Abjad

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An abjad is a type of writing system in which each symbol always or usually[1] stands for a consonant; the reader must supply the appropriate vowel. It is a term suggested by Peter T. Daniels[2] to replace the common terms consonantary or consonantal alphabet or syllabary to refer to the family of scripts called West Semitic. In popular usage, abjads often contain the word "alphabet" in their names, such as "Arabic alphabet" and "Phoenician alphabet".

Contents

Terminology

According to the formulations of Daniels, abjads differ from alphabets in that only consonants, not vowels, are represented among the basic graphemes. Abjads differ from abugidas, another category invented by Daniels, in that in abjads the vowel sound is implied by phonology, and where vowel marks exist for the system, such as nikkud for Hebrew and harakāt for Arabic, their use is optional and not the dominant (or literate) form. Abugidas always mark the vowels (other than the "inherent" vowel) - with a diacritic or with a minor attachment to the letter or with a standalone glyph. Some abugidas use a special symbol to suppress the inherent vowel so that the consonant alone can be properly represented. In a syllabary, a grapheme denotes a complete syllable, that is, either a lone vowel sound or a combination of a vowel sound with one or more consonant sounds.

Florian Coulmas, a critic of Daniels and of the abjad terminology, argues that this terminology can confuse alphabets with "transcription systems", and that there is no reason to relegate the Hebrew, Aramaic or Phoenician alphabets to second-class status as an "incomplete alphabet".[3] However, Daniels's terminology has found acceptance in the linguistic community.[1][4][5]

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