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Duncan
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Glagolitic and Ge'ez

Post by Duncan » 24 Sep 2005 22:43

Merci pour vos reponses! Better switch to english as this seem to be the preferred language here!

Regarding Sisyphe's comment, although I am no linguistics expert, to me the Amharic script, which I studied in elementary school at the French Lycee in Addis Abeba, is more of an alphabet, with 34 letters each of which has 7 modifications to incorporate vowels:

the first letter is ha and its forms are ha hou hi ha he heu ho, none of which have any particular meaning. (I tried to get a web reference for the Ethiopic alphabet, but could not find one).

Does the Glagolitic alphabet follow a similar pattern?

The response of ElieDeLeuze, while interesting, would not explain the wide variety of alphabets that have evolved around the world from Ancient Egypt to Greek to Singalese to Chinese, not doubt using similar writing tools and materials. It would be an extraordinary coincidence if these had all developed similar letters!

At the time of Saint Cyril, the seat of the Archbishopry of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church was in Alexandria (it in fact remained then till the middle of the 20th Century!). So the Coptic Church in Alexandria is very likely to have had many examples of the kind of tablet books of the type that started this discussion, and given the proximity of Alexandria to Greece, the Balkans and Italy, it is most likely that Saint Cyril passed through and saw these tablets (they may well have also been available in Constantinople, as Alexandria came under the Eastern Church). This may explain the sudden appearance of glagolitic script, at a time when Greek and latin scripts were readily available. Maybe Saint Cyril wanted to introduce something radical and new, but was then forced to modify to the later cyrilic script as a result of pressures from Greece.

With respect to the similarities between glagolitic script and greek, is it not only just a few letters that match? There would seem to be many more matching letters between Amharic/Ge'ez and Glagolitic?

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Re: Glagolitic and Ge'ez

Post by Sisyphe » 25 Sep 2005 00:31

Duncan wrote:Merci pour vos reponses! Better switch to english as this seem to be the preferred language here!
Pour ma part, je sens effectivement que je switche au sens linguistique du terme. Bouh que mon anglais doit être moche

:-? On that part of the forum, yes. But there is a french-speaking part, more active, whence come most of ours (and especially administrators and moderators) - see index of the forum, high up on the page. However, let we keep on speaking english (of something similar to...).
Regarding Sisyphe's comment, although I am no linguistics expert, to me the Amharic script, which I studied in elementary school at the French Lycee in Addis Abeba, is more of an alphabet, with 34 letters each of which has 7 modifications to incorporate vowels:

the first letter is ha and its forms are ha hou hi ha he heu ho, none of which have any particular meaning. (I tried to get a web reference for the Ethiopic alphabet, but could not find one).

Does the Glagolitic alphabet follow a similar pattern?
What you are discribing is what is called syllabary (fr. "un syllabaire") by linguistics. Actually, ge'ez and amharic writings are an alphasyllabary, or "abugida", or "half-syllabary writing". As says Wikipedia :

An abugida or alphasyllabary is a writing system composed of signs (graphemes) denoting consonants with an inherent following vowel, which are consistently modified to indicate other vowels (or, in some cases, the lack of a vowel). Examples include Ethiopic and scripts of the Brahmic family.

For example, in Devanagari there is no basic sign representing the consonant k; rather the unmodified character क represents the syllable ka (a is the so-called "inherent" vowel). This vowel may be changed by adding vowel marks to the basic character, producing other syllables beginning with k-; कि = ki, कु = ku, के = ke, को = ko. These marks are applied systematically to other consonantal characters, e.g. from ल, la, is formed लि = li, लु = lu, ले = le, लो = lo.

In many abugidas, there is also a modification to suppress the inherent vowel, yielding the bare consonant (Devanagari: क् = k, ल् = l). This is called the virama (from Sanskrit) or halant (from Hindi), and may be used to form consonant clusters, or when a consonant occurs at the end of a word. Other means of expressing these functions also occur, such as special conjunct forms in which two or more consonant characters are merged to express a cluster (Devanagari: क्ल = kla (note that on some computer systems this may display as क् followed by ल, rather than forming a conjunct)).
Glagolitic is not abugida, but merely an alphabet, as the word has to be used in linguistics ; like latin (the ours), greek or cyrillic alphabets : one letter = one phoneme (sound), wether vowel or consonant.
The response of ElieDeLeuze, while interesting, would not explain the wide variety of alphabets that have evolved around the world from Ancient Egypt to Greek to Singalese to Chinese, not doubt using similar writing tools and materials. It would be an extraordinary coincidence if these had all developed similar letters!
Not so wondering. There is seven similarities between japanese and "linear B" (used in Greece before the appareance of current alphabet) syllabaries ; and absolutly no one realationship between them.

Glagolitic and amharic look alike, indeed ; but there is no real similarity, no more than between egyptian demotic and siamese cursive.

Elie mentionned likeness of writing methods (pen,s feathers, etc.). We would add the situation of writers : both writing system are fated to be used of holy texts, used and gone on by monks, who have lot of time for ornamenting and stylising their letters. See an oncial- or fraktur-written french maedieval manuscript, it would be probably look like amharic too.

*

Even if we found glagolitic texts in sinaic monasteries, I think there is no relationship to search. Because of Alexander the Great, you find greek inscriptions till Pakistan, but no consequency. As the great french linguist Michel Lejeune said, creating a writing system called 'B' from a w.s. called 'A' requires three generations :

The first are bilingual natives of B country, using A system for writing A language.
The second one are bilingual natives too, using A system for B language, with some difficulties, while A writing is not done for B language.
The third one are not yet bilingual, they adapt A writing so that it could be used for B language - they delete some letters, creat other ones, etc.

That is what happened for glagolitic and cyrillic (even if St Cyrile of the monk Method have "setted" the new writing, its idea, its concept and its necessity must have been feeled by some other (and anonym) monks before them. Moreover, glagolitic is precisly a stage, a temptative, between greek and current cyrillic).
Last edited by Sisyphe on 25 Sep 2005 12:57, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Glagolitic and Ge'ez

Post by tom » 25 Sep 2005 01:41

Duncan wrote: Maybe Saint Cyril wanted to introduce something radical and new, but was then forced to modify to the later cyrilic script as a result of pressures from Greece.
No no, I cannot follow you in this way of explaining. As I tried to say it before, Cyril's alphabet is NOT very new and modern : it is incredibly close to greek manuscripts written around 50 years earlier (You have to remember that the greek uncial of the 9th Century is very far of modern greek, and had more letters). In my opinion, the graphical form of one or two glagolitic letters may have been influenced (but only influenced) by some exchanges between Europe and Africa, but nothing more.

After all, even if Alexandria was a patriarchate, it was more and more difficult for greek travellers to get there after the islamic conquest, and to study alexandrian culture (i. e. monophysitic culture, i.e. heretic culture from the orthodox point of view).

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Glagolitic and ethiopic scripts

Post by Duncan » 25 Sep 2005 20:55

Many thanks for taking the time to explain the linguistic aspects of these fascinating scripts, Sisyphe. I much appreciate it! And, Tom, I fully appreciate your comment regarding difficulties in travel once Islam had taken hold. Indeed this was the main reason that Ethiopia remained a hidden empire for so long, as it resisted numerous invasions right up until the 19th Century, and therefore probably did not travel much themselves at the time of Saint Cyril (despite the fact that the Ethiopian Christian Emperor of the time gave refuge to Mohammed when he was being persecuted).

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Re: Link between glagolitic script and amharic/ge'ez?

Post by Toni Andjelkovic » 12 Aug 2014 23:34

Duncan wrote:When I first saw Glagolitic script in Croatia, it was so much like Amharic script that I was convinced that there must be a connection. However, since Glagolitic script dates from the 9th Century AD, and Ge'ez (on which Amharic is based) dates from well before BC, one would have to conclude that Glagolitic was derived from Ge'ez (or some parent form of it. Has there ever been any research into this?
I'm the opposite of Duncan, I have encountered Glagolitic first while growing up in Yugoslavia. Recently, I have seen a picture showing a billboard with Amharic text written in Ge'ez vocal script. Like Duncan, I was instantly reminded of Glagolitic.

The origins of the Glagolitic alphabet have been researched for more than 200 years. Astonishingly, there is no mention of Ge'ez, although many other Semitic alphabets have been considered. It is held that Glagolitic is based on the Greek minuscule script. For those glyphs that could not be explained by Greek, other alphabets have been proposed as the source: Hebrew, Samaritan, Syriac, Avestan, Coptic, Sassanid (Parthian?), Georgian, Gothic and others.

IMO the Cyrillic and Glagolitic scripts closely resemble their oriental Christian counterparts, the Coptic and Ge'ez scripts. Constantine/Cyril, the presumed author of the Glagolitic alphabet, bears the name of St. Cyril of Alexandria, a 5th century church father and patriarch with jurisdiction over the Aksumite Ethiopian church. Coptic and Ge'ez bible translations were known in Constantine/Cyril's time, and as a librarian in Constantinople he could have been aware of them.

Cyrillic looks mostly like Coptic, and is probably only indirectly based on Greek, as is widely assumed. In addition to the Greek letters, Coptic contains additional letters, which have been adapted for Slavic phonemes foreign to Greek. Additionally, both Cyrillic and Glagolitic appear to have been supplemented with Ge'ez glyphs. The many similarities are striking:

Code: Select all

GLAGOLITIC      CYRILLIC        COPTIC          OLD COPTIC      ETHIOPIC
----------      --------        ------          ----------      --------
                BE (Б)          SHIMA (Ϭ)
                DZE (Ѕ)         SOU (Ⲋ)
                ZE (З)          ZATA (Ⲍ)        HORI (Ⳍ)
                ZHE (Ж)                         OOU (Ⲿ)
                YAT (Ѣ)                                         TEE (ቴ)
                CHE (Ч)         FEI (Ϥ)                         HAA (ሃ)
                YER (Ь)         KHEI (Ϧ)
                DJERV (Ꙉ)                                       SA (ሰ)
                YUS(Ѫ)                                          HHA (ሐ)
AZU (Ⰰ)                         DEI (Ϯ)                         TA (ተ)
BUKY (Ⰱ)                        SHEI (Ϣ)                       SZE (ሥ)
SHTA (Ⱋ)        SHCHA (Щ)       SHEI (Ϣ)                       SZO (ሦ)
ZHIVETE (Ⰶ)                     GANGIA (Ϫ)
SHA (Ⱎ)         SHA (Ш)                                         SZA (ሠ)
TVRIDO (Ⱅ)                                                      MA (መ)
TSI (Ⱌ)                                                         LEE (ሌ)
FRITU (Ⱇ)                                                       QA (ቀ)
MYSLITE (Ⰿ)                                                     SHA (ሸ)
RITSI (Ⱃ)                                                       RA (ረ)
Another hint on the Ge'ez heritage in Glagolitic is the apparent use of vocal dashes, which sometimes preserve their Ge'ez phonetic value:

NASHI (Ⱀ)
POKOJI (Ⱂ)
UKU (Ⱆ), similar to the Greek digraph ου (Cyrillic UK (Ѹ or Ꙋ))
YERU (Ⱏ) vs. YERI (Ⱐ)
SMALL YUS (Ⱔ) vs. SMALL YUS WITH TAIL (Ⱕ)
FITA (Ⱚ)

Like Duncan, I am convinced that there might be a connection between Ge'ez and Glagolitic, because it fits the historical and cultural background. But this theory does not explain many other exotic characters in Glagolitic, like I (Ⰻ), SLOVO (Ⱄ), DZELO (Ⰷ), YO (Ⱖ) and others.

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