Semitic's vowel-smuggling consonants - History of Writing Systems #9 (Pointing & Matres Lectionis)

Video

John Horgan
by NativLang
published on 12 October 2017
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Semitic languages like Hebrew and Arabic evolved a unique way to write vowels... with consonants! See how in this episode of Thoth's Pill: an Animated History of Writing.

You're back in the ancient Middle East, where seemingly everyone's been passing around the Phoenician consonant alphabet. There's a problem with this abjad - sometimes those missing vowels cause issues. Instead of inventing vowels (like the Greeks did in the last episode), Semitic speakers use some of their consonants for vowels, too! This is the birth of "matres lectionis".

But that's not nearly enough for pickier scribes. See bickering scribes come up with a more detailed system, a system of vowel marks - dots and dashes surrounding consonants. These vowel pointers (harakat in Arabic, niqqud in Hebrew) explicitly indicate which consonants are followed by which vowels.

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APA Style

NativLang, . (2017, October 12). Semitic's vowel-smuggling consonants - History of Writing Systems #9 (Pointing & Matres Lectionis). World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.worldhistory.org/video/1299/semitics-vowel-smuggling-consonants---history-of-w/

Chicago Style

NativLang, . "Semitic's vowel-smuggling consonants - History of Writing Systems #9 (Pointing & Matres Lectionis)." World History Encyclopedia. Last modified October 12, 2017. https://www.worldhistory.org/video/1299/semitics-vowel-smuggling-consonants---history-of-w/.

MLA Style

NativLang, . "Semitic's vowel-smuggling consonants - History of Writing Systems #9 (Pointing & Matres Lectionis)." World History Encyclopedia. World History Encyclopedia, 12 Oct 2017. Web. 16 Oct 2021.