Script on excavated terracotta seals from Harappa deciphered ????

Luis Gonzalez-Reimann reimann at UCLINK.BERKELEY.EDU
Sat Nov 8 03:24:02 UTC 1997

At 02:55 AM 11/7/97 -0500, Dan Lusthaus wrote:

>Words in Aramaic, Hebrew, Arabic, etc., can begin with a vowel, and their
>alphabets (not syllabic ciphers) contain vowels to depict them (Heb.: alef,
>ayin, etc.; Arabic: alif, ayin, etc.). There are hundreds, if not thousands
>of words in Semitic languages beginning with (written) vowels. ADaM, the
>first man, is one example probably recognizable by everyone.

Not exactly.  Semitic alphabets have no vowels.  The Hebrew letters alef and
ayin are not vowels, although they are always accompanied by a vowel.  The
alef is a glottal stop, and ayin indicates a gutturalization.  In Yiddish,
however, they did become equivalent to vowels.  It is also true that the
Phoenician aleph did become Greek alpha, as Phoenician ayin became Greek

Probably the main difference between Semitic and Indo-European verbal roots
is that Semitic roots don't include vowels, whereas Indo-European roots not
only do include them, but they also incorporate an elaborate system of
vocalic transformations (guNa, vRddhi).


Luis Gonzalez-Reimann
University of California, Berkeley

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