[b-hebrew] Why Semitic languages had no written vowels?

Vadim Cherny VadimCherny at mail.ru
Sun May 1 12:22:35 EDT 2005

> > Cuneiform has diаferent signs for syllables differing by vowel. Hebrew
> > no such distinction. I suggest that proto-West Semitic or Egyptian
> > was syllabary (there was not concept of individual letters yet), but
> > the language had a single vowel, syllables were equivalent to
> You would have to add that a character could represent a letter by
> itself without a vowel or a letter preceded by a vowel. At this point,
> there is little practical difference between this and saying that it
> doesn't say anything about vowels at all. Incidentally, the idea that
> West Semitic script is a syllabary has already been advanced. I'm not
> terribly familiar with the theory, but it has been discussed several
> times on the ANE list. The general outlook is that writing started with
> logograms, then logosyllabary, then syllabary (West Semitic), then
> alphabet. But as I recall, the point is supposed to be that the West
> Semitic syllabary allowed each character to represent a consonant
> followed by any (or no) vowel, so it's not quite what you're saying, but
> fairly close.

The only--but critical--difference is that I explain why in West Semitic
syllabary a consonant was oddly followed by any vowel - because there was a
single vowel.

Vadim Cherny

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