O’Connor, Michael P., “Epigraphic Semitic Scripts” in The World’s Writing Systems, ed Peter T Daniels and William Bright. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996, 88-107.

O’Connor discusses the development of the Semitic scripts and gives some examples of alphabetic writing from Ugaritic, Aramaic, Phoenician, and Old South Arabian. While linguistically it may be arguable that the Semitic scripts are syllabic, O’Connor finds the label counterintuitive and defends the standard practice of referring to the Semitic scripts as “alphabetic”. Further, he notes that there is a difference between a script name and a language name, thus the history of script forms is different from the history of languages. The abjad was invented during the Middle Bronze Age and its use increased in the Late Bronze age. However, there is little historic evidence for its early development. The Proto-Sinaitic inscriptions date from the end of the Middle Bronze period, but they have not been deciphered satisfactorily. Late-Bronze Age texts come from Ugarit as well as various “Proto-Canaanite” texts from the Levant. By convention, texts dating after 1050 are labeled Phoenician while earlier texts are Canaanite. In the Iron Age the Northern script developed various ways to notate vowel letters while the Southern script retained its purely consonantal orthography.

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