Re: New contribution

From: Philippe Verdy (
Date: Wed May 05 2004 - 05:34:57 CDT

From: <>
> Michael Everson scripsit:
> > Well. Depends what you mean by "forms". Our taxonomy currently lists
> > Samaritan, Square Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac, and Mandaic as modern (RTL)
> > forms of the parent Phoenician.
> Arabic and Syriac have very specialized shaping behavior which makes them
> obviously distinct from their parent form. I believe that Mandaic has
> this property too.

The normative shaping of Arabic looks more like an evolution from hand-drawn
ligatures which have finally completely modified their component letters so that
they are now hard to see (same thing in Brahmic scripts).

Today the joining is normative, but I'm quite sure that such aspect of the
Arabic script was much less normative in its historic variants, and they became
normative once they were used by sacred texts. Arabic typography is extremely
rich and full of many features, some of which are normative but there are lots
of variants, some of them purely decorative or illustrative.

This may be also the result of the proscription in Quran to make graphic
representation of God, in favor of the words of the actual text, so its
decoration was used to enhance the beauty of the represented text. Someone who
visits some of the most beautiful mosquees will immediately see that there's no
sacred "icon" of God or its representants, but lots of graphic presentations of
sacred words with many typographic enhancements, where the shapes of letters are
used to create pseudo-images with very inventive layouts.

I see this as a long evolution influenced by religious requirements, and the
general agreement to make the sacred script distinct from all others, despite of
its origins. In islamic communities, the Quran text has always been (and is
still) the most common text used for teaching the Arabic script, and the main
vector of education. Lots of African children will learn to read and write only
by studying the Quran text, and there are no other education offered to them
beside Quranic schools. Such personal study of sacred texts is normally a
requirement for all muslems, and the only way to comply with this requirement is
to learn reading and writing its script.

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