Re: New contribution (Phoenician Proposal Remarks)

From: Dean Snyder (
Date: Sun May 02 2004 - 01:26:21 CST

Michael Everson wrote at 10:09 AM on Wednesday, April 28, 2004:

>A new contribution
>N2746 Final proposal for encoding the Phoenician script in the UCS

Here follow some remarks of mine on this proposal:

>C2a. Has contact been made to members of the user community (for example:
>National Body, user groups of the script or characters, other experts,
>etc.)? No. Phoenician is a simple and well-known historic script used in
>a wide variety of contexts.

But you HAVE been in contact with several members of the user community
of this "script", via both the Unicode and Hebrew email lists. Just
because you have chosen to reject their, mostly negative, input, does not
justify not acknowledging your contact with them. I think you need to
deal in this proposal with the issues raised against this proposal by the
"script's" user community.

>C4a. Phoenician script is proposed to unify Proto-Sinaitic/Proto-Canaanite,
>Punic, Neo-Punic, Phoenician proper, Late Phoenician cursive, Phoenician
>papyrus, Siloam Hebrew, Hebrew seals, Ammonite, Moabite, Palaeo-Hebrew.

You should drop Proto-Sinaitic/Proto-Canaanite - they have more letter
characters than the 22 included in this proposal.

"Siloam Hebrew" should be changed to Old Hebrew (thereby allowing you to
drop "Hebrew seals" and "Palaeo-Hebrew").

Add Canaanite and Edomite.

>[page 2]
>The twenty-two letters in the Phoenician block may be used, with
>appropriate font changes, to express Punic, Neo-Punic, Phoenician proper,
>Late Phoenician cursive, Phoenician papyrus, Siloam Hebrew, Hebrew seals,
>Ammonite, Moabite, and Palaeo-Hebrew. The historical cut that has been
>made here considers the line from Phoenician to Punic to represent a
>single continuous branch of script evolution.

The wording here seems to weaken the case for encoding Phoenician at all.
If the proposed characters "may be used" to encode these diascripts, what
else may also be used? And if something else may be used, why encode
these characters at all? This, of course, goes to the issue of rejecting
user community consultations.

>[page 3]
>The Phoenician alphabet is a forerunner of the Etruscan, Latin, Greek,
>Arabic, Hebrew, and Syriac scripts among others, many of which are still
>in modern use.

There are controversies about from whom and when the Greeks (and thereby
the Etruscans and Romans) got their alphabet. For example, legitimate
scholars have suggested that the Greeks borrowed it from Canaanites and/
or from Aramaeans.

>[page 3]
>Phoenician language inscriptions usually have no space between words;
>there are sometimes dots between words in later inscriptions (e.g. in
>Moabite inscriptions).

This sounds a little like Moabite is Phoenician.

>[page 4]

Joseph Naveh's Early History of the Alphabet - An Introduction to West
Semitic Epigraphy and Palaeography, Brill, 1982, would be a useful addition.

>[page 9, figure 10]

These Phoenician font sample characters should run right to left.

>[pages 12 - 13]
>the Tetragrammaton in Phoenician script

Calling the script of the Tetragrammaton "Phoenician script" might be
offensive to some Jewish readers. To me it just sounds wrong; I believe
the ancient scribes viewed it as an archaized version of their Hebrew
national script, which had its own development independent of Phoenician.

>[page 13, figure 15]
>A text from Qumran, containing the Tetragrammaton in Phoenician script
>(Palaeo-Hebrew variant) alongside Hebrew text.

The Tetragrammaton here is not "alongside Hebrew text", it IS Hebrew text.

>[page 13, figure 16]
>Table of Archaic Phoenician, Old Phoenician, Greek, Late Phoenician, and
>cursive Neo-Punic letterforms ...

You do not show Old Aramaic, Old Hebrew, Moabite, Edomite, or Ammonite
examples in your glyph charts - they are just as much members of this
diascript group as Phoenician is.

>[page 15]

I don't know how Theodor Noeldeke came up with this name, but I would
prefer ALP - frication of P occurs only after an immediately preceding
vowel. (But Noeldeke is so good I will try to find out what's going on here.)


Dean A. Snyder

Assistant Research Scholar
Manager, Digital Hammurabi Project
Computer Science Department
Whiting School of Engineering
218C New Engineering Building
3400 North Charles Street
Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore, Maryland, USA 21218

office: 410 516-6850
cell: 717 817-4897

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