= Pictorial Hebrew for "Jews of
There was no evidence of Pictorial script (ie: what secular scholars refer to as the first so-called Proto Sinaitic Alphabet forms) amongst the Jews of Yemen (that I am aware of). Although there is early archaeological evidence that it existed. In terms of how pictographs started, some secular scholars conjecture that it was invented by western Semites (specifically slaves who were in constant site of Egyptian hieroglyphs). Regardless of who influenced the start, these pictographs started to be used to represent first sound of each (pictured) word. This is called acrophony and most scholars consider this the first step in the development of an ALPHABET or the "One Sign-One sound" system of writing. Several similar pictographic inscriptions were also found outside of Egypt (in Israel), three of which (from Shechem, Gezer and Lachish) are earlier than the Proto-Sinaitic inscriptions. These were found on sherds and jars. Others were found on seals, daggers and javelin heads.
Eventually, this started to develop into simplified linear letters, which secular scholars subjectively (and prejudicially) labeled "Proto-Canaanite"... According to (most) current researchers in the field, this is the source for all alphabetic scripts - which later spread throughout the entire world. According to the Hebrews, some form of this system originated at Sinai, and had nothing to do with Canaan.
According to western scholars, the Proto-Canaanite system was the first consonantal Alphabet --rather than a syllabic system. However, others argue that it was still a syllabic system at that point. Either way, the term "Alphabet" implies a limited number of letters (twenty to thirty) listed in a fixed order. The individual value of each letter is not important to the definition. Proto-Canaanite (as it was/is called) was clearly an Alphabet script.
At this point, the scholarship really starts to get hairy. According to popular notions, this script then produced other scripts - one of which is called the Phoenician script. At some point, the Proto-Canaanite script was reduced to only 22 (main) letters. Subsequently, they were than linearized and set in a right-to-left orientation. After these changes were accomplished, that script is now SUBJECTIVELY referred to as Phoenician script by western scholars.
Questions: Why credit the Phoenicians with this script? Surely, their enterprising maritime trading culture help to spread language (and perhaps this script) across the Mediterranean. However, why should the messengers so easily receive the credit?
To start with, they are (were) not the Canaanites, as is commonly popularized. Interestingly enough, there is no original word for Phoenicians in Hebrew (modern or ancient).
Part of the answer to the above questions lie in the writings of ancient Greco/ Roman writers. In some of these writings, the Phoenicians became popularized as the heroic introducers of the alphabetic system to Greece & Rome. Although others, like Diodorus Siculus and Pliny claimed it was actually of Assyrian origin, the former idea caught on. Still other Greeks recorded even different origins.
Unfortunately, the concept of the Phoenicians, as the "Alphabetical originators" of most ancient peoples/nations in that geographical area, was now set...
In our assessment, this is just as prejudicial as referring to (re-labeling) the entire land of Israel by the term Palestine. Even though there is no historic basis, the ancients hated (and still hate) Jewish ideas and people. An entire article by rabbi Michael Bar Ron that deals with this subject (and others) can be found at this link. Also, his article examines an ancient Jewish martial arts system that demonstrates a unique recollection and use of the script in question.
Thankfully, this field is slowly starting to change, as more (in your face) inscriptions continue to push back the Hebrew envelope (in terms of JEWISH inscription content). It is our belief that Hebrew was actually the first linear Alphabet ever known to man, and was brought to the world by the Hebrew people. However, this can not yet be proved. We pray this will change soon. Either way, to leave things sit with these blatantly biased (unproved) terms is disgusting and has nothing to do with true scholarship.
In our assessment, the false assumption that the Hebrews adopted Phoenician from Canaanites, and not the other way around, received most of its platform from the popularity of Greek writers on the subject.
Meanwhile, other scripts (like Proto Arabic) apparently get a free ride, and are said to have broken off prior to these developments, depending on which secular scholars you believe.
What About The Modern Day Hebrew (Square) Script?
Even as most Jewish intellectuals accept revisionist history as a part of our past and present reality, this still leaves many questions - in terms of how our current square Hebrew script came to be. But there are answers:
For a discussion of the three legally valid (and thus wide open) views on the origins of our two different types of Hebrew scripts (from Jewish sources)... click here.
Rav Sa'adya Gaon (flourished roughly 1100 years ago as a revered post-Talmudic sage) in his commentary to Sefer Yesira (p. 74 onwards) states the following facts:
1) There are 29 consonantal sounds in our language (22+7). No two letters are identical, with the exception of 'sin' and 'samekh'.
2) The letters of our aleph beth are identical to those of (classical) Arabic, unless otherwise stated.
3) We possess four sounds that Arabic does not: Veth, Gimmel, Pe and the strong (or second) pronuncition of Resh.
4) The Arabs have three that we lack: Jin, a second, deeper version of our dotted Daleth, and a second, deeper version of our undotted Daleth. The very same information is imparted to us by R. Du
ALTHOUGH IN OTHER PLACES-- The Gimal without the dot was pronounced differently. The Temanim use a J. The Bavlim use a G. The point is that both recognize two sounds depending on whether there is a dagesh.