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.
- Type of writing system: abjad / consonant alphabet with no vowel indication
- Direction of writing: right to left in hortizontal lines. Sometimes boustrophedon.
- Number of letters: 22 - there was considerable variation in their forms in
different regions and at different times.
- The names of the letters are acrophonic, and their names and shapes can be
ultimately traced back to Egyptian Hieroglyphs. For example, the name of the
first letter, 'aleph, means ox and developed from a picture of an ox's head.
Some of the letter names were changed by the Phoenicians, including
gimel, which meant camel in Phoenician, but was originally a picture of a
throwing stick (giml).
Used to write
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
Download a Phoenican font
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:
Proto-Sinaitic / Proto-Canaanite,
Arabic (Modern Standard),
Assyrian / Neo-Assyrian,