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Re: SV: orion-list writing systems

Ditto ...

On 1999-08-12 orion@mscc.huji.ac.il said:
Date: Thr, 12 Aug 1999 20:40:57 -300

Hi, Greg,
I've answered Bob, in another post... but you made a statement that
has to be looked at more carefully.

   >Checking dozens of other
   >examples on this and other columns fails to show any other than a
   >single scribal ideograph or ductus used for both Shin and Sin.

Ductus can be used to distinguish calligraphic hands - it *cannot*
be used to isolate scribal hands on multiple column/leaf document.
Why? Because:

   IF we have 10 scribes, and
   IF all 10 have been trained at the same scriptorium,
   THEN, all 10 will have the same ductus.

This is one of the problems with the calligraphic approach to
scribal training...

As I told Bob, I see at least two scribes on that column... and not
from ductus, but from their ideographs. In fact, they do write their
shins/sins differently; their mem's, too (both standard and final)...
one of the scribes swings the lower stroke on his standard 'mem'
around much farther then the other scribe does. As 'ayin' never has
a variant form (ayin is the 'o' base in Phoenician and Hebrew
fonts), ayin is always the place to start when trying to isolate
ideographs in Hebrew texts. Next, look for bound forms, symbols
that are so common that they are always written the same way. Bound
forms are a prime source for scribal ideographs. Once you have a
"tag" (at least one differentiated form) then you can use the tag
to check out all the other forms and sort out the scribal hands.
There is one standard scriptorium practice that you have to watch
out for. When a text, scroll, codex, tablet, etc. was to be written
by more than one scribe, the scribes each took turns writing one
sentence at the beginning in order to reduce obvious distinctions
among scribal hands. Then, the scribes would write stints. I have a
feeling that you may be able to use the ayin, resh, and sin in
" 'eidat israel " as base tags for scribe 1.

   >R's post claim of one phone per written letter form in the Qumran
   >texts is intriguing if it could be demonstrated.  But I don't
   >understand, R: unless I have misunderstood you, you claim this as a
   >universal.  But in English, I and every modern scribe and
   >typewriter write "c" with the sound K ("cake") and "c" with the
   >sound S ("race") the same way.  Where does this idea come from that
   >all alphabets of all time have only one phone per written
   >representation symbol?

Whoa. Let's take a closer look at your English example first, shall
we. Modern English spelling is a product of the 19th century
"standardization" mania, hence anachronistic in terms of looking at
older material.

The symbol set of the Anglo-Saxons Phonetic Alphabet, codified
around 650 CE, had 5 a-phones, 3 e-phones, 3 s-phones, 3 u-phones,
2 l-phones (clear and dark), 2 c-phones, 2 n- and one eng-phone,
and 2-r phones. 'V' for 'u' was used only for xenographic exchange.
In 8th-late 9th century Anglo-Saxon England, they used different
graphs for soft and hard-c and did not use 'k' at all except for
xenographic exchange to differentiate the spiritual from the
secular (pre-10th century: Kyning [king] = God; cyning [king] =
secular ruler. By the early 10th century, "kyning" with a small 'k'
was used for a secular king if the reference were spiritual in
context. By the mid-10th century and during the Benedictine reform,
'kyning' as the standard form becomes the norm. Now the kyrios-k
was added to the symbol set to retain the distinction beteen
spirtual and secular realms. Variant forms of 'a' were still in use
in England as late as the first quarter of the 17th century. So, in
terms of symbol-to-phone, we always have to keep in mind the time

>But I don't understand, R: unless I have misunderstood you,
>you claim this as a universal.

Only in writing systems descended from the Phoenician system...
which, I admit, is a fairly extensive group.

>Where does this idea come from that
>all alphabets of all time have only one phone per written
>representation symbol?

Oh, it started back around 1400 BCE. Akkadian is phonetic-based, but
not alphabetic. Ugaritic is alphabetic and phonetic-based, but still
uses external markings (diacriticals); the Phoenician alphabetic
system is phonetic-based and did away with external markings by
incorporating the "diacriticals" into variant forms.

Alphabetic variant forms are the way things started out in every
group that borrowed the Phoenician system - the earliest Ionian
Greek uses variant forms; as did the Etruscans... even Common
Germanic Futhark uses variant forms. Syriac has five 'a' forms.
Symbols drop in and out, they get borrowed from one writing system
into another to fill a gap as living languages evolve. Also, every
time there is a major change of power structure one of the first
things the new party in power does is reform the writing system - a
new official script, re-define the symbol- to-phone set, spelling
reforms, and so on. And the "standardizers" always go for bilinear
limits. But, while the new system can be enforced in an official
scriptorium (yesterday, preferably), it takes time for the reforms
to percolate downwards and outwards, generally around 100 years.
(That, BTW, is the reason Claudius' reforms failed - there was
nobody to keep them going.)

With the Greek fonts, Attica became the major center of power - and
from then on, formal Greek uses bilinear limits and no variant
forms. On the other hand, informal Greek texts still use variant
forms and, as has been noted, many of the letters look as if they
had been suspended from an invisible line... which they had, as the
Phonenician system used trilinear limits. When we get to the early
Christian era, variant forms were still in use in some, but not all,
the Hebrew systems, so, the oldest Greek biblical fragments use
variant forms. By the 4th century, Greek biblical fonts, no matter
the affiliation, are "essentially" bilinear and variant forms all
but disappear from formal texts.

(We can tell from Mishnaic writings, for instance, that the
Babylonian group didn't have the foggiest notion that there was
anything such as variant forms. By the time we get to the
Massoretes, the Hebrew writing systems had been classicized; the
bean counters had no idea what those variant forms meant, but it
was in the Tanakh, so it had to be copied.)

With Latin scripts we have to keep an eye on religious party
affiliation - because there are 6 primary streams of Latin writing
systems... and only one of them went for the Roman ideal of very
restricted symbols and phones; all the others use variant forms.
(These streams are distinctive enough that I was able to map their

The ideal that the "Classical" Roman reformers wanted, you know, was
one-symbol; one phone... only they had an "ideal" of a very
restricted phone set as well as a restricted symbol set... pretty
much what we have today with our '26' letter alphabet (which is why
English is so confusing to foreigners). It took more than 1,000
years to classicize the English writing system. The Romance
languages (after Alcuin, of course) took a while, but finally ended
up having to revert to the Ugaritic method of external markings,
diacriticals, precisely what the Phoenician system did away with.
The Greek writing systems also had to revert to diacriticals,
eventually. It happens every time the classicizers get through with
their latest "renovatio."

I do go into this... but I think you need some help on attacking the
question of scribal hands, so - all you need to do is ask (if that's
ok with Fred and Niels Peter, that is).

This makes two long posts today, so, "Exodus" will have to wait for

All the best,


PS: Bright & Daniel's _The World's Writing Systems_ (which should be
_The World's Script systems and their Phones_) gives a stripped out
set of symbol sets plus their phones. While not complete (due to
stripping out of context), it nevertheless, should help one to
understand the universality of the phone-to-graph relationship in
writing systems.

Dr. Rochelle I. Altman, co-coordinator IOUDAIOS-L  risa@hol.gr

For private reply, e-mail to "Rochelle I. Altman" <risa@mail.hol.gr>
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