Archive for the ‘Naveh, Joseph’ category

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

August 16, 2007

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).