Archive for the ‘Pitard, Wayne’ category

Pitard, Wayne, “The Shape of ‘Ayin in the Ugaritic Script”, JNES 51 no 4 (Oct 1992), 261-279.

August 26, 2007

Pitard laments that no significant studies on Ugaritic paleography have been conducted outside of its relationship to the Semitic linear scripts. Interestingly, while linear inscriptions are often published with photographs, cuneiform texts have traditionally been published as drawings. These drawings tend to use signs which are standardized and somewhat artificial, showing more or less paleographic information depending on the philosophy of the copyist. Ugaritic texts have followed the cuneiform tradition, being published as drawings with useful photographs unavailable. This has led to a situation in Ugaritic studies where paleographic discussions are common, but without much substantiation.

The case of the ayin is especially relevant. In the standardized syllabaries, the shape of the ayin is described as similar to the cuneiform winkelhaken. Accordingly, there are several standard ambiguities posited between letters using angle wedges and combinations of a letter + ayin, such as /q/ and /t-ˤ/, /ẓ/ and /p-ˤ/, etc. However, in Pitard’s analysis the ayin is distinct from the angle wedge and not as ambiguous as the drawings suggest. Pitard includes many photographs and charts which support his case and suggest the usefulness of the work done by the West Semitic Research Project.