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Abjad

From Academic Kids

An abjad is a type of writing system where there is one symbol per consonantal phoneme, sometimes also called a consonantary. Abjads differ from alphabets and on the other hand from abugidas in that vowels are marked with optional diacritics. The term takes its name from the first nonsense 'word' of the mnemonic sequence for the letters of the Arabic alphabet, the 'old' order which was used before the letters were rearranged and grouped according to their graphic shapes. The most common sequence parallels the Hebrew alphabet and goes as follows:

  • abjad hawwaz HuTTi kalaman sa'faS qarashat thakhadh DaZagh.

Two other sequences go as follows:

  • abujadin hawazin HuTiya kalman sa'faS qurishat thakhudh DaZugh
  • abujadin hawazin HuTiya kalman Sa'faD qurisat thakhudh Zaghush

(As used here, the capital letters represent the 'guttural' consonants, and the digraphs sh, th, kh, dh and gh represent single letters. The final 'in' represents tanwīn, a feature of Arabic grammar.) In all versions, the first four letters are the same: Alif, Bā', Jīm, Dāl. Any of these three 'alphabetical orders' can be used for purposes of numerals or the branch of numerology called isopsephy.

The actual Hebrew sequence, as may be pronounced as a single word due to the unnecessity of vowels in the Hebrew language, is as follows:

  • abgada[h]v[w]azhatik[kh]alamansapatzqareshet

It has been suggested that the word 'Abjad' may have earlier roots in Phoenician or Ugaritic.

"Impure" abjads (such as Arabic) may have characters for some vowels as well, or optional vowel diacritics, or both; however, the term's originator, Peter T. Daniels, insists that it should be applied only to scripts entirely lacking in vowel indicators, thus excluding Arabic, Hebrew, and Syriac. All known abjads belong to the Semitic family of scripts, and derive from the original Northern Linear Abjad. The reason for this is that Semitic languages have a morphemic structure which makes the denotation of vowels redundant or unnecessary in most cases.

Many scripts derived from abjads have been extended with vowel symbols to become full alphabets. This has mostly happened when the script was adapted to a non-Semitic language, the most famous case being the derivation of the Greek alphabet from the Phoenician abjad. Other times, the vowel signs come in the form of little points or hooks attached to the consonant letters, producing an abugida such as the system of writing Amharic.

Surprisingly, many non-Semitic languages such as English can be written without vowels and read with little difficulty. (For example, the previous sentence could be written Mny nn-Smtc lnggs sch `s `nglsh cn b wrttn wtht vwls `nd rd wth lttl dffclty.)

References

fr:abjad de:Abjad wa:abdjad

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