בֵּית house, גִּמֶל camel (according to Lidzbarski, see below, perhaps originally גַּרְזֶן axe or pick-axe), דָּלֶת (properly folding door; according to Lidzbarski, perhaps דַּד the female breast), הֵא air-hole (?), lattice-window (?), וָו hook, nail, זַיִן weapon (according to Nestle, comparing the Greek ζῆτα, rather זַיִת olive-tree, חֵית fence, barrier (but perhaps only differentiated from ה by the left-hand stroke), טֵית a winding (?), according to others a leather bottle or a snake (but perhaps only differentiated from ת by a circle round it), יוֹד hand, כַּף bent hand, לָמֶד ox-goad, מַיִם water, נוּן fish (Lidzbarski, ‘perhaps originally נָחָשׁ snake,’ as in Ethiopic), סָמֶךְ prop (perhaps a modification of ז), עַיִן eye, פֵּא (also פֵּי mouth), צָדֵי fish-hook (?), קוֹף eye of a needle, according to others back of the head (Lidzb., ‘perhaps קֶשֶׁת bow’), רֵישׁ head, שִׁין tooth, תָּו sign, cross.
[5g] With regard to the origin of this alphabet, it may be taken as proved that it is not earlier (or very little earlier) than the fifteenth century b.c., since otherwise the el-Amarna tablets (§2f) would not have been written exclusively in cuneiform. It seems equally certain on various grounds, that it originated on Canaanitish soil. It is, however, still an open question whether the inventors of it borrowed
(a) From the Egyptian system—not, as was formerly supposed, by direct adoption of hieroglyphic signs (an explanation of twelve or thirteen characters was revived by J. Halévy in Rev. Sémit. 1901, p. 356 ff., 1902, p. 331 ff., and in the Verhandlungen des xiii. ... Orient.-Kongr. zu Hamb., Leiden, 1904, p. 199 ff.; but cf. Lidzbarski, Ephemeris, i. 261 ff.), or of hieratic characters derived from them (so E. de Rougé), but by the adoption of the acrophonic principle (see e) by which e.g. the hand, in Egyptian tot, represents the letter t, the lion = laboi, the letter l. This view still seems the most probable. It is now accepted by Lidzbarski (‘Der Ursprung d. nord- u. südsemit. Schrift’ in Ephemeris, i (1900), 109 ff., cf. pp. 134 and 261 ff.), though in his Nordsem. Epigr. (1898) p. 173 ff. he was still undecided.
(b) From the Babylonian (cuneiform) system. Wuttke’s and W. Deecke’s derivation of the old-Semitic alphabet from new-Assyrian cuneiform is impossible for chronological reasons. More recently Peters and Hommel have sought to derive it from the old-Babylonian, and Ball from the archaic Assyrian cuneiform. A vigorous discussion has been aroused by the theory of Frdr. Delitzsch (in Die Entstehung des ält. Schriftsystems od. der Urspr. der Keilschriftzeichen dargel., Lpz. 1897; and with the same title ‘Ein Nachwort’, Lpz. 1898, preceded by a very clear outline of the theory) that the old-Semitic alphabet arose in Canaan under the influence both of the Egyptian system (whence the acrophonic principle) and of the old-Babylonian, whence the principle of the graphic representation of objects and ideas by means of simple, and mostly rectilinear, signs. He holds that the choice of the objects was probably (in about fifteen cases) influenced by the Babylonian system. The correspondence of names had all the more effect since, according to Zimmern (ZDMG. 1896, p. 667 ff.), out of twelve names which are certainly identical, eight appear in the same order in the Babylonian arrangement of signs. But it must first be shown that the present names of the
- In the excavations at Jericho in April, 1907, E. Sellin found a jar-handle with the Canaanite characters יה which he dates (probably too early) about 1500 b.c.