Re: Response to Everson Phoenician and why June 7?

From: Dean Snyder (
Date: Thu May 20 2004 - 23:32:09 CDT

  • Next message: Dean Snyder: "Re: Response to Everson Phoenician and why June 7?"

    James Kass wrote at 4:06 AM on Friday, May 21, 2004:

    >Dean Snyder wrote,
    >> I know Phoenician has been sexy, provocative, glamorous, and enthralling
    >> to historians of the alphabet for centuries - it was a part of the Greek
    >> cultural psyche that they got their letters from the Phoenicians; and
    >> many modern books have just repeated such ancient dicta uncritically. But
    >> among serious scholars of West Semitic scripts there are standing
    >> controversies about just what were, in fact, the exact sources for the
    >> Archaic Greek alphabets. No one doubts, to my knowledge, that the sources
    >> were Levantine, but there are conflicting signs, for example, in the
    >> shapes of individual letters, the letter names, and the multiple
    >> directions of writing, that point to sources other than what we call
    >> "Phoenician" today. The issue is an open area of discussion among
    >> knowledgeable historians of the alphabet.
    >Many people believe that the Dead Sea Scrolls were written by the Essenes,
    >but there are some who believe otherwise. Discussion among knowledgeable
    >historians of the alphabet as to its origins may be lively and entertaining,
    >but, its identity as a separate script doesn't depend on whether the
    >Phoenicians created the alphabet or just traded for it.

    You miss my point. I insist that it isn't a separate script, and that
    people are zealous to encode it largely because of the "romance" of its,
    possibly wrong, association with later alphabet developments.

    As I've said in other emails, rather than encoding Phoenician, the really
    interesting thing to encode would be Archaic Greek - here you have a
    series of diascripts that are more different from Classical Greek than
    Phoenician is from Jewish Hebrew, in glyph shapes, letter stances,
    directions of writing, numbers of letters, etc. Now THAT would be useful
    for Classicists - not the meager 22 West Semitic letters enshrined as a
    "Phoenician" encoding. Furthermore, this has the advantage of side-
    stepping the whole issue of the origins of the Greek alphabet along with
    its subsequent Mediterranean script descendants, while not mucking up
    Canaanite which is already encoded in Unicode, albeit somewhat
    "prematurely", or "misnamed", as Hebrew.


    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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