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Die Keilalphabete: Die phonizischkanaanaischen und altarabischen Alphabete in Ugarit.

THIS REVIEW ARTICLE continues the stimulating discussions that the reviewer held with the authors at the hospitable Ugarit-Forschung, an institute devoted to Ugaritic studies, during his stays in Munster in 1983(1) and 1987.

1. The Book

1.1. An introductory chapter is devoted to the general problems of "alphabetology," especially to the invention and spread of alphabetic writing systems. Aspects of research on the alphabet and its cultural importance are traced from Plato, through J.-J. Rousseau, J. G. Herder and O. Spengler, to J. Derrida. The role of the cuneiform alphabets in the history of writing is rightly assessed as important.

1.2.1. The second chapter, dealing with the cuneiform alphabet of Ugarit, is devoted mostly to evaluation of previous research. The relative age and priority of cuneiform and linear Phoenician alphabets have been discussed since the decipherment of Ugaritic writing, especially after the alphabet tablets became known. The origin of the Ugaritic cuneiform alphabet was explained by derivation from the syllabic cuneiform script, by free formation of signs from basic elements, by imitation of Egyptian hieratic script, and by analogy to Phoenician linear script. Various attempts to clarify the relationship between various alphabets--Ugaritic cuneiform, Canaanite/Phoenician linear, and South Semitic--are presented, with due attention to the last one, to which studies have been devoted by W. Rollig. A. G. Lundin and J. Ryckmans. The authors do not deem any of these opinions and theses fully convincing.

1.2.2. The relevant materials relating to the long alphabet of Ugarit are conveniently presented in two tables. The forms of letters written with wedges and their linear reconstructions are shown together with letters from representative western and southern linear alphabets, and the sequence of the Ugaritic alphabet is compared with that of the Phoenician/Canaanite alphabet. Detailed comparison of all 30 letters of the Ugaritic alphabet with the linear letters leads to the conclusion that 12 letters are related only to those of the western alphabets, 7 letters only to those of the southern alphabets, while for 8 letters corresponding forms can be found in both of these linear alphabets.

1.2.3. The short cuneiform alphabet is dealt with in a more detailed manner. All texts found in Ugarit and its harbor and elsewhere are presented in autograph and transliteration, with detailed information about their discovery, graphics, and interpretation, and ample references to previous publications.

1.3.1. The first group consists of these texts: KTU 4.31 (1933), 1.77 (1934/1935), 4.710 (1959/1960/1961), 7.60 (1937/1938). They are written from right to left; the forms of some letters differ from the standard forms of the long alphabet. The elements of the short alphabet can be observed in some school texts written in the long alphabet, in alphabet tablets and in writing exercises such as KTU 5.7 (1957), 5.11 (1959), 5.22 (1963).

1.3.2. Texts in the short alphabet, mostly on vessels, all of them brief, were found in following localities: Hala Sultan Tekke, Cyprus (1981/1982); Tell Nebi Mend/Qades, Syria (1975/1976); Kamid el-Loz/Kumidi, Beqa Valley, Lebanon, KTU 6.2 (1967/1973) and (1977/1983); Sarafand/Sarepta, south of Sidon, Lebanon (1970-1972/1975); Tabor Valley/Wadi Bire KTU 6.1 (1945) and Tell Ta annak, KTU 4.767 (1963/1964); and Bet Semes/Rumeileh, west of Jerusalem, KTU 8.1 (1933/1933), to which a special chapter is devoted. All these texts are presented in autograph, transliteration, and translation.

1.3.3. The texts in the short alphabet, for which only 21 letters are attested, are written mostly from right to left, only a few from left to right. This feature and also the occasional use of some letters of the long alphabet, show that the tradition of the latter was also known outside of Ugarit. These observations lead the authors to the conclusion that in Ugarit the short alphabet was supplanted by the long alphabet, which expressed the richer consonantism more adequately.

1.3.4. The alphabet tablet of Bet Semes is analyzed according to similar criteria, with even more attention to detail. While previous interpretations attempted to find a connected text here, A. G. Lundin, in a communication presented on May 16, 1987 in Louvain-la-Neuve,(2) has demonstrated that this tablet contains an alphabet of 23 letters arranged according to the sequence of the southern alphabet, as reconstructed by J. Ryckmans.(3) It was written about 1300 B.C., from right to left around the perimeter. It contained, according to Dietrich and Loretz, 28 letters; one is now missing and seven are damaged. The shapes of the letters are mostly similar to those of the Ugaritic long alphabet.

1.4. The conclusion of this careful study: the short alphabet of 21/22 letters coexisted with the newly created long alphabet of 30 letters. The difference between the underlying consonant systems can be used as a partial foundation for dialect geography. In Palestine the shorter consonantism and alphabet prevailed, in Ugarit the longer ones. The historical events around 1200 B.C. brought about the end of the cuneiform writing tradition in the west, which had been introduced to northern Syria centuries before. The Bet Semes alphabet is evidence of a tradition that served as one model for the Ugaritic long alphabet, the northwestern alphabet of 22 letters being the other one. Conclusions are also drawn about the origin of the ruling class of Ugarit: they were Arabs who arrived in the middle of the second millennium B.C. with their linear script and adapted it to the cuneiform technique.

1.5. A rich but selective bibliography is arranged chronologically. The book is provided with indices of persons, subjects and geographical names, words, and texts. A welcome addition is provided by W. Rollig showing sites where Ugaritic cuneiform texts and ancient Canaanite inscriptions were found.

1.6. The book under review makes substantial contributions to two fields, Ugaritology and alphabetology.

1.6.1. Texts in the short cuneiform alphabet attested in Ugarit and other places in Syria-Palestine are among the most difficult Ugaritic texts because of their rather peripheral character, from the viewpoint of both geography and content. Nor have they attracted as much attention as other kinds of Ugaritic texts. The careful reedition and fresh interpretation of these texts have closed a major gap in Ugaritic studies.

1.6.2. The contribution of this book to the history of the alphabet is equally outstanding. It evaluates the significance of the earliest known evidence for the south Semitic alphabet sequence. The standard Ugaritic long alphabet was developed by combining the southern alphabet of 28 consonant letters with the northwestern alphabet of 22 letters. The writing technique imitated that of cuneiform script on clay tablets. Combining these observations with information about the development of languages of these texts leads to an historical conclusion: the people who invented and used the Ugaritic alphabet came from the Arabic countries in the south.

1.6.3. This book offers much in the interpretation of difficult texts written in the short alphabet as well as in judicious evaluations of previous research, and also in synthesizing various detailed observations. Its many new insights will significantly stimulate further research.

1.7. Researchers in the history of alphabets will find here important material, otherwise not easily accessible to non-specialists, presented clearly and reliably; they can employ many of its conclusions. Relationships between technically different scripts, linear and cuneiform, and between "long" and "short" alphabets and their linguistic backgrounds deserve to be further studied in broader perspective.

1.7.1. One of the many strengths of the book is its limitation to Ugaritic material. Other sources are taken into consideration only when they directly contribute to the study of Ugaritic topics. This approach gives the book its unity and coherence. When the reviewer takes the liberty to introduce some more distant evidence and even some analogies from other areas, it is an acknowledgement of the importance of data and ideas presented in the work for other fields of research.

2. Some Marginal Notes

2.1. An argument for the free formation of Ugaritic letters (i.e., without linear or syllabic models) is the use of the simplest combinations of wedges for most letters, as shown in a survey of forms published in 1958.(4) Only few of these simple forms correspond to syllabic cuneiform signs.(5)

2.2. The last three letters of the Ugaritic alphabet do not fit into this pattern. The last one imitates the West Semitic linear letters.(6) The elements on the left and right of the central vertical wedge can be written differently; in most common forms there are three wedges, rarely four. Similarly the two preceding letters nos. 28 and 29 are written with few exceptions with three parallel wedges and one at a right angle to them: i has three horizontal wedges and one vertical wedge below, u three vertical wedges and one horizontal wedge below.

2.2.1. These three last signs also differ from the preceding 27 letters; they express--at least basically--syllables /i/,/u/,/su/.(7)

2.2.2. An excursus is devoted to letters 28 and 29, i and u. Dietrich and Loretz agree with the consensus explanation that the forms were borrowed from the corresponding syllabic signs, I (103)(8) and U (169). The shapes of both signs were simplified in accordance with the other letters. This foreign origin corresponds to that of the letter no. 30, s, taken over from the Canaanite/Phoenician linear alphabet. This observation supports the supposition that the last three letters of the Ugaritic alphabet were added later--most probably, according to the ancient tradition, at the same time. Dietrich and Loretz assume that the letter s was added first and later the newly introduced letters i and u were put in front of it. In another statement about the sequence of these letters, they assume that i-/i/ was introduced first, while u-/u/ was a subsequent development based on i-/i/. Another possibility may be presented for further discussion: did the Ugaritic script reformer realize that from a phonetic viewpoint the glottal stop is a zero sound? A special graphic marker would then be redundant. If that were the case, the vocalic element should be appropriately indicated. A common marker for all vocalic values could hardly serve this purpose; separate signs for three basic vocalic values had to be introduced. The phonological value and function of the glottal stop/aleph was retained for the combination vowel glottal stop /V+/, indicated mostly by the sign i, /-i/, /-a/, /-u/.(9)

2.2.3. The opposition between sibilants indicated by letters s and s needs to be further discussed. This reviewer has collected further evidence for the syllabic character of the last letter of the Ugaritic alphabet, s-/su/ and, on the basis of graphical similarities, has argued for a foreign origin for the last three signs, i, u, s, for their basically syllabic character, /i/, /u/, /su/.(10)

3. The Alphabet of Bet Semes

3.1. Because of crucial importance of this tablet (dated archaeologically to ca. 1300 B.C.) with letters arranged according to the southern alphabet, its sequence is presented here:(11)

H L H M Q W S R T S K N H B | ~ F Z G D G T Z D Y T S

Some minor differences between Bet Semes letters and Ugaritic forms are caused by different directions of the letters and by their positioning around the small tablet. The letter S (7) is turned 90 |degrees~ against the Ugaritic form, but also has a small circle in its center. One may ask whether this feature is related to the letter of the same value in the short cuneiform alphabet written with only one circle.

3.1.1. The only missing letter (no. 15), reconstructed with help of the South Arabian alphabet as a sibilant, is transliterated as |S~, the last sign of the Ugaritic long alphabet. There are in the epigraphic South Arabian script three letters usually transliterated as |s.sup.1~, |s.sup.2~ and |s.sup.3~. The comparison with other Semitic languages shows that |s.sup.1~ corresponds to Hebrew s, |s.sup.2~ to Hebrew s and |s.sup.3~ to Hebrew s. It can be assumed that the missing letter corresponds to Hebrew sin and to South Arabian |s.sup.2~,(12) rather than to the rare Ugaritic s-/su/.

3.1.2. The criteria for the arrangement of letters on the Bet Semes tablet in an alphabetic sequence are not discussed. A few observations based on relations between shapes of cuneiform letters are--with due caution--presented here: letters 1 and 2, h-l, both consist of three parallel wedges, but differ in direction, horizontal or vertical. Similarly letters 12 and 13, n-h, written with triple or quadruple wedges, differ in their direction, horizontal or vertical. Some formal similarity can be observed on forms from Bet Semes between letters 22 and 23, g-t, and between 3 and 4, h-m, in both instances only with respect to some elements.

3.2. The badly damaged and not yet satisfactorily interpreted inscription from the 12th century B.C. found in Baluah, east of the Dead Sea, with letters similar both to the South Arabian and the Proto-Sinaitic script is another isolated find.(13) Other short texts of South Arabian character were found in places distant from each other: a sherd from Bet Sean, a bowl from Esyongeber, and three inscriptions from Ur in Mesopotamia, probably from the 7th century B.C.(14) This geographical distribution makes the determination of the origin of such texts difficult. A South Arabian clay stamp, probably from the 9th century B.C., was unearthed at Beitin, biblical Bethel, in 1957.(15) The seal belonged to a fdn, "delegate," in charge of business connections with Hadramawt, his homeland. The deliveries which he had to check were most probably meant as payment for the most famous South Arabian export articles, frankincense and myrrh.(16) In Ugaritic texts oil of myrrh' and smn.rqh, 'perfume', are mentioned. The visit of the Queen of Sheba at the court of King Solomon, as presented in I Kings 10:1-13,(17) can be considered a testimony of economic connections between South Arabia and Jerusalem in the 10th century B.C.

3.3. One might consider the Bet Semes alphabet to have been an attempt of a South Arabian merchant to "translate" his linear alphabetic sequence to cuneiform letters as they were known in Palestine.

3.3.1. This hypothesis posits a role for the southern alphabet different from that ascribed to it in the book under review, where it is assumed that it was well known in the area of Jerusalem in the middle of the second millennium B.C. The special function of the Bet Semes tablet is difficult to establish. Was it a demonstration that it is the possible to write alphabetic script on durable writing material? Did it serve as a tool for "translating" texts from the cuneiform alphabetic script to the linear script or vice versa?(18) Was it used for some magical purpose?(19)

3.3.2. The use of the Bet Semes tablet for the dating of the southern alphabet sequence is clear. This sequence goes back approximately to 1300 B.C. It was used for more than a thousand years, and some elements had survived in the Ethiopic sequence until the present time. It is unusual for one script, here the cuneiform long alphabet, to be presented in two entirely different sequences. This phenomenon can be explained by contacts between two entrenched traditions, or by a tendency to replace one tradition by another one.

3.3.3. Later analogies do not provide much, if any, help in our historical reconstruction. In the North Arabic alphabetic sequence--based on a late Aramaic model--both graphical and phonological similarities were decisive for the arrangement of letters, while the traditional Aramaic sequence provided a skeleton framework.

3.4.1. The graphical similarity of cuneiform letters between the Ugaritic alphabet and the Bet Semes alphabet leads Dietrich and Loretz to the conclusion that the Bet Semes tablet represents the older tradition, which was then used by the inventors of the Ugaritic long alphabet. The idea of changing a linear script to a cuneiform one came to Ugarit from the south, where, according to this assumption, the linear alphabet was so firmly rooted that its language did not need to be expressed by a cuneiform alphabetic script.

3.4.2. It is not clear how many and what Ugaritic cuneiform alphabetic texts precede the earthquake and fire that damaged the acropolis and royal palace of Ugarit about 1365 B.C. King Ammistamru I, known for his seal inscription--mismn amydtmr mlk ugrt, KTU 6.23--ruled around 1370 B.C.(20) A few literary texts, KTU 1.12 and 1.24, exhibit an archaic feature, consistent preservation of d. It can be supposed that numerous Ugaritic cuneiform alphabetic texts are older than the Bet Semes tablet.

3.4.3. The frequent use of the long cuneiform alphabet in Ugarit, which can be traced back at least to the beginning of the 14th century B.C., seems to diminish the role of the Bet Semes cuneiform long alphabet. It can be considered an attempt parallel to and probably inspired by the Ugaritic cuneiform alphabet, to transfer a linear alphabet, in this case that of the southern type, into forms that would be written with letters composed of wedges, preferably on clay.

4. The Long Alphabet: Could it have been derived from the short?

4.1. The Ugaritic long alphabet consists of 30 signs. The last three are different from the preceding, both by their shapes--imitating foreign models--and by their syllabic character. In the short Ugaritic cuneiform alphabet, 21 signs are attested. Compared to the later Phoenician/Hebrew linear alphabet of 22 letters, s is missing. Since these texts are few, short, and often fragmentary, and since the letter s is relatively infrequent in Ugaritic words,(21) its absence can be ascribed to chance. Note, though, that the letter s is also not represented in the old Phoenician inscriptions of Ahirom of Byblos and of Sipitbaal.(22)

4.2. Of the 27 original consonants of the Ugaritic cuneiform long alphabet, five others are not represented in the shorter alphabets, whether cuneiform or linear. All these five denote consonants eliminated by phonological changes during the transition from Old Canaanite to Phoenician/Hebrew, probably about 1200 B.C.: three interdentals, /z/ (or better /t/), /d/, /t/, which changed into sibilants, one postvelar /g/, which changed into a pharyngeal, and one pharyngeal /h/.

4.2.1. These five letters appear in various positions in the Ugaritic alphabetic sequence: g, 26; h, 9; z, 18; d, 16; t, 25. No phonological relationships to the letters before or after them can be observed. The letters 25 and 26 occur close to the end of the original sequence, but still come before the common letter t, 27.

4.2.2. Dietrich and Loretz argue for a graphical reason for attaching the five letters to preceding ones. But in the Ugaritic cuneiform alphabet few relationships of a graphical kind between letters in immediate sequence can be observed, perhaps h-t, 9-10. Since the five letters unique to the long alphabet are distributed throughout the sequence, they have to be considered original elements. The sequence in the short alphabet can be explained simply by exclusion of these five letters and omission of the three last letters.

4.2.3. For attaching additional new letters at the end of the alphabetic sequence many analogies from antiquity and from later periods can be adduced: Greek, Latin, Coptic, Old Church Slavonic, Russian.

4.2.4. The sequence of letters in ancient Semitic alphabets cannot be explained either by graphical or by phonological criteria.(23)

4.3. Some graphic features of the five letters of the long alphabet which have no counterpart in the short alphabet deserve attention.

4.3.1. All five letters from this set have the angle wedge ("Winkelhaken") as their most visible graphical component, and some graphical similarities between letters denoting phonologically related consonants can be observed.(24) The letters for interdentals are formed from an angle wedge and a straight wedge, which is vertical in t and slightly oblique in d. The most common form of g exhibits an angle wedge crossed by one horizontal straight wedge, while z (/t/) has two horizontal wedges left from the angle wedge. Even as these consonants are articulated in different parts of speech organs, change of /z/ into /g/ is attested, as are variant spellings of the word for "darkness," zlmt and glmt.(25) This connection seems to have led the inventor of the cuneiform alphabet to give similar shapes to letters for related consonants. The letter h consists of two angle wedges and two straight wedges, together forming a kind of cross.

4.3.2. The angle wedge also appears in the following letters: alone in, combined with other wedges in s, q, and t. This appearance of the angle wedge in a total of eight letters thus diminishes the possibility that the five unique letters of the long alphabet were a later addition to the short alphabet.

4.4. Obviously, if an alphabet is borrowed for a language that does not have some of its sounds, the superfluous letters will be unused and eventually disappear. If an alphabet is introduced for a language with more phonemes than there are signs, two solutions are attested: either new letters for specific phonemes of the "target language" are invented, or some letters of the original "short" alphabet are used for more than one phoneme.

4.4.1. As an example of exclusion of letters that were no longer necessary for expressing phonemes of the borrowing language, ancient Greek letters q(oppa) and s(an) can be cited.(26)

4.4.2. Use of an alphabet containing fewer consonant letters than the number of phonemes in the borrowing language can be illustrated by the Phoenician alphabet of 22 letters serving the Early Aramaic dialects of the 9th-7th century B.C.(27)

4.5. Thus it seems more probable that the model for the Ugaritic cuneiform long alphabet was a Canaanite linear alphabet of approximately 27 consonant letters reflecting the richer consonantal inventory of the middle of the second millennium B.C. Model alphabets as well as the overwhelming majority of texts in this Old Canaanite script and language were written on papyrus and thus did not survive. It can be assumed that the sequence of the consonant letters of this linear alphabet model was identical with or at least very similar to that of the first original 27 letters of the Ugaritic cuneiform alphabet. The Phoenician sequence of 22 letters can be explained by exclusion of the five letters that became obsolete because of the loss of the phonemes indicated by them from the Phoenician Iron Age language.(28)

4.6. Dietrich and Loretz argue, on the other hand, that the five letters for additional spirants and fricatives were inserted into the traditional Phoenician/Canaanite sequence, a combination of two alphabet traditions realized in the middle of the second millennium B.C.

4.6.1. Their explanation is based on a careful study of comparative letter forms. They reconstruct hypothetical Ugaritic linear forms that could have served as models for the attested cuneiform shapes, and compare them to both western/Canaanite/Phoenician and South Semitic/ancient South Arabian letters.

4.6.2. The other explanation, that the Ugaritic cuneiform letter shapes were freely created by simplest combinations of a few wedge elements, is based on the assumption that a longer linear alphabet served as a model both for the values and the sequence, but not for the shapes of cuneiform letters, even though occasional relationships to linear letters or to syllabic cuneiform signs were possible. This is true for the original Ugaritic sequence of 27 letters.

4.6.3. A hypothetical "re-creation" of the development of the Ugaritic long cuneiform alphabet can be presented for further discussion: it could be supposed that the inventor first wrote down the simplest combinations of basic cuneiform elements, straight wedges--simple ones, repeated on the same line or in parallel; then he introduced the angle wedge. In the next stage he compared these forms to those of the long linear alphabet, and assigned corresponding values to cuneiform letters exhibiting some similarity: b, g, h, w, z, t, k, n, s, q, s. Then the remaining signs were assigned their values. Eventually a few signs containing angle wedges were used for relatively rare consonants related by their phonological characteristics: t, d, related also graphically to s; g, q; perhaps g, z. Only later the three additional syllabic signs were formed according to syllabic cuneiform--i/i/, u/u/--and Canaanite linear--s/su/--models.

4.7. According to Dietrich and Loretz the short cuneiform alphabet did not originate in Ugarit but was brought from the south. The existence of local varieties is visible in different directions of writing and in the occasional use of letters from the long alphabet, while there are only slight differences in the shapes of letters. But the common features point to the existence of a common tradition of a short alphabet with 21 (or 22) letters. In Ugarit the short alphabet was replaced by the long alphabet corresponding to the idiom with richer consonant inventory. This conclusion is supported by detailed observations of scribal exercises.

4.7.1. But other non-standard texts also need to be brought into the discussion. Texts written by speakers of foreign languages--many of whom lived in the multilingual city of Ugarit--or by insufficiently trained scribes often disclose variants of pronunciation or phonetic changes not visible in the standard orthography. It is possible to observe an assimilatory change of voiced to unvoiced consonant before another unvoiced consonant--/-dq-/ |is greater than~ /-tq-/in the name stqn KTU 1.80:2--or the incorrect writing of a letter for a voiced consonant instead of that for the unvoiced one--g instead of h in the name bdyrg, KTU 4.277:2. Typical for the character of these texts is the writing of the name ahrtp in the same text, line 5; pharyngeal h instead of standard postvelar h in ah/ah "brother," and interdental t in the theophoric component written in the standard texts as rsp. Both of these spellings indicate the same merger in pronunciation of two phonetically related sounds reflected in the short alphabet. It has only one sign, identical in form--triple vertical wedge--with h of the long alphabet. It also has a peculiar non-cuneiform letter in the form of a circle, transliterated as S, combining the s and t sounds of the long alphabet.

4.7.2. These observations lead to the conclusion that all of these texts, those in sub-standard orthography, some features of the scribal exercises, and the short alphabet system, reflect a later stage than that attested in the standard orthography. The use of the short alphabet in places south of Ugarit would indicate the presence there of Canaanite dialects with a smaller inventory of consonants. (Although texts on metal objects and ceramics could be easily transported from their places of origin, clay tablets were mostly written in the place where they were found.)

4.8. Some graphical features of the short cuneiform alphabet deserve attention.

4.8.1. The letter replacing standard s is written in an innovative technique, by pressing the round upper end of the stylus in the clay, rather than its lower end with sharp edges. The secondary character of the short alphabet is corroborated by this graphical feature.

4.8.2. Evidence was presented above for the change of fricative postvelars into pharyngeals in Northwest Semitic languages. This change is reflected in the exclusion of the letter for voiced g from the short alphabet, in which represents both archiphonemes. But the letter indicating the postvelar in the long alphabet, h, is used for the sound resulting from the merger of the unvoiced counterparts. This different result can be explained by preference for a simple graphical form, a triple vertical wedge, rather than the complicated form of h with two angle wedges and two other wedges. Similarly, the in the short and long alphabet written with one angle wedge is much simpler than the letter g. If a phonological characteristic influenced the selection of h for the short alphabet, a parallel from a much later Northwest Semitic tradition can be adduced: in the eastern (Nestorian) tradition of Syriac, which is generally more conservative than the western (Jacobite) tradition, the letter h(et) is pronounced as a postvelar, like Arabic h(a). The pharyngeal pronunciation is preserved in the western tradition.(29)

4.8.3. As mentioned, s does not appear in the short alphabet texts here studied. But a real s can be perhaps found at the end of line 1 of the Tell Taannak tablet.(30)

5. Consonant Systems, "Long" and "Short" in Canaanite and South Arabian Languages

5.1. The character of the Proto-Sinaitic script is considered to be not yet determined in the book under review--the large number (32) of signs seeming to point to an alphabet expressing a West Semitic language with a relatively rich inventory of consonants.

5.2. A few letters rendering consonantal phonemes of the "long" Canaanite inventory can be assumed for Canaanite inscriptions from the late second millennium B.C. In the ostraca from Kamid el-Loz, written about 1500 B.C., the letter for the unvoiced interdental t is attested, similar in its shape to the South Semitic letter.(31) The second letter on three inscriptions on arrowheads, probably from the 12th century B.C., found at el-Hadr, near Bethlehem,(32) looks like an inverted T. This letter is probably a s, forming with the preceding letter the word for "arrow," hs; a clear s is written on a slightly later arrowhead found in eastern Lebanon.(33) The el-Hadr arrowhead inscriptions may exhibit the older form hz, attested in the Ugaritic cuneiform alphabetic texts.(34) The evidence for the Canaanite "long" consonant system does not appear as convincing on the basis of linear texts written in these languages or dialects.

5.3. Some foreign script systems have exactly indicated the early Canaanite consonants. In the Egyptian renderings of Canaanite words the original consonants were distinguished: interdentals from sibilants--/d/ - /z/, /t/ - /s/; postvelars from pharyngeals--/g/ - / /, /h/ - /h/.

5.3.1. The old, richer consonant system is reflected in Greek names of two great Phoenician cities, Sidon and Tyre.(35) Both of them are written with s in Phoenician inscriptions, sdn - sr. The Greek form Sidon renders--of course, approximately--the original emphatic sibilant, while the name Turos points to the original emphatic unvoiced interdental in the Old Canaanite model.(36) This consonant is usually transliterated as z, allegedly under the influence of the Turkish pronunciation of the Arabic consonant of this kind, but the more accurate transliteration t suffers the graphical inconvenience of two diacritic signs. The antiquity of these Greek renderings is rather high; they are probably contemporary with the Greek name Bublos going back to Canaanite Gubl-, a form subjected to the early Greek change of labialized velar /|g.sup.w~-/ to labial /b-/.(37)

5.4. Thus the evidence from forms attested in Egyptian script and in the Greek alphabet supports the reconstruction of a larger consonantal inventory in the West Semitic languages in the second millennium B.C.(38) This explanation strengthens our suppositions about the priority of the linear long alphabets, northwestern and southern; the secondary character of the short alphabets, linear and cuneiform, becomes more clearly apparent. They reflect the simplification and reduction of the consonant inventory in Canaanite/Phoenician and in Ugaritic, a Canaanite language in peripheral position in the northernmost area of its linguistic group.(39)

5.5. In the Ugaritic language many similarities to ancient South Arabian can be observed, along with many features parallel to classical North Arabic. The rich consonant inventory, preserving interdentals and postvelars, and the system of nominal inflection with corresponding case markers are most conspicuous.(40) Quantitative comparisons between Semitic languages show significantly close connections between Ugaritic and Arabic.(41) Some relations between Ugaritic and Arabic languages, southern and northern, also appear in the vocabulary.

5.5.1. Many of these similarities can be explained by the antiquity of Ugaritic and of epigraphic South Arabic and by the conservative character of classical North Arabic. This explanation does not, of course, exclude the possibility of some historical relationship between the people of Ugarit and the ancient Arabs.

5.6. Finally, Dietrich and Loretz argue for Arabia as the original home of the people of Ugarit. They base this conclusion on their theory of the development of the alphabet: the newcomers brought with them a language with a richer consonant inventory, and a correspondingly richer alphabetic script of linear character. They imposed these features on the local language and script and created an alphabet with 30 letters. The leading role in these changes is ascribed to the Arabs, for the presence of this nation in southern Palestine is now attested by the Bet Semes alphabet exhibiting the southern Arabian sequence.

5.6.1. An old tradition preserved in the 5th century B.C. by Herodotus explains that Phoenicians came to the Mediterranean coast of Syria from the Erythrean Sea.(42) This tradition may be related to migrations from Arabia to the Mediterranean shore of northern Syria. This reviewer already pointed to such a possibility based on relationships between Ugaritic and southern Arabic in 1969.(43)

1 This reviewer acknowledges with gratitude receipt of a Fulbright Award, which gave him the opportunity to do research and teach at Westfalische Wilhelms-Universitat in Munster.

2 Cf. Lundin-Ryckmans 1987.

3 Cf. Ryckmans 1981.

4 Segert 1958a: 203-4; Segert 1965: 17; cf. Windfuhr 1970; BGUL, 20.

5 Cf. von Soden and Rollig 1967, with references to numbers of signs: 1, t; 2, a; 42, g; 90, p; 242, ; 276, g; 308, s; variants: 32, (d); 49, (g); 31, (s); perhaps: 287, m?; 320, b?

6 Cf. Segert 1983b.

7 The last three letters were invented by Eisirios, brother of Chna, according to the ancient tradition going back to Sanchuniation, preserved in the Greek rendering by Philo of Byblos, and quoted by Eusebius. Eissfeldt 1938/1939: 60; Eissfeldt 1950: 217; Eusebius, Praeparatio evangelica, I, 10, 39 (ed. Sirenelli and des Places, 200): Eisirios, ton trion grammaton heuretes. Cf. Atteridge and Oden 1958: 58-61. Cf. Eissfeldt 1950: 220.

8 Numbers according to von Soden and Rollig 1967.

9 BGUL, 23 (21.4).

10 Segert 1983b.

11 This sequence differs in a few points from that reconstructed by Ryckmans 1981: 705, n. 17: between R and T Ryckmans puts b(g?); after H he has not B, but s--which is not preserved at all in the Bet Semes tablet; Ryckmans indicates the last letter as s/z and the letter after as d--instead of z on p. 286. Similar alphabetic sequence was known from a series of stones from about 300 B.C. found in Timna (Hagar Kohlan) in Southern Arabia: l h m ? s r g s h b k n h ? s f, cf. Ryckmans 1981: 703.

12 The original pronunciation of this consonant was probably lateralized, *|s.sup.1~, cf. Moscati 1964: 34 (8.29). In Ugaritic this consonant is not attested, its equivalent is /s/; sb can indicate both /s-b-/ "to be satiated"--corresponding to Hebrew /s-b-/--and /s-b-/ "seven"--corresponding to Hebrew /s-b-/.

13 Driver 1976: 123; Garbini 1979: 92-94; Naveh 1979: 22.

14 Driver 1976: 124.

15 Jamme 1969: 234/670.

16 van Beek 1974: 44-48.

17 Cf. Pritchard 1974: 7-11; Montgomery 1934: 180; Montgomery and Gehman 1951: 215-19; Gray 1970: 257-62; Long 1984: 117-20.

18 The letter sent from the king of Tyre to the king of Ugarit is preserved on the Ugaritic cuneiform tablet KTU 2.38; cf. BGUL, 151.

19 Cf. Gelb 1963: 233-34.

20 Liverani 1979: 1298, 1299-1300.

21 Among 2768 entries in Gordon 1965: 347-507, only 66 begin with s.

22 KAI 1 and 7; Friedrich and Rollig 1970: Schrifttafel I.

23 Garbini 1988: 102. He mentions the astronomical hypothesis of Alessandro Bausani. Phonological matrix is proposed by Watt 1989. For the southern sequence cf. Ryckmans 1985: 357.

24 Cf. Lundin 1987a: 92, fig. 1 (last letter is t).

25 Segert 1988: 296-97; cf. KTU 1.8:7-9; 1.4:VII:54-56.

26 Brandenstein 1954: 31, 33, 34, nn. 2102; Jeffery 1961: 33-34; Guarducci 1967: 98.

27 Structural and lexical affinities as well as various contacts made possible this use of Canaanite features in Aramaic texts. A testimony for the preservation of the interdental /t/ appeared in the oldest known longer Aramaic inscription from the 9th century B.C., found in 1979 on Tell Fekheriye--ancient Sikan--in Northern Syria. The interdental /t/ is indicated there by the letter s. This sibilant is phonetically closer to the unvoiced interdental than the s taken over from the Canaanite models, which was used for this sound in other early Aramaic texts. From the 7th century on the Aramaic interdentals changed unto dentals, t, d, t. But the voiced postvelar /g/ is expressed by the letter q, which indicates also the emphatic velar. This use can be explained by the closeness of the places of articulation of both consonants; they differ in the manner of articulation; /q/ plosive/"emphatic," /g/ spirant/fricative. Moscati 1964: 29-30; Segert 1976: 61; cf. Segert 1985: 94.

28 Cf. Lundin 1987a: 99.

29 Brockelmann 1976: 14; cf. Moscati 1964: 40.

30 Dietrich and Loretz correctly interpret the sign in the Sarepta inscription (read previously as s) as s, with reference to the name plsbl. For the first component of the name slbl Ugaritic parallels can be adduced, names sll and sly, from roots /s-l-l/ and /s-l-y/ (Grondahl 1967: 185, 410). For the word "wood" the written form s in accordance with other instances can be expected. For the lack of space the letter s appears as written with two wedges one above the other instead of two vertical parallel wedges. The immediately preceding angle wedge would then be the letter, the other one left of it is the dividing wedge, of course larger than the other dividing wedges of the same tablet.

31 Cf. Cross 1979: 99, 114; Garbini 1979: 96-97.

32 Driver 1976: 247-48; Cross 1979: 101, 121.

33 Driver 1976: 245-46; cf. Cross 1979: 120, arrows 2-5.

34 Cf. BGUL, 185b.

35 Friedrich and Rollig 1970: 9.

36 Friedrich and Rollig 1970: 9; Fuentes Estanol 1980: 215, 218; Moscati 1964: 29.

37 Grammont 1948: 182-83. Cf. Lord 1979: 189.

38 Cf. Garbini 1960: 26-27, 51-53.

39 Cf. BGUL, 14.

40 Segert 1969: 468-75; BGUL, 14, 30.

41 Fronzaroli 1961: 373-74, 377.

42 Herodotus. Historiae, VII: 89. Cf. Pietschmann 1889: 112-13.

43 Segert 1969: 476-77.


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Date:Jan 1, 1993
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