The Proto-Sinaitic alphabet , also called the Proto-Canaanite alphabet , is one of the oldest known alphabets . This is, through derivations and successive modifications, the origin of the genealogy of most alphabets used today.
This is a linear alphabet not to be confused with the written Linear A or Linear B . In opposition to cuneiform writing , it presents only 23 distinct pictographic symbols, which would indicate that it is not a syllabary . It would have been derived from hieroglyphs , since more than half of the characters can be related to corresponding Egyptian prototypes . Some researchers believe that it would not be a degenerate syllabary, where each symbol would represent a consonant followed by any vowel and, thus, would in fact be an abjad.. The unique letter characters of the Egyptians seem to have greatly influenced the Proto-Sinaitic alphabet.
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Origins [ edit | edit source code ]
It is unknown who and where would have created this primitive alphabet. It is believed to be an adaptation of ancient Egyptian script created to transliterate that script for the many workers who spoke one or more Semitic languages and worked in Sinai which was an possession of Ancient Egypt . This writing must have appeared around the end of the Middle Kingdom or during the Second Intermediate Period that followed. The oldest inscriptions date from about 1700 years BC, although it is claimed that they have existed since 1900 BC They were found in Serabit el-Khadem in Sinai and throughout this region many objects covered by such inscriptions were found. It was theEnglish Egyptologist Alan Gardiner who, in 1916, deciphered this writing. Is usually called proto-Sinaitic also all written oldest not deciphered dating half of the bronze age (between 2000 and 1525 BC) and proto-Canaanite those of the end of the Bronze Age (1525 and 1200.), Written in Semitic languages .
The Egyptian origin of this writing is corroborated by another index, the so-called acrophonic principle , being confirmed by a large number of symbols. It was found that these symbols may be linked to Egyptian symbols from which they would originate. If the Semitic names of each symbol are taken, it appears that its phonetic value corresponds to the initial sound of the Semitic word (this is the so-called “acrophony”). This is explained by assuming that those who developed such an alphabet would be Semitic speakers who knew the meaning of hieroglyphs well.
As an example, the pictogram representing a house and which was called * bēt in Semitic, derives from the hieroglyphic symbol by the same word, used for transcription of the phoneme / b /.
The comparison with the Phoenician alphabet , later, shows that the latter derives from the linear proto-Canaanite alphabet, as well as from the South Arabic that does not follow the traditional alphabetical order of the Levantine languages , which is already attested by the comparison with the Ugaritic alphabet .