Archive for the ‘Daniels, Peter T.’ category

Daniels, Peter T. “Fundamentals of Grammatology”, JAOS 110/4, 727-731.

August 5, 2007

In this short article Daniels responds to his teacher IJ Gelb’s suggestion that the early West-Semitic scripts are not alphabets but syllabaries similar to the Ethiopic script (see Gelb, A Study of Writing, 2nd Ed (1963)). He argues that Gelb’s “principal of unidirectional development” (i.e., scripts always progress from logographic to syllabic to alphabetic) was an over-generalization. Instead, he suggests that the standard three-fold typology of writing systems should be expanded to include the “abjad” and the “abugida” which represent the Phoenician and Ethiopic scripts respectively. The “abjad” does not denote syllables, but only the individual consonants while the “abugida” uses a base symbol to denote the consonant which is appended with a vowel mark. Daniels does not see the great intellectual leap in script development as the creation of vowel letters, but the isolation of the sound stream into phonological segments smaller than the syllable.