Naveh, Joseph. Early History of the Alphabet. Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1982.

Naveh traces the evolution of alphabetic writing from 1700 BCE to modern times. He disputes Gelb’s claim that Semitic writing must be regarded as a syllabary system since it does not indicate vowels. For Naveh “Alphabet” merely denotes a system of writing with a limited number of signs which have a fixed order. The Proto-Canaanite script was invented c1700 BCE by Canaanites who had some knowledge of Egyptian writing. The number of letters was originally 27 but reduced to 22 by the 13th century. The direction of writing varied among right-to-left, left-to-right, vertical, and boustrophedon. Once the stances of the 22 letters are stabilized and the script is only written horizontally right-to-left it is called Phonecian. This transition took place in the mid-eleventh century. Naveh therefore argues that the proto-Arabian and Archaic Greek scripts, which show similar variations in writing direction, developed from proto-Canaanite, and not Phoenician (See McCarter).

Explore posts in the same categories: Naveh, Joseph, Orthography

2 Comments on “Naveh, Joseph. Early History of the Alphabet. Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1982.”

  1. Andrew Says:

    Pete – hope you get this comment. Do you know if the 2005 publication of Naveh “Early History of the Alphabet: An Introduction to the West Semitic Epigraphy and Palaeography” is the same book? I read through the original one (I believe the one you talked about in this post), and want to make sure he doesn’t have a couple of editions or anything. I just hunted them down on Amazon so that’s where you’ll find what I was looking at.


  2. Peter Bekins Says:

    Andrew, I haven’t seen the 2005 personally, but it looks like it is a re-print rather than a new edition. I deduce this from the new publisher, Varda, rather than Magnes Press.


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