The Phoenician alphabet developed from the Proto-Canaanite alphabet, during the 15th century BC. Before then the Phoenicians wrote with a cuneiform script. The earliest known inscriptions in the Phoenician alphabet come from Byblos and date back to 1000 BC.
The Phoenician alphabet was perhaps the first alphabetic script to be widely-used - the Phoenicians traded around the Mediterraean and beyond, and set up cities and colonies in parts of southern Europe and North Africa - and the origins of most alphabetic writing systems can be traced back to the Phoenician alphabet, including Greek, Etruscan, Latin, Arabic and Hebrew, as well as the scripts of India and East Asia.
Phoenician, a Northern Semitic language which originated in about the 11th century BC in what is now Lebannon, Syria and Israel, an area then known as Pūt in Ancient Egyptian, Canaan in Phoenician, Hebrew and Aramaic, Phoenicia in Greek and Latin.
Phoenician spread around the Mediterranean, particularly to Tunisia, southern parts of the Iberian peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal), Malta, southern France and Sicily, and was spoken until the 1st century AD.
A variant of Phoenician, known as Punic, was spoken in Carthage, a Phoencian colony in what is now Tunisia, until the 6th century AD.
The native name for the language was (dabari-m) Pōnnīm/Kana'nīm, which means "Punic/Canaanite (speech)"
Information about the Phoenician alphabet and language
ALPHABETUM - a Unicode font specifically designed for ancient scripts, including classical & medieval Latin, ancient Greek, Etruscan, Oscan, Umbrian, Faliscan, Messapic, Picene, Iberian, Celtiberian, Gothic, Runic, Old & Middle English, Hebrew, Sanskrit, Old Nordic, Ogham, Kharosthi, Glagolitic, Old Cyrillic, Phoenician, Avestan, Ugaritic, Linear B, Anatolian scripts, Coptic, Cypriot, Brahmi, Old Persian cuneiform: http://guindo.pntic.mec.es/~jmag0042/alphabet.html
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