Phoenician alphabet

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Phoenician alphabet
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{{short description|Oldest verified alphabet}}

–150 BCEarliest attestation in the Bronze Age collapse period, classical form from about 1050 BC; gradually died out during the Hellenistic period as its evolved forms replaced it; obsolete with the destruction of Carthage in 149 BC.
|fam1=Egyptian hieroglyphs Himelfarb, Elizabeth J. "First Alphabet Found in Egypt", Archaeology 53, Issue 1 (Jan./Feb. 2000): 21.
|children=Aramaic alphabetGreek alphabetPaleo-Hebrew alphabet
|sisters=South Arabian alphabet
|sample=Phoenician alphabet.svg
{{SpecialChars|fix=Help:Special characters#Phoenician}}{{alphabet}}The Phoenician alphabet, called by convention the Proto-Canaanite alphabet for inscriptions older than around 1050 BC, is the oldest verified alphabet in the wider sense of the term "alphabet". It is an alphabet of abjadBOOK, Fischer, Steven Roger, A history of writing, Reaktion Books, 2004, 90, type, consisting of 22 consonant letters only, leaving vowel sounds implicit, although certain late varieties use matres lectionis for some vowels. It was used to write Phoenician, a Northern Semitic language, used by the ancient civilization of Phoenicia in modern-day Syria, Lebanon, and northern Israel.NEWS,weblink Phoenicia, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 2018-11-12, The Phoenician alphabet, which the Phoenicians adapted from the early West Semitic alphabetBeyond Babel: A Handbook for Biblical Hebrew and Related Languages, article by Charles R. Krahmalkov (ed. John Kaltner, Steven L. McKenzie, 2002). "This alphabet was not, as often mistakenly asserted, invented by the Phoenicians but, rather, was an adaptation of the early West Semitic alphabet to the needs of their own language"., is ultimately derived from Egyptian hieroglyphs.Michael C. Howard (2012). Transnationalism in Ancient and Medieval Societies. P. 23. It became one of the most widely used writing systems, spread by Phoenician merchants across the Mediterranean world, where it was adopted and modified by many other cultures. The Paleo-Hebrew alphabet is a local variant of Phoenician,BOOK, Reinhard G. Kratz, Historical and Biblical Israel: The History, Tradition, and Archives of Israel and Judah,weblink 11 November 2015, OUP Oxford, 978-0-19-104448-9, 64, [...] scribes wrote in Paleo-Hebrew, a local variant of the Phoenician alphabetic script [...], as is the Aramaic alphabet, the ancestor of the modern Arabic. Modern Hebrew script is a stylistic variant of the Aramaic. The Greek alphabet (with its descendants Latin, Cyrillic, Runic, and Coptic) also derives from the Phoenician.As the letters were originally incised with a stylus, they are mostly angular and straight, although cursive versions steadily gained popularity, culminating in the Neo-Punic alphabet of Roman-era North Africa. Phoenician was usually written right to left, though some texts alternate directions (boustrophedon).


{{further information|Abjad}}


{{further information|Proto-Sinaitic script|Proto-Canaanite script}}The earliest known alphabetic (or "proto-alphabetic") inscriptions are the so-called Proto-Sinaitic (or Proto-Canaanite) script sporadically attested in the Sinai and in Canaan in the late Middle and Late Bronze Age. The script was not widely used until the rise of new Semitic kingdoms in the 13th and 12th centuries BC.The Phoenician alphabet is a direct continuation of the "Proto-Canaanite" script of the Bronze Age collapse period. The so-called Ahiram epitaph, from about 1200 BC, engraved on the sarcophagus of king Ahiram in Byblos, Lebanon, one of five known Byblian royal inscriptions, shows essentially the fully developed Phoenician script,Coulmas (1989) p. 141. although the name "Phoenician" is by convention given to inscriptions beginning in the mid 11th century BC.Markoe (2000) p. 111

Spread of the alphabet and its social effects

{{further information|History of the alphabet}}Beginning in the 9th century BC, adaptations of the Phoenician alphabet thrived, including Greek, Old Italic, Anatolian, and the Paleohispanic scripts. The alphabet's attractive innovation was its phonetic nature, in which one sound was represented by one symbol, which meant only a few dozen symbols to learn. The other scripts of the time, cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphs, employed many complex characters and required long professional training to achieve proficiency.Hock and Joseph (1996) p. 85.Another reason for its success was the maritime trading culture of Phoenician merchants, which spread the alphabet into parts of North Africa and Southern Europe.Daniels (1996) p. 94-95. Phoenician inscriptions have been found in archaeological sites at a number of former Phoenician cities and colonies around the Mediterranean, such as Byblos (in present-day Lebanon) and Carthage in North Africa. Later finds indicate earlier use in Egypt.NEWS,weblink Discovery of Egyptian Inscriptions Indicates an Earlier Date for Origin of the Alphabet, 20 April 2017, The alphabet had long-term effects on the social structures of the civilizations that came in contact with it. Its simplicity not only allowed its easy adaptation to multiple languages, but it also allowed the common people to learn how to write. This upset the long-standing status of literacy as an exclusive achievement of royal and religious elites, scribes who used their monopoly on information to control the common population.Fischer (2003) p. 68-69. The appearance of Phoenician disintegrated many of these class divisions, although many Middle Eastern kingdoms, such as Assyria, Babylonia and Adiabene, would continue to use cuneiform for legal and liturgical matters well into the Common Era.

Modern rediscovery

The Phoenician alphabet was first uncovered in the 17th century, but up to the 19th century its origin was unknown. It was at first believed that the script was a direct variation of Egyptian hieroglyphs,Jensen (1969) p. 256. which had been spectacularly deciphered shortly before. However, scholars could not find any link between the two writing systems, nor to hieratic or cuneiform. The theories of independent creation ranged from the idea of a single individual conceiving it, to the Hyksos people forming it from corrupt Egyptian.Jensen (1969) p. 256-258. It was eventually discovered that the proto-Sinaitic alphabet was inspired by the model of hieroglyphs.


The Phoenician letter forms shown here are idealized: actual Phoenician writing was cruder and less uniform, with significant variations by era and region.When alphabetic writing began in Greece, the letter forms were similar but not identical to Phoenician, and vowels were added to the consonant-only Phoenician letters. There were also distinct variants of the writing system in different parts of Greece, primarily in how those Phoenician characters that did not have an exact match to Greek sounds were used. The Ionic variant evolved into the standard Greek alphabet, and the Cumae variant into the Latin alphabet, which accounts for many of the differences between the two. Occasionally, Phoenician used a short stroke or dot symbol as a word separator.WEB,weblink Charts,, PDF, {{missing information|section|cladogram for "other alphabets" to display relation|date=April 2019|small=yes}}The chart shows the graphical evolution of Phoenician letter forms into other alphabets. The sound values also changed significantly, both at the initial creation of new alphabets and from gradual pronunciation changes which did not immediately lead to spelling changes.{| class="wikitable" id="letters_chart"! colspan="2" | Letter! rowspan="2" | Nameafter BOOK, Steven R., Fischer, 2001, A History of Writing, Reaction Books, London, 126, ! rowspan="2" | Meaning! rowspan="2" | Phoneme! rowspan="2" | Origin! colspan="27" | Corresponding letter in
! Image! Text! Aramaic! Syriac/ Assyrian! Hebrew! Arabic! Maledivan Thaana! South Arabian! Ethiopian Ge'ez! Greek! Egyptian Coptic! Anatolian Lydian! Old Italic! Germanic Runes! Latin! Slavic Cyrillic! Georgian! Armenian! Old Turkic! Mongolian! Tibetan! Indic Devanagari! Bengali! Burmese! Sinhala! Khmer! Thai! Lao! Javanese
aleph}}(File:Phoenician aleph.svgAleph)}}}}Aleph>ʾālep| oxʔ}}| 𓃾Aleph>𐡀‬Aleph>ܐAleph>אAleph>ﺍAleph>އAleph>𐩱Aleph>አ| Αα| Ⲁⲁ| 𐤠| 𐌀Ansuz (rune)>ᚨ| Aa| АаAni (letter)>ა/ⴀ/Ⴀ| Ա/ա| 𐰀| (File:Mongol a tail 1.jpg)(File:Mongol a tail 2.jpg)| ཨ| अ, आ, ओ, औ, अं, अः, ॲ, ऑ| অ, আ, ও, ঔ| အ| ꦨ, ආ, ඇ, ඈ| អ| อ| ອ| ꦄ
Beth20px|Beth)}}}}Bet (letter)>bēt| houseb}}| 𓉐Bet (letter)>𐡁‬Bet (letter)>ܒBet (letter)>בBet (letter)>ﺏBet (letter)>ބBet (letter)>𐩨Bet (letter)>በBeta (letter)>Ββ| Ⲃⲃ| 𐤡| 𐌁Berkanan>ᛒ| Bb| Бб, ВвBani (letter)>ბ/ⴁ/Ⴁ| Բ/բ| 𐰉| (File:3mg b1 final.png)(File:3mg p final.png) (File:3mg f final.png)| བ, མ| ब, भ| ব, ভ| ဗ, ဘ| බ, භ| ប, ផ| บ| ບ| ꦧ, ꦨ
Gimel}}(File:Phoenician gimel.svgGimel)}}}}gimel>gīml| throwing stick/camelɡ}}| 𓌙Gimel>𐡂‬Gimel>ܓGimel>גGimel>ﺝGimel>ޖ ,ޗGimel>𐩴Gimel>ገ| Γγ| Ⲅⲅ| 𐤢 | 𐌂Gyfu>ᚷ, ᛃ| Cc, Gg| Гг, ҐґGani (letter)>გ/ⴂ/Ⴂ| Գ/գ| 𐰍| (File:Mongol g tail.jpg)| གGa (Indic)>ग| গ| ဂ| ග| គ| ค, ฅ| ຄ| ꦒ
Daleth20px|Daleth)}}}}Dalet>dālet| doord}}| 𓇯Dalet>𐡃‬Dalet>ܕDalet>דDalet>د, ذDalet>ޑ, ޛDalet>𐩵Dalet>ደ| Δδ | Ⲇⲇ| 𐤣| 𐌃Dagaz>ᛞ| Dd| ДдDoni (letter)>დ/ⴃ/Ⴃ| Դ/դ| 𐰑| –| ད| ध| গ| ဒ| ධ| ឌ| ฎ| ດ| ꦣ
He}}(File:Phoenician he.svgHe)}}}}He (letter)>hē| windowh}}| 𓀠He (letter)>𐡄‬He (letter)>ܗHe (letter)>הHe (letter)>هHe (letter)>ހHe (letter)>𐩠He (letter)>ሀ| Εε | Ⲉⲉ| 𐤤| 𐌄Ehwaz>ᛖ| Ee| Ее, Єє, ЭэEni (letter)>ე/ⴄ/Ⴄ| Ե/ե, Է/է, Ը/ը| –| –| –| ह| এ | ဧ| එ| ហ| ห| ຫ| ꦌ, ꦍ
Waw}}(File:Phoenician waw.svgWaw)}}}}Waw (letter)>wāw| hookw}}| 𓏲Waw (letter)>𐡅‬Waw (letter)>ܘWaw (letter)>וWaw (letter)>ﻭWaw (letter)>ވ, ޥWaw (letter)>𐩥Waw (letter)>ወΥυ| Ⲩⲩ| 𐤥,𐤱,𐤰| 𐌅, 𐌖 Wynn>ᚹ| Ff, Uu, Vv, Yy, Ww| (Ѵѵ), Уу, ЎўVini (letter)>ვ/ⴅ/Ⴅ| Վ/վ| –| (File:Mongol w middle.jpg)| ཝ| ह| ব| ဝ| ව| វ| ว| ວ| ꦮ
Zayin}}(File:Phoenician zayin.svgZayin)}}}}| zayin| weaponz}}| 𓏭Zayin>𐡆‬Zayin>ܙZayin>זZayin>ﺯZayin>ޒ, ޜZayin>𐩹Zayin>ዘ| Ζζ| Ⲍⲍ| – | 𐌆Algiz>ᛉ| Zz| ЗзZeni (letter)>ზ/ⴆ/Ⴆ| Զ/զ| 𐰔| (File:2mg j medial.png)| ཇ, ཛ, ཛྷJa (Indic)>ज, झ| জ, ঝ | ဇ, ဈ| ජ, ඣ| ជ| ช, ซ| ຊ| ꦗ, ꦙ
Heth}}(File:Phoenician heth.svgHeth)}}}}Heth>ḥēt| wall, courtyardħ}}| 𓉗 or 𓈈Heth>𐡇‬Heth>ܚHeth>חHeth>ح, خHeth>ޙ, ޚHeth>𐩢, 𐩭Heth>ሐ, ኀ| Ηη| Ⲏⲏ| –| 𐌇Haglaz>ᚺ/ᚻ| Hh| Ии, ЙйIni (letter)>ი/ⴈ/Ⴈ| Ի/ի, Խ/խ| –| (File:3mg q final.png) (File:3mg gh1 final.png)| གྷGha (Indic)>घ| ঘ| ဃ| ඝ| ឃ| ฆ| –| ꦓ
Teth}}(File:Phoenician teth.svgTeth)}}}}Teth>ṭēt| wheel tˤ}}| 𓄤Teth>𐡈‬Teth>ܛTeth>טTeth>ط, ظTeth>ޘ, ދTeth>𐩷Teth>ጠ| Θθ| Ⲑⲑ| –| 𐌈Thurisaz>ᚦ| –| (Ѳѳ)Tani (letter)>თ/ⴇ/Ⴇ| Թ/թ| 𐰦| –| ཐṬa (Indic)>ट| ট| ဈ| ඣ| ដ| ฏ| –| ꦛ
Yodh}}(File:Phoenician yodh.svgYodh)}}}}Yodh>yōd| handj}}| 𓂝Yodh>𐡉‬Yodh>ܝYodh>יYodh>يYodh>ޔYodh>𐩺Yodh>የ| Ιι| Ⲓⲓ| 𐤦Isaz>ᛁ| 𐌉| Ii, Jj | Іі, Її, ЈјIe (letter)>ჲ| Յ/յ| 𐰖| (File:3mg iy final.png)| ཡ| य| য| ယ, ရ| ය| យ| ย| ຢ| ꦪ
Kaph}}(File:Phoenician kaph.svgKaph)}}}}kaph>kāp| palm (of a hand)k}}| 𓂧Kaph>𐡊‬Kaph>ܟKaph>כךKaph>ﻙKaph>ކKaph>𐩫Kaph>ከ| Κκ| Ⲕⲕ| 𐤨| 𐌊Kaunan>ᚲ | Kk| КкK'ani>კ/ⴉ/Ⴉ| Կ/կ | 𐰚| (File:2mg g medial.png)| ཀKa (Indic)>क| ক| က| ක| ក| ก| ກ| ꦏ
Lamedh}}(File:Phoenician lamedh.svgLamedh)}}}}Lamedh>lāmed| goadl}}| 𓌅Lamedh>𐡋‬Lamedh>ܠLamedh>לLamedh>ﻝLamedh>ލ, ޅLamedh>𐩡Lamedh>ለ| Λλ| Ⲗⲗ| 𐤩| 𐌋Laguz>ᛚ| Ll| ЛлLasi (letter)>ლ/ⴊ/Ⴊ| Լ/լ| 𐰞| (File:3mg l final.png)| ལ| ल| ল| လ, ဠ| ළ| ល| ล| ລ| ꦭ
Mem}}(File:Phoenician mem.svgMem)}}}}mem>mēm| waterm}}| 𓈖Mem>𐡌‬Mem>ܡMem>מםMem>ﻡMem>މMem>𐩣Mem>መ| Μμ| Ⲙⲙ| 𐤪| 𐌌Mannaz>ᛗ| Mm| МмMani (letter)>მ/ⴋ/Ⴋ| Մ/մ| 𐰢| (File:3mg m final.png)| མ| म| ম| မ| ම| ម| ม| ມ| ꦩ
Nun}}(File:Phoenician nun.svgNun)}}}}Nun (letter)>nūn| serpentn}}| 𓆓Nun (letter)>𐡍‬Nun (letter)>ܢNun (letter)>נןNun (letter)>ﻥNun (letter)>ނ, ޏNun (letter)>𐩬Nun (letter)>ነ| Νν| Ⲛⲛ| 𐤫| 𐌍Naudiz>ᚾ| Nn| НнNari (letter)>ნ/ⴌ/Ⴌ| Ն/ն| 𐰣| (File:3mg n2 final.png)| ང, ཉ, ནÑa (Indic)>ञ, ङ| ঙ, ঞ, ণ, ন| င, ဉ, ည, ဏ, န| ඞ, ඤ, ණ, න| ង, ញ, ណ| ง, ณ, น| ງ, ຍ, ນ| ꦔ, ꦚ, ꦟ, ꦤ
Samekh}}(File:Phoenician samekh.svgSamekh)}}}}Samekh>sāmek| fish, djeds}}| 𓊽Samekh>𐡎‬Samekh>ܣ, ܤSamekh>ס| —| —Sat (letter)>𐩪Sat (letter)>ሰ| Ξξ, Χχ| Ⲝⲝ, Ⲭⲭ| –| 𐌎, 𐌗Sowilō>ᛊ,ᛋ| Xx| (Ѯѯ), ХхSani (letter)>ს/ⴑ/Ⴑ| Ս/ս| 𐰽‬| –| ས| ष, स| ষ, স| သ| ස| ស, ឞ| ส, ษ| ສ, ຊ| ꦯ, ꦰ
Ayin}}(File:Phoenician ayin.svgAyin)}}}}Ayin>ʿayin| eyeʕ}}| 𓁹Ayin>𐡏‬Ayin>ܥAyin>עAyin>ع, غAyin>ޢ, ޣAyin>𐩲Ayin>ዐ| Οο, Ωω| Ⲟⲟ, Ⲱⲱ| 𐤬 | 𐌏Odal (rune)>ᛟ| Oo| ОоOni (letter)>ო/ⴍ/Ⴍ| Օ/օ| 𐰆 (File:3mg ouöü final.PNG)| –| ए, ऐ| এ,ঐ | ဩ, ဪ| ඔ| អុ| –| –| ꦎ, ꦎꦴ
Pe}}(File:Phoenician pe.svgPe)}}}}Pe (letter)>pē| mouthp}}| 𓂋Pe (letter)>𐡐‬Pe (letter)>ܦPe (letter)>פףPe (letter)>فPe (letter)>ފ, ޕPe (letter)>𐩰Pe (letter)>ፐ, ፈPi (letter)>Ππ| Ⲡⲡ| –| 𐌐Peorð>ᛈ| Pp| ПпP'ari>პ/ⴎ/Ⴎ| Պ/պ| 𐰯| –| པ, ཕ| प, फ| প, ফ| ပ, ဖ| ප, ඵ| ព, ភ| ป| ປ, ຜ| ꦥ, ꦦ
Sadek20px|Sadek)}}}}Tsade>ṣādē|? (papyrus?)sˤ}}| 𓇑Tsade>𐡑‬Tsade>ܨTsade>צץTsade>ص, ضTsade>ޞ, ޟTsade>𐩮Tsade>ጸ, ጰ, ፀЦц, Чч, ЏџTsani>ც/ⴚ/Ⴚ| Ց/ց| –| (File:2mg c medial.png) (File:2mg ts medial.png)| ཅ, ཆ, ཙ, ཚCa (Indic)>च, छ| চ, ছ| စ, ဆ| ච, ඡ| ច, ឆ | จ, ฉ| ຈ| ꦕ, ꦖ
Qoph}}(File:Phoenician qoph.svgQoph)}}}}Qoph>qōp| needle eyeq}}| 𓃻Qoph>𐡒‬Qoph>ܩQoph>קQoph>ﻕQoph>ޤ, ގ‎Qoph>𐩤Qoph>ቀΦφ, Ψψ| Ϥϥ, Ⲫⲫ, Ⲯⲯ | –| 𐌒, 𐌘, 𐌙 | –| Qq| (Ҁҁ, Фф)Kani (letter)>ქ/ⴕ/Ⴕ| Ք/ք, Փ/փ, Ֆ/ֆ| 𐰴| –| ཁDevanagari kha>ख| খ| ခ| ඛ| ខ| ข, ฃ| ຂ| ꦑ
Res20px|Res)}}}}Resh>rēš| headr}}| 𓁶Resh>𐡓‬Resh>ܪResh>רResh>ﺭResh>ރResh>𐩧Resh>ረ| Ρρ| Ⲣⲣ| 𐤭| 𐌓Raido>ᚱ| Rr| РрRae (letter)>რ/ⴐ/Ⴐ| Ր/ր| 𐰺| (File:3mg r final.png)| ར| र| র| – | ර| រ| ร| ຣ| ꦫ
Sin20px|Sin)}}}}Shin (letter)>šīn| toothʃ}}| 𓌓Shin (letter)>𐡔‬Shin (letter)>ܫShin (letter)>שShin (letter)>ش, سShin (letter)>ޝ, ސShin (letter)>𐩦Śawt>ሠSigma>Σσς| Ⲋⲋ, Ⲥⲥ, Ϣϣ | 𐤮| 𐌔Sowilō>ᛊ/ᛋ| Ss| Сс, Шш, ЩщShini>შ/ⴘ/Ⴘ| Շ/շ| 𐱁| (File:3mg s final.png) (File:3mg sh final.png)| ཤ| श| শ| –| –| ឝ| ศ| –| ꦯ
Taw}}(File:Phoenician taw.svgTaw)}}}}Taw>tāw| markt}}| 𓏴Taw>𐡕‬Taw>ܬTaw>תTaw>ت, ثTaw>ތ, ޘTaw>𐩩Taw>ተ| Ττ| Ⲋⲋ, Ⲧⲧ | 𐤯| 𐌕Tiwaz (rune)>ᛏ| Tt| ТтT'ari>ტ/ⴒ/| Տ/տ| 𐱃| (File:3mg td final.png)| ཏTa (Indic)>त| ত| တ| ත| ត| ต, ด| ຕ| ꦠ
{| class="wikitable" style="text-align: center" id="ipa_table"! colspan="2" rowspan="2" |! rowspan="2" | Labial! colspan="2" | Alveolar! rowspan="2" | Palatal! rowspan="2" | Velar! rowspan="2" | Uvular! rowspan="2" | Pharyngeal! rowspan="2" | Glottal
! Plain! Emphatic
! colspan="2" | Nasal
m}} {{IPA|
! rowspan="2" | Stop! Voiceless
p}} {{IPAtˤ}} {{IPAq}} {{IPA|ʔ}}
! Voiced
b}} {{IPAÉ¡}}
! rowspan="2" | Fricative! Voiceless
s}} {{IPAʃ}} {{IPAh}}
! Voiced
z}} {{IPA|
! colspan="2" | Trill
! colspan="2" | Approximant
l}} {{IPAw}}

Letter names

Phoenician used a system of acrophony to name letters: a word was chosen with each initial consonant sound, and became the name of the letter for that sound. These names were not arbitrary: each Phoenician letter was based on an Egyptian hieroglyph representing an Egyptian word; this word was translated into Phoenician (or a closely related Semitic language), then the initial sound of the translated word became the letter's Phoenician value.Jensen (1969) p. 262-263. For example, the second letter of the Phoenician alphabet was based on the Egyptian hieroglyph for "house" (a sketch of a house); the Semitic word for "house" was bet; hence the Phoenician letter was called bet and had the sound value b.According to a 1904 theory by Theodor Nöldeke, some of the letter names were changed in Phoenician from the Proto-Canaanite script.{{Dubious|date=March 2010}} This includes:
  • gaml "throwing stick" to gimel "camel"
  • digg "fish" to dalet "door"
  • hll "jubilation" to he "window"
  • ziqq "manacle" to zayin "weapon"
  • naḥš "snake" to nun "fish"
  • piʾt "corner" to pe "mouth"
  • Å¡imÅ¡ "sun" to Å¡in "tooth"
Yigael Yadin (1963) went to great lengths to prove that there was actual battle equipment similar to some of the original letter forms.Yigael Yadin, The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands. McGraw-Hill, 1963. The Samech – a quick war ladder, later to become the '$' dollar sign drawing the three internal lines quickly. The 'Z' shaped Zayin – an ancient boomerang used for hunting. The 'H' shaped Het – mammoth tuffs.


The Phoenician numeral system consisted of separate symbols for 1, 10, 20, and 100. The sign for 1 was a simple vertical stroke (𐤖). Other numbers up to 9 were formed by adding the appropriate number of such strokes, arranged in groups of three. The symbol for 10 was a horizontal line or tack ({{Script|Phnx|𐤗}}). The sign for 20 (𐤘) could come in different glyph variants, one of them being a combination of two 10-tacks, approximately Z-shaped. Larger multiples of ten were formed by grouping the appropriate number of 20s and 10s. There existed several glyph variants for 100 (𐤙). The 100 symbol could be multiplied by a preceding numeral, e.g. the combination of "4" and "100" yielded 400.WEB,weblink Phoenician numerals in Unicode], Systèmes numéraux, 20 April 2017, The system did not contain a numeral zero].WEB,weblink Number Systems, 20 April 2017,


HTTPS://WWW.UNICODE.ORG/VERSIONS/ENUMERATEDVERSIONS.HTMLWORK=THE UNICODE STANDARD, 2016-07-09, }}The Phoenician alphabet was added to the Unicode Standard in July 2006 with the release of version 5.0. An alternative proposal to handle it as a font variation of Hebrew was turned down. (See PDF summary.)The Unicode block for Phoenician is U+10900–U+1091F. It is intended for the representation of text in Palaeo-Hebrew, Archaic Phoenician, Phoenician, Early Aramaic, Late Phoenician cursive, Phoenician papyri, Siloam Hebrew, Hebrew seals, Ammonite, Moabite, and Punic.The letters are encoded U+10900 {{script|Phnx|𐤀}} aleph through to U+10915 {{script|Phnx|𐤕}} taw,U+10916 {{script|Phnx|𐤖}},U+10917 {{script|Phnx|𐤗}},U+10918 {{script|Phnx|𐤘}} andU+10919 {{script|Phnx|𐤙}} encode the numerals 1, 10, 20 and 100 respectively andU+1091F {{script|Phnx|𐤟}} is the word separator.


{{Unicode chart Phoenician}}


The following Unicode-related documents record the purpose and process of defining specific characters in the Phoenician block:{| class="wikitable"! Version !! {{nobr|Final code points}} !! Count !! L2 ID !! WG2 ID !! Document
5.0 rowspan="19" 27 N1579 {{Citationdate=1997-05-27last=Everson|authorlink=Michael Everson}}
L2/97-288}} N1603 {{Citationdate=1997-10-24last=Umamaheswaran|section=8.24.1}}
L2/99-013}} N1932 {{Citationdate=1998-11-23last=Everson}}
L2/99-224}} N2097, {{nobrN2025-2}} >title=Comments on proposals for the Universal Multiple-Octed Coded Character Setfirst=W.|last=Röllig}}
N2133 >title=Response to comments on the question of encoding Old Semitic scripts in the UCS (N2097)|date=1999-10-04}}
L2/00-010}} N2103 {{Citationdate=2000-01-05last=Umamaheswaran|section=10.4}}
L2/04-149}} {{Citationdate=2004-05-25last1=Kasslast2=Andersonlast3=Snyderlast4=Lehmannlast5=Cowielast6=Kirklast7=Cowanfirst8=S. Georgefirst9=Bob|last9=Richmond}}
L2/04-141R2}} N2746R2 {{Citationdate=2004-05-29last=Everson}}
L2/04-177}} {{Citationdate=2004-05-31last=Anderson}}
L2/04-178}} N2772 {{Citationdate=2004-06-04last=Anderson}}
L2/04-181}} {{Citationdate=2004-06-04last=Keown}}
L2/04-190}} N2787 {{Citationdate=2004-06-06last=Everson}}
L2/04-187}} {{Citationdate=2004-06-07last=McGowan}}
L2/04-206}} N2793 {{Citationdate=2004-06-07last=Kirk}}
L2/04-213}} {{Citationdate=2004-06-07last=Rosenne}}
L2/04-217R}} {{Citationdate=2004-06-07last=Keown}}
L2/04-226}} {{Citationdate=2004-06-07last=Durusau}}
L2/04-218}} N2792 {{Citationdate=2004-06-08last=Snyder}}
L2/05-009}} N2909 {{Citationdate=2005-01-19last=Anderson}}
L2/07-206}} N3284 {{Citationdate=2007-07-25last=Everson}}
{{reflistrefs=Proposed code points and characters names may differ from final code points and names}}

Derived alphabets

(File:Phönizisch-5Sprachen.svg|thumb|Each letter of Phoenician gave way to a new form in its daughter scripts. Left to right: Latin, Greek, Phoenician, Hebrew, Arabic)

Middle Eastern descendants

{{See also|Arabic script#Languages_currently_written_with_the_Arabic_alphabet|label 1=Languages currently written with the Arabic alphabet}}The Paleo-Hebrew alphabet, used to write early Hebrew, was a regional offshoot of Phoenician; it is nearly identical to the Phoenician (in many early writings they are impossible to distinguish).{{citation needed|date=October 2015}} The Samaritan alphabet is a direct descendant of the Paleo-Hebrew. The current Hebrew alphabet is a stylized form of the Aramaic alphabet, itself a descendant of the Phoenician script.The Aramaic alphabet, used to write Aramaic, is another descendant of Phoenician. Aramaic, being the lingua franca of the Middle East, was widely adopted. It later split off (due to political divisions) into a number of related alphabets, including Hebrew, Syriac, and Nabataean, the latter of which, in its cursive form, became an ancestor of the Arabic alphabet currently used in Arabic-speaking countries from North Africa through the Levant to Iraq and the Persian Gulf region, as well as in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries.The Sogdian alphabet, a descendant of Phoenician via Syriac, is an ancestor of the Old Uyghur, which in turn is an ancestor of the Mongolian and Manchu alphabets, the former of which is still in use and the latter of which survives as the Xibe script.The Arabic script is a descendant of Phoenician via Aramaic.The Coptic alphabet, still used in Egypt for writing the Christian liturgical language Coptic (descended from Ancient Egyptian), is mostly based on the Greek alphabet, but with a few additional letters for sounds not in Greek at the time. Those additional letters are based on Demotic script.

Derived European scripts

According to Herodotus,Herodotus, Histories, Book V, 58. the Phoenician prince Cadmus was accredited with the introduction of the Phoenician alphabet—phoinikeia grammata, "Phoenician letters"—to the Greeks, who adapted it to form their Greek alphabet, which was later introduced to the rest of Europe. Herodotus estimates that Cadmus lived sixteen hundred years before his time, or around 2000 BC, and claims that the Greeks did not know of the Phoenician alphabet before Cadmus.Herodotus. Histories, Book II, 145 Modern historians agree that Greek alphabet is derived from the Phoenician.BOOK, illustrated, Greenwood Publishing Group, 9780313327636, 219, Humphrey, John William, Ancient technology, Greenwood guides to historic events of the ancient world, 2009-10-18, 2006,weblink With a different phonology, the Greeks adapted the Phoenician script to represent their own sounds, including the vowels absent in Phoenician. It was possibly more important in Greek to write out vowel sounds: Phoenician being a Semitic language, words were based on consonantal roots that permitted extensive removal of vowels without loss of meaning, a feature absent in the Indo-European Greek. (However, Akkadian cuneiform, which wrote a related Semitic language, did indicate vowels, which suggests the Phoenicians simply accepted the model of the Egyptians, who never wrote vowels.) In any case, the Greeks repurposed the Phoenician letters of consonant sounds not present in Greek; each such letter had its name shorn of its leading consonant, and the letter took the value of the now-leading vowel. For example, ʾāleph, which designated a glottal stop in Phoenician, was repurposed to represent the vowel {{IPA|/a/}}; he became {{IPA|/e/}}, ḥet became {{IPA|/eː/}} (a long vowel), ʿayin became {{IPA|/o/}} (because the pharyngeality altered the following vowel), while the two semi-consonants wau and yod became the corresponding high vowels, {{IPA|/u/}} and {{IPA|/i/}}. (Some dialects of Greek, which did possess {{IPA|/h/}} and {{IPA|/w/}}, continued to use the Phoenician letters for those consonants as well.)Cyrillic script was derived from the Greek alphabet. Some Cyrillic letters (generally for sounds not in Mediaeval Greek) are based on Glagolitic forms, which in turn were influenced by the Hebrew or even Coptic alphabets.{{Citation needed|date=March 2010}}The Latin alphabet was derived from Old Italic (originally a form of the Greek alphabet), used for Etruscan and other languages. The origin of the Runic alphabet is disputed: the main theories are that it evolved either from the Latin alphabet itself, some early Old Italic alphabet via the Alpine scripts, or the Greek alphabet. Despite this debate, the Runic alphabet is clearly derived from one or more scripts that ultimately trace their roots back to the Phoenician alphabet.Spurkland, Terje (2005): Norwegian Runes and Runic Inscriptions, translated by Betsy van der Hoek, Boydell Press, Woodbridge, pp. 3–4

Brahmic scripts

{{See also|Brahmi_script#Semitic_model_hypothesis|label 1=Aramaic hypothesis}}Many Western scholars believe that the Brahmi script of India and the subsequent Indic alphabets are also derived from the Aramaic script, which would make Phoenician the ancestor of virtually every alphabetic writing system in use today.Richard Salomon, "Brahmi and Kharoshthi", in The World's Writing SystemsHowever, due to an indigenous-origin hypothesis of Brahmic scripts, no definitive scholarly consensus exists.

Surviving examples

See also




{{Commons|Phoenician alphabet}}
  • Jean-Pierre Thiollet, Je m'appelle Byblos, H & D, Paris, 2005. {{ISBN|2-914266-04-9}}
  • Maria Eugenia Aubet, The Phoenicians and the West Second Edition, Cambridge University Press, London, 2001.
  • Daniels, Peter T., et al. eds. The World's Writing Systems Oxford. (1996).
  • Jensen, Hans, Sign, Symbol, and Script, G.P. Putman's Sons, New York, 1969.
  • Coulmas, Florian, Writing Systems of the World, Blackwell Publishers Ltd, Oxford, 1989.
  • Hock, Hans H. and Joseph, Brian D., Language History, Language Change, and Language Relationship, Mouton de Gruyter, New York, 1996.
  • Fischer, Steven R., A History of Writing, Reaktion Books, 1999.
  • Markoe, Glenn E., Phoenicians. University of California Press. {{ISBN|0-520-22613-5}} (2000) (hardback)
  • Ancient Hebrew and Aramaic on Coins, reading and transliterating Proto-Hebrew, weblink" title="">online edition. (Judaea Coin Archive)

External links

{{list of writing systems}}{{Northwest Semitic abjad}}

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