The Info List - Ancient South Arabian Script

--- Advertisement ---

The Ancient South Arabian script
Ancient South Arabian script
( Old South Arabian
Old South Arabian
ms3nd; modern Arabic: المُسنَد‎ musnad) branched from the Proto-Sinaitic script in about the 9th century BC. It was used for writing the Old South Arabian languages of the Sabaic, Qatabanic, Hadramautic, Minaean, Hasaitic, and Ge'ez
in Dʿmt. The earliest inscriptions in the script date to the 9th century BC in the Northern Red Sea Region, Eritrea.[3] There are no letters for vowels, which are marked by matres lectionis. Its mature form was reached around 500 BC, and its use continued until the 6th century AD, including Ancient North Arabian inscriptions in variants of the alphabet, when it was displaced by the Arabic alphabet.[4] In Ethiopia and Eritrea
it evolved later into the Ge'ez script,[1][2] which, with added symbols throughout the centuries, has been used to write Amharic, Tigrinya and Tigre, as well as other languages (including various Semitic, Cushitic, and Nilo-Saharan languages).


1 Properties 2 Letters 3 Numbers 4 Zabūr script 5 Unicode 6 Gallery of some inscriptions 7 See also 8 Notes 9 References 10 External links


It is usually written from right to left but can also be written from left to right. When written from left to right the characters are flipped horizontally (see the photo). The spacing or separation between words is done with a vertical bar mark (). Letters in words are not connected together. It does not implement any diacritical marks (dots, etc.), differing in this respect from the modern Arabic alphabet.


Sabaean letter examples on page 274 of the book "Illustrirte Geschichte der Schrift" by Carl Faulmann, 1880

Sabaean letter examples on page 275 of the book "Illustrirte Geschichte der Schrift" by Carl Faulmann, 1880

Letter Unicode name[5] Transcription IPA Shape Corresponding letter in

Image Text Phoenician Ge'ez Hebrew Arabic

𐩠 he h /h/ Y 𐤄‬ ሀ ה ه

𐩡 lamedh l /l/ 1 𐤋‬ ለ ל ﻝ

𐩢 heth ḥ /ħ/ Ψ 𐤇‬ ሐ ח ﺡ

𐩣 mem m /m/ backwards B 𐤌‬ መ מ ﻡ

𐩤 qoph q /q/ Φ 𐤒‬ ቀ ק ﻕ

𐩥 waw w /w/ Φ 𐤅‬ ወ ו ﻭ

𐩦 shin s² (ś, š) /ɬ/ diagonal W 𐤔‬ ሠ ש ﺵ

𐩧 resh r /r/ backwards C 𐤓‬ ረ ר ﺭ

𐩨 beth b /b/ Π 𐤁‬ በ ב ﺏ

𐩩 taw t /t/ X 𐤕‬ ተ ת ﺕ

𐩪 sat s¹ (š, s) /s/ Π

𐩫 kaph k /k/ Π 𐤊‬ ከ כ ﻙ

𐩬 nun n /n/ backwards S 𐤍‬ ነ נ ﻥ

𐩭 kheth ḫ /x/ Y

𐩮 sadhe ṣ /sˤ/ λ 𐤑‬ ጸ צ ص

𐩯 samekh s³ (s, ś) /s̪/ X 𐤎‬

ס س

𐩰 fe f /f/ O 𐤐‬ ፈ


𐩱 alef ʾ /ʔ/ Π 𐤀‬ አ א ﺍ

𐩲 ayn ʿ /ʕ/ O 𐤏‬ ዐ ע ﻉ

𐩳 dhadhe ḍ /ɬˤ/ θ


𐩴 gimel g /ɡ/ backwards Γ 𐤂‬ ገ ג ﺝ

𐩵 daleth d /d/ diagonal 𐤃‬ ደ ד ﺩ

𐩶 ghayn ġ /ɣ/ Π


𐩷 teth ṭ /tˤ/ θ rotated one-eight-degrees 𐤈‬ ጠ ט ﻁ

𐩸 zayn z /z/ diagonal 𐤆‬ ዘ ז ﺯ

𐩹 dhaleth ḏ /ð/ H


𐩺 yodh y /j/ Q 𐤉‬ የ י ﻱ

𐩻 thaw ṯ /θ/ 8

𐩼 theth ẓ /θˤ/ h


Wikipedia, written with Musnad letters, from left to right on the upper line and from right to left on the bottom one. Notice how the letters are mirrored.

Numbers[edit] Six signs are used for numbers:

1 5 10 50 100 1000

𐩽 𐩭 𐩲 𐩾 𐩣 𐩱

The sign for 50 was evidently created by removing the lower triangle from the sign for 100.[6] The sign for 1 doubles as a word separator. The other four signs double as both letters and numbers. Interesting, each of these four signs is the first letter of the name of the corresponding numeral.[6] An additional sign (𐩿) is used to bracket numbers, setting them apart from surrounding text.[6] For example, 𐩿𐩭𐩽𐩽𐩿 These signs are used in an additive system similar to Roman numerals to represent any number (excluding zero). Two examples:

17 is written as 1 + 1 + 5 + 10: 𐩲𐩭𐩽𐩽 99 is written as 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 5 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 50: 𐩾𐩲𐩲𐩲𐩲𐩭𐩽𐩽𐩽𐩽

Sample numbers from one to twenty

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

𐩽 𐩽𐩽 𐩽𐩽𐩽 𐩽𐩽𐩽𐩽 𐩭 𐩭𐩽 𐩭𐩽𐩽 𐩭𐩽𐩽𐩽 𐩭𐩽𐩽𐩽𐩽 𐩲

11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

𐩲𐩽 𐩲𐩽𐩽 𐩲𐩽𐩽𐩽 𐩲𐩽𐩽𐩽𐩽 𐩲𐩭 𐩲𐩭𐩽 𐩲𐩭𐩽𐩽 𐩲𐩭𐩽𐩽𐩽 𐩲𐩭𐩽𐩽𐩽𐩽 𐩲𐩲

Thousands are written two different ways:

Smaller values are written using just the 1000 sign. For example, 8,000 is written as 1000 × 8: 𐩱𐩱𐩱𐩱𐩱𐩱𐩱𐩱 Larger values are written by promoting the signs for 10, 50, and 100 to 10,000, 50,000, and 100,000 respectively:

31,000 is written as 1000 + 10,000 × 3: 𐩲𐩲𐩲𐩱 (easily confused with 1,030) 40,000 is written as 10,000 × 4: 𐩲𐩲𐩲𐩲 (easily confused with 40) 253,000 is written as 2 × 100.000 + 50.000 + 3 × 1000: 𐩣𐩣𐩾𐩱𐩱𐩱 (easily confused with 3,250)

Perhaps because of ambiguity, numerals, at least in monumental inscriptions, are always clarified with the numbers written out in words. Zabūr script[edit] Zabūr is the name of the cursive form of the South Arabian script that was used by the ancient Yemenis (Sabaeans) in addition to their monumental script, or Musnad (see, e.g., Ryckmans, J., Müller, W. W., and ‛Abdallah, Yu., Textes du Yémen Antique inscrits sur bois. Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, 1994 (Publications de l'Institut Orientaliste de Louvain, 43)). The cursive zabūr script—also known as "South Arabian minuscules"[7]—was used by the ancient Yemenis to inscribe everyday documents on wooden sticks in addition to the rock-cut monumental Musnad letters displayed on the right. As yet only about one thousand such texts have been discovered, of which perhaps some 26 have been published; this is partly due to the difficulty of reading the minuscule script.

South Arabian inscription addressed to the Sabaean "national" god Almaqah

History of the alphabet

Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs
32 c. BCE

32 c. BCE

Demotic 7 c. BCE

Meroitic 3 c. BCE

Proto-Sinaitic 19 c. BCE

Ugaritic 15 c. BCE Epigraphic South Arabian 9 c. BCE

Ge’ez 5–6 c. BCE

Phoenician 12 c. BCE

Paleo-Hebrew 10 c. BCE

Samaritan 6 c. BCE

3 c. BCE


Paleohispanic (semi-syllabic) 7 c. BCE Aramaic 8 c. BCE

4 c. BCE Brāhmī 4 c. BCE

Brahmic family
Brahmic family

E.g. Tibetan 7 c. CE Devanagari
13 c. CE

Canadian syllabics 1840

Hebrew 3 c. BCE Pahlavi 3 c. BCE

Avestan 4 c. CE

Palmyrene 2 c. BCE Syriac 2 c. BCE

Nabataean 2 c. BCE

Arabic 4 c. CE

N'Ko 1949 CE

Sogdian 2 c. BCE

Orkhon (old Turkic) 6 c. CE

Old Hungarian c. 650 CE

Old Uyghur

Mongolian 1204 CE

Mandaic 2 c. CE

Greek 8 c. BCE

Etruscan 8 c. BCE

Latin 7 c. BCE

Cherokee (syllabary; letter forms only) c. 1820 CE

Runic 2 c. CE Ogham
(origin uncertain) 4 c. CE

Coptic 3 c. CE Gothic 3 c. CE Armenian 405 CE Georgian (origin uncertain) c. 430 CE Glagolitic 862 CE Cyrillic c. 940 CE

Old Permic 1372 CE

1443 (probably influenced by Tibetan) Thaana
18 c. CE (derived from Brahmi numerals)

v t e

Unicode[edit] Main article: Old South Arabian
Old South Arabian
( Unicode
block) The South Arabian alphabet
South Arabian alphabet
was added to the Unicode
Standard in October, 2009 with the release of version 5.2. The Unicode
block, called Old South Arabian, is U+10A60–U+10A7F. Note that U+10A7D OLD SOUTH ARABIAN NUMBER ONE (𐩽) represents both the numeral one and a word divider.[6]

Old South Arabian[1] Official Unicode
Consortium code chart (PDF)

  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F

U+10A6x 𐩠 𐩡 𐩢 𐩣 𐩤 𐩥 𐩦 𐩧 𐩨 𐩩 𐩪 𐩫 𐩬 𐩭 𐩮 𐩯

U+10A7x 𐩰 𐩱 𐩲 𐩳 𐩴 𐩵 𐩶 𐩷 𐩸 𐩹 𐩺 𐩻 𐩼 𐩽 𐩾 𐩿


1.^ As of Unicode
version 10.0

Gallery of some inscriptions[edit]

Photos from National Museum of Yemen:

Photos from Yemen Military Museum:

See also[edit]

Arabist and archeologist Eduard Glaser Geographer Carl Rathjens


^ a b Daniels, Peter T.; Bright, William, eds. (1996). The World's Writing Systems. Oxford University Press, Inc. pp. 89, 98, 569–570. ISBN 978-0195079937.  ^ a b Gragg, Gene (2004). " Ge'ez
(Aksum)". In Woodard, Roger D. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages. Cambridge University Press. p. 431. ISBN 0-521-56256-2.  ^ Fattovich, Rodolfo, "Akkälä Guzay" in Uhlig, Siegbert, ed. Encyclopaedia Aethiopica: A-C. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz KG, 2003, p. 169. ^ Ibn Durayd, Ta‘līq min amāli ibn durayd, ed. al-Sanūsī, Muṣṭafā, Kuwait 1984, p. 227 (Arabic). The author purports that a poet from the Kinda tribe in Yemen who settled in Dūmat al-Ǧandal during the advent of Islam told of how another member of the Yemenite Kinda tribe who lived in that town taught the Arabic script
Arabic script
to the Banū Qurayš in Mecca and that their use of the Arabic script
Arabic script
for writing eventually took the place of musnad, or what was then the Sabaean script of the kingdom of Ḥimyar: "You have exchanged the musnad of the sons of Ḥimyar / which the kings of Ḥimyar were wont to write down in books." ^ " Unicode
Character Database: UnicodeData.txt". The Unicode
Standard. Retrieved 2017-09-11.  ^ a b c d Maktari, Sultan; Mansour, Kamal (2008-01-28). "L2/08-044: Proposal to encode Old South Arabian
Old South Arabian
Script" (PDF).  ^ Stein 2005.


Stein, Peter (2005). "The Ancient South Arabian Minuscule Inscriptions on Wood: A New Genre of Pre-Islamic Epigraphy". Jaarbericht van het Vooraziatisch-Egyptisch Genootschap "Ex Oriente Lux". 39: 181–199.  Stein, Peter (2010). Die altsüdarabischen Minuskelinschriften auf Holzstäbchen aus der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek in München.  Beeston, A.F.L. (1962). "Arabian Sibilants". Journal of Semitic Studies. 7 (2): 222–233. doi:10.1093/jss/7.2.222.  Francaviglia Romeo, Vincenzo (2012). Il trono della regina di Saba, Artemide, Roma. pp. 149–155. .

External links[edit]

Ancient scripts on South Arabian Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Omniglot's entry on South Arabian

v t e

Types of writing systems


History of writing Grapheme


Writing systems

undeciphered inventors constructed

Languages by writing system / by first written accounts






Arabic Pitman shorthand Hebrew

Ashuri Cursive Rashi Solitreo

Tifinagh Manichaean Nabataean Old North Arabian Pahlavi Pegon Phoenician


Proto-Sinaitic Psalter Punic Samaritan South Arabian

Zabur Musnad

Sogdian Syriac

ʾEsṭrangēlā Serṭā Maḏnḥāyā

Teeline Shorthand Ugaritic




Asamiya (Ôxômiya) Bānglā Bhaikshuki Bhujinmol Brāhmī Devanāgarī Dogri Gujarati Gupta Gurmukhī Kaithi Kalinga Khojki Khotanese Khudawadi Laṇḍā Lepcha Limbu Mahajani Meitei Mayek Modi Multani Nāgarī Nandinagari Odia 'Phags-pa Newar Ranjana Sharada Saurashtra Siddhaṃ Soyombo Sylheti Nagari Takri Tibetan

Uchen Umê

Tirhuta Tocharian Zanabazar Square Zhang-Zhung

Drusha Marchen Marchung Pungs-chen Pungs-chung


Ahom Balinese Batak Baybayin Bhattiprolu Buhid Burmese Chakma Cham Grantha Goykanadi Hanunó'o Javanese Kadamba Kannada Karen Kawi Khmer Kulitan Lanna Lao Leke Lontara Malayalam Maldivian

Dhives Akuru Eveyla Akuru Thaana

Mon Old Makassarese Old Sundanese Pallava Pyu Rejang Rencong Sinhala Sundanese Tagbanwa Tai Le Tai Tham Tai Viet Tamil Telugu Thai Tigalari Vatteluttu

Kolezhuthu Malayanma



Boyd's syllabic shorthand Canadian syllabics

Blackfoot Déné syllabics

Fox I Ge'ez Gunjala Gondi Japanese Braille Jenticha Kayah Li Kharosthi Mandombe Masaram Gondi Meroitic Miao Mwangwego Sorang Sompeng Pahawh Hmong Thomas Natural Shorthand



Abkhaz Adlam Armenian Avestan Avoiuli Bassa Vah Borama Carian Caucasian Albanian Coorgi–Cox alphabet Coptic Cyrillic Deseret Duployan shorthand

Chinook writing

Early Cyrillic Eclectic shorthand Elbasan Etruscan Evenki Fox II Fraser Gabelsberger shorthand Garay Georgian

Asomtavruli Nuskhuri Mkhedruli

Glagolitic Gothic Gregg shorthand Greek Greco-Iberian alphabet Hangul Hanifi IPA Kaddare Latin

Beneventan Blackletter Carolingian minuscule Fraktur Gaelic Insular Kurrent Merovingian Sigla Sütterlin Tironian notes Visigothic

Luo Lycian Lydian Manchu Mandaic Medefaidrin Molodtsov Mongolian Mru Neo-Tifinagh New Tai Lue N'Ko Ogham Oirat Ol Chiki Old Hungarian Old Italic Old Permic Orkhon Old Uyghur Osage Osmanya Pau Cin Hau Runic

Anglo-Saxon Cipher Dalecarlian Elder Futhark Younger Futhark Gothic Marcomannic Medieval Staveless

Sidetic Shavian Somali Tifinagh Vagindra Visible Speech Vithkuqi Wancho Zaghawa


Braille Maritime flags Morse code New York Point Semaphore line Flag semaphore Moon type


Adinkra Aztec Blissymbol Dongba Ersu Shaba Emoji IConji Isotype Kaidā Míkmaq Mixtec New Epoch Notation Painting Nsibidi Ojibwe Hieroglyphs Siglas poveiras Testerian Yerkish Zapotec


Chinese family of scripts

Chinese Characters

Simplified Traditional Oracle bone script Bronze Script Seal Script

large small bird-worm

Hanja Idu Kanji Chữ nôm Zhuang


Jurchen Khitan large script Sui Tangut


Akkadian Assyrian Elamite Hittite Luwian Sumerian

Other logo-syllabic

Anatolian Bagam Cretan Isthmian Maya Proto-Elamite Yi (Classical)


Demotic Hieratic Hieroglyphs


Hindu-Arabic Abjad Attic (Greek) Muisca Roman



Celtiberian Northeastern Iberian Southeastern Iberian Khom


Espanca Pahawh Hmong Khitan small script Southwest Paleohispanic Zhuyin fuhao


ASLwrite SignWriting si5s Stokoe Notation


Afaka Bamum Bété Byblos Cherokee Cypriot Cypro-Minoan Ditema tsa Dinoko Eskayan Geba Great Lakes Algonquian syllabics Iban Japanese

Hiragana Katakana Man'yōgana Hentaigana Sogana Jindai moji

Kikakui Kpelle Linear B Linear Elamite Lisu Loma Nüshu Nwagu Aneke script Old Persian Cuneiform Vai Woleai Yi (Modern) Yugtun

v t e



1829 braille International uniformity ASCII braille Unicode
braille patterns


French-ordered scripts (see for more)

Albanian Amharic Arabic Armenian Azerbaijani Belarusian Bharati

(Hindi  / Marathi  / Nepali) Bengali Punjabi Sinhalese Tamil Urdu etc.

Bulgarian Burmese Cambodian Cantonese Catalan Chinese (Mandarin, mainland) Czech Dutch Dzongkha (Bhutanese) English (Unified English) Esperanto Estonian Faroese French Georgian German Ghanaian Greek Guarani Hawaiian Hebrew Hungarian Icelandic Inuktitut (reassigned vowels) Iñupiaq IPA Irish Italian Kazakh Kyrgyz Latvian Lithuanian Maltese Mongolian Māori Navajo Nigerian Northern Sami Persian Philippine Polish Portuguese Romanian Russian Samoan Scandinavian Slovak South African Spanish Tatar Taiwanese Mandarin (largely reassigned) Thai & Lao (Japanese vowels) Tibetan Turkish Ukrainian Vietnamese Welsh Yugoslav

Reordered scripts

Algerian Braille

Frequency-based scripts

American Braille

Independent scripts

Japanese Korean Two-Cell Chinese

Eight-dot scripts

Luxembourgish Kanji Gardner–Salinas braille codes (GS8)

Symbols in braille

music Canadian currency marks Computer Braille
Code Gardner–Salinas braille codes (GS8/GS6) International Phonetic Alphabet
International Phonetic Alphabet
(IPA) Nemeth braille code


e-book Braille
embosser Braille
translator Braille
watch Mountbatten Brailler Optical braille recognition Perforation Perkins Brailler Refreshable braille display Slate and stylus Braigo


Louis Braille Charles Barbier Valentin Haüy Thakur Vishva Narain Singh Sabriye Tenberken William Bell Wait


Institute of America Braille
Without Borders Japan Braille
Library National Braille
Association Blindness organizations Schools for the blind American Printing House for the Blind

Other tactile alphabets

Decapoint Moon type New York Point Night writing Vibratese

Related topics

Accessible publishing Braille
literacy RoboBraille

v t e

Electronic writing systems

Emoticons Emoji iConji Leet Unicode

v t e

Internet slang
Internet slang

3arabizi Alay (Indonesia) Denglisch Doge Fingilish (Persian) Greeklish Gyaru-moji (Japan) Jejemon (Philippines) Leet
("1337") Lolspeak / LOLspeak / Kitteh Martian language (Chinese) Miguxês (Portuguese) Padonkaffsky jargon
Padonkaffsky jargon
(Russian) Translit Volapuk

See also English internet slang (at Wiktionary)