Author Topic: Syriac not a real alphabet but an ABJAD  (Read 892 times)

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Offline Asshur

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Syriac not a real alphabet but an ABJAD
« on: May 03, 2015, 09:44:36 AM »
Syriac is written with consonants and without any connection to vowels which makes it incredibly hard to read if you can't speak the classic language, vowels are added by dots or these symbols west Assyrians use.

I read a comment about Syriac not being an actuall alphbet but just an Abjad, can anyone consider this true? I found out that Arabic and some other semetic alphabets are using it such as Hebrew.

 I can credit the alphabet giving us the option to use the same spelling and by adding the vowels your dialect corresponds to.

So here is the real question, I am still new to this Alphabet, however, I am learning fast and by the time I speak fluent Syriac, will it be easier to read without vowels added on the script in comparison to latin alphabet?

Zurnaci you should be able to answer this question.


I am Ashurbanipal, the great king, the mighty king, king of the universe, king of Assyria, king of the four quarters of the world; offspring of the loins of Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, viceroy of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad; grandson of Sennacherib, king of the universe, king of Assyria.

Offline Shahin

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Re: Syriac not a real alphabet but an ABJAD
« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2015, 12:28:32 PM »
Of course Syriac is an original ABGAD: Olaf, Beth, Gomal, Doladz, just like Hebrew, they are based on the original ABGAD.
Yes it will be easier to read without voyels because, first, you can easily guess the pronunciation sometimes and the more you read, the more you know the words.
This not difficult, it requires just training I think.
And by the way, in most cases you'll see the accents (be it the dot system or the greek voyels).
In most church book there is the accents.
ܚܢܢ ܟܠܢ ܣܘܪܝܝܐ ܡܢ ܐܫܘܪ
We are all Assyrians !

Offline Carlo

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Re: Syriac not a real alphabet but an ABJAD
« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2015, 12:55:53 PM »
Syriac is written with consonants and without any connection to vowels which makes it incredibly hard to read if you can't speak the classic language, vowels are added by dots or these symbols west Assyrians use.

Every writing system is difficult to learn initially, it's just a question of how much time and effort you're willing to put in to learn it.

I read a comment about Syriac not being an actuall alphbet but just an Abjad, can anyone consider this true? I found out that Arabic and some other semetic alphabets are using it such as Hebrew.

"Abjad" is a class of script that some people describe as being separate from a "true" alphabet, but it's still called an "alphabet" for convenience when the distinction is moot.

Yes, the Arabic and Hebrew scripts are also abjads and, if you ask them, they get along reading and writing just fine. Abjads are a good system for writing Semitic languages because of how their grammars are structured. For example, let's look at some masculine singular active participles (equivalent to "he [verb]s") in Assyrian:

  • kaathev (ܟܬܒ) = "he [write]s"
  • qaaTel (ܩܛܠ) = "he [kill]s"
  • shaaqel (ܫܩܠ) = "he [take]s"
  • baasem (ܒܣܡ) = "he [please]s"
  • `aareq (ܥܪܩ) = "he [flee]s"

Notice something? All of them follow the same pattern: XaaYeZ, where X, Y, and Z are the three consonants that make up the "root" of the verb and they're always separated by "aa" between the first and second consonant and "e" between the second and third. It's a formula. Because you can predict where the vowels are every time, putting them in is redundant. This is not true for English and other languages, where the vowels are not predictable.

I can credit the alphabet giving us the option to use the same spelling and by adding the vowels your dialect corresponds to.

So here is the real question, I am still new to this Alphabet, however, I am learning fast and by the time I speak fluent Syriac, will it be easier to read without vowels added on the script in comparison to latin alphabet?

Yes, it just takes practice. :)

It's the same with English: an English speaker will have no idea how to pronounce "trough" or "colonel" or "knight" without having to come across it in the past. How do you learn to pronounce those words? Practice.

Vowels are mostly used to help the reader in pronouncing a word that they've never come across before. After a while, it becomes a crutch and you can read faster without them.

Assyrian Voice Forum

Re: Syriac not a real alphabet but an ABJAD
« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2015, 12:55:53 PM »

Online mrzurnaci

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Re: Syriac not a real alphabet but an ABJAD
« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2015, 12:57:41 PM »
Syriac alphabet is an alphabet in the traditional sense but not in the technical sense.

using the dot/greek letter vowel system makes Syriac an "impure" abjad/abgad unless you use no vowel system at all.

Sadly, even though I know the entire Syriac alphabet, both Western AND Eastern, and the vowel systems, both East and Western...

I read very slowly because I grew up learning Latin alphabet, thus I can read latin alphabet quickly as compared to sureth.

I won't lie, IF your Sureth vocabulary is good, you can actually read faster without vowel markings than with because, as your brain is reading, it has to process the letters AND the dot/greek letter placement simultaneously.

Offline Asshur

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Re: Syriac not a real alphabet but an ABJAD
« Reply #4 on: May 03, 2015, 04:50:01 PM »
Well I read like 2 hours in a week , sometimes more, btw vowels are not greek inventions , vowels appeared somewhere in Syria, but I have realized the words I already know on Syriac , I can read them faster than the known words on Latin alphabet. Hopefully I'll spend 6 months in a monastery and study this before I start university in 2016. If I have calculated right , I'll be studying 690-750 hours of Syriac in 6 months.

You guys will have to wish me luck ! .

Also Carlo, thanks for that, I noted.
I am Ashurbanipal, the great king, the mighty king, king of the universe, king of Assyria, king of the four quarters of the world; offspring of the loins of Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, viceroy of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad; grandson of Sennacherib, king of the universe, king of Assyria.

Offline Neon

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Re: Syriac not a real alphabet but an ABJAD
« Reply #5 on: December 26, 2016, 09:07:49 AM »
I still call it an alphabet though.

Yes, we don't have letters that signify vowels (besides aleph). I happen to think that it's a flawed system and that letters are needed vowel sounds (especially u and i).
It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. - Charles Darwin

Online mrzurnaci

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Re: Syriac not a real alphabet but an ABJAD
« Reply #6 on: December 26, 2016, 12:48:24 PM »
I still call it an alphabet though.

Yes, we don't have letters that signify vowels (besides aleph). I happen to think that it's a flawed system and that letters are needed vowel sounds (especially u and i).

waw and yodh are used to signify "u" and "i"... That idea was invented in ancient times.

Offline Neon

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Re: Syriac not a real alphabet but an ABJAD
« Reply #7 on: December 26, 2016, 07:21:07 PM »
waw and yodh are used to signify "u" and "i"... That idea was invented in ancient times.
I know that they are. But then, they also represent W and Y (and that's how I normally see them). How confusingly broad can the system be.
It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. - Charles Darwin

Offline Carlo

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Re: Syriac not a real alphabet but an ABJAD
« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2016, 02:36:21 AM »
I know that they are. But then, they also represent W and Y (and that's how I normally see them). How confusingly broad can the system be.

Phonologically speaking, they're very related. The ancients did not perceive them as being separate letters: short vowels were not marked because they were kind of predictable, and many long vowels were usually just considered as a short vowel plus a "glide" ("w" or "y"):

  • "oo" = "u/i" + "w" (the word dooshaa, "honey," is literally this, it's spelled devshaa or diwshaa: ܕܸܒ݂ܫܵܐ, not *ܕܘܼܫܵܐ)
  • "ee" = "i" + "y"
  • "o" = "a" + "w"

This is a lot more evident in Standard Arabic orthography.

It's actually kind of useful having the same letter for two different sounds, especially when you can see how the sounds are related when the word changes in, say, the plural form:

  • malkoothaa (ܡܠܟܘܬܐ, "kingdom") -> malkwaathaa (ܡܠܟܘ̈ܬܐ, "kingdoms")
  • koseethaa (ܟܘܣܝܬܐ, "hat") -> kosyaathaa (ܟܘܣܝ̈ܬܐ, "hats")

Latin originally didn't distinguish between "w/u" (both written as "V") and "i/y" (both "I"), a lot like the Semitic system. You can tell which was which based on context: SENATVS POPVLVSQVE ROMANVS is easy enough to pronounce, and it's not because there are As and Es in there. :)

In fact, English inherits a quirk from this. Sometimes in Latin, it was hard to tell whether a "V" was a "w" or a "u" if it came after a "k" sound, so they came up with CV = "ku" and QV = "kw." This is usually the case in English, too: every time you see a "qu," then it's usually "kw." Then, of course, Spanish had to come along and do things oppositely (qu = "k", cu = "kw") and we have words with "confusingly broad" spellings like "mosquito." ;)

Offline Neon

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Re: Syriac not a real alphabet but an ABJAD
« Reply #9 on: December 27, 2016, 05:45:52 AM »
Phonologically speaking, they're very related. The ancients did not perceive them as being separate letters: short vowels were not marked because they were kind of predictable, and many long vowels were usually just considered as a short vowel plus a "glide" ("w" or "y"):

  • "oo" = "u/i" + "w" (the word dooshaa, "honey," is literally this, it's spelled devshaa or diwshaa: ܕܸܒ݂ܫܵܐ, not *ܕܘܼܫܵܐ)
  • "ee" = "i" + "y"
  • "o" = "a" + "w"

This is a lot more evident in Standard Arabic orthography.

It's actually kind of useful having the same letter for two different sounds, especially when you can see how the sounds are related when the word changes in, say, the plural form:

  • malkoothaa (ܡܠܟܘܬܐ, "kingdom") -> malkwaathaa (ܡܠܟܘ̈ܬܐ, "kingdoms")
  • koseethaa (ܟܘܣܝܬܐ, "hat") -> kosyaathaa (ܟܘܣܝ̈ܬܐ, "hats")

Latin originally didn't distinguish between "w/u" (both written as "V") and "i/y" (both "I"), a lot like the Semitic system. You can tell which was which based on context: SENATVS POPVLVSQVE ROMANVS is easy enough to pronounce, and it's not because there are As and Es in there. :)

In fact, English inherits a quirk from this. Sometimes in Latin, it was hard to tell whether a "V" was a "w" or a "u" if it came after a "k" sound, so they came up with CV = "ku" and QV = "kw." This is usually the case in English, too: every time you see a "qu," then it's usually "kw." Then, of course, Spanish had to come along and do things oppositely (qu = "k", cu = "kw") and we have words with "confusingly broad" spellings like "mosquito." ;)
Thank you for this in-depth analysis. As always. :)

Funny, I noticed that in English, "Y's" can be used instead of I's for the /I/ sounds (gym, hymn, crystal, oxygen, etc). Lol.
It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. - Charles Darwin

Offline Carlo

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Re: Syriac not a real alphabet but an ABJAD
« Reply #10 on: December 27, 2016, 02:30:23 PM »
Thank you for this in-depth analysis. As always. :)

Funny, I noticed that in English, "Y's" can be used instead of I's for the /I/ sounds (gym, hymn, crystal, oxygen, etc). Lol.

Because it has such a long history and borrowed many words from foreign languages (often without changing the spelling), there's seemingly very little rhyme or reason in English orthography unless you know the history of the word. :)

 

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