I’m going to pull a ‘Well, akshually’ and tell you the Phoenician alphabet isn’t quite an alphabet. It’s an abjad. An abjad has consonants but no vowels—no A, E, I, O, U or sometimes Y. You were expected to know how words are pronounced and supply the vowels yourself when you read something written in the Phoenician system.

The word ‘abjad’ comes from smooshing together the first four letters of the Arabic alphabet: alif, bā’, jīm, and dāl.

Pointless rambling for today: There’s a tv show from the 1970s set in the 1950s called Laverne & Shirley. They’re 2 working-class girls from Brooklyn, New York City and speak like Brooklyners. I saw a bit (I can’t find a clip, sorry) where one of the girls is talking about her friend ‘Sheldn’—she pronounces it just that way. It fits with her accent; that’s the way they tawk in Brookln. The punchline: his name really is Sheldn; the ‘o’ was accidentally left out on his birth certificate.

Wikipedia says the Arabic alphabet is the result of the Phoenician alphabet evolving in the Near East, where it took a few different turns from ours in the West. Scroll down to look at the chart.

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Reading & Writing.

5 responses to “Abjad

  1. Interesting! Didn’t know that word, Abjad. It probably applies to Hebrew as well, although in Hebrew, its ‘aktual’ vowels are indicated by tiny marks called ‘niqqudot’ that are positioned within and around letters to aid pronunciation. You have to know the language well enough to read without these marks. No wonder the religious elites were in control!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I learned that word only recently. Oh, Ilene—we’re coming up on the Hebrew alphabet soon! I have a mere 1 or 2 more posts about the Phoenicians. You, Jeff and I talked about its origins some years ago at your house. I know that King David had Phoenician craftspeople at his court. Possibly they had an influence on the Hebrew alphabet. May I beg you to share one of your calligraphy pieces here and your thoughts about those letters and how they came to be?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sure! i’ve got a few possibilities. Just let me know when you need it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ll wrap up the Phoenicians in a couple of posts and get started on the Greeks. Is a week and a half enough time?

    Liked by 1 person

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