Phoenician Unicode Proposal: Expert Feedback Requested

From: Dean Snyder (
Date: Wed May 05 2004 - 08:50:20 CDT

The following came in yesterday to the Ancient Near Eastern email list.

Dean A. Snyder

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Subject: [ANE] Re: Phoenician Unicode Proposal: Expert Feedback Requested
Date Sent: Tuesday, May 4, 2004 7:37 PM
From: Reinhard G. Lehmann <>

Hallo out there,

I fully aggree with what has been said by Steven Kaufamn and Bob
and in my humble opinion Unicode Phoenician seems to be as superfluous
as a Phoenician typewriter.
But of course it does not hurt someone...

Some expert feedback is requested - here it is:

1. Some of the figure tables shown in the proposal are outdated and
obsolete - even Ifra used some outdated tables!

2. the names in the names list (p. 15) should be those of proper Ancient
Hebrew, because we do not have original Phoenician letter Names (at
least not their pronounciation)

3. The glyphs table page 14 are beautiful - like those of the Imprimerie
nationale, which are, to be sure, Phoenician types cutted for the
Corpus Inscriptionum Semiticarum by famous script designers of the 19th
century. Even Bodoni made a proposal (which had been rejected by the
Academie des inscriptions et belles-lettres).
They are *beauti*ful, and correct as abstraction of a certain stage of
development in the Phoenician script - but I do not know for what they
should be *use*ful.
I myself would never use them, even for teaching, because students
should not learn a certain 'polaroid' of a specialized Phoenician
script, but the structures of that kind of Northwest Semitic linear
alphabetic script and the general parameters and regularities of its
Phoenician, South Canaanite (including Hebrew), and Aramaic branches of
the first millenium BCE.

4. I have no idea what benefit should have the Unicode representation of
several NWS regional handwritings like "font
Proto-Sinaitic/Proto-Canaanite, Punic, Neo-Punic,
Phoenician proper, Late Phoenician cursive, Phoenician papyrus, Siloam
Hebrew, Hebrew seals, Ammonite, Moabite, and Palaeo-Hebrew"
- for example, what really *is* (or was) "Phoenician proper"? Byblos
10th century, Tyrus 6th?, Byblos 5th? Byblos 2nd? or Sidon 6th?
What really is "Siloam Hebrew"? It is not a script type, but the
hazarduous remnant of *only one single* inscription of only a few lines!
What means "Hebrew seals"? Who ever studies the corpus of West Semitic
Stamp Seals should know that here is not a certain script of "Hebrew
seals". Who knows exactly how Ammonite or Moabite or Edomite script has
to look like? We only do know the different remnants of such a script in
only few lines of several inscriptions from different locations and
different times.

5. Figure 2, the Ahirom inscription, is
- not late 11th century but later (I suggest 9th), as will be shown
together with some new readings in a forthcoming edition.

6. Information in the introduction:
a. The type described by Garbini as "very elegant script with long,
slightly slanting vertical lines, minuscule loops and flat letters" is
not the forerunner of Etruscan, Latin, Greek, Arabic, Hebrew and so on,
where this slanting vertical lines and minuscule loops are missing. The
Ancient Phoenician script may be called the forerunner of the mentioned
scripts, but this ancient Phoenician script is only represented in very
few inscriptions, mainly from Byblos (Ahirom, Shipitbaal, Abibaal,
Elibaal), and some arrowheads, which do not have slanting vertical lines
at all. Arabic script is more developed from Nabataean, which developed
Official Aramaic, which developed from Old Aramaic, which developed from
Old Phoenician - but there was no Phoenician script with slanting
vertical lines etc in between.

b. Phoenician as described in the proposal p. 3 is *not*
"quintessentially illustrative of the historical problem of where to
draw lines in an evolutionary tree of continuously changing scripts in
use over thousands of years", because Phoenician (script) itself is not
only part, but product of this evolutionary process.

c. The proposal says (p. 3 bottom) "Phoenician language inscriptions
usually have no space between words; there are sometimes dots between
words in later inscriptions (e.g. Moabite inscriptions)"...
This is not true. Early Phoenician inscriptions know divinding dots or
strikes, the *later* inscriptions do not. Moabite is not Phoenician Or
otherwise all Canaanite linear alphabet scripts are to be considered
Phoenician: but then it is wron to say that they "usually have no space
between words". The scriptio continua is the end of development, not the

Best regards
Reinhard G. Lehmann

   Dr. Reinhard G. Lehmann, AkOR
   Forschungsstelle für Althebräische Sprache und Epigraphik
   Fachbereich 02 Evangelische Theologie
   Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
   D - 55099 Mainz
   tel: (+49) 6131 - 39 23284
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