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Genealogy of scripts derived from Proto-Sinaitic: Wikis


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Spread of Indic branch of Proto-Sinaitic writing systems from India to Eastern Asia. Note that 'Nepali' on the map is not the Nepali language or its script; also the spread of Siddham is not associated with the evolution of Chinese or Japanese writing systems.

Nearly all the worldwide segmental scripts -- which can loosely be described as "alphabets"[1] -- appear to have derived from the Proto-Sinaitic alphabet. Also called the Middle Bronze Age alphabets due to their era of origin (c. 2000-1500 BCE), Proto-Sinaitic first appeared in Canaan, Sinai and Egypt during the Middle Bronze Age, and were adapted from Egyptian hieroglyphs. A possibly independent alphabet, Meroitic, was also adapted from Egyptian hieroglyphs, and therefore may be a cousin to the Proto-Sinaitic family.

Descendants of the Proto-Sinaitic alphabet include the Latin alphabet, which is used to write many modern languages; but also includes such disparate cousins as the writing systems of Hebrew; Arabic; runes; Ethiopic; Devanagari writing of India; the native scripts of the Philippines and Indonesia; possibly, to a limited degree, Korean Hangul[2]; and perhaps Cree "syllabics". There are also syllabic systems derived superficially from these alphabets, such as Cherokee and the Japanese Sign Language syllabary.

Only a few alphabets are not graphically derived from this family of scripts, including Ol Chiki (for Santali); Zhuyin (Chinese phonics); Tāna (Maldivian); and the extinct Ogham (Old Irish) and semi-alphabetic Old Persian cuneiform scripts. Some of the other writing systems unrelated to the Proto-Sinaitic family were constructed, such as N'Ko (Bambara) and Braille.


Many of these scripts are no longer widely used for writing any language today, having been abandoned in favor of others; those still in use are have been marked in bold.

The dates are intended to show the approximate "birthdate" of a script; however in many cases (marked by 'c.') they are widely approximate, and may be off even by centuries. In several cases, the development of one script into another was a gradual process over several centuries, that is difficult to pin down with precision. Following that date, in parentheses, is the name of one or two modern countries corresponding to the region where the script was first widely used. In a few cases, a direct graphic letter-to-letter correspondence cannot be precisely established between a 'parent script' and its children, making the exact placement of some family members somewhat controversial, e.g. in the case of the Georgian alphabet.

Much of the information here was compiled from the "Ancient Scripts" and "Omniglot" websites, which do not always agree.


  1. ^ Despite many of these scripts commonly being called "alphabets", the recent linguistic classifications of abugidas and semi-syllabaries are shown in Italic in the Genealogy list; the others listed are abjads or alphabets proper.
  2. ^ Some scholars, including Gari Ledyard, believe that the core consonants of Hangul were taken from the earlier Phagspa script, with the other consonants derived from these. See Gari Ledyard for more complete information.

See also

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