RSS

Ancient Languages

03 Jul

I am going to provide as much information here as possible concerning relevant ancient languages to the Bible. Obviously the material will not be original with me so you will find many links to help you learn more about the languages of the ancient biblical era.

You may have heard that many archaeologists and scholars consider the ancient world to be generally illiterate but that is far from the case. Here is a link to 77 verses containing the command to ‘write’ something and some are from God to Moses and others from Moses to the people and so on.

then the next link is to 251 verses including the word ‘written’

and finally one to 56 verses using the word ‘wrote’

One cannot command one to write if they people they are commanding are illiterate and cannot write. It has been said that no one knows when writing originated and that would be because writing, like language, has been around since the beginning

The concept of writing was well-known in ancient times. So here are snippets of information  from other websites on ancient languages:

Writing Systems— http://ancientscripts.com/ws.html

A writing system as a set of visible or tactile signs used to represent units of language in a systematic way. This simple explanation encompasses a large spectrum of writing systems with vastly different stylistic and structural characteristics spanning across the many regions of the globe.

Origin Of Writing Systems— http://ancientscripts.com/ws_origins.html

Among many ancient societies, writing held an extremely special and important role. Often writing is so revered that myths and deities were drawn up to explain its divine origin…Nowadays there is more-or-less consensus on a few points concerning the origin of writing. First of all, writing was invented independently in at least three places, Mesopotamia, China, and Mesoamerica. Recent discoveries might also provide evidence that writing was invented in Egypt and Indus independently of Mesopotamia.

Akkadianhttp://ancientscripts.com/akkadian.html

While the cuneiform writing system was created and used at first only by the Sumerian, it did not take long before neighboring groups adopted it for their own use. By about 2500 BCE, the Akkadian, a Semitic-speaking people that dwelled north of the Sumerians, starting using cuneiform to write their own language. However, it was the ascendency of the Akkadian dynasty in 2300 BCE that positioned Akkadian over Sumerian as the primary language of Mesopotamia. While Sumerian did enjoy a quick revival, it eventually became a dead language used only in literary contexts, whereas Akkadian would continue to be spoken for the next two millenium and evolved into later (more famous) forms known as Babylonian and Assyrian.

Sumerianhttp://ancientscripts.com/sumerian.html

The Sumerians were one of the earliest urban societies to emerge in the world, in Southern Mesopotamia more than 5000 years ago. They developed a writing system whose wedge-shaped strokes would influence the style of scripts in the same geographical area for the next 3000 years. Eventually, all of these diverse writing systems, which encompass both logophonetic, consonantal alphabetic, and syllabic systems, became known as cuneiform.

Old Hebrewhttp://ancientscripts.com/old_hebrew.html

While many associate written Hebrew with the squarish letters adorned by curvy flourishes and occasionally vowel marks, Hebrew was originally written with a different, but related, script called Old Hebrew. The first evidence of this script is the Gezer Calendar, which dates to around the 10th century BCE and records agricultural activities throughout the year. This early form of Old Hebrew is graphically very similar to Phoenician. Also, like early Phoenician, Old Hebrew inscriptions did not indicate vowels (not even the simple matres lectionis system where the letters aleph, yodh and waw represented vowels in addition to consonants).

Hebrewhttp://ancientscripts.com/hebrew.html

Hebrew is one of the longest continuously recorded languages that has survived to the modern day. It first appeared around the late 11thor early 10th century BCE in the form of the Gezer calendar. While the script on this inscription is called Old Hebrew, it is barely discernible from Phoenician from where it originated.

Meanwhile, another Phoenician-derived script, Aramaic, was quickly becoming the international trade language in the ancient Middle East. Consequently, by the 6th century BCE, the Hebrews started writing in Aramaic for every day use and confined the Old Hebrew script for religious use (and the occasional inscription on coins). The Aramaic script adopted by the Hebrews quickly became known as the Jewish script, and because of the shape of its letters it also became known as ketab merubba`,or “square script

Aramaic-http://ancientscripts.com/aramaic.html

The Aramaic language was the international trade language of the ancient Middle East. Originated in what is modern-day Syria, between 1000 and 600 BCE it became extremely widespread, spoken from the Mediterranean coast to the borders of India. Its script, derived from Phoenician and first attested during the 9th century BCE, also became extremely popular and was adopted by many people, both with or without any previous writing system.

Phoenicianhttp://ancientscripts.com/phoenician.html

The Phoenician script is an important “trunk” in the alphabet tree, in that many modern scripts can be traced through it. Arabic, Hebrew, Latin, and Greek scripts are all descended from Phoenician.

Phoenician is a direct descendent of the Proto-Sinaitic script. Like Proto-Sinaitic, Phoenician is a “consonantal alphabet”, also known as “abjad”, and only contains letters representing consonants. Vowels are generally omitted in this phase of the writing system.

The major change between Proto-Sinaitic and Phoenician is graphical. The Phoenician letter shapes grew to be more abstract and linear, in comparison to the more “pictographic” shape of Proto-Sinaitic signs.

Elamitehttp://www.ancient.eu/elam/

Proto-Elamite influence from the Persian plateau in Susa becomes visible from about 3200 BCE, and texts in the still undeciphered Proto-Elamite writing system continue to be present until about 2700 BCE. The Proto-Elamite period ends with the establishment of the Awan dynasty. The earliest known historical figure connected with Elam is the king Enmebaragesi of Kish (c. 2650 BCE?), who subdued it, according to the Sumerian king list. However, real Elamite history can only be traced from records dating to beginning of the Akkadian Empire in around 2300 BCE onwards.

Hittitehttp://www.ancient.eu/hatti/

The region was known as `Land of the Hatti’ from c. 2350 BCE until 630 BCE, attesting to the influence of the Hattian culture there. They spoke a language called Hattic and did not seem to have a written language of their own, using cuneiform script for trade dealings.

Egyptian-http://www.ancient.eu/alphabet/

The history of the alphabet started in ancient Egypt. By 2700 BCE Egyptian writing had a set of some 22 hieroglyphs to represent syllables that begin with a single consonant of their language, plus a vowel (or no vowel) to be supplied by the native speaker. These glyphs were used as pronunciation guides for logograms, to write grammatical inflections, and, later, to transcribe loan words and foreign names.

However, although seemingly alphabetic in nature, the original Egyptian uniliterals were not a system and were never used by themselves to encode Egyptian speech. In the Middle Bronze Age an apparently “alphabetic” system known as the Proto-Sinaitic script is thought by some to have been developed in central Egypt around 1700 BCE for or by Semitic workers, but only one of these early writings has been deciphered and their exact nature remains open to interpretation. Based on letter appearances and names, it is believed to be based on Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Hieroglyphshttp://www.ancient.eu/Egyptian_Hieroglyphs/

The Egyptian hieroglyphic script was one of the writing systems used by ancient Egyptians to represent their language. Because of their pictorial elegance, Herodotus and other important Greeks believed that Egyptian hieroglyphs were something sacred, so they referred to them as ‘holy writing’. Thus, the word hieroglyph comes from the Greek hiero ‘holy’ and glypho ‘writing’. In the ancient Egyptian language, hieroglyphs were called medu netjer, ‘the gods’ words’ as it was believed that writing was an invention of the gods.

The script was composed of three basic types of signs: logograms, representing words; phonograms, representing sounds; and determinatives, placed at the end of the word to help clarify its meaning. As a result, the number of signs used by the Egyptians was much higher compared to alphabetical systems, with over a thousand different hieroglyphs in use initially and later reduced to about 750 during the Middle Kingdom (2055-1650 BCE).

Like most ancient scripts, the origin of Egyptian hieroglyphs is poorly understood.

Ugaritichttp://ancientscripts.com/ugaritic.html

The Ugaritic script was really one of a kind, for it was a cuneiform alphabet (old Persian really was closer to a syllabary). Clay tablets written in Ugaritic provided the first evidence of the “modern” ordering of letters, which in Ugaritic went like ‘a, b, g, and so on, that eventually gave the order of letters in the Greek and Roman abecedaries.

This writing system was employed in the city of Ugarit, located in western Syria from around 1300 BCE. It later was supplanted by the West Semitic, Proto-Sinaitic-descended scripts.

Old Persianhttp://ancientscripts.com/oldpersian.html

he first Persian Empire of the Achaemenid dynasty rose to power in the middle of the 6th century BCE and quickly conquered an area that stretched from Mesopotamia to Afghanistan. Early in the history of the dynasty, a syllabic script to write the Old Persian language was developed. This script was not a direct descendent of the Sumerian and Akkadian systems, because even though the physical appearance of Old Persian signs are Cuneiform, or in the shape of wedges, the actual shape of the signs do not correspond to signs in older systems with similar phonetic values. Old Persian only kept the cuneiform appearance of its characters simply out of tradition, and the actual shape of the signs were completely original.

The Old Persian “syllabary” is somewhat of a misnomer, in that it also contains some logograms. However, since the majority of signs are syllabograms, Old Persian is classified as a syllabic script. It is also a very skeletal syllabary, in that sounds like /pu/ do not have independent signs but instead must be written with the signs pa and u. Also, single consonant that form part of a consonant cluster or the end of a syllable are also written with syllabograms with the /a/ vowel. So, in such cases, the syllabogram that contains the vowel /a/ drop its vowel value and in effect becomes a consonant.

Hurrian-http://ancientlanguages.wikia.com/wiki/Hurrian

There is no question that the Hurrian and Urartian languages were very similar, and some have used this evidence that the Hurrian Armenian tribes had origins in the Urartu area in and around Lake Van before migrating to South-Western Armenia. The Hurrian timeframe in Syria (South-Western historic Armenia), the area that the Hurri-Mitanni kingdom of Armenia was present (c. 2300-1200 BC) predates the timeframe of Urartu in Eastern Armenia (c. 1000-585), it is more often considered likely that the Armenians of Urartu had origins there, and fled from the South-Western Armenian Highlands into the Eastern part of Armenia after the Hittites and Assyrians conquered the region. Chronologically, the Urartian language seems to be a continuation of Hurrian dialects, and not the other way around.

Babylonian-http://www.bible-history.com/babylonia/BabyloniaThe_Language.htm

The Babylonian language was a dialect of Akkadian, a Semitic language, written in cuneiform script. Politically and economically Babylonia remained a number of small autonomous city-states ruled by local dynasties and later emerging into an imperial structure.

http://www.ancient.eu/kassite/

It is thought that the Kassites originated as tribal groups in the Zagros Mountains to the north-east of Babylonia. Their leaders came to power in Babylon following the collapse of the ruling dynasty of the Old Babylonian Period in 1595 BC. The Kassites retained power for about four hundred years (until 1155 BC)…

Important sources for reconstructing the Kassite Dynasty are kudurrus. Other revealing information is provided by the Amarna letters, which include correspondence from the Kassite Babylonian kings to the Egyptian pharaohs of the mid-fourteenth century BC. Babylonian wealth and influence at this time is reflected in the use of the cuneiform script and the Babylonian language as the main form of diplomatic communication.

Cretan Hieroglyphshttp://ancientscripts.com/cretan_hieroglyphs.html

Bronze Age Crete was home to the powerful seafaring civilization known to the modern world as the Minoans. As the first literate culture of Europe, the Minoans employed not one but two related writing systems. The more commonly known system is Linear A due to the rectilinear shape of its symbols. The second system, more ancient but less well-known and even less understood, is called Cretan Hieroglyphs. It is so called because of the relatively naturalistic style of the characters, as compared to the more “abstract” forms in Linear A. Many signs resemble natural objects like body parts, plants, animals, implements, weapons, ships, as well as more abstract symbols.

Most early writing systems have their origins in iconographic systems and likewise Cretan Hieroglyphs most likely evolved out of non-linguistic symbols on sealstones from the late 3rd and early 2nd millenium BCE. Cretan Hieroglyphs was the first writing of the Minoans and predecessor to Linear A, which in turn gave rise to Linear B and Cypriot. Its relationship to the script of the Phaistos Disc is unknown, however there are many theories proposing some kind of relationship mainly based on the similarity of some of the signs.

Cretan Hieroglyphs remains undeciphered as no interpretation is widely accepted

Nabataeanhttp://ancientscripts.com/nabataean.html

Centered at the ancient city of Petra located in what is now the modern kingdom of Jordan, the Nabataeans built a kingdom in the 2nd century BCE that grew prosperous from trade routes that crisscrossed their territory. At its height the Nabataean kingdom extended from Syria to the Hijaz in Saudi Arabia, and from Jordan into the Sinai in Egypt. The wealth and the strategic location of the Nabataeans eventually piqued the Romans’ interest, and it led to their conquest in 106 CE and incorporation into the Roman Empire as the province of Arabia Petraea.

In the first millenium BCE, Aramaic was the international language and script of trade, and the Nabataeans adopted both as their written language. However, personal names on monumental inscriptions reveal that they were in fact Arabs. It is actually not uncommon for a people to speak one language and write another, as the written language often holds such prestige that the learned class will only write in it.

Despite living under Roman rule, the Nabataeans continued to write with their script well into the 4th century CE, at which time the language behind the script shifted from Aramaic to Arabic. Nabataean is therefore considered the direct precursor of the Arabic script. In fact, one of the earliest inscriptions in the Arabic language was written in the Nabataean alphabet, found in Namarah (modern Syria) and dated to 328 CE.

Assyrianhttp://www.ancient.eu/assyria/

Assyria was the region in the Near East which, under the Neo-Assyrian Empire, reached from Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) through Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and down through Egypt. The empire began modestly at the city of Ashur (known as Subartu to the Sumerians), located in Mesopotamia north-east of Babylon, where merchants who traded in Anatolia became increasingly wealthy, and that affluence allowed for the growth and prosperity of the city. According to one interpretation of passages in the biblical Book of Genesis, Ashur was founded by a man named Ashur son of Shem, son of Noah, after the Great Flood, who then went on to found the other important Assyrian cities. A more likely account is that the city was named Ashur after the deity of that name sometime in the 3rd millennium BC…

The Assyrians were a Semitic people who originally spoke and wrote Akkadian before the easier to use Aramaic language became more popular. {The idea expressed in this sentence I disagree with strongly}

Greekhttp://ancientscripts.com/greek.html

The Greeks were the first Europeans to learn to write with an alphabet, and from them alphabetic writing spread to the rest of Europe, eventually leading down to all modern European alphabets. Incidentally, the Greeks tried writing once before. Between 1500 and 1200 BCE, the Mycenaeans, an early tribe of Greeks, adapted the Minoan syllabary as Linear B to write an early form of Greek. However, the syllabary was not well suited to write Greek, and the exact pronunciation of Mycenaean words remains somewhat obcure. The alphabet, on the other hand, allowed a more precise record of the sounds in the language.

From the shape of the letters, it is clear that the Greeks adopted the alphabet the Phoenician script, mostly like during the late 9th century BCE. In fact, Greek historian Herotodus, who lived during the 5th century BCE, called the Greek letters “phoinikeia grammata” (φοινικήια γράμματα), which means Phoenician letters. You can see the similarities between the scripts in the comparision chart at the undefined page. Unlike Greek, the Phoenician alphabet only had letters for consonants. When the Greeks adopted the alphabet, they found letters representing sounds not found in Greek. Instead of throwing them away, they modified the extraneous letters to represent vowels. For example, the Phoenician letter ‘aleph (which stood for a glottal stop) became the Greek letter alpha (which stands for [a] sound).

Latin-http://ancientscripts.com/latin.html

Rome was a little quiet town on the shores of the Tiber river when her Latin-speaking citizens learned writing from the Etruscans. A few hundred years later, the Romans brought their alphabet to wherever they went (more specifically, conquered). Because of the prestige of Roman culture, many non-Roman “barbarian” nations embraced Latin for court use, and adopted the Latin alphabet to write their own language. Consequently, Western European nations all wrote using the Latin alphabet, and with European imperialism in the last 500 years, the Latin alphabet (with local modifications) is probably the most ubiquitous writing system in the world.

Even though the Latin alphabet is essentially what you’re seeing in front of you, the original version was quite different. As Latium (the region where Latin is spoken and Rome is located) and Etruria (the region where Etruscan is spoken) are adjacent to each other, the very first examples of the Latin alphabet resemble the Etruscan alphabet. Nearly all the letters were adopted with the same phonetic values and graphical shapes. Also, the direction of writing was like Etruscan, either right-to-left, boustrophedon, or even left-to-right for about a hundred years during the 6th century BCE (once again influenced by Etruscan fads). On the other hand, the Latins did modify the Etruscan alphabet to suit their language.

Canaanitehttp://www.ancient.eu/article/17/

Phoenician is a Canaanite language closely related to Hebrew. Very little is known about the Canaanite language, except what can be gathered from the El-Amarna letters written by Canaanite kings to Pharaohs Amenhopis III (1402-1364 BC) and Akhenaton (1364-1347 BC). It appears that Phoenician language, culture, and writing was strongly influenced by Egypt (which controlled Phoenicia for a long time), as king Rib-Adda of Byblos admits in one of his letters to the pharaoh.

Proto-Sinaitichttp://ancientscripts.com/protosinaitic.html

Proto-Sinaitic, also known as Proto-Canaanite, was the first consonantal alphabet. Even a quick and cursory glance at its inventory of signs makes it very apparent of this script’s Egyptian origin. Originally it was thought that at round 1700 BCE, Sinai was conquered by Egypt, and the local West-Semitic population were influenced by Egyptian culture and adopted a small number of hieroglyphic signs (about 30) to write their own language. However, recent discoveries in Egypt itself have compounded this scenario. Inscriptions dating to 1900 BCE written in what appears to be Proto-Sinaitic were found in Upper Egypt, and nearby Egyptian texts speak of the presence of Semitic-speaking people living in Egypt.

No matter where and when the adoption of Egyptian signs onto a Semitic language occurred, the process of adoption is quite interesting. Egyptian hieroglyphs already have phonetic signs (in addition to logograms), but the Sinaitic people did not adopt these phonetic signs. Instead, they randomly chose pictorial Egyptian glyphs (like ox-head, house, etc), where each sign stood for a consonant. How did they decide which sign get which consonant? A sign is a picture of an object, and the first consonant of the word for this object becomes the sound the sign represents. In short, this is called the acrophonic principle.

Coptichttp://ancientscripts.com/coptic.html

The Coptic script takes its name from the Egyptian Christians, the Copts. Strangely enough, the word “Copt” was originally came from the Greek word “aiguptios”, meaning ‘Egyptian’. It was shortened to “guptios”, then transmitted into Arabic as “qopt”, and finally back into Egyptian as “coptos”. As the name implies, the Coptic script represented the Egyptian language just as Egyptian hieroglyphics had done for 3000 years before.

The Coptic script was adopted from the Greek alphabet approximately around the 2nd century CE. The Copts adopted the Greek alphabet completely even though many of the Greek letters represent sounds that didn’t exist in Egyptian. Instead they kept the extraneous letters for their numeric values. In addition, the Copts added 5 letters, taken from the Egyptian script, that represent sounds that don’t exist in Greek. The final count of signs was 32, and neatly represented the Egyptian language at the beginning of the first millenium CE.

Unlike the three Egyptian that preceeded it, the Coptic script represents both consonants and vowels. This has helped scholars immeasurably in reconstructing the history of the Egyptian language as well as provide some insight into how Egyptian words were really pronounced.

Demotichttp://www.omniglot.com/writing/egyptian_demotic.htm

The Demotic or popular script, a name given to it by Herodotus, developed from a northern variant of the Hieratic script in around 660 BC. The Egyptians themselves called it ‘sekh shat’ (writing for documents). During the 26th Dynasty it became the preferred script at court, however during the 4th century it was gradually replaced by the Greek-derived Coptic alphabet. The most recent example of writing in the Demotic script dates from 425 AD.

The Demotic script was used for writing business, legal, scientific, literary and religious documents. It was written almost exclusively from right to left in horizontal lines and mainly in ink on papyrus. Demotic inscriptions on wood and stone are also known. During the Ptolemaic Period it was regularly carved in stone – the most famous example of this is the Rosetta Stone, which is inscribed with texts in the Hieroglyphic script, Greek and Demotic and was one of the keys to the decipherment of Ancient Egyptian scripts.
 

Proto-Elamite

A script which first appeared in about 2900 BC in Suse (Susa), the capital of Elam, in south-western Persia (modern Iran). It has yet to be deciphered and the language it represents in unknown.

Old Elamite

A partially deciphered syllabic script used between about 2250 and 2220 BC in the kingdom of Suse in south-western Persia (modern Iran). It was named after Elam, the capital of Suse.

Linear A

A script used between about 1800 and 1450 BC on Crete. Linear A is possibly related to Linear B but the language it was used to write is not known.

Phaistos Disk

The Phaistos Disk was found in the Minoan Palace of Phaistos on Crete in 1908 and is thought to date from the 17th century BC. On it is inscribed an unknown script and there are many theories about the language it represeents and what it means. No other evidence of this script has been found.

Philistine-http://www.sacred-texts.com/ane/phc/phc08.htm

Of the language of the Philistines we are profoundly ignorant. An inscription in their tongue, written in an intelligible script, would be one of the greatest rewards that an explorer of Palestine could look for. As yet, the only materials we have for a study of the Philistine language are a few proper names, and possibly some words, apparently non-Semitic, embedded here and there in the Hebrew of the Old Testament. Thus, our scanty information is entirely drawn from foreign sources

Advertisements
 

4 responses to “Ancient Languages

  1. lnhereford

    July 3, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    This is a wealth of knowledge, thank you so much for putting it all together!

     
    • theologyarchaeology

      July 3, 2017 at 9:47 pm

      no worries. The information comes from our sister website http://www.dakotascba.com which may shut down early next year. we want to preserve as much information a possible from that website

       
      • lnhereford

        July 3, 2017 at 10:20 pm

        Well I’m sorry to hear it’s shutting down, but thankful for randomly stumbling into your blog!

         
        • theologyarchaeology

          July 3, 2017 at 10:53 pm

          Nothing sinister, just do not have a credit card to renew it. We have moved quite a few pages already and will continue to work on the transfer throughout the next couple of months

           
 
%d bloggers like this: