User:Vuara/ANCIENT ALPHABETS COMPARED
ANCIENT ALPHABETS COMPARED By R. Cedric Leonard
Have you ever wondered why our system of letters is called an alphabet? The word is actually the combination of the Greek names of the first two characters of the Greek alphabet, alpha and beta. But where did the Greeks get these names? Why call the letters alpha, beta, gamma, delta, etc., in the first place?
These are merely the Greek variation of the Phoenician names aleph, beth, gimel, deleth, etc., and these are actual words in the Phoenician language for ox, house, camel, door, etc. There are several theories as to why these names were applied to the characters in this manner, none of which have been proven. The two prevailing theories at present are: 1) the characters so-named came from earlier pictograms of those objects; 2) each character so-named was the initial sound for that object.
But the scholarly world is in complete disarray when it comes to the question of the origin of the characters. That the Greek alphabet (and most later European alphabets) is basically made up from the earlier Phoenician letters is clear. But the big question is, how did the Phoenicians come by these letters? Evidence indicates that at least some (about four) were invented on the spot (just as the Greeks invented several for their vowels). But what about the rest?
For want of a plausible theory, Dr. I. J. Gelb, Professor at the Oriental Institute and the Department of Linguistics of the University of Chicago, suggests that the entire Phoenician system of signs is an arbitrary invention throughout. Let's take an entirely different tack. Let's assume the Glozel Tablets (believed by many to be authentic and infinitely older than the Phoenician) are the key to the puzzle. Let's make a comparison between several "western" systems and the Glozel characters.
The Azilian, Iberian and Berber character-sets all correspond somewhat to that found on the Glozel Tablets. The "Proto-Sinaitic" inscriptions discovered on cliffs near Luxor, Egypt may represent a contributing factor. And even though the correspondences of several of the characters with its associated "hieroglyphic original" seem somewhat strained, there is little doubt that certain Egyptian hieroglyphs contributed to the overall Proto-Canaanite system.
My contention is that the final Phoenician (an "eastern" system) was cribbed mainly from a "western". However it should be mentioned, that just as in the hieroglyph/sinai conversion, the character-shapes correspond--but not necessarily their phonic values.
Professor Johannes Friedrich, archeologist and linguist at the Free University of Berlin, implies that the Berber alphabet of North Africa may have been a relatively late invention--the earliest inscriptions appearing only in the 2nd century B.C.--therefore some of its characters may have been based on the Phoenician (Punic) script, rather than vice versa.
He writes: "The political and cultural independence of the Numidians manifested itself also in the creation of an alphabetic . . . script which has been preserved in our days in more than a thousand inscriptions." He adds: "A variant of this script is still being used today by the desert tribes of the Tuareg." (Friedrich, 1957) The independence spoken of was acquired with the backing of the Romans early in the 2nd century B.C.
But what about the inscriptions discovered among the Berbers of the Canary Islands? In 1878 French anthropologist Dr. Rene R. Verneau discovered rock carvings in the ravines of Las Balos that bear similarities with Libyan or Numidic writing from the time of Roman occupation or earlier. In other locations the older Libyco-Berber (T'ifinagh) script has been identified. (Verneau, 1881)
Keep in mind that we are comparing several "western" (i.e., Azilian, Berber, Iberian, Numidian, Glozel) with the alphabet supposedly INVENTED by the Phoenicians. The similarities are simply too great. The Phoenicians obviously did not invent their character-set known today as the alphabet. They discovered it in their travels to the west from a source dating back at least 12,000 years (i.e., the Glozel and Azilian).
Just as a footnote to all this riggamaroll about characters and alphabets (included because this also is a fact not widely known), the early Biblical Hebrews (from about the time of King Solomon until after the Babylonian captivity) used the Phoenician alphabet. In other words, whether they wrote on parchment or inscribed on stone, they wrote utilizing Phoenician characters. The earliest known Hebrew inscription is the famed Moabite Stone (dated 9th Cent. B.C.). It is written in the Hebrew language, but with Phoenician characters. The so-called "Hebrew" or block characters we are so familiar with today belong to the Aramaic alphabet, not the Hebrew.
To those of you who hung in there through all this jargon, I congratulate you. I hope I have stimulated some thinking in regards to alphabets and their origins. Whether you agree with me or not, I think the link between the Glosel Tablets and Atlantis is reasonably solid. It just may be that we owe our form of writing to the lost Atlanteans of antiquity.
Cohane, John Philip, "Paradox," Crown Publishers Inc., New York, 1977.
Friedrich, Johannes, "Extinct Languages," (translated from German by Frank Gaynor) published by The Philosophical Library, New York, 1957.
Gelb, Ignace J., "A Study of Writing," (Revised edition) The University of Chicago Press, Chicago & London, 1974.
Verneau, Rene R., "Sur les anciens habitants de la Isleta, Grande Canarie," Bulletin of Social Anthropology, Paris, 1881.