Abjads / Consonant alphabets
Abjads, or consonant alphabets, represent consonants only, or consonants plus some vowels. Full vowel indication (vocalisation) can be added, usually by means of diacritics, but this is not usualy done. Most of abjads, with the exception of Ugaritic, are written from right to left.
Some scripts, such as Arabic, are used both as an abjad and as an alphabet.
The Early Aramaic alphabet was developed sometime during the late 10th or early 9th century BC and replaced Assyrian cuneiform as the main writing system of the Assyrian empire.
This version of the Aramaic alphabet dates from the 5th century BC and was used to write Imperial Aramaic, the standardised and offical language of the Archaemenid Empire. It was adapted to write Hebrew during the 5th century BC, and the modern version shown below is still used to write Neo-Aramaic dialects.
The ancient Berber script is probably based on or derived from the Punic script, with some influence from the South Arabian and North Arabian scripts. The earliest inscriptions for which the dates are known were inscribed sometime during the 2nd century BC, though the ancient Berber script may be six or seven hundred years older than that. The script was until at least the 3rd century AD, possibly later.
From the 12th century onwards, Berber languages were written with the Arabic abjad. There are also some Berber texts in the Hebrew abjad written by Berber Jews. A version of the Berber script, known as Neo-Tifinagh is still used to some extent in Morocco.
The Berbers is a large and ancient group of North African people related by language and culture, inhabiting Mediterranean areas stretching from Egypt to the Canary Islands as well as regions south of the Sahara such as Niger and Mali. Their first forays into recorded history were references by Phoenicians and Romans, but by the 3rd century BCE they started inscribing texts in their own script. Fortuitously, some of the inscriptions are bilingual, either Berber-Punic or Berber-Latin texts, which facilitated the decipherment of the Berber script. Names and certain words identified from these texts can be shown to belong to a Berber language, but linguists cannot link the written language to any of the dozen modern Berber languages spoken in North Africa. As such there are still gaps in the understanding of ancient Berber texts.
Tifinagh is the traditional writing system of the Tuareg people, who are scattered throughout different countries of northern Africa such as Algeria, Libya, Mali, Niger, and Burkana Faso. It is the sole descendent of the more widespread ancient Berber script, and ultimately derives from the Phoenician script. In fact, the name Tifinagh is thought by some modern scholars to mean “Phoenician/Punic letters” (finagh being derived from Punic). Tifinagh is not used widely and certainly not in public contexts such as newspaper, literature, or history. Rather, it is instead employed for private or personal purposes such as letters, diaries, and household decorations.
The following is the traditional Tifinagh alphabet.
Like other scripts in the Phoenician family, Tifinagh is an abjad or a consonantal alphabet, meaning that the letters only represent consonants. Vowels are left unwritten except occasionally at the end of a word by the signs for /a/, for /i/, and for /u/.
Another special case at the end of word is the feminine ending /-t/. In some instances, the letter is joined with the previous letter to form a ligature (that is, a sign that is a compound of two other signs).
Recently the government of Morocco adapted Tifinagh as the “official” alphabet to write Berber languages in Morocco that up to this point did not have a writing system or were written in either Arabic or Latin alphabets. Signs were added to the traditional Tifinagh to denote vowels as well as sounds not found in the original alphabet. This new system is called Neo-Tifinagh, and it is Tamazight, Tachelhit, Kabyle
Tifinagh is part of the Unicode range, from U+2D30 to U+2D7F.
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