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Old September 25th, 2012, 08:30 AM   #1

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The Alphabet


Attachment 4338I've read in a book published in Israel called "A Brief History of Civilization" about a claim that all phonetic alphabets outside the Sinosphere are derived from Sumerian hieroglyphic cuneiform.
Sumerian pictographic hieroglyphics developed around 3800-3500 BCE. In turn pre-dynastic Egypt burrowed Sumerian pictographs and modified them into crude Egyptian hieroglyphs circa 3400-3300 BCE. Sumer adopted simplified phonetic cuneiform around 2900-2700 BCE, while Egypt perfected their pictographic symbols. Around 1600-1400 BCE a writing system was created in the Levant (then under Egyptian influence) for Semitic phonology. The script is called Proto-Sinaitic, and in turn it was developed into a fully phonetic Proto-Phoenician script around 1300 BCE. The pictographs were simplified and the Phoenician script was developed around 1000 BCE. Phoenician alphabet was adopted by many cultures and developed into Greek (800 BCE), Etruscan (600 BCE), Aramaic (600 BCE), Latin (500 BCE), Hebrew/Aramaic square script (300 BCE), Syriac (100 BCE), Nabatean (100 BCE), Coptic (200 CE), Arabic (300 CE) and many others.

What's really amazing about this is that the order of letters has been preserved in virtually all languages. alpha, beta, gamma and delta have no meaning in Greek, but in Hebrew they mean: ox, house and camel (throwing stick representing a camel's head) and door respectively. Even the letter names have been preserved since the early pictographic depictions.

So, according to the book, all these developed ultimately from Sumerian.
It is disputed from the very start whether Egyptian symbols was influenced by Sumerian ones. Many scholars believe that Egyptian and Sumerian scripts developed separately and independently. Phoenician indeed was derived from Egyptian, so the lineage of scripts such as Latin, Greek and Cyrillic stops at least in Egypt, if not further back in time to the very beginning of civilization itself, in Sumer.

I wonder what about all the many other scripts that show little resemblance to being a part of a chain stretching to ancient Egypt. What about the Germanic runes, Indian sub-continent scripts, Central Asian scripts, Georgian, Armenian and others.


The first one is the Proto-Phoenician or Proto-Canaanite pictographic I copied from the book, since I don't have a scanner. The second is the Phoenician alphabet.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg proto-sinaitic.jpg (33.2 KB, 19 views)
File Type: jpg phoenician-alphabet.jpg (39.4 KB, 14 views)

Last edited by Barbarossa; September 25th, 2012 at 10:20 AM.
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Old September 25th, 2012, 01:16 PM   #3

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The latest concensus tells us that Proto-Sinaitic was influenced by Egyptian and that Sumerian and Egyptian developed separately.

However, many writing systems developed separately. For example, since you mentioned Armenian and Georgian, no Phoenician derived alphabet is suitable for rendering them. Also, there were cultures that knew the concept but developed their own writting systems. Cypriots for example, kept writting in their Syllabic script until the 4th century, most probably because a) it was their own product, b) it was easy and included vowels, c) they were conservative in a way and didn't want to use a similar system like their Phoenician neighbours.
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Old September 25th, 2012, 09:14 PM   #4

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Originally Posted by Barbarossa View Post
I wonder what about all the many other scripts that show little resemblance to being a part of a chain stretching to ancient Egypt. What about the Germanic runes, Indian sub-continent scripts, Central Asian scripts, Georgian, Armenian and others.
The Brahmi script - which gave birth to all South Asian and lots of East and S E Asian scripts is most probably derived from a Semitic script.

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There are several theories on to the origin of the Brahmi script. The first theory is that Brahmi has a West Semitic origin. For instance, the symbol for a resembles Semitic letter 'alif. Similarly, dha, tha, la, and ra all appear quite close to their Semitic counterparts. Another theory, from a slightly different school of thought, proposes a Southern Semitic origin. Finally, the third theory holds that the Brahmi script came from Indus Script.
The probability of Brahmi originating from the Indus Valley Script is very low.

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Ancient Scripts: Brahmi
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Old September 26th, 2012, 12:06 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Barbarossa View Post
Attachment 4338I've read in a book published in Israel called "A Brief History of Civilization" about a claim that all phonetic alphabets outside the Sinosphere are derived from Sumerian hieroglyphic cuneiform.
Although Egyptian hieroglyphs might have been inspired by Sumerian cuneiforms, I see no evidence that the hieroglyphs deriving direclty form the Sumerian cuneiforms. The shape of the Egyptian hieroglyphs are quite different from those of cuneiforms. The Egyptians might have gotten the idea of writing from the Sumerians, but they might have also independenty invented it too. Both the Mayans and the Chinese independently invented writings, so it is possible that the Egyptians did also.

All the alphabets in the world, except for the Korean alphabet (Hangul), are ultimately derived from the original Semitic/Canaanite alphabet, which in turn was derived from Egyptian writing. Although the Chinese have writing, they do not have an alphabet.

The Korean alphabet as far as I know is the only alphabet in the world that does not ultimately derive from the orignal Semitic alphabet. The Korean alphabet was developed in the 15th century at the direction of the Korean King.
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Old September 26th, 2012, 12:21 AM   #6
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The For example, since you mentioned Armenian and Georgian, no Phoenician derived alphabet is suitable for rendering them. Also, there were cultures that knew the concept but .
You are wrong about Armenian writing. It was delevoped from Greek writing, and so ultimately derived from the Phoenician writing, since Greek writing developed from Phoenician.

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Mashtots travelled to Alexandria, where he studied the principles of writing and came to the conclusion that the Greek alphabet was the best alphabet in use at that time because there was an almost one-to-one correspondence between sounds and letters. He used this model to come up with a new alphabet, which he presented to the king when he returned to Armenia in 405 AD. The new alphabet was well-received and a new Armenian translation of the bible was published in 405 AD. Other literary works soon followed
Armenian alphabet, language and pronunciation

In the case of Georgian alphabet, it is not as clear how much was derived from existing Greek and other alphabets.

Quote:
The Encyclopaedia Britannica suggests that the Old Georgian script must have been derived from the Greek alphabet, on account of the order of the alphabet and the shapes of some of the characters, although the shapes of the majority of the signs appear to be a result of a free creation of its inventor
Georgian_alphabet Georgian_alphabet

There are a number of independenty developed writing systems, but they are not alphabets.
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Old September 26th, 2012, 01:03 AM   #7
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Below is a listing of the Egyptian hieroglyphic alphabet compared to Phoenician and later alphabets.

The makers of the tabulation clearly wanted special attention on the possible connection between the hieratic (cursive) form of Egyptian, and the corresponding Phoenician letter. All the signs/letters occupying the same line on the table have the same sound value btw (just saying, in case this might be a bit obtuse).

And the thing is, the Ancient Egyptians were perfectly capable of writing out the sound values of words alphabetically (minus the vowels, which they didn't bother with, Egyptian being a language of weak vowel sounds anyway) using a fairly standardised set of 25 or so signs used alphabetaically. (Cuneiform otoh is syllabic, not alphabetic, in its basic structure, so a shift to alphabet based on it would be a longer step.)
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Old September 26th, 2012, 02:23 AM   #8

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In the phoenician A is the 1st letter and T is the last ,this may tie up with the God aten, AT meaning the God T, and en meaning Lord ,this may follow on with ancients not being able to say the name of their God, so they said " their Gods name was the Alpha and Omega ( first and the last ) in the phoenician Alphabet this would be A and T = AT

....i think this name may also correspond to AIO , being A for God ,and the number (TEN) 10,which later just became the Greek God IO , If A did mean the original God,and his name was T, remember all the T shaped monoliths at Gobekli,

Possibly also Aten , Atis, Titans , Hati , Tiamat ,Nefer TiTi , i think Ti may be the female form of AT, a name for Budda was also TAT , and tat anciently meant father ( from which we got DAD ), so i think all these languages may be connected very early .
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Old September 26th, 2012, 05:11 AM   #9

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Originally Posted by Bart Dale View Post
The Korean alphabet as far as I know is the only alphabet in the world that does not ultimately derive from the orignal Semitic alphabet. The Korean alphabet was developed in the 15th century at the direction of the Korean King.
A Korean professor told me that King Sejong sent some experts in linguistics to Gaya, India in order to create the new writing system. Not sure how true the story is.

Quote:
The assumption that he referred to the Phagspa alphabet of the Mongols is prevalent. There are also theories that India’s Sanskrit or Gujarat writing was referenced.
http://www.han-style.com:8001/englis...riginality.jsp
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Old September 26th, 2012, 05:59 AM   #10

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That's kinda interesting, it seems that no one is absolutely sure about the literal meaning of the pictographs, and some have been changed or misinterpreted during the transition from Egyptian hieroglyphs to the more abstract Proto-Sinaitic and when the even more abstract Phoenician/Canaanite script appeared the confusion became bigger.
It seems that what was first an owl became water, what was a bowl became a palm of the hand, what was an eagle somehow transferred into an ox, and what was a duck became a plow or a weapon or some kind of other tool.
In Hebrew we try to translate the letter names into something meaningful but that could lead to errors since languages change, and it seems that Proto-Sinaitic wasn't meant to represent a North-Western Semitic language at all, probably a South-Central Semitic one like Arabic and Ethiopian.

There might have been a song which helped to remember the letter order using the hieroglyphic meanings, which just happened to run from A to T as the story in the song went. It is the most logical explanation for the letters order in my opinion.
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