LB - ALPHABET
Within the literature of the last decades there is abundantly confusion
of terms denominating types of script. In fact there is not one single
"Libyco-Berber" script. It is not at all surprising that a
script used in such a huge territory reaching from Libya to the Canary
Islands and during a time of more than 2000 years shows a confusing
multitude of varieties.
The basis of our knowledge are the monumental inscriptions of Dougga/Thugga
(Tunisia). Thanks to a group of biscripts the phonetic value of nearly
all characters of the alphabet is well attested. Therefore, this alphabet
is the starting point for all studies comparing sets of signs.
a rapidly increasing number of documented inscriptions all over North
Africa, it became clear that many of them were written in differing
alphabets. Upon this fact some scholars came to suppose a "western"
alphabet, connected with the culture of the Masaesyles, and an "eastern"
alphabet, connected with the culture of the Massyles. Nowadays we know
that this separation is only a very rough temporary measure which does
not do justice to the existing variety. In face of these conditions
it is recommended to use a very cautious term for the whole family of
scripts (following Galand 1993): "scripts of the Libyco-Berber
If we examine the corpus of a certain region, we have to compare the
whole set of signs with the well attested "classical" alphabet
of Dougga/Thugga and look for accordance and differences. If the "classical"
sign does not appear within the corpus, we have to examine possible
substitutes by detailed stylistic and statistical analysis. In the extraordinary
lucky case of biscripts (e.g. Latin-Canary and Libyco-Berber) we are
able to prove accordance.
The study of Canary inscriptions led to the conclusion that there are
even slight differences between the individual islands. Thus it is necessary
to present special alphabets for each island:
inscriptions of Morocco do not present a uniform character as well.
A detailed analysis would be far beyond the scope of this short introduction
and is, therefore, left to special publications. For the present purpose
it is sufficient to distinguish between an "ancient" alphabet
and a "transitional" one.
For the practical purpose of this database we have to do without special
characters in the commentaries. For the semi-consonants we use:
H = semi-consonant in final position
W = "U"
Y = "I"
The most instable group of characters among the alphabets of the Libyco-Berber
type is that of the sibilants: the sings often changed within the group.
Therefore, as it is not possible at the present state of research to
distinguish the phonetic value of the Canary and Moroccan signs for
sibilants, they are noted as neutral as possible by S1, S2,
S3, S4 and Z1, Z2, Z3.