean that 14 letters were changed between Latin and Greek, yet Latin script is always considered a separate script, and not just a slight variation. If this unvocalized Ge'ez (and this is assuming that it does not have /p, p'/ yet) is simply a variation of SA script, then the Latin alphabet, too, is just a variation of the Greek alphabet. Since no one actually proposes the latter, it's evident that Ge'ez is a different script.
Yom 05:22, 16 February 2006 (UTC)

No, you said D&B was "obviously a contradiction", when there is no obvious contradiction.

Also, the difference between Latin & Greek is not just one of letter shape, but of use. Latin dropped some Greek letters, and added others. D&B's point is that Geez similarly added letters to SA, and that's what made it distinct, not differences in the details of the shapes. Approaching it from the opposite direction, look at all the variants of the Latin alphabet. Many local forms, such as Irish, have almost no letters that are identical in shape to Roman, yet they're considered graphic variants of the same alphabet. I think D&B might be making the same point with SA and Geez: whether or not letters have shorter tails or bigger loops isn't the deciding factor, but whether the script has been fundamentally altered to fit a new language. Not saying this is the right way to look at it, only trying to present the argument fairly. kwami 08:15, 16 February 2006 (UTC)

I said it's obviously a contradition if there is an example of unvocalized Ge'ez with /p, p'/, but let's not quibble. Ge'ez script did indeed drop (if Ge'ez script is in fact a direct descendent of SA and doesn't just share a common ancestor) many letters from SA. If you go to the link here proposing the Unicode form of SA, you'll see that there are 5 letters in SA not in Ge'ez (using the author's transliteration, /SH, J, Z, TJ, ZZ/, where Z is different from DJ that looks like H, interestingly the link has TS like in Ge'ez, but this is the only place I have seen that, so it may be because he takes the Ge'ez texts as SA?). The difference between Ge'ez and SA isn't just a couple dots here and there, though; there are rotations and changes in shape (bigger loops seem to be a common thing between all Ge'ez and SA, though, so it makes the differentiation easier, plus the ayin size difference is pretty significant, not to mention the more triangular shape of the Ge'ez letter). Regarding fundamental alteration, since Ge'ez and Sabaean are both Semitic languages, a complete overhaul wouldn't be necessary to fit Ge'ez.

Yom 08:42, 16 February 2006 (UTC)

Which brings us back to my first question: had the BCE inscriptions dropped those letters, and added the p's? If so, then we do have a contradiction in D&B, and I wonder how they could have missed it. However, if not, there is no contradiction, and maybe we should consider the point where those changes took place (true accommodation to Geez) to be the origin of the Geez script. After all, within SA there are the kinds of differences you're ascribing to SA vs. Geez. kwami 09:04, 16 February 2006 (UTC)

ቐ, ኸ, ዸ, and ጘ[edit]

I'm not certain of the relationships of ቐ, ኸ, ዸ, and ጘ with ቀ, ከ, ደ, and ገ, but maybe I can help a little? ኸ is indeed a variant of ከ, occuring sometimes in Tigrinya when the root has ከ, but the specific form changes it to a ኸ. It also appears sometimes when you would expect ከ, like the ending -kum becomes -xum (semitic direct object for you pl.), spelled with ኸ. It is pronounced x, like H in Hannukah (also transliterated as Ch, or Kh for mainly arabic words). The same is the case with ቐ and ቀ. ቐ sounds very weird indeed, sort of like a mix of "ayin" and a ሐ (ħ - see Heth (letter)). I couldn't tell you whether or not these are "uvular approximants," though. ዸ and ጘ are a mystery to me, though. I've never seen them in my life, but they do seem to be variants of ደ and ገ.

Yom 19:38, 22 April 2006 (UTC)

Constructive questions[edit]

I'm afraid a lot of the information in this article is rather opaque for those of us who are not already experts. (I've just created a history section from most of the info in the introduction - on previous attempts I hadn't even read past the first dense paragraph.) I'd be glad if someone could help with any of the following:

  • Basic signs only shows 24 of the symbols in Ge'ez, although it lists 26 in transliteration.
  • The "IPA" line is not IPA, but the transliteration system. An extra line with the IPA for those of us who are not familiar with this transliteration system would be really helpful.
  • Might be nice to split this whole basic signs section - just leave info about Ge'ez in this section, ie a 3-row table with transliteration, IPA and Ge'ez sign, and move the historical stuff to the history section. (Again, a bit overwhelming for someone like me who just wants to see what sounds the symbols refer to.)
  • The vowels in the transliteration system also need some explanation - ä is clearly not "IPA".
  • The whole look of the page is awful on my 800x600 screen with Firefox - boxes overlapping tables making much of it unreadable.

Thanks! Gailtb 19:59, 22 April 2006 (UTC)

An anonymous editor changed the shape and boxing, which, using some Ge'ez fonts, looks really nice, but on others (like the one I'm using right now), looks horrendous. We need to find a way that works on most Ge'ez fonts (esp. ZF Unicode, since that's the most used), but is still larger than the normal sized text, which is barely legible. I don't know which transliterations are IPA and which are not, but I can find out which would be the correct IPA transliterations. The original 24 Ge'ez signs are hlHmsrs*qbtxn'kw`zydgT.S.D.f (in order), with P. and p assumed adoptions from greek(?).
Yom 20:06, 22 April 2006 (UTC)

I re-wrote the signs section from my understanding of an abugida, but without knowledge of Ge'ez, so please correct any mistakes, eg are there consonant clusters which require the no-vowel variant as well as syllable-final consonants? Gailtb 07:43, 26 April 2006 (UTC)

Is there a standard order for d and g? They are different in the table of basic signs from the one of the full alphabet. Gailtb 07:44, 26 April 2006 (UTC)

D always comes before G. The full alphabet is the correct one. I don't know what you mean by your first question (there's no "basic" sign anymore, as the "basic" one inherently has a -ä ending where it used to be a consonant; the consonant is the sixth (sadis) order, but is modified from the "basic" sign and could not be a consonant, but could instead have the vowel ə).
Yom 15:49, 26 April 2006 (UTC)

Let's try a different way. If there is a word "let" for example, then (if I have understood correctly), it would be written as ሌት, ie "le" + "t". Is that right? In this case the t is at the end of a syllable. If there are words which have more than one consonant together, eg "lets" has 2 consonants at the end, and "step" has 2 at the beginning, then I think each word would have 2 consonants of the sixth order (t and s for lets, s and p for step). Firstly, have I understood correctly? And secondly, do such words actually occur in the languages which use Ge'ez script? If they do, then my explanation in the article is not fully comprehensive. Gailtb 21:04, 26 April 2006 (UTC)

You are correct, the sixth order can stand for either a very short vowel or the absence of any vowel (consonant only). Although "lets" might not be the best example to demonstrate with because ts is considered to be one sound and can be written ለጽ, step can be written ስተፕ (I made that bigger because those particular letters are hard to distinguish at regular size font) yes there are words with clusters of two consonants together, but there is a general rule that a cluster cannot contain more than two consonant sounds, so when you have two letters in the 6th order together followed by another consonant, the short vowel must be inserted somewhere. This even extends to "elision" across words, so for example አንድ ቀን is made up of two words አንድ /and/ and ቀን /qen/ but together in a sentence they are pronounced /and@ qen/ (where I am using @ for a vowel even shorter than a schwa)... ፈቃደ (ውይይት) 21:13, 26 April 2006 (UTC)
As Codex said, the sixth order is either for ə or just a consonant, regardless of its position (i.e. it could be either one, whether it's at the end of a word, the beginning or the middle). Reffering to Codex's example of and qen. "and" is actually pronounced without a @ (short schwa) when by itself. It's only in a phrase like that where there's the @. E.g. "And@ gizé" (one moment [time]) has the short @, but "and" by itself does not, and "andand@ gizé" (or andand@gizé - spelled variously as a-n-d-a-n-d(-)gi-zé or a-n-da-n-d(-)gi-zé), meaning "sometimes," does not have the @ at the end of the first "and."
In all forms it can have either ə or consonantal meaning. E.g., in word initial, it can be either ə or a consonant, like "səm" (name) or "krar" (Ethiopian lyre). In word middle (what's the correct term for this?) - ləbs [clothes] (all "sadis" or sixth order, spelled lə-bə-sə) without the vowel, but "asər" (first "a" is actually a guttural "ayin") has the ə preserved. In word final, the "r" in asər is "rə," but no "ə" (schwa) exists. A word where the ə-final vowel is always pronounced doesn't come to mind right now, but I'm sure they exist...I'll put one up when I think of it.
As I showed with "ləbs" ("bərd" - cold) and "krar" (and also "and"), such words do exist naturally in the languages that (classically, I don't know about Oromigna or any of the others that used to for a short time) use the Ge'ez script.

Codex, by "lets," he's referring to the english word, whicih would be ሌትስ or ለትስ in Amharic (since the è or ɛ sound doesn't exist), not "le[ts]" or "les." (period part of the "s." as one phenome).
Yom 21:41, 26 April 2006 (UTC)
Yeah, I know, but still it's funny how "ts" and "ny" sounds in foreign languages are always transliterated with two letters, when they would not truly be distinguishable in pronunciation if they were written with just one! What I mean is, honestly, it's impossible to hear much difference between someone saying ለጽ or ለትስ, and the name of the country south of Ethiopia is always written as ኬንያ, but it would not sound different if it were written as ኬኛ...! ፈቃደ (ውይይት) 21:59, 26 April 2006 (UTC)

Eh...I think they're distinct. If you say it fast, then it's harder to tell, but it's obvious with clear enunciation. The "ts" and "ny" transliterations are more a matter of necessity (not enough letters in English), as well as relatively good indicators for pronounciation, anyway. It doesn't mean that they're indistinguishable, though. I wonder, though, if proto-semitic "dan" (judge - e.g. Dani'el) became "dañ" directly , or through "dany" first... It doesn't matter, though. This issue is pretty irrelevant.
Yom 22:10, 26 April 2006 (UTC)

the table[edit]

don't be a pest about the comparative table, CS, or we will have to drop all comparison with Canaanite glyphs. You do not seem to object to the glyphs I marked as cognate, but you seem to think that others are cognate as well. It is then your responsibility to provide sources. Do either that, or remove the whole Canaanite comparison, including the obvious cases. Just listing cognate and undelated glyphs lumped together will not do. Sources concerning the comparison of SA and Canaanite alphabets are over at Middle Bronze Age alphabets, but I haven't looked at them in depth yet. dab () 17:28, 25 April 2006 (UTC)

I don't see why we have to drop any of the comparisons. It's an open question as to which ones are related. Obviously we disagree about which ones are. But it's not our job to do research here and determine for ourselves which are related. I think listing all of them is fair. ፈቃደ (ውይይት) 17:31, 25 April 2006 (UTC)

We do not disagree, I have no opinion. We disagree in our approach here. When I started work on this article, it was a naked unicode table. I would prefer constructive collaboration over mindless revert warring. Sometimes you have to work with assuming good faith to bridge gaps in citations, which will work out to a coherent whole in the end. If you want to butcher the article to a mere skeleton of attributed factlets, that's sad, but I won'd object. There is no point in listing Phoenician glyphs unless we claim they are related. We could as well list runes or Hangul glyphs otherwise. My approach would have been to begin with listing obvious cognates, and then hunt for professional opinions concerning the dubious ones. dab () 17:35, 25 April 2006 (UTC)

They are all "cognates" IMO[edit]

Here are all the letters you removed:

Himjar sin.PNG, Phoenician samekh.png

These are probably "cognates" because they both are thought to be descended from the same hieroglyph,


Himjar ha.PNG, Phoenician he.png

It may not be as obvious, but both are thought to descend from the same hieroglyph,


Himjar ha2.PNG, Phoenician heth.png

Again, not as obvious, until you see that both are traced to the ancestor


Phoenician beth.png - (the comparable Sabaean glyph looks like a primitive Pi, not like an M except in a very rare variant...)

Both forms clearly come from


Himjar alif.PNG, Phoenician aleph.png

Both are though to have the same ancestor,


Himjar kaf.PNG, Phoenician kaph.png

Certainly cognates, both having a common ancestor, Proto-semiticK-01.png and


Himjar wa.PNG, Phoenician waw.png

Not apparent, until you see the common ancestor, Proto-semiticW-01.png (I would also venture to say this is from the hieroglyph


but I'll admit I don't have an actual source for that one...)

Himjar ta1.PNG, Phoenician teth.png

I admit this one is a little iffy source-wise, because the corresponding glyph isn't attested in Proto-Sinaitic and may not have been used at that stage, but I would submit that they could easily be related through the hieroglyph


Himjar sad.PNG, Phoenician sade.png

At least one of these is thought to come from


, and could well be that both do.

Himjar fa.PNG, Phoenician pe.png

Both are thought to have the same hieroglyph ancestor,



Additionally, the names for many of the actual letters themselves are clearly cognate in both North and SOuth Semitic.

ፈቃደ (ውይይት) 18:00, 25 April 2006 (UTC)

we should discuss all this on the South Arabian alphabet article. And who's doing the OR now? :) Peace, though, as I said, I am open to including more cognates, but there should be some qualification as to which identifications are certain, and which less so. dab () 21:05, 25 April 2006 (UTC)

Labialized sounds[edit]

The article on Ge'ez language has other symbols as well as the ones given here as "basic", notably the labialized ones. From this article I had assumed that the basic symbols listed were the ones used in Ge'ez, and that the labialized ones were innovations for Amharic and Tigrinya. Could anyone explain why they don't come in the basic list? Gailtb 00:01, 28 April 2006 (UTC)

I take it you mean the labiovelars (Aka the "bastard" letters kw, gw, and qw). They are pretty old. They definitely predate Tigrinya and Amharic, but I'm not sure when they came about. According to some definitions, the point at which a script no longer becomes SA (and is instead Ge'ez) is when it is vocalized, has /p/, /p./, /kw/, /qw/, and /gw/, though this isn't necessarily the most prominent definition (it also is based on the assumption that Ge'ez derives from SA rather than sharing a common ancestor; unvocalized Ge'ez also exists, even through the 6th century, though purposely archaic). Either way, I don't think anyone knows when exactly they came about, but they are present in the Ge'ez version of the Bible, which, if you assume that they have been copied exactly through the years, would date to the 4th or 5th centuries AD (i.e. after conversion, or after the arrival of the 9 Saints). I would say that they are not basic, however, as they are modifications based on a basic letter (i.e. k, q, g - like /dj/ based on d, j based on z, and /gn/ based on n). Though, in most other letters, they exist sometimes as bastard letters as an eigth form, that can only take the ending -a. I.e. the 8th form of m would be /mwa/ (and of n, /nwa/). The /kw/, /gw/, and /qw/ ones are different in that they have 4 forms: -wa, -wu, -wé, -wo. The name for the 8th form in Amharic is ዲቃላ (diqala), which means bastard.
Hope that helps.
Yom 02:51, 28 April 2006 (UTC)
What about h (ቐ) and hw (ቘ)? Are they just used in Tigrinya? Gailtb 09:03, 28 April 2006 (UTC)
Yes. Yom 09:21, 28 April 2006 (UTC)

I got a bit confused when trying to write about Amharic and Tigrinya. Please could you check what I've done. In some cases I don't know what the transliteration symbol should be. Gailtb 15:34, 28 April 2006 (UTC)

List order and punctuation[edit]

I suppose that the list order reads across the rows of the syllable chart: hä, hu, hi ... lä, lu ... rather than down: hä, lä ... pä, hu, lu ... Is that correct? And please could someone write a section on punctuation? Gailtb 20:50, 29 April 2006 (UTC)

The punctuation is very confused. It is often used incorrectly, even in ancient texts. Here is a site that describes the issue in detail. - scroll down to Punctuation.
Yom 02:03, 30 April 2006 (UTC)

Font Nonsense[edit]

Aside from the fact that I downloaded and installed the GF font and the page still isn't displaying the script, the very premise that everyone who wishes to read the article must download the font is utterly ridiculous. The point of an encyclopedia page isn't for it to only be accessible to scholars who specialize in the topic at hand, but to be able to inform everyone who comes to the page.

Therefore what we need is for someone to spend a few minutes making a little gif image of each of the 26 characters, and then gradually replace the font nonsense on the page with those. --Kaz 14:12, 2 May 2006 (UTC)

Download the font, and copy and past it into C:\Windows\Fonts\. Refresh the page (or restart the browser) and it should display fine. If you want to go make a tiny gif of each of the 300+ characters, be my guest, but most of us don't have the time for that (at least not at the moment). I don't mean to be hostile, btw (reading it makes it seem that way, but it's hard to convey emotions accurately using just text). Yom 16:41, 2 May 2006 (UTC)
i really like the idea of installing the font file. i did exactly what you said here (plus restarting windows) and i can't see. please help. --itaj 01:17, 21 December 2006 (UTC)
Hmm...that's odd. You're sure that you downloaded a Ge'ez font and put it in the fonts folder, right? Can you see this Ge'ez word for instance: ፀሐይ (if not you will see 3 boxes or 3 question marks)? — ዮም | (Yom) | TalkcontribsEthiopia 01:59, 21 December 2006 (UTC)
gfzemenu.ttf is the file i downloaded from the link in the amharic language article, and i paste it in my c:\windows\fonts. it's listed with font name "gf zemen unicode (trueType)". i see 3 empty boxes here, like the boxes i see in the article, this one and amharic language. BTW, i use english windows XP system with support for hebrew. --itaj 15:13, 21 December 2006 (UTC)
What kind of browser are you using? ፈቃደ (ውይይት) 15:58, 21 December 2006 (UTC)
internet explorer 7. --itaj 12:46, 22 December 2006 (UTC)

This is such an interesting subject and article - but the whole article looks really messy and I can't actually see the characters.. I agree totally with the person above who requests .gif images or the like. How many do you know who install the Ge'ez font to their computer? Unless it became a standard to include in any and every distribution of browsers people can't view them. Maybe you understand it better if I tell you that I myself can write pretty fluently in the runes (but I'm an historian!) - do you think I should write with runic fonts in the article about the runes or have the runes displayed as an image so people would actually see them without any hustle..? Once more - love the subject, keep up the good work. SWA 12:50, 23 December 2006 (UTC)

That's funny that you said "How many do you know who install the Ge'ez font to their computer"... Because as a matter of fact, everyone I know has - but that's just the circles I work in. The official language of Ethiopia is written in this script, and it is currently used by many millions around the world... The comparison with runes that are not currently widely used anywhere on the globe, falls flat. I figure if someone truly has an interest in this alphabet, they will find out what it looks like. If they don't even bother to find out what it looks like, then they probably aren't truly that interested, are they? As for public libraries, our crack software designers have spared no effort to design a system at the Amharic wikipedia where the Ge'ez characters can be seen on any computer, even a public library. I'm sure someone at this wikipedia can figure out how to do the same... ፈቃደ (ውይይት) 16:03, 23 December 2006 (UTC)
I've added the necessary code to automatically download and use an ethiopic font (IE only) to the stylesheet on the English Wikipedia. Test: ፭፻-ዓመታት በጓላ (this likely doesn't work on IE: ፭፻-ዓመታት በጓላ) —Ruud 13:32, 25 December 2006 (UTC)
Okay, there where some... unexpected technical problems. Having the text show up correclty shouldn't have to harder than adding
@font-face {
    font-family: Ethiopia Jiret;
    font-style: normal;
    font-weight: normal;
    src: url(;
to your personal stylesheet, though. —Ruud 01:14, 26 December 2006 (UTC)
still not. all empty boxes. is internet explorer 7 bad? --itaj 01:17, 1 January 2007 (UTC)
I haven't been able to get this to work on the English Wikipedia yet (works perfectly at the [[am:|Amharic Wikipedia, though.) —Ruud 19:40, 2 January 2007 (UTC)

finaly i made it work. in internet options (windows XP control panel), there's a "fonts" button, had to change the etheiopic font to "gf zemen" (choosing ethiopic in the language, then gf zemen font). this should be explained somewhere for miserable users not to go through what i have. --itaj 16:09, 16 January 2007 (UTC)

Definitely need graphic images -- you can't install fonts on many publics computers (libraries, etc.), and it's too much effort to deal with for others just to quickly read a reference article. Whoever had the time to write this excellent article and format the chart -- who has the fonts working, and can proofread the Ge'ez characters for mistakes -- could you please take a few minutes to make a screen capture of what you see, chop up the letters, and upload them to Wikipedia?

Hear hear! It's a million question marks in my browser, which is distracting and unhelpful. It just looks like nonsense --AW (talk) 18:55, 19 December 2007 (UTC)

Numbers Dont work[edit]

I tried droping in some numbers like ፭፻ and it looks like squares. It works here but not in the main system, but when you select the objects you see the numbers, is this a flaw with Wikipedia? I found the solution if you put a western charecter inbetween the numbers and the ge'ez.(፭፻-ዓመታት በጓላ) like that. --Halaqah 23:13, 11 November 2006 (UTC)


Why does this article push off Ge'ez as being descended from Arabian script, yet the Kingdom of Axum article pushes it off as being indigenous? —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 02:37, May 9, 2007 (UTC)

Neither articles do the things you said as you've portrayed them. The Ge'ez script is definitely descended from the Epigraphic South Arabian alphabet (you can debate that alphabet's origins, however, as little is known about its early period), which was used by Ethiopians and South Arabians from the 9th century B.C. Epigraphic South Arabian is an Arabian script, but not "Arabian script" in the sense of Arabic. The Kingdom of Aksum article says that the Ge'ez language is indigenous, which it is. It stated that Aksum modified the alphabet from South Arabian to create Ge'ez; I've edited to correct it, as Ge'ez evolved from South Arabian, and was not modified, although it was later modified to add vowels around the 3rd-4th century. — ዮም | (Yom) | TalkcontribsEthiopia 03:10, 10 May 2007 (UTC)

I will probably irritate those who like to keep things pure and local, but Daniels has made a very strong case for influence on the script from India. The consonants have come from Arabia, but the idea of making a syllabary, an abugida, did not come from Arabia but from India. It is not coincidence that the change from using the consonantal script to adding vowel marks began about the time that Frumentius arrived, with his knowledge of things Indian. Also, ALL other abugida scripts are directly traceable to India. This in no way makes the script less authentically Ethiopia, so I ask that those who object to this examine the evidence and not merely delete my insertion. Pete unseth —Preceding unsigned comment added by Pete unseth (talkcontribs) 15:54, 4 January 2008 (UTC)

It should be alright to mention that this is Daniels' theory, hopefully with a reliable reference. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 16:01, 4 January 2008 (UTC)

Page layout[edit]

If you increase the size of the font in Firefox browser and then view this page, the x1, x10... figures are shown outside the grid.

Korean Wiki Links in Sidebar[edit]

I'm seeing about 100 links to this empty Korean article on the left, in the "In other languages" box. How do we fix that? Josephgrossberg 03:46, 17 September 2007 (UTC)

I see what you mean. I can't see a Korean inter-wiki link in the list - so perhaps it's been created in a different way? There also seems to be a problem with the interpretation of the tables - has there been a change in the syntax that should be used? Any experts to help, please? Gailtb 08:25, 17 September 2007 (UTC)
Something's wrong with the {{semxlit}} template. The same links occur in List of Islamic terms in Arabic, and other articles that use this template. Apparently it was due to a bot adding that Korean article to the template as a Korean equivalent. I've reverted the bot's edits and it works fine now. Someone will have to delete the article over at the Korean Wikipedia to prevent the bot from adding it again, though. Does anyone know any contributors over there? — ዮም | (Yom) | TalkcontribsEthiopia 19:36, 17 September 2007 (UTC)

Number of symbols[edit]

Why can't I find the total number of symbols in this syllabary? That's a normal bit of information that should be contained in this article. Badagnani 21:35, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

Can this please be addressed? Badagnani (talk) 01:21, 3 April 2008 (UTC)

Modifications for other languages: Additional letters[edit]

IMHO is ዠ a palatalized variant, and not an affricated variant, of ዘ. -- (talk) 20:55, 20 November 2007 (UTC)

messy sentence?[edit]

I think this sentence needs re-work... But maybe it's just me

The film 500 Years Later (፭፻-ዓመታት በኋላ) was the first mainstream Western documentary to use Ge'ez characters for the film title 500 Years Later. 05:15, 2 December 2007 (UTC)

Characters not showing up[edit]

Somebody else mentioned this almost a year ago - it seems silly to have to download a font for this to make any sense. The article is full of question marks for me, which makes it almost unreadable and unhelpful. --AW (talk) 18:58, 19 December 2007 (UTC)

Anybody? --AW (talk) 18:34, 27 December 2007 (UTC)
Can this please be addressed? Badagnani (talk) 01:22, 3 April 2008 (UTC)
Still hoping for a response --AW (talk) 14:02, 4 June 2008 (UTC)
Um, if you want to see the font, then you need to have the font. We can't embed it in the html file. kwami (talk) 14:34, 4 June 2008 (UTC)
I understand that, but it's not useful that way. If some random person is here to learn about the language, it seems silly to require them to download a font to learn about it. Why not put images up, like the South Arabian characters have?--AW (talk) 16:17, 7 July 2008 (UTC)
Actually, I think there probably is a way we can embed it in the html file without requiring a font download, since we have successfully done exactly that for the Amharic wikipedia. I'm not exactly sure how it was done, but one of our Ethiopian computer experts hooked it up a couple years ago. (They tend to be state-of-the-art when it comes to technology!) Check it out yourself here: am: ፈቃደ (ውይይት) 16:27, 7 July 2008 (UTC)
That's all question marks for me too. --AW (talk) 19:28, 7 July 2008 (UTC)

You may want to find an Unicode font that has the $12000-139FF area (Ethiopian). One of them is "Code 2000". If you install this font and assign it as standard font for these pages (in Firefox, this is Prefs -> Content -> Fonts -> Advanced -> Other Languages -> SansSerif), you should be able to view the correct characters. Since the whole Wikipedia is written in Unicode, it is kind of a prerogative to have an Unicode font installed, if you want to see more than the Latin alphabet. See also Help:Multilingual_support for suitable fonts. -- megA (talk) 15:11, 8 March 2009 (UTC)

pronunciation of abugida[edit]

Anyone? This has now entered English. Where should the stress be? kwami (talk) 16:13, 29 April 2008 (UTC)

Stress in Amharic and other Ethiopian Semitic languages that use the Ge'ez alphabet, does not fall on one of the vowels as in English, but rather on certain consonants. No attention is paid to stress on vowels, so you may stress whichever syllable you like. In the word abugida, there are no stressed consonants. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 17:44, 29 April 2008 (UTC)
Actually, stress falls on syllables, not consonants or vowels. Are you saying that all vowels in abugida are pronounced with equal stress? Or that stress varies depending on how the word is used? If the latter, where does it fall when the word is said in citation? kwami (talk) 19:00, 29 April 2008 (UTC)
Actually, in Amharic, stress falls on certain consonants, not on syllables - as I said. (Read linguist Amsalu Aklilu if you don't believe me.) And what I am saying is that it does not matter which syllable you stress, if any. It will be interpreted the same, regardless. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 19:04, 29 April 2008 (UTC)
So you're saying that Amharic has no stress. (Sorry, but if you think consonants have stress, we don't mean the same thing by "stress".) kwami (talk) 09:44, 2 May 2008 (UTC)

Standardisation needed[edit]

This article is in a total mess. Ge'ez is an abugida but the article mentions that it's a syllabary and even the title of the article mentions that it's an alphabet. Now I'm confused. kotakkasut 01:53, 13 January 2009 (UTC)

Please fix the question marks[edit]

Please fix the page so the letters appear. The script didn't appear, instead there are question marks!

The problem is with your own computer, so there's nothing we can fix. You have to fix it yourself, by following the instructions for downloading the correct font, and placing the font in your computer's fonts folder. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 12:57, 17 January 2010 (UTC)

Font issues, AGAIN.[edit]

Ethiopic texts are notorious to install on XP. I installed various fonts and went to control panel and fonts but no matter which font I download the squares still appear. Trust me, it's giving me headaches. Can anyone help me?Kanzler31 (talk) 19:01, 18 September 2010 (UTC)

PLEASE somebody help me! Kanzler31 (talk) 03:36, 21 September 2010 (UTC)
OK, found the problem here. It's my browser. Safari can't display Ge'ez and just appears as squares, while Internet Explorer displays it just fine. Is there any way to display Ge'ez on Safari?Kanzler31 (talk) 18:23, 25 September 2010 (UTC)
I'm not familiar with Safari, but Penn State has a how-to here. (That doesn't look like it would be of much help, but it was linked from the section on Ethiopic.) — kwami (talk) 19:44, 25 September 2010 (UTC)

8th and 9th form of consonants[edit]

"Amharic uses all the basic consonants..." Is that really true? The Ge'ez table shows 8th and 9th forms of some consonants, which IMHO aren't present in Amharic. Can anyone confirm this?
--Volker Alexander (talk) 19:01, 9 October 2013 (UTC)

Amharic writers certainly use many of the symbols shown in the 8th and 9th columns. For example, 'waterfall' in Amharic is spelled with the labialized "fwa" symbol "fwafwate". However, many modern writers of Amharic will spell "ko" where tradition would indicate using "kwä". There is a fair amount of variation on this. Pete unseth (talk) 20:19, 9 October 2013 (UTC)
That's interesting. I'm using WashRa keyboard input method and now found the 8th column to be typeable with Minus key as second key stroke. Do you have an idea about how the 9th forms can be typed with this IME?
--Volker Alexander (talk) 18:45, 10 October 2013 (UTC)

Diaspora usage section[edit]

"The Ge'ez script is used by Ethiopians who have emigrated to other countries around the world" Of course it is, it's their alphabet. This is no more noteworthy than saying that British people living in Africa use English.

"Also, Ge'ez is a sacred script in the Rastafarian religion" This may be notable.

"Roots reggae musicians have used it in album art." What does this add to the reader's understanding of Ge'ez script?

"The films 500 Years Later (፭፻-ዓመታት በኋላ) and Motherland (እናት ሀገር) are two mainstream Western documentaries to use Ge'ez characters in the titles. The script also appears in the trailer and promotional material of the films." Some people chose to use Ge'ez characters in the titles of their documentaries about Africa. Again, what does this add to the reader's understanding of Ge'ez? This section is nothing but a collection of arbitrary data points that someone added simply because they could.

--RevivesDarks (talk) 14:30, 2 April 2014 (UTC)

I don't know what your understanding is of the meaning of the word "relevant", but obviously this certainly does pertain to the article topic, and is relevant by definition, as well as encyclopedic. What you consider "noteworthy" versus what someone else finds "noteworthy" or "maybe notable" is not so relevant but may be an indicator of a WP:Systemic bias. We make an effort to give comprehensive information about the global use of this script, that it is not used exclusively in Ethiopia or by Ethiopians, as these two films prove. Til Eulenspiegel /talk/ 14:37, 2 April 2014 (UTC)
I see you have chosen not to address my points but instead to spout babble at me. Who uses this script and where is indeed relevant, but "Ethiopians use it amongst themselves even when not in Ethiopia" is to be expected because it's their alphabet. If Ethiopians use it then it is clear that they will use it even outside Ethiopia. This factoid is no more relevant than "English people use English even when in Africa".
Furthermore, in our article on the English language we note that it is used globally, even outside nominally English-speaking countries. Yet we do not note things like "many French musicians sing in English", because this does not belong in a broad encyclopaedic overview of the English language. It may belong in a book about it, but it is not needed in an encyclopaedia. Why is this any different? --RevivesDarks (talk) 15:03, 2 April 2014 (UTC)
English and Amharic Script are not the same thing. Ge'ez is a rare African script, the only one in usage. So it is not Latin. The Notability is because the films use Ge'ez not for random fun, But as part of a broader agenda to broadcast to the African Diaspora the existence of an African native script. If you read other rare script articles like Adinkra you will find similar remarks about their usage outside of their native lands.--Inayity (talk) 15:16, 2 April 2014 (UTC)
Very well, I see your point. Thank you for actually replying to my points. I concede most of the issue, but I still think the first sentence is completely useless. --RevivesDarks (talk) 18:51, 2 April 2014 (UTC)

ቝ and ቚ interchanged?[edit]

My question is in the title: haven’t ቝ and ቚ been interchanged in this article?

Tohuvabohuo (talk) 05:03, 5 August 2014 (UTC)