impure abjad
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An abjad () is a type of
writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful divisions between self and other, p ...
in which (in contrast to true
alphabet An alphabet is a standardized set of basic written symbols A symbol is a mark, sign, or word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic ...

alphabet
s) each symbol or
glyph The term glyph is used in typography File:metal movable type.jpg, 225px, Movable type being assembled on a composing stick using pieces that are stored in the type case shown below it Typography is the art and technique of typesetting, arr ...
stands for a
consonant In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronounced with the front of the tongue; , pronounced with the back of th ...
, in effect leaving it to readers to infer or otherwise supply an appropriate
vowel A vowel is a Syllable, syllabic speech sound pronounced without any stricture in the vocal tract. Vowels are one of the two principal classes of speech sounds, the other being the consonant. Vowels vary in quality, in loudness and also in Vowel ...

vowel
. The term is a
neologism A neologism (; from Greek νέο- ''néo-'', "new" and λόγος ''lógos'', "speech, utterance") is a relatively recent or isolated term, word, or phrase that may be in the process of entering common use, but that has not yet been fully accepted ...
introduced in 1990 by Peter T. Daniels. Other terms for the same concept include: partial phonemic script, segmentally linear defective phonographic script, consonantary, consonant writing and consonantal alphabet.Amalia E. Gnanadesikan (2017) Towards a typology of phonemic scripts, Writing Systems Research, 9:1, 14-35, DOI: 10.1080/17586801.2017.1308239 "Daniels (1990, 1996a) proposes the name abjad for these scripts, and this term has gained considerable popularity. Other terms include partial phonemic script (Hill, 1967), segmentally linear defective phonographic script (Faber, 1992), consonantary (Trigger, 2004), consonant writing (Coulmas, 1989) and consonantal alphabet (Gnanadesikan, 2009; Healey, 1990). " So-called impure abjads represent vowels with either optional
diacritic A diacritic (also diacritical mark, diacritical point, diacritical sign, or accent) is a glyph added to a letter Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet) A letter is a segmental symbol A sy ...
s, a limited number of distinct vowel glyphs, or both. The name ''abjad'' is based on the
Arabic alphabet The Arabic alphabet ( ar, الْأَبْجَدِيَّة الْعَرَبِيَّة, ' or , ', ), or Arabic abjad An abjad () is a type of writing system in which (in contrast to true alphabets) each symbol or glyph stands for a consonant ...

Arabic alphabet
's first (in its original order) four letters — corresponding to a, b, j, d — to replace the more common terms "consonantary" and "consonantal alphabet", in describing the family of scripts classified as " West Semitic."


Etymology

The name "abjad" (' ) is derived from pronouncing the first letters of the
Arabic alphabet The Arabic alphabet ( ar, الْأَبْجَدِيَّة الْعَرَبِيَّة, ' or , ', ), or Arabic abjad An abjad () is a type of writing system in which (in contrast to true alphabets) each symbol or glyph stands for a consonant ...

Arabic alphabet
order, in its
original order Original order is a concept in archival theory that a group of records should be maintained in the same order as they were placed by the record's creator. Along with provenance, original order is a core tenet of the archival concept of ''respect des ...
. This ordering matches that of the older
Phoenician Phoenician may refer to: * Phoenicia, an ancient civilization * Phoenician alphabet * Phoenician language * List of Phoenician cities * Phoenix, Arizona See also

* Phoenix (mythology) * Phoenicia (disambiguation) {{disambiguation Language an ...

Phoenician
,
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and their ancestors. It is the o ...

Hebrew
and
Semitic Semitic most commonly refers to the Semitic languages, a name used since the 1770s to refer to the language family currently present in West Asia, North and East Africa, and Malta. Semitic may also refer to: Religions * Abrahamic religions ** ...
proto-alphabets: specifically,
aleph Aleph (or alef or alif, transliterated ʾ) is the first letter of the Semitic abjads, including Phoenician , Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiati ...

aleph
,
bet Black Entertainment Television (BET) is an American cable television Cable television is a system of delivering television programming to consumers via radio frequency (RF) signals transmitted through coaxial cables, or in more recent ...
,
gimel Gimel is the third Letter (alphabet), letter of the Semitic abjads, including Phoenician language, Phoenician Gīml , Hebrew language, Hebrew ˈGimel , Aramaic language, Aramaic Gāmal , Syriac alphabet, Syriac Gāmal , and Arabic Alphabet, Arabi ...

gimel
,
dalet Dalet (, also spelled Daleth or Daled) is the fourth Letter (alphabet), letter of the Semitic abjads, including Phoenician alphabet, Phoenician Dālet 𐤃, Hebrew alphabet, Hebrew 'Dālet , Aramaic alphabet, Aramaic Dālath , Syriac alphabet, Sy ...

dalet
.


Terminology

According to the formulations of Peter T. Daniels, abjads differ from
alphabet An alphabet is a standardized set of basic written symbols A symbol is a mark, sign, or word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic ...

alphabet
s in that only consonants, not vowels, are represented among the basic
grapheme In linguistics, a grapheme is the smallest functional unit of a writing system. The word ''grapheme'', coined in analogy with ''phoneme'', is derived , and the suffix ''-eme'' by analogy with ''phoneme'' and other names of emic units. The study ...

grapheme
s. Abjads differ from
abugida . ''May Shiva, Śiva protect those who take delight in the language of the gods.'' (Kalidasa) An abugida (, from Ge'ez language, Ge'ez: አቡጊዳ), sometimes known as alphasyllabary, neosyllabary or pseudo-alphabet, is a segmental Writing s ...
s, another category defined by Daniels, in that in abjads, the vowel sound is ''implied'' by
phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or constituent parts of signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound or sign system of any particular language vari ...

phonology
, and where vowel marks exist for the system, such as
nikkud In Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as one of the spoken languages of the Israelites and their lon ...
for
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and their ancestors. It is the o ...
and
ḥarakāt The Arabic script has numerous diacritics, including ''i'jam'' (, '), consonant pointing, and ''tashkil'' (, '), supplementary diacritics. The latter include the () vowel marks - singular: ' (). The Arabic script is a modified abjad, where short ...
for
Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Middle East is a list of transcontinental countries, transcontinental region ...

Arabic
, their use is optional and not the dominant (or literate) form. Abugidas mark all vowels (other than the "inherent" vowel) with a
diacritic A diacritic (also diacritical mark, diacritical point, diacritical sign, or accent) is a glyph added to a letter Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet) A letter is a segmental symbol A sy ...
, a minor attachment to the letter, or a standalone
glyph The term glyph is used in typography File:metal movable type.jpg, 225px, Movable type being assembled on a composing stick using pieces that are stored in the type case shown below it Typography is the art and technique of typesetting, arr ...
. Some abugidas use a special symbol to ''suppress'' the inherent vowel so that the consonant alone can be properly represented. In a
syllabary In the linguistic Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis includ ...
, a grapheme denotes a complete syllable, that is, either a lone vowel sound or a combination of a vowel sound with one or more consonant sounds. The antagonism of abjad versus alphabet, as it was formulated by Daniels, has been rejected by some other scholars because abjad is also used as a term not only for the Arabic numeral system but, which is most important in terms of historical grammatology, also as term for the alphabetic device (i.e. letter order) of ancient Northwest Semitic scripts in opposition to the 'south Arabian' order. This caused fatal effects on terminology in general and especially in (ancient) Semitic philology. Also, it suggests that consonantal alphabets, in opposition to, for instance, the Greek alphabet, were not yet true alphabets and not yet entirely complete, lacking something important to be a fully working script system. It has also been objected that, as a set of letters, an alphabet is not the mirror of what should be there in a language from a phonological point of view; rather, it is the data stock of what provides maximum efficiency with least effort from a semantic point of view.


Origins

script containing a phrase which may mean 'to
Baalat
Baalat
'. The line running from the upper left to lower right reads ''mt l bclt''. The first abjad to gain widespread usage was the Phoenician alphabet, Phoenician abjad. Unlike other contemporary scripts, such as
cuneiform Cuneiform is a Logogram, logo-Syllabary, syllabic writing system, script that was used to write several languages of the Ancient Near East. The script was in active use from the early Bronze Age until the beginning of the Common Era. It is name ...

cuneiform
and
Egyptian hieroglyphs Egyptian hieroglyphs () were the formal writing system used in Ancient Egypt, used for writing the Egyptian language. Hieroglyphs combined logographic, syllabary, syllabic and alphabetic elements, with a total of some 1,000 distinct characters.The ...
, the Phoenician script consisted of only a few dozen symbols. This made the script easy to learn, and seafaring Phoenician merchants took the script throughout the then-known world. The Phoenician abjad was a radical simplification of phonetic writing, since hieroglyphics required the writer to pick a hieroglyph starting with the same sound that the writer wanted to write in order to write phonetically, much as ''
man'yōgana is an ancient writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the act of developing Semantics, meaning among Subject (philosop ...
'' (
Chinese characters Chinese characters, also called ''hanzi'' (), are logogram In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language by means of a writing system. Written language is an invention in that it ...
used solely for phonetic use) was used to represent
Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat = Imperial Seal of J ...

Japanese
phonetically before the invention of
kana The term may refer to a number of syllabaries In the linguistic Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. ...

kana
. Phoenician gave rise to a number of new writing systems, including the widely used
Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac The Syriac language (; syc, ܠܫܢܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܐ / '), also known as Syriac Aramaic (''Syrian Aramaic'', ''Syro-Aramaic'') and Classical Syriac (in its literary and liturgical form), is an Aramaic Aramai ...

Aramaic
abjad and the
Greek alphabet The Greek alphabet has been used to write the Greek language since the late ninth or early eighth century BC. It is derived from the earlier Phoenician alphabet, and was the first alphabetic script in history to have distinct letters for vowels ...

Greek alphabet
. The Greek alphabet evolved into the modern western alphabets, such as
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became the ...

Latin
and
Cyrillic , bg, кирилица , mk, кирилица , russian: кириллица , sr, ћирилица, uk, кирилиця , fam1 = Egyptian hieroglyphs , fam2 = Proto-Sinaitic , fam3 = Phoenician alphabet, Phoenician , ...
, while Aramaic became the ancestor of many modern abjads and abugidas of Asia.


Impure abjads

''Al-ʻArabiyya'', meaning "Arabic": an example of the Arabic script, which is an impure abjad. Impure abjads have characters for some vowels, optional vowel diacritics, or both. The term pure abjad refers to scripts entirely lacking in vowel indicators. However, most modern abjads, such as Arabic alphabet, Arabic,
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and their ancestors. It is the o ...

Hebrew
,
Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac The Syriac language (; syc, ܠܫܢܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܐ / '), also known as Syriac Aramaic (''Syrian Aramaic'', ''Syro-Aramaic'') and Classical Syriac (in its literary and liturgical form), is an Aramaic Aramai ...

Aramaic
, and Pahlavi alphabet, Pahlavi, are "impure" abjadsthat is, they also contain symbols for some of the vowel phonemes, although the said non-diacritic vowel letters are also used to write certain consonants, particularly Approximant consonant, approximants that sound similar to long vowels. A "pure" abjad is exemplified (perhaps) by very early forms of ancient
Phoenician Phoenician may refer to: * Phoenicia, an ancient civilization * Phoenician alphabet * Phoenician language * List of Phoenician cities * Phoenix, Arizona See also

* Phoenix (mythology) * Phoenicia (disambiguation) {{disambiguation Language an ...

Phoenician
, though at some point (at least by the 9th century BC) it and most of the contemporary Semitic abjads had begun to overload a few of the consonant symbols with a secondary function as vowel markers, called ''mater lectionis, matres lectionis''. This practice was at first rare and limited in scope but became increasingly common and more developed in later times.


Addition of vowels

In the 9th century BC the Greeks adapted the Phoenician script for use in their own language. The phonetic structure of the Greek language created too many ambiguities when vowels went unrepresented, so the script was modified. They did not need letters for the guttural consonant, guttural sounds represented by ''
aleph Aleph (or alef or alif, transliterated ʾ) is the first letter of the Semitic abjads, including Phoenician , Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiati ...

aleph
'', ''he (letter), he'', ''Heth (letter), heth'' or ''ayin'', so these symbols were assigned vocalic values. The letters ''Waw (letter), waw'' and ''Yodh, yod'' were also adapted into vowel signs; along with ''he'', these were already used as ''Mater lectionis, matres lectionis'' in Phoenician. The major innovation of Greek was to dedicate these symbols exclusively and unambiguously to vowel sounds that could be combined arbitrarily with consonants (as opposed to syllabaries such as Linear B which usually have vowel symbols but cannot combine them with consonants to form arbitrary syllables). Abugidas developed along a slightly different route. The basic consonantal symbol was considered to have an inherent "a" vowel sound. Hooks or short lines attached to various parts of the basic letter modify the vowel. In this way, the South Arabian alphabet evolved into the Ge'ez alphabet between the 5th century BC and the 5th century AD. Similarly, the Brāhmī script developed around the 3rd century BC (from the Aramaic alphabet, Aramaic abjad, it has been hypothesized). The other major family of abugidas, Canadian Aboriginal syllabics, was initially developed in the 1840s by missionary and linguist James Evans (linguist), James Evans for the Cree and Ojibwe languages. Evans used features of Devanagari script and Pitman shorthand to create his initial abugida. Later in the 19th century, other missionaries adapted Evans' system to other Canadian aboriginal languages. Canadian syllabics differ from other abugidas in that the vowel is indicated by rotation of the consonantal symbol, with each vowel having a consistent orientation.


Abjads and the structure of Semitic languages

The abjad form of writing is well-adapted to the morphology (linguistics), morphological structure of the Semitic languages it was developed to write. This is because words in Semitic languages are formed from triliteral, a root consisting of (usually) three consonants, the vowels being used to indicate inflectional or derived forms. For instance, according to Classical Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic, from the Arabic root ''Dh-B-Ḥ'' (to slaughter) can be derived the forms ' (he slaughtered), ' (you (masculine singular) slaughtered), ' (he slaughters), and ' (slaughterhouse). In most cases, the absence of full glyphs for vowels makes the common root clearer, allowing readers to guess the meaning of unfamiliar words from familiar roots (especially in conjunction with context (language use), context clues) and improving word recognition while reading for practiced readers. By contrast, the Arabic and Hebrew scripts sometimes perform the role of alphabet, true alphabets rather than abjads when used to write certain Indo-European languages, including Kurdish language, Kurdish, Arebica, Bosnian, and Yiddish language, Yiddish.


Comparative chart of Abjads, extinct and extant


See also

* Abjad numerals (Arabic alphanumeric code) * Abugida * Gematria (Hebrew & English system of alphanumeric code) * Numerology * Shorthand (constructed writing systems that are structurally abjads)


References


Sources

* * * * * * * *


External links

The Science of Arabic Letters, Abjad and Geometry, by Jorge Lupin
{{list of writing systems Abjad writing systems, Arabic orthography