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Notes to the Corner Wedge in the

Ugaritic Alphabet
Joannes Richter

Abstract
In the Ugaritic alphabet (and partly for vowels in the the Old-Persian language) the graphical
cuneiform symbols may be categorized in two groups, which are ruled by the (larger) corner wedge.
Larger wedges are made by pressing harder (deeper); smaller wedges are made by a lighter
impression. Therefore the larger wedges may have been considered as the preferred symbols for
dominant religious or philosophical definitions.
In the archaic languages most cuneiform symbols represent entire words (logograms) or phonetic
(syllabic) units. In some languages such as the Ugaritic alphabet the cuneiform symbols however
define a 1:1 relation between the cuneiform symbol and a phoneme.
One third of the Ugaritic alphabet contains a corner wedge (in German: “Winkelhaken”). These
letters (ḥ, ṭ, š, d, ẓ, ', q, t, ġ and s2) seem to be preferred for the names for the PIE-sky-god Dyaus,
and its derivative names Dius, Tius, Zius, etc. Most of these letters have been needed to describe
important words.
The mapping of the letters with large wedges from the Ugaritic alphabet in Latin and Greek
alphabets results in the following Latin letters: the consonants D-G-H-Q-S-T-Z and the vowels U-
A-I-J and probably also H (Æ), which are the symbols for composing the names Diæus, Dius, Ziu,
Tiu, Sius, Thius and Quirinus. The letters D-G-H-S-T-Z were easily understood as universal
fundamental symbols, but the letter Q represents a special case.
In Roman mythology and religion, Quirinus is an early god of the Roman state. A. B. Cook
explains Quirinus as the oak-god (quercus) and Quirites (Roman citizens) as the men of the oaken
spear.[4] The reason for the Romans to adopt the letter “Q” may be found in the cooperation with
their earliest partners. The ancient Roman rulers derived the word Quirinus from the Sabines.
In Greece the letter Koppa was used as a symbol for the city of Corinth, which had the early
spelling of the Koppa-symbol for livestock branding. Corinth used the early spelling of Ϙόρινθος.
The Greeks used the Koppa ϙο, ϙυ for a few centuries to express the phonemes /ko/ and /ku/, but
they had no advantage from these spellings. The Q however also had been in use as a numeral (90)
for counting and probably had to be maintained for the trading and administrative activities. This
may be the reason for keeping the letter with the corner wedge alive, although the symbolism had
been abandoned.
The Ugaritic alphabet
In the Ugaritic alphabet the signs with a corner wedge (large wedge) are identified as:
ḥ (ħ), ṭ, š (“sch”), d (ð, "th” ), ẓ (θ, "th”), z, ', q, t (θ, "th”), ġ (γ)
and depending on the documentation also the s2-character. In the following table these letters are
marked red.
With the help of the three basic vowels A, I, U these 9 or 10 symbols seemed to be preferred for the
divine names such as Dyaus, Dius, Tius, Zius, etc..
A few letters may be considered as symbolic equivalents:
ṭ, d (ð, "th” ), ẓ (θ, "th”), z, t (θ, "th”).
Dyaus is considered as a root for Jupiter (Latin), Zeus Patér (Zευς πατήρ, Ancient Greek), Tius or
Zio (Old High German) and Toutiks dipater (South Picene), all of which like Dyáuṣ Pitṛṛ mean 'sky
father'. The symbolic equivalents T, Z, Th (Θ), Δ, Ð may be needed to adapt the spelling of the
regional divine names. This symbolism may have been inherited to the Germanic languages.

The following table marks the vowels green, the letters with the large wedge red and the s2-
character blue:

1 The Ugaritic alphabet based on the alphabet in Ancient Scripts:


Ugaritic
Explaining the corner wedge
I found one reason for the corner wedges the Wikipedia's chapter Origin of the Ugaritic alphabet:
It has been proposed in this regard that the two basic shapes in cuneiform, a linear
wedge (a stroke) and a corner wedge (˂) may correspond to lines and circles in the
linear Semitic alphabets: the three Semitic letters with circles, preserved in the Greek Θ,
O and Latin Q, are all made with corner wedges in Ugaritic.

Other letters look similar to an E, or are similar to Greek Y, Π, and Σ turned on their
sides.[11]

Jared Diamond[13] believes the alphabet was consciously designed, citing as evidence
the possibility that the letters with the fewest strokes may have been the most frequent.1

Although some of these arguments may be valid I suggest there is another reason for applying the
corner wedge in the Ugaritic alphabet (and some other cuneiform languages), which will be
explained in the following chapter.

1 Origin of the Ugaritic alphabet


The corner wedge in Old Persian and Sumerian
In some languages (such as Sumerian and Old Persian) the larger corner wedge (“Winkelhaken2”) is
used for the vowel “U”. This large wedge may also add a religious symbolism to this letter.

2: The vowels A, I and U in Ancient


Scripts: Old Persian

Other languages such as Sumerian use the large edge as a symbol for a complete word such as “U”
(“Earth”), which in the Project ePSD 3 relates the vowel U to the Earth 4. Additionally the corner
wedge is used for the “number 10”5, “finger6”, “a gift7”, “a hole8”, “total”9 and “abuse”10

3 Entry“U” (“Earth”) in the Project ePSD

2 German word for Composing_stick


3 Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary Project (PSD)
4 u [EARTH] u [EARTH] wr. u "earth" Akk. Qaqqaru [1]u 1. earth Akk. qaqqaru "ground, earth".
5 u [TEN](/hu/) (6 instances) u [TEN] (6x: ED IIIb) wr. u9; u "ten"
6 u [FINGER] (2 instances) u [FINGER] (2x: Old Babylonian) wr. u "finger; toe" Akk. ubānu
7 u [GIFT] wr. u "gift" Akk. Qīštu [1]u 1. gift Akk. qīštu "gift, present".
8 u [HOLE] wr. u "hole" Akk. Šīlu [1] u 1. hole Akk. šīlu "depression, concavity".
9 u [TOTALITY] (17 instances) u [TOTALITY] (17x: Old Akkadian, Ur III, Early Old Babylonian, Old Babylonian)
wr. u; u5 "totality, world" Akk. kiššatu
10 u [ABUSE] u [ABUSE] wr. u "abuse" Akk. pištu
Mapping the corner wedges in Futhark, Latin, Greek alphabets

Mapping letters with the corner wedges in the elder Futhark alphabet
Mapping the letters with the corner wedges from the Ugaritic alphabet in Futhark alphabets results
in:

• Futhark: the runic consonants for Þ-g-h-z-s-t-d and the runic vowels for u-a-i-j-ï

4 Mapping the letters with large wedges þ-g-h-z-s-t-d and the vowels u-a-i-j-ï
from the Ugaritic alphabet into the Elder Futhark alphabet

Mapping letters with the corner wedges in Latin and Greek alphabets
Mapping the letters with the corner wedges from the Ugaritic alphabet in Latin and Greek alphabets
results in:

• Latin: the consonants D-G-H-Q-S-T-Z and the vowels U-A-I-J and probably also
(H) as a representation of the vowel Æ, which also are the symbols to compose the names
for the names: Dius, Ziu (Tíw), Tiu, Tuisco, Sius, Thius (from the root: Dyæus), Quirinus.
• Greek: the consonants Γ-Δ-Ζ-Η-(Ε?)-Σ-Τ and the vowels Α-H (Æ and E?)-Ι-Υ.
Explaining the dominance of the PIE-consonants Þ-g-h-z-s-t-d
The dominance of the PIE-consonants Þ-g-h-z-s-t-d in the Futhark, Latin, Greek alphabets may
be explained by the duality of the PIE-sky-god deities, whose names in the past already had been
identified as dual characters such as for example:
p. 195. ) Wackernagel in Hpt Ztschr. 6, 19 retains Tuisco = duplex, and explains it as
zwitter, two sexed, just as Lachm. makes tuisc = bimus, two years old; and Mullenhoff
agrees with them 9, 261. In that case Tuisco would have nothing to do with Ziu, and
Tacitus must have indicated the marvellous hermaphrodite nature11.

11 Page 842 In Grimm's Teutonic Mythology.


The Q in Greek alphabets

The Koppa
The Greek letter Koppa (letter) was used as a symbol for the city of Corinth, which had the early
spelling of the koppa-symbol for livestock branding. Corinth had the early spelling of Ϙόρινθος.
Although the Greeks adopted and used the Koppa ϙο, ϙυ a few centuries in scripture for the
phonemes /ko/ and /ku/ they had no advantage from these spellings.
So the Greeks spent a couple of centuries writing /ko/ and /ku/ as ϙο, ϙυ; this happened
throughout Greece (Jeffery 1990:33). Gradually, though, Greeks realized that [ḵ] and [k] are
the same phoneme, and should be written as the same letter; while some Doric regions held
on to koppa into the fifth century, it did not survive the switch to the Milesian alphabet.
Since koppa does not represent a real phonological distinction, it is only used in
transcription of inscriptions, not in linguistic discussion of dialects. It does not appear in
lexica, for example12.
The problem of skipping characters in an alphabet may have caused serious problems in the
definitions of the numerals. The Koppa represented the number 90. If course the archaic trading
centers needed a “globally” valid numerical base for their documentation.
Deleting and replacing characters such as the Koppa must have required a complex reorganization
plan, which had to be communicated with all trading organizations.
The obsolete letter koppa was placed between pi (80) and rho (100)—just as Q in the
Latin alphabet lies between P and R. Like digamma, the numeric version of koppa
underwent significant change in uncial and lowercase Greek, taking it far away from the
archaic letter ϙ13.

The Q in Latin alphabets

Quirites
A Quiris, plural Quirites, is a Roman citizen. The jus Quiritium in Roman law describes the Roman
citizenship. “Quirites” referred to citizens exclusively as civilians.
According to the legends Julius Caesar stopped a military mutiny by addressing the soldiers as
“Quirites.”14 Roman citizens.
Quirites was an early name of the citizens of Ancient Rome. The term's etymology is
disputed, but most scholars agree it derives from *co-uiri-um, "assembly of the men",
whence also the curiae.[1]

Ancient etymologies derived the term from the Sabine word for "spear"[2] or the Sabine
capitol of Cures, after the Sabine people were assimilated early in Roman history.[3]

12 Koppa (alphabetic use)


13 Koppa (numeric use)
14 Quiris | Roman law | Britannica.com
Quirinus
In Roman mythology and religion, Quirinus is an early god of the Roman state. A. B.
Cook (Class. Rev. xviii., p. 368) explains Quirinus as the oak-god (quercus), and
Quirites as the men of the oaken spear.[4] 15

The Flamen Quirinalis was one of the patrician flamines maiores ("greater flamens")
who had oversight over the Pontifex Maximus.[14] 16

Even centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire, the Quirinal hill in Rome, originally
named from the deified Romulus, was still associated with power – it was chosen as the
seat of the royal house after the taking of Rome by the Savoia and later it became the
residence of the Presidents of the Italian Republic. 17

Of course usage of the letter Q may also have been controlled by the archaic Q-symbolism of Italic
population which belonged to the trading customers on the Ugaritic trading routes.

15 Etymology (Quirinus)
16 History (Quirinus)
17 Legacy (Quirinus)
Contents
Abstract.................................................................................................................................................1
The Ugaritic alphabet...........................................................................................................................2
Explaining the corner wedge...........................................................................................................3
The corner wedge in Old Persian and Sumerian..................................................................................4
Mapping the corner wedges in Futhark, Latin, Greek alphabets..........................................................5
Mapping letters with the corner wedges in the elder Futhark alphabet...........................................5
Mapping letters with the corner wedges in Latin and Greek alphabets...........................................5
Explaining the dominance of the PIE-consonants Þ-g-h-z-s-t-d.....................................................6
The Q in Greek alphabets................................................................................................................7
The Koppa ..................................................................................................................................7
The Q in Latin alphabets..................................................................................................................7
Quirites........................................................................................................................................7
Quirinus.......................................................................................................................................8