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On the Origins of the Alphabet

On the Origins of the Alphabet

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Published by Sevan Bomar
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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Sevan Bomar on Sep 08, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Number 196 December, 2009________________________________________________________________________
On the Origins of the Alphabet
Brian R. Pellar
Victor H. Mair, EditorSino-Platonic PapersDepartment of East Asian Languages and CivilizationsUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphia, PA 19104-6305 USAvmair@sas.upenn.eduwww.sino-platonic.org
INO-PLATONIC PAPERS is an occasional series edited by Victor H. Mair.The purpose of the series is to make available to specialists and the interestedpublic the results of research that, because of its unconventional or controversialnature, might otherwise go unpublished. The editor actively encourages younger,not yet well established, scholars and independent authors to submit manuscriptsfor consideration. Contributions in any of the major scholarly languages of theworld, including Romanized Modern Standard Mandarin (MSM) and Japanese, areacceptable. In special circumstances, papers written in one of the Sinitic topolects(
) may be considered for publication.Although the chief focus of 
Sino-Platonic Papers
is on the intercultural relations of China with other peoples, challenging and creative studies on a wide variety of philological subjects will be entertained. This series is
the place for safe, sober,and stodgy presentations.
Sino-Platonic Papers
prefers lively work that, whiletaking reasonable risks to advance the field, capitalizes on brilliant new insightsinto the development of civilization.The only style-sheet we honor is that of consistency. Where possible, we prefer theusages of the
 Journal of Asian Studies
. Sinographs (
, also called tetragraphs[
]) and other unusual symbols should be kept to an absolute minimum.
Sino-Platonic Papers
emphasizes substance over form.Submissions are regularly sent out to be refereed and extensive editorialsuggestions for revision may be offered. Manuscripts should be double-spaced withwide margins and submitted in duplicate. A set of "Instructions for Authors" maybe obtained by contacting the editor.Ideally, the final draft should be a neat, clear camera-ready copy with high black-and-white contrast.
Sino-Platonic Papers
is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License. To view a copy of this license, visithttp://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.5/ or send a letter to CreativeCommons, 543 Howard Street, 5th Floor, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.Please note: When the editor goes on an expedition or research trip, all operations(including filling orders) may temporarily cease for up to two or three months at atime. In such circumstances, those who wish to purchase various issues of 
arerequested to wait patiently until he returns. If issues are urgently needed while theeditor is away, they may be requested through Interlibrary Loan.N.B.: Beginning with issue no. 171,
Sino-Platonic Papers
has been publishedelectronically on the Web. Issues from no. 1 to no. 170, however, will continue tobe sold as paper copies until our stock runs out, after which they too will be madeavailable on the Web at www.sino-platonic.org.
On the Origins of the Alphabet byBrian R. Pellar San Diego, California
Twenty-two foundation letters: He placed them in a circle
He directed them with the twelve constellations.
 — Sefer Yetzirah (The Book of Creation)
Figure 1.
The constellation Taurus as Aleph and Beth. Hebrew, Chinese,Phoenician, and Proto-Sinaitic are all rotated 90 degrees counter-clockwise(photo: Sinai inscription 357).
The alphabet has often been referred to as one of the greatest inventions of humankind. Ithas helped to make literacy more widespread and made the recording and dissemination of information, culture, and history more efficient.As far back as 2000 years ago, classical writers noted that the alphabet appears to haveoriginated in Egypt (Moran and Kelley 1969:3). Modern scholarship has since found substantialevidence that the alphabet did indeed originate in (or at least passed through) Egypt at places likeWadi el-hol and Serabit el kadim (For instance, see Moran and Kelly 1969; Daniels and Bright

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