home ~ history ~ concept ~ application aiding design ~ semitic languages ~ Sembase applications

Font Keystroke Table

The problem with the font software I am using, Fontographer, at least at my skill level, is it does not display on the screen as nicely as it prints (which is great). This table was made using the "print screen" facility, so its quality reflects this problem. Note the keystroke system: characters with no diacritical are the same as on the keyboard. Most characters that take diacriticals can be done just using the shift key. Only four are placed randomly, using the keys x, c, v, and B. Boustrophedon texts are typed by changing fonts to change direction. Every other line has to be entered in reverse order. But since most texts are short inscriptions, this is not a real problem. Font names are purely a matter of convenience, rather than a comment on script evolution.

IMPORTANT font installation instructions: the downloaded font will have the file extension .bin which must be changed to .ttf for your system to recognize it as a font file.


row one: the keystroke to type the character below
row two: transliteration

In spite of our best efforts, we have so far not been able to resurrect native speakers of any of the ancient Semitic languages. As a result questions remain regarding how these characters were pronounced. Evidence for Hebrew pronunciation is found in Hebrew names transliterated into other ancient languages, such as Greek and Latin. When the same character is transliterated one way in one name but differently in another name, one is encouraged to think that it had to do double duty. Hebrew 'ayin almost certainly represented two sounds similar to Arabic 'ayn and ghayn. Hebrew shin was eventually made into two characters, one with a dot above it on the right side, and the other with a dot above and to the left. The first of these appears to be like the English "sh" but the second, apparently an "extra" sibilant, remains a mystery. Old South Arabian (OSA) actually has twenty-nine characters, more than any other Semitic language (one more than Arabic, and that's a mouthful). The twenty-ninth is an "extra" sibilant, as is found in the modern South Arabian languages which are still spoken. We know how it sounds, but cannot be sure if it is the same as the "extra" sibilant in OSA, much less that in Hebrew. The Sembase data management system is based on the principle of one sound, one character. Therefore, at least at present, it does not follow the convention followed by some OSA scholars of representing three OSA sibilants as S1, S2 and S3. But none of these three will be transliterated the same as the "extra" sibilant in Hebrew, to avoid implying more than is known. It is hoped that Sembase will be able to perform a complete analysis to evaluate the identifications made by Beeston. There are other assumptions made regarding ancient pronunciation. It is not known that three thousand years ago "r" was pronounced the same in all Semitic languages, or "l" for that matter. Yet we do not use numerical superscripts to remind us that we should not assume that OSA "r" was the same as the "r" in Syriac.


home ~ history ~ concept ~ application aiding design ~ semitic languages ~ Sembase applications