Category Archives: Abjad

Ge’ez — 400 BC, Ethiopia

Ge’ez, aslo called Ethiopic, is the only Old World abugida outside of Southest Asia and the only abugida that is not clearly derived from Brahmi.  (Aside from Kharosthi, of course, which maybe spawned Brahmi.) However, it took a long time … Continue reading

Posted in Abjad, Abugida, Rating: 4 "Huh, interesting!" | Leave a comment

South Arabian — 800 BC, Yemen

Proto-Sinaitic split into two branches: a northern one which spawned almost all the writing systems of the modern world, and a southern one that did not.  Perhaps it is fairer to say that one branch of the script went to … Continue reading

Posted in Abjad, Evolved slowly from parent, Rating: 3 "I did not know that" | Leave a comment

Tifinagh — 400 BC, Tunisia or Libya

Nobody is quite sure where the Berber script, used by the nomads of Northern Africa, came from.  English sources are pretty certain that Tifinagh evolved from the Phoenician script that settlers brought with them when they founded Carthage in about … Continue reading

Posted in Abjad, Rating: 4 "Huh, interesting!" | 1 Comment

Samaritan — ~600 BC, Israel

There is a joke among linguists about the difference between a dialect and a language: “a language is a dialect with a standing army”. Similarly, I think that the distinction between the first alphabet used to write Hebrew — what … Continue reading

Posted in Abjad, Rating: 4 "Huh, interesting!" | Leave a comment

Aramaic — Syria, 900 BC

Aramaic script was a very important writing system.  While the Phoenician script spread westward via sea trading, Aramaic script spread eastward via land trading.   It was the major trade language along much of the Silk Road, and was the official … Continue reading

Posted in Abjad, Rating: 4 "Huh, interesting!" | 8 Comments

Phoenician — 1050 BC, Lebanon

Phoenician descended from Proto-Sinaitic and is the ancestor of the writing systems used by the vast majority of people today.  Greek, Latin, Aramaic, Arabic, and Hebrew are its children and grandchildren, with its influence spreading as far as the Pacific … Continue reading

Posted in Abjad, Rating: 5 "Whoa!!" | 8 Comments

Ugaritic — 1400 BC?, Syria

Have you ever wondered why the English alphabet is ordered “A, B, C…”?  Who decided that A should be first, then B, instead of e.g. S and then D?  Well, we don’t know who came up with that ordering, but … Continue reading

Posted in Abjad, Rating: 5 "Whoa!!" | 5 Comments

Proto-Sinaitic — 1900 BC, Egypt

Proto-Sinaitic — also called Proto-Canaanite — was probably the very first writing system that was purely phonetic, i.e. that did not use logograms.  It did not include all the vowels (so is classified as an abjad and not an alphabet) … Continue reading

Posted in Abjad, Rating: 3 "I did not know that" | 4 Comments

Hieratic — 3200 BC, Egypt

Hieratic was a version of Egyptian hieroglyphics that developed in parallel with hieroglyphics. While the question of “is it a writing system or isn’t it?” has come up several times already in these postings, hieratic is interesting because it brings … Continue reading

Posted in Abjad, Evolved slowly from parent, Rating: 4 "Huh, interesting!" | 4 Comments

Egyptian hieroglyphics — 3200 BC, Egypt

Egyptian hieroglyphics were profoundly influential and in use for thousands of years.  Like Sumerian cuneiform, the early symbols were of recognizable things.  Unlike Sumerian cuneiform, the symbols stayed recognizable: a snake stayed a snake, a foot stayed a foot.  Like … Continue reading

Posted in Abjad, Logograms, probably developed by illiterate(s), Rating: 4 "Huh, interesting!" | 6 Comments