Pub. date: 2012 | Online Pub. Date: May 31, 2012 | DOI: 10.4135/9781452218458 | Print ISBN: 9781412981767 | Online ISBN: 9781452218458| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Alphabet Origins: Prehistory to 1250: Middle East
Peter T. Daniels
The ancestry of the Roman alphabet used in these pages (and of nearly every other writing system in use outside east Asia today) can be traced back in the manuscript and archaeological record nearly 4,000 years. For the first millennium or so, its predecessors served a variety of Semitic languages, and then its adaptation for Greek set the stage for the literacization of Europe. Five hundred years later, further adaptations began to move it east. The earliest ancestors yet found come from Egyptian soil, in a handful of brief dedicatory inscriptions from a turquoise mine in the Sinai Peninsula and a couple of short, very puzzling lines from Wadi el-Hol in Egypt proper, the former (known as “Proto-Sinaitic”) discovered more than a century ago, the latter only recently. The former appear to record a West Semitic language; the latter resist interpretation. It remains controversial whether to date them to the ...