Saturday, April 15, 2006

Additions to the Myanmar Script in Unicode

I was surfing the internet looking for more on the diæresis (note that I have used the more correct U+00E6 today) when I received notification of a proposal that included this dear little thing. Not a diæresis after all, it is the proposed character MYANMAR VOWEL SIGN GEBA KAREN I U+1097.

The usual MYANMAR VOWEL SIGN I is U+102D. (I have just used Babelmap to confirm that I am reading this correctly.)

The argument reads that since both vowel signs can appear together in text, albeit a grammar text, they need to be represented by different codepoints, so the different glyph (shape) can be represented in plain text, and not just by a different font.

The entire document was recently released here. Preliminary proposal for encoding Karen, Shan, and Kayah characters in the UCS.

Here is a text from this document showing the Karen vowel sign I and the Myanmar vowel sign I. I recommend the entire document. Many new characters are proposed.

Update: The previous title 'Myanmar Block Unicode Proposal' was truly terrible. I was thinking that it was the Mayanmar 'block' in Unicode, not necessarily only Myanmar 'users' of the script. Then I went back to change the title and my wonderful spam blocker shut me out of blogger for a while. Thanks Paul for mentioning this.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Windows Character Map

I was reading Language Hat's post on the peace jacket and let me tell you, I am very glad I am knitting my socks with variegated wool. There is no way I can have pretensions with something like that. I even paid money for a pattern instead of googling or making it up myself - ouch.

However, I always forget where to find all those letters with accents and whatnot on short notice so here is a reminder. The Windows Character Map can help with all this stuff. I have set it at the font with the widest range, MS Reference Sans Serif. There is the letter s with hook, but you can read the unicode name on the map. The character map is under programs> accessories> system tools. And this page is the best for finding a copy and paste letter when you need it. I will add it to my resources in the sidebar.

But most people really do just find a piece of text elsewhere and copy and paste. It took me a while to figure that out.

History of the Diæresis

Rather than leaping into a search for the best way to keyboard Coptic, I have decided to step back and examine each of the three necessary diacritics in the Coptic alphabet first. These three are the diaeresis, the overline denoting a nomina sacra or abbreviation, and the jinkim which looks like a macron and gives the consonant a syllabic quality. There are other diacritics but these three occur most often in the manuscripts and have such a diverse and obscure history that I think I will start here and not worry about the others for now.

The papyri in this image, P52, represents the earliest dated instance of the diaresis that I have been able to find. This fragment is a portion of the crucifixion story and is dated 125 - 150 CE.

In this case the diaeresis is at the beginning of a word. In the second line the text reads 'oudena ina' and the diaeresis serves to indicate that the 'i' is pronounced separately from the 'a'. It actually begins a new word and new clause. There also appears to be a trace of a diaereis on the third letter of the top line.

This is the only discussion of the early history of the diaresis that I have found.

    [U]ndoubtedly the occurrence of diaeresis and the omission of iota adscript can be used as criteria of date and, comparatively rare at the beginning of the second century, were increasing in frequency with each successive decade. Statistics for these phenomena do not appear to have been collected (a systematic investigation of the subject might be of some value for palaeography), but such search as it has been possible to make shows that the date assigned to 1 is not affected by them.

    The use of diaeresis over i or u was exceedingly rare till the second century, but it was not entirely unknown before then. Originally introduced to distinguish as separately pronounced a vowel accompanying another vowel with which it would otherwise make a diphthong, the usage was soon extended to vowels standing alone, and therefore became meaningless.

    It is only the latter use which is relevant to the present case. P. Fay. 110 (A.D. 94) contains in euu`perbaton (l. 9) and twi i`diwi (l. 2) instances of diaeresis which, though an extension of the original use, cannot be regarded as wholly incorrect, since adjoining vowels are being distinguished; but i`na (ibid., 11.6, 9) is a clear case of the incorrect use, dusi u`dasi (l. 17) is at best a further extension of the use in euu`perbaton and twi i`diwi.

    Systematic search might perhaps reveal other early examples, but so far as the statistics collected are concerned there are none in exactly dated documents before A.D. 110. (From Fragments of an Unknown Gospel )
The article goes on to discuss the 'correct' versus the 'incorrect' way to use the diaeresis, which seems like a tedious approach to me. I am relieved to find in antiquity the occasional lack of respect for rigid spelling standards.

I have also scanned through pages of prechristian papyri without finding the shadow of a diaeresis. I would love to hear more about this history and earlier diaereses if they exist.

Update: I misspelled diaeresis in the title and almost left it but 'diaresis' doesn't google as well as
'dieresis' or 'diaeresis.'

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Coptic Writing System

The first image is the name 'Judas' from the third/ fourth century (?) manuscript the Gospel of Judas written in Coptic. The second is 'Judas' from the Codex Alexandrinus, a major fifth century Greek New Testament manuscript in the British Library.

Just to be clear. I am not commenting on these manuscripts other than describing the script they are written in. They are both written in Greek Uncials. To scholars studying these manuscripts, these two documents appear to be written in the same writing system, and they are. However, the Coptic script has a few more letters.

Greek letter shapes changed over the centuries and the uncials are no longer used, even for copies of the Greek New Testament. They exist in manuscripts studied in museums. Coptic, however, did not evolve in the same direction. The Coptic church still uses a system which resembles the Greek uncials. This website is posted in English and Coptic, so there it is on the web, the Coptic writing system.

The Coptic and Greek writing systems were disunified in Unicode last year. Yesterday, I linked to the two relevant Unicode blocks. Scroll to the bottom of this page for a discussion on the disunification.

I haven't tried a google search yet - some other time. You should google 'Gospel of Judas' in English, not Coptic, to read all about it. For more on Coptic with images of other manuscripts see this site.

Now, to get down to business. I am having a few of the usual problems. I did not include the diacritics in my image in yesterdays post. The three that should have been included are the combining diaeresis U+ 0308 , the combining macron U+ 0304 and the combining overline U+0305. The combining overline was perfect and I will use it sometime. But I could not get the other two in the right place. I am hoping for help on this.

I even tried to select text from the PDF file supplied by the National Geographic Society and, of course, do I need to say this. It appears to be a precomposed non-Unicode font. Then I went back to the Tenaspi Remenkimi site and it isn't Unicode either.

So the Coptic writing system appears on the net. It is visible and it is in the process of being implemented as a Unicode writing system. It will be interesting to watch.

Please comment if you can add to or correct any of this information. Or just to say "Hi".

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Gospel of Judas

These are the first three lines from the Gospel of Judas. (PDF) I watched the news conference tonight and then found the National Geographic site. I wasn't able to open the actual manuscript image pages at the time so I decided to work with the font.

I downloaded and installed the New Athena Unicode font from Dave McCreedy's Gallery of Unicode Fonts and copied these lines for myself below. The Coptic alphabet is found in the Coptic Unicode block and the Greek and Coptic block. Five of the seven characters in the Greek and Coptic block were necessary for this text. These letters are basic to Coptic, so don't lose them. Just so you know, it you are looking to input Coptic. Use both blocks. The disunification of Coptic from Greek in Unicode just occurred in the past year.

My text is below, a simple exercise in order to figure out where I would find the different characters. They are basically in the same order as Greek with a few others characters like U+03E2 : COPTIC CAPITAL LETTER SHEI and U+03E4 : COPTIC CAPITAL LETTER FEI.

I copied out the name of Judas Iscariot underneath the text here - this name can be seen at the end of the second line and the beginning of the third line.

One thing I did find was that it was much easier to copy a known name than the rest of the text. The text is in the Sahidic Coptic, the major literary variety of Coptic.

I couldn't access the actual images of the manuscript when I started out this evening, however, they are available and on a second try I was able to view a few select pages here. Some excerpts of the English text are here.

The National Geographic special is on this Sunday, April 9. Great previews of old manuscripts on the news tonight.

Update: Here is where you can download a Coptic keyboard.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Left-to-Right Marker

The Left to Right marker is no great mystery. I knew it was there but I seem to have no ability to remember anything that I have not used. So now it is in the mix. Fortunately Mike has just written about (U+200e) here. This page will give all 15o ways to input the character. It somehow managed to be placed in the 'punctuation' block - I would never have thought of looking for it there.

Now the question is, where is it on the Windows Hebrew keyboard? There were various suggestions that I found scattered on the internet, things like alt + left shift, and shift + backspace, but I was not successful with these. However, entering code was successful.

I would be vaguely interested, just the same, in whether there is a one keystroke entry for the left-to-right marker, lrm, on the Hebrew keyboard, just so I can record google search result counts for bidi languages, you understand.

I started this post a couple of days ago. In the meantime I have had a little discussion about certain letters in the Greek range, i.e. stigma and others, that do not appear on the Greek keyboard. I have now put a link in the sidebar to the Unicode Character Search, which gives details on how to enter a character by code in different applications. Mike has had this link on his blog from the beginning and I simply did not follow it till now.

I am getting used to the idea of entering a character by code. This represents progress for me. It was probably only 6 months ago that I made fun of the idea of entering a character by its codepoint, which just goes to show that you should never give up on someone, especially yourself.

I started keyboarding with children about three years ago and looked at technology from their perspective. I would never have gone beyond that if not for one circumstance. I was sitting in a staff meeting one September watching the volunteer signup list make its way around the room. When it got to me there were two blanks left - coach of the basketball team and webmaster. I gulped and chose the latter. The fact that I had just learned to use email that same month did not seem to be an impediment.

It feels good to be back - this is better than jigsaw puzzles. As someone else said, I have no idea what all this is about but I enjoy it anyway. That makes two of us.

PS Language Hat has recently posted about Balashon a new website about Hebrew.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Update on the Tel Zayit Abecedary

On March 8, 2006, Dr. Ron Tappy made a further presentation on the Tel Zayit abecedary. Here are some details from the Tel Zayit website which correspond to his talk.
    1. The Tel Zayit finding is an inscription that bears the oldest known securely datable example of an abecedary, that is, the letters of the alphabet written out from beginning to end in their traditional sequence.

    2. The inscribed stone might have been built into the wall because of the ancient belief in the alphabet's magical or apotropaic power, that is, its ability to ward off evil.

    3. The stone bearing the Tel Zayit Inscription comprised part of a wall belonging to a structure that dates to the late tenth century BCE.

    4. Preliminary results suggest that in the tenth century BCE Tel Zayit was associated with the highland culture of southern Canaan, not the coastal culture of the Philistine plain, and therefore it very well may have functioned as part of the new state being formed by Kings David and Solomon, with its capital at Jerusalem.

    5.. The early appearance of literacy at Tel Zayit will play a pivotal role in the current discussion of the archaeology and history of Israel and Judah in the tenth century BCE.

    6..It raises the possibility that formal scribal training at the outlying site of Tel Zayit was a result of a rapidly developing Israelite bureaucracy in Jerusalem.
Some find that there is a series of abstract leaps here from one thing to another. I find that the extension from the original inscription on stone to a bureacracy is somewhat bold. Maybe they both existed, but the connection seems tenuous.

Here are four statements from the Wikipedia entry.
    1. It was found in-situ in a stratum dated to the 10th century BCE by a fire dated to approximately 900 BCE.

    2. Until this discovery, critics could say inhabitants of this region at this period were illiterate and could not have recorded events mentioned in the Bible.

    3. It not only preserves writing--simple graffiti--but an abecedary, an educational tool for literate people (although there are 4 pairs of letters swapped from their traditional alphabetic order, and possibly 2 other misplaced letters were aborted; indications that reflect negatively on the scribe's skill level).

    4. The site is located in a region not central to the government of the Israelite monarchy (Jerusalem), which suggests that if people in this agricultural community could write, certainly people in the government were equally capable.
However, Paul Iverson, of Case Western Reserve University recently sent an e-mail regarding Dr. Tappy's March 8th presentation at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Iverson has a particular interest in Greek epigraphy and philology. He sent this email to Chris Heard on Higgaion.

Iverson states,

    His arguments that this inscription is an abecedarium that provides evidence for an alternate official order (I can't understand the claim on the website of a "traditional sequence" since it clearly isn't the traditional order as Tappy pointed out several times) of the letters is also rather rash.

    I would offer two other more likely explanations: either it was a novice who was practicing and thus made mistakes (quite common on Greek examples), or it was someone who was more concerned with practicing the shapes of the letters rather than the order (i.e., it's not really meant to be a abecedarium).

    I incline toward the latter explanation as the letters seemed to be of high quality. Some scribe who's interested in practicing or giving an example of his letter strokes does not worry so much about inscribing them deeply or in their proper order - just give them all and inscribe them deep enough to practice the shapes. Again, on comparative material from the Greek world, one often finds abecedaria with peculiar orders in the letters or shapes, even as late as the fifth century BCE.
And he sums up his arguments as follows,

    To recap: the inscription was probably reused into the wall without some apotropaic [magical]purpose, hence it cannot simply be assumed to date at the time the wall was built -- rather it dates before the wall was built.

    Only a small fraction of the Tell has been excavated, so it cannot yet be claimed with certainty that there was nothing going there in the 11th century and thus that inscription has to be during the 10th century.

    It was found in a context where there was both coastal and highland culture so as of yet, so far as I could tell, it cannot fairly be claimed to incline toward the highland (i.e., it cannot be said to be the earliest example of a Hebrew alphabet).

    It cannot even be said that this was meant to be an abecedarium in the sense that it was used to display the official order of the letters of the alphabet, since we do not know the purpose of it.
There is a post on Abnormal Interests on the order of the inscription, and Dr. Joe Cathey comments here. An ealrier post on Higgaion makes some excellent points.

I would like to add my own little comment. I worked for several years on a study of literacy among the James Bay Cree. There are many conflicting and contradictory theories on the origins of this literate tradition, and I think some of them could possibly be cleared up in my lifetime. But that story starts in the 1800's .

Note: Image from the NY Times.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Byzantine Fonts (Beta)

Click on this image to enlarge. This quotation is from Aristotle as quoted in a 1724 edition of Erasmus' Colloquies. The font is from Vernon Kooy. Translation help is requested. I can't find the original text. I can get the gist of this but haven't been able to come up with a word of mouth translation that would be acceptable to the good grammarian.

After looking at the charts of all 650 characters in this beautiful font many Byzantine manuscripts have become less opaque. This is simply the best resource for Byzantine ligatures that I have ever seen. I can spread out all the ligatures in front of me for comparison, and there are even some tachygraphy characters included. More about these later.

Here is a description from its creator.

    The name of this font is Rgreekl, which stands for Renaissance Greek with Ligatures. It is a large font with approximately 650 characters and uses Unicode WGL4 numbering to accommodate the number of characters. However, It is not a Unicode font. It is beta encoded similar to other Greek fonts which use beta encoding.
    This font is freeware and may be used and distributed freely. I retain the copyright, however, in order to make improvements, expand it, or otherwise come out with an improved version. It is not an imitation of any particular font such as those of Robert Estienne, Holbein or Aldus Manutius. It is rather a composite font which incorporates many glyphs (sorts) from each of the many early printers.

    It is hoped that this font gains a modest distribution and not be a mere curiosity. The font is meant to imitate early printed Greek from the age of incunabula to the end of the 18th century. It is not the intention of this font to make Greek any more difficult or obscure than it already is for beginning students. The font is essentially a font for scholars.
    This font is organized in such a way that it can be used either as a standard Greek font or a font with Ligatures. The basic Latin section contains control codes and keyboard characters for standard Greek with ligatures for kai\, ou and ou=. The Latin supplement section contains Unicode control codes, prepositional prefixes, alternate letter forms and essential diacriticals. These two sections are all that is necessary to write Greek in a Renaissance style. The Latin extended A section is used for two or three letter combinations which more adequately imitate the style of Renaissance typesetters. The Latin extended B section contains characters which are variants of those given in the previous section as well as some characters from earlier minuscule forms (used in some Renaissance fonts), entire words found in most Renaissance printed books and a number of combining characters used to make up other ligatures not previously included.
    The main source I used for this font was initially the Portus edition of Proclus Diadochus' Platonic Theology published in Frankfurt in 1618. In addition I have used and consulted various internet sources and the articles by Coleman, Ingram and Wallace as well as a number of books printed by Stephanus, Holbein, Manutius and Sheldon Theater.
    I cannot say that this font is complete in the sense that every Renaissance Ligature is represented; many early printers had at least 500 sorts in their boxes and some had more than a thousand. The Renaissance printers imitated the minuscule current at their time, and the glyphs they used were determined by the minuscule. Thus this font can also be used as a late minuscule font.
    If there is any sort (Glyph) conspicuously missing which the user finds essential, I would appreciate hearing from him/her in that regard, since I think a font of this type is never fully finished and is of necessity a work in progress.
I use Babelmap to input this font. In my opinion Babelmap is an essential Unicode Input Utility tool which handles any font easily. It is easy to view and manipulate fonts visually with Babelmap. Download Babelmap here. Please email me, my email is in my profile, and I will give you Vernon Kooy's email address.

Update: Here is the text from the image above. . However, there are a couple of words and forms I cannot identify.

οτι μανθανουσιν Επισταμενοι τα γαρ αποστοματιζομενα μανθανουσιν οι Γραμματικοι το γαρ μανθανειν ομωνυμον το τε ξυνιεναι χρωμενον τη επιστημη και το λαμβανειν την επιστημην

PS: I am going to come back to the Left to Right Marker LRM tomorrow.

Update: I have corrected some of my rather careless errors. Next, I am posting Simon's Unicode text for this and a link for the original text. Thanks, Simon.

Ὅτι μανθανουσιν οἱ ἘπιϚάμενοι· τἀ γαρ ἀποϚοματιζόμενα μανθάνουσιν οἱ Γραμματικοί· τό γαρ μανθάνειν ὁμώνυμον, τό τε ξυνιέναι χρώμενον τῇ ἘπιϚήμῃ, ϰ τό λαμβάνειν τ ἘπιϚήμην.

Hebrew Searches

My garden has gone untended too long. The box of chocolates sits by my computer and has not been passed around. The embroidery threads lie unsewn and the yarn is not knit.

My most sincere apologies. It is not for lack of material that I have been away. Many of the more curious items still await assembly. But an old problem reemerges tonight.

I was working on Hebrew vowels, which are happily keyed in on this online keyboard, second interface here. I have just conducted a google search of אֶרֶץ country, and then of ארץ. Now, no one has told me that they should be the same and maybe it doesn't matter. Nonetheless, I do like to know these things.

For אֶרֶץ there were 45,200 results in Google Israel, and for ארץ there were 3,800,000 results. (I am having some interesting problems here with the right-to-left business, because I really wanted to write the number '3,740,000' to the left of the Hebrew word but I was not able to. The numerics were attached to the Hebrew in a right-to-left sequence. I have to wonder if there is an override that can be used for the right-to-left algorithm. )

Well, this was not what I would call a delectable post. Maybe next time.

Hebrew Dictonary is here.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Roman Shorthand: Tironian Notes

I have accepted that I must simply work at improving my reading knowledge of German. This shouldn't be impossible since I once studied German and spent one summer with a family near Tübingen. However, no polished German translations are about to turn up here under my authourship.

This is the first 20 words of Psalm 12:6-7 * in Tironian notes. The best resource that I have found so far on Tironian notes is Boge's Griechische Tachygraphie and this site with images of a manuscript by Karl Eberhard Henke. This will keep me busy for a while.

Tironian Notes are attributed to Tiro, who worked for Cicero. The National Court Reporters Assocation has a great article on The History of Shorthand By Anita Kreitzman. Here is the section on Roman shorthand.

"Shorthand in ancient Rome seems to have appeared as early as 200 B.C. with the poet Quintas Ennius, who devised a system of 1,100 signs. But it was not until Plutarch in 63 B.C. that definite and indisputable evidence of the use of shorthand is recorded. He writes of the debate on the Catilinian conspiracy that was recorded in shorthand in the Roman Senate as the famous orator Cicero expounded his views.

It is interesting that Cicero was indirectly responsible for the method of shorthand devised by Tiro. Tiro was a slave of Rome and had been granted his freedom by Marcus Tullius Cicero. Upon becoming a freedman he adopted the first two names of his master and thereafter was known as Marcus Tullius Tiro. Highly educated, "he then became Cicero's secretary and confidant," and as such had the opportunity and fortunately the intelligence and skill to invent a system of shorthand that was to be used in the Roman Senate and as a basis for future shorthand systems. Initially, his system involved abbreviations of the more popular words with the remainder of the text filled in from memory using context clues. Not a very accurate method, but Tiro continued to improve on his system by devising further abbreviations for common sentences and phrases used by the orators of the day. He is also credited with inventing the ampersand, which is still in use today.

In the Curia, as many as 40 shorthand writers were stationed in the different areas. They recorded what they could and their transcripts were then compared and compiled in order to record the complete orations of such greats as Cicero and Julius Caesar. Today, in our own Congress, a similar system is used except that the reporters work in relays.

Famous writers such as Horace, Livy, Ovid, Martial, Pliny, Facitus and Suetonius make mention of shorthand in ancient Rome. Julius Caesar, himself, was proficient in shorthand. And to be proficient in shorthand was not an easy task.

The ancient Roman scribe did not have paper, pen, pencil or ink. How, then, did they record the events? The medium was a tablet with raised edges covered with a wax layer. As many as 20 such tablets could be fastened together to form a book. A stylus, similar to a pencil, was used for the actual writing. The point was ivory or steel, the other end flat in order to easily smooth the wax when the notes were no longer needed and a new tablet required. Ironically, it was with such instruments that Caesar was stabbed to death. Had Caesar the foresight to see his fate, perhaps he would not have pursued his interest in shorthand.

Others who demonstrated an avid interest in shorthand writing included Titus Vespasian Caesar, who was so skilled at shorthand that he participated in "contests for wagers and personally taught the art to his stepson," and Augustus Octavianus, an expert shorthand writer who "appointed three classes of stenographers for the imperial government." He considered the skill so important that he taught it to his grandchildren. And even Seneca, the great orator and philosopher, who became so fascinated with shorthand that he improved Tiro's system by adding several thousand abbreviations of his own."

Somehow I could not abreviate this article and extract the interesting parts - it is all too fascinating. I am off to study Karl Eberhard Henke.


Image is from "Du Charactère Sténographique de Toute Écriture." Yves Duhoux. Studia Minora Facultatis Philosophicae Universitatis Brunensis N 6-7, 2001-2002. Unfortunately Duhoux does not give the location for the Latin manuscript but it was also mentioned in M. Proux. 1910. Manuel de paléographie latine et française. Album. Paris.

Karl Eberhard Henke:Tironische Noten. MGH-Bibliothek Hs. B 16. Digitale Ed. [Manuskript ca. 1954] / Konzeption u. Bildbearbeitung: Arno Mentzel-Reuters

Boge, Hebert. Griechische Tachygraphie und Tironische Noten. 1973. Akademie Verlag. Berlin.

Friday, December 23, 2005

William Moon Blind Alphabet

This is the Moon writing system from the early 1840's in England. It is still in use by a limited number of older people in England..

Below is the Cree syllabary. The characters for the p, t, ch, m series are in the same order as the Moon alphabet, when it is grouped by shape. The Cree p,t,k,ch finals also appear as a group in the Moon alphabet.

The fact that these two systems are so similar cannot be a coincidence. These systems appeared within two years of each other, 1841 in Canada and 1843, in England. I suggest that they had a common ancestor in the shorthand descended from John Willis shorthand.

The Moon Code, as it is known, was invented in England between 1843 and 1847 by William Moon who was himself blind. The Moon code was a full alphabetic orthography in which each symbol stood for a letter of the Roman alphabet. However, is is taught by organizing the symbols into an arrangment of similar shapes. It is still used today.

A direct predecessor of the Moon alphabet was the Lucas system. "The script invented in 1832 by Thomas Lucas at Bristol, England, consisting of embossed characters in the sort of symbols used by stenographers, was used in both China and India." The Lucas system can be seen here.

The evolution of Cree from the Frere and Lucas systems has already been written about at Tiro Typeworks.

I am only adding the pieces about the Moon alphabet which shows the order of the symbols, and the John Willis shorthand. More here.

Notes: A Simplified Alphabet. The Ramseyer-Northern Bible Society Museum Collection at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Silver Gospel

Lat night the men were discussing history as usual and the Goths came up in conversation. I mentioned casually that there was a Bible translation into Gothic in the fourth century. They were ruminating on military campaigns. However, one guest paused in thought and said, "Gothic, fourth century - I didn't think it was written that early."

So here it is. This is the Lord's Prayer in the Silver Gospel and there are almost endless internet resources on it. It is officially called the Codex Argenteus and is a copy of the Gothic Bible which was translated by the Gothic bishop Wulfila, who designed the Gothic alphabet.

More about the Codex Argenteus and its significance in studying early Gothic here.

"The manuscript, the Codex argenteus, is probably written in Ravenna during the Ostrogothic empire, and probably for the Ostrogothic king, Theodoric the Great, in the beginning of the sixth century. It is written on very thin purple-coloured vellum of high quality with gold and silver ink. The silver text is dominating, and therefor the manuscript is called the »silver book«, or » codex argenteus «. It was made to be an admirable book, which may be difficult to see today, when hastily looking at its roughly handled remnants in Carolina Rediviva in Uppsala. Probably it originally had a splendid binding with pearls and precious stones. The text of the Silver Bible is one of the oldest and most comprehensive documents in the Gothic language known today. Beside the Silver Bible, there are very few text lines in Gothic handed down to posterity."

Now for the good stuff. There is a Project Wulfila with resources on the Gothic language and each word of the Lord's Prayer above can be read in Gothic and compared to the English and the Greek. The Lord's prayer is in Matt.6:9 starting in the middle of the verse. Notice that the word order of the Gothic follows the word order of the Greek, since it is a very literal translation. Each word of the Gothic is clickable so you can crosscheck. I believe this is the earliest record of a language ancestor to English. (direct ancestor - not PIE)

Notes: The image above is from Alfabetos de Ayer y de Hoy.

Thanks for this comment from Curtis.

Gothic is classified as East Germanic, while English is West Germanic; Gothic is at best a cousin to English, not a direct ancestor. See e.g.,

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

John Willis Shorthand

I confess. I can't remember where I read that X was used for Christ in the 16th century. I'll find it soon. However, as I went through my notes on shorthand I realized that I now have this image. It is the shorthand system developed by John Willis in The Art of Stenographie, 1602. Here X is 'ch'. The question is whether X alone would represent Christ.

The earliest shorthand for English was that of Timothie Bright, 1588. Apart from the basic symbols which are presented in Joanna Drucker's The Alphabetic Labyrinth, I have not seen Bright's system. However, it is possible that X was used for Christ in one or both of these systems.

There is a Bible in the John Willis shorthand system here at University College in London. There are a few other shorthand items there also. One day maybe I will be able to have a look for myself. Any Londoners out there anxious to look at a shorthand Bible from the early 17th century?

Notes: This image of John Willis shorthand is found in World's Writing Systems by Peter T Daniels and William Bright

Monday, December 19, 2005

Merry Xmas

This is a verse from the Bible in James Bay Cree, published in 2001 by the Canadian Bible Society. It says "Then Simon Peter answered, you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. (of God who lives, the son.)" Matthew 16:16

The ninth word from the beginning is X for Christ. The Chi sign X is used for the name of Christ in this New Testament published in 2001. In Unicode it is U+166D : CANADIAN SYLLABICS CHI SIGN.

There is another way to write "Christ" in Cree. Here is a verse of Silent Night in Western Cree. At the beginning of the fourth line Christ’s name is written phonetically. However, ‘r’ is not a Cree sound and the syllabic used for ‘r’ shows that this is a non-Cree word. The double consonants are also foreign to Cree, so the name of Christ is identifiable as a foreign word in Cree when spelled out phonetically.

The use of the Greek letter chi for Christ has a long history. The first shorthand for Christ seems to have been ΧΡΣ P46. This site explains that the Nomina Sacra were used not as abbreviations but to set apart holy words in text.

Two kinds of shorthand were used from the third century up until the 16th century in Greek manuscripts. First, the nomina sacra, where a closed set of frequently occuring siginificant names were abbreviated to create a logographic entity. Second, there were ligatures which shortened or combined two or three letters, especially grammatical endings, later even including the accent in the ligature.

Χριστος has been represented by Χρς, or Χς, and by ΧΡ in art and other representation. I have not found the ΧΡ in manuscripts and would not expect it since the manuscript form always includes the grammatical ending.

A quick glance at some facsimiles of Greek manuscripts* shows that the words ιησους, χριστος, θεος, ανθρωπος, πατερ, ματερ, πνευμα and some other words were represented by their initial and final one or two letters which represent the grammatical ending. This could be ς,υ,ν,οι, ι &c.

For this reason, I am assuming that the transition from Χς to Χ happened with the beginning of the use of the vernacular languages in Europe, when the ending was no longer relevant. There would be no reason to retain the last letter and X alone came to represent Christ. There is also no reason to see a sign of disrespect in the transition from Χς to Χ. And so Xmas first appeared in English texts in the 16th century.

Χ retained the meaning of Christ for those who knew Greek but possibly also in some form of British shorthand at least up until the last century. It occurs in the Cree writing system devised by James Evans in 1841 and now called Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics, pictured at the beginning of this post. It is recognized that Evans drew on his knowledge of early British shorthand for the Cree syllabary. However, he must also have studied Greek so either way he would be familiar with the chi X symbol.

* Barbour, Ruth. Greek Literary Hands. 1981. Clarendon Press. Oxford.

I have previously posted on the use of the Greek chi symbol here and Greek Literary Hands here.


Further information on the Chi sign X and its first use in English are at the folloing links.

This is a general hodgepodge of information but one site claims that Wycliffe used the sign X for Christ. It should be possble to check that out.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Delphi Tablet: Der Erfinder

It is rather slow going on the Delphi tablet. The book is in German and while I have had a generous offer of help on the German, I simply have no idea which part of the book I want to know about most. So I am slogging away, dipping into a little here and there.

The epigram describing the Delphi writing system, or set of indiosyncratic symbols, whatever one wants to call them, is dated "In the time of the Delphic Archon Charixenos." (277/276 BCE) The inventor's name , begins with M. According to Boge, who quotes Bousquet, this must be the philosopher Menedemos of Eritrea, an accomplished politician, teacher, architect, artist and sculptor, who was priest in Delphi at that time.

There seems to be a year or two of variance on these dates so there is some doubt, but that is the best I can do for now.

It is interesting to note that Greek has letters for double consonants like 'ps', 'dz', 'ks', and English still has 'ks'. There isn't much more about the double consonants of Delphi but there is a lot more to learn about classical tachygraphy.

To view previous posts on the Delphi tablet, use the 'search this blog' button and enter "Delphi Tablet".

Thanks for the additional comments, Gary.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Thanks to Don Osborn for mentioning this in qalam.

Old Portuguese in Hebrew Script: convention, contact, and convivência

"This dissertation explores the process undertaken by medieval writers to produce Portuguese-language texts using the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Through detailed philological analyses of five Judeo-Portuguese texts, I examine the strategies by which Hebrew script is adapted to represent medieval Portuguese in the context of other Roman-letter and Hebrew-language writing. I focus on the writing system in order to challenge the conception of such texts as marked or marginal, a view that misleadingly equates language and script.

I argue that the adaptation of Hebrew script for medieval Portuguese is neither derivative of Roman-letter writing nor entirely dependent upon the conventions of written Hebrew. Nor is it an adaptation performed anew by each writer and influenced primarily by spoken language. The perspective I adopt thereby rejects the premise that the patterns manifested in this unconventional orthography are ad hoc creations by its writers, that it requires extra effort from its readers, or that it is less 'native' than the dominant, more conventionalized, Roman-based adaptation that normally bears the title 'written Portuguese.' "

More about Texts in Hebrew Script here.

"Medieval Judeo-Portuguese texts can be found in libraries all around the world. The oldest known document is a treatise on the art of manuscript illumination dating from 1262, written in Portuguese with Hebrew characters – O livro de como se fazem as cores. It is a document of prime importance for the history of Hebrew manuscript illumination, as the instructions contained in the text were used for the illumination of an elaborate Bible manuscript in Corunna, Galicia, in 1476 (Blondheim 1929-1930).

The oldest known liturgical text is a Spanish Mahzor in Hebrew script, published in Portugal around 1485, which includes ritual instructions in Portuguese Aljamiado (Metzger 1977). "

I have found images of Ladino or Sephardic manuscripts on the internet but none so far that are Judeo-Portuguese. Maybe some other time.