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South Arabian Script

19 January 2012 1 comment

   Sultn Musnad-High

 Musnad is a genuine Arabic writing. It is an important epoch in the human writing. It was used by the Yemeni people and then spread to other Arab countries . It is remembered that the earliest calligraphy appeared in the middle of the eighth century BC “1”. The use of Musnad was clearly demonstrated in speedy writing in the Yemeni Azzaboor calligraphy (written in joint letters ) which was mentioned by the Arab poet Imru Alqeis Ben Hagr when he saidwas meant as follows: “when he appeared and I saw him I was stuck as Azzaboor was stuck to the Yemeni reed ” (2).


  Musnad is composed of 29 letters , that is one letter more than the Arabic alphabet, which is between “S” and “Sh”, and names “Samekh”. Aspects of difference between Musnad and the present Arabic writing is that Musnad is written in separate letters, and the shape of the letters do not change according to its place in the word. However, some letters change according to the beginning of the writing. Musnad is either prominent, or deep. Prominent writings are for important writings and deep writings are for ordinary. The material on which the Musnad was written were stones, rocks, wood, and metal. In the course of its development the Musnad use appeared in the “Lehyanite’, “Thamudic”, “Safaitic”, pen to which many changes and amendments were made. And from it “Habashi’ writing was born.
    As regards his place among the Arabs of the Peninsula , when we look at the internet and its role in cultural dialogue , the Arabs of the Peninsula considered Musnad inscription which was indisputably their national writing until the dawn of Islam. It was used by people in all parts of Arabia in their homeland and abroad . It was their means of chronology and record of their glories and history.2- Features of Musnad Script:
1. It is written from right to left and vice versa. 2. Its letters are not joined. 3. Shape of letters are uniform despite their positions in the word. 4. Words are separated by vertical lines. 5. A letter is doubled in case of assertion. 6. No points and punctuations. 7. Easy to be learned by beginners.(see figure 1)  (figure 1)

3- Construction of Musnad
:
The contents of Musnad Scripts are related to worships and approach to Gods, and to commemoration of victories and construction of giant buildings. Engraving inscriptions on tough stone was not assigned to any person whatever he was. There were professional persons with high stand.    To write the letter most effectively we must use assisting instruments and apparatus. However, we must know for certain how to use these instruments in making a letter. Undoubtedly creators of Musnad letters mastered this art . Formerly engraving on stone sheets were the result of high mental, artistic and material efforts, which were materialized on the Musnad inscriptions pages which summarized the gist of those bright episodes of the history of the Arabian Peninsula.   (figure 2)

A question might be put: Did the Musnad creators have their rulers to use in drawing vertical and horizontal lines for the Script comparative? Did they have geometrical instruments for cutting angles and triangles in the needed letters., for drawing various sizes of circles when they made letters and numbers? Did they use rulers to distribute ratios and dimensions between letters and lines which were accurately drawn on the face of the Musnad? Did they draw comparatives for the inscription before engraving on the stone? The answer to such questions is found among those many inscriptions . I show here (in figure 2) self-explained pictures .

Musnad letters were based open and closed geometrical curves dominated by vertical lines in the ratio of one to two in width and height.
4- Musnad and Arabic letter:
The Musnad letter was a great explosion which led to a collection of Arabic calligraphies in the whole Arabian Peninsula. In the shape below I show how many letters were derived from Musnad, and many others were adapted and simplified , and after a long process led to the Arabic letter which we use today, which is a continuation of such great invention in the cradle of the Arab civilization and source of their writings. (see figure No. 3)..

  (figure 3)

5- Computerized Musnad Typeface:
    My artistic and technical work (design of Computerized Musnad typeface) is only a treatment of the Musnad as a symbol of writing. And it is possible to use in computer.. Our design is not aimed at demonstrating the linguistic and intellectual structure of the Musnad. It is so simple that it could be easy to learn by learners and those who are interested in the Musnad letters in computer. (see figure 1).The basis of such importance is that it spares a lot of time and effort for researchers and students in this field.  Formerly they used to write the Musnad texts either by handwriting or scan them , But now they can easily write its texts in Musnad by using keyboard directly, so that they can change , amend and fulfill easily and accurately . So, we made use of speed, easiness and accuracy. And anyone interested in the Yemeni history in any part of the world can due to this design read and write Musnad letters most easily. This design will also be used by historians and archeologists. , as well as specialist linguistics . The design also demonstrates the aesthetics of the Himyarit writing . It was acknowledged by the University of Aden, and I was honored by the Faculty of Arts .As for the fulfillment, I was assisted by my keenness at studying Arabic calligraphy in which the Holy Quran was revealed 1400 years ago.. I also mastered writing in all kinds of Arabic letters , and searched into the beginnings of Arabic calligraphy as a unique human invention. I found that Musnad calligraphy was God gift to the Yemeni civilization 3000 years ago.. I studied its letters and numbers, and did drawings each in a special file in the computer . After completing their designs I moved to study font design programs by using computer , so that I was able to write Musnad by using keyboard in order to fill gaps in the ancient Yemeni studies. . We are interested in making it as an Arabic letter in international Unicode Fonts. In addition, I also designed thirty kinds of Arabic fonts with the purpose of providing the Arab computer font library with such elements. Some of them were published on several international webs . By publishing them and using them world wide we will secure a place for our new fonts in the community of knowledge during the next ten years .Sultan Maqtari
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Encode Musnad

Encode Musnad
Proposal to encode South Arabian Script
Requestors: Sultan Maktari, Kamal Mansur
30 July 2007Historical Background:There is abundant evidence that South Arabian script was used not only in the southwest corner of the Arabian Peninsula (modern-day Yemen), but actually in the entire Peninsula before the Islamic era.Besides, samples of South Arabian Script have been found as far as Uruk in Mesopotamia, Delos in Greece, as well as Giza in Egypt. Archaeological finds show that the Script was used as far back as the 8th century BCE. It was used in trade, religious writing, and in civil records. Following the spread of Islam in Yemen, the decline of South Arabian Script began in the 6th century CE as it was gradually supplanted by Arabic script.

South Arabian Script was typically known by the name of the then-dominant peoples in the Southern Peninsula. At various times, it was known as Sabaen, Qatabani, Hadramite, among others. Although it was used for a variety of languages, South Arabian Script is most strongly associated with the Hamyiritic language in which it was simply known as “Musnad”, i.e. writing. Many Peninsular languages borrowed Musnad before introducing their own changes. Prime examples are the Thamudic, Safavadic, Lyhiani scripts which eventually developed into independent scripts.

South Arabian inscriptions typically reveal a right-to-left directionality, although there are also many cases of alternating directions, known as boustrophedon writing (see example in figure 1). As with other scripts that alternate direction—such as Old Italic—glyph forms must be mirrored when rendering text that does not have the default directionality.

Musnad inscriptions are found primarily on stone and ceramic material, as well as metallic surfaces.

Hundreds of artifacts have been found and, to this day, continue to be discovered. Some of the best examples can be seen in figures 1–4. Figure 1—from the dust jacket of The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World’s Ancient Languages—shows a Sabaen inscription. Figures 2–4 depict various artifacts found in the Museum of Yemeni History in Sanaa, Yemen.

South Arabian inscriptions remained obscure for many centuries until two Orientalists, Gesenius and Rödiger, made great strides towards deciphering them in the 19th century.

The westward migration of the Sabaean people into the Horn of Africa introduced the South Arabic consonantal alphabet into the region. The transplanted script formed the roots of the Geez script of Ethiopia which, in time and under presumably external influences, developed into a rich syllabary unlike any other Semitic script in history. Even a cursory examination of the letter forms of Modern Ethiopic writing reveal a striking similarity to South Arabian Script.

Character Repertoire:

The character repertoire of Musnad corresponds to the repertoire of Classical Arabic, with the one exception of an additional letter, Samekh, that is also evident in West Semitic alphabets such as Hebrew and Phoenician. With striking clarity, two independent manuscripts—one dated 1452 CE from Arabia, the other 18th century CE from India— show the presumably equivalent letters of Arabic script and Musnad.

Nowadays, Semitic scholars are generally in agreement about the South Arabian character repertoire, though no one has yet to discover the original names of the letters. The following extract from Daniels & Bright shows the two mentioned manuscripts that helped Rödiger in deciphering South Arabian script, along with an annotation by Daniels.

Although the derivation of Musnad is unclear, the difference of seven letters between its repertoire and that of Phoenician makes any direct parentage between the two unlikely. Musnad letters are all consonantal, and unlike other Semitic scripts, it never developed any vocalic notation. There is no evidence of any kind of diacritic marks. Geminate consonants, for instance, are made evident simply by writing the corresponding letter twice. Although inscriptions have been found in varying styles, Musnad letters are always written disjointedly and never developed any connected forms.

Scholars of South Arabian are in agreement about the phonemic repertoire represented by Musnad script.
The following extract from Nebes & Stein shows the standard repertoire of 29 consonantal letters matching that of Daniels.

While Musnad inscriptions do not separate words with white space, word boundaries are clearly indicated with a vertical bar. In the following illustration, some word separators are enclosed in an oval

Alphabetic Order:

The order of the letters of the Musnad alphabet is not known, though often it is assumed to resemble that of Ethiopic writing since the latter descended directly from it. Similarly, the names of the letters are uncertain. Since the Musnad character repertoire is closest to the Arabic one, it is equally reasonable to use Arabic alphabetic order, for even Ethiopic writing uses Arabic order for some specific types of enumerated lists. This proposal advocates the Arabic order for Musnad, with the Samekh falling between letters Seen and Sheen.

Figures:

Using a set of six graphemes, all numbers can be written through juxtaposition in a manner similar to that of Roman numerals. Musnad has no symbol for zero. Following are the essential graphemes alongside their meaning:

It is interesting to note that four of the six symbols—5, 10, 100, 1000—are identical to alphabetic letters, the exceptions being 1 and 50. In fact, each of the names of the four numbers starts with the respective letter used to represent them. For instance, khamsa (five) starts with the letter Kha, while ‘ashara (ten) begins with Ain. The single stroke used to represent 1 is not alphabetic, but is intuitively clear. The symbol for 50 is thought to have a peculiar derivation. Since the initial letter of khamseen (fifty) matches that of khamsa, the letter Kha could not be used for it. Instead, by slicing off the lower protrusion of the Meem representing 100, the symbol for 50 intuitively represents half of 100.

Numeric quantities are clearly differentiated from surrounding text with a cross-hatched rectangle. In the following sample, the numeric indicators—highlighted with an oval— surround the number 200. As evident in this inscription, the number of horizontal lines that crisscross the rectangle can vary; in addition, the lines can also be diagonal instead. The numeric indicator and the word separator constitute the only form of punctuation seen in Musnad writing.

Using the above-mentioned graphemes, all numeric values can be created. Unlike Roman numerals, Musnad numbers show an evident right-to-left directionality. The numerals from 1 through 20 are written as follows:


Proposed Characters:

Although the glyph for word separator (1xx1D) is similar to the One (1xx1F), it is important to encode them both because the first is a punctuation mark while the second is numeric .
While the glyph shapes shown above are typical, there was some degree of variation in the writing of Musnad characters. In figure 5, the column labeled ‘Sabean’ shows the common shape variants for various letters.

Unicode Properties of Proposed Characters:

1xx00;MUSNAD LETTER ALEF;Lo;0;R;;;;;N;;;;;
1xx01;MUSNAD LETTER BEH;Lo;0;R;;;;;N;;;;;
1xx02;MUSNAD LETTER TEH;Lo;0;R;;;;;N;;;;;
1xx03;MUSNAD LETTER THEH;Lo;0;R;;;;;N;;;;;
1xx04;MUSNAD LETTER JEEM;Lo;0;R;;;;;N;;;;;
1xx05;MUSNAD LETTER HAH;Lo;0;R;;;;;N;;;;;
1xx06;MUSNAD LETTER KHAH;Lo;0;R;;;;;N;;;;;
1xx07;MUSNAD LETTER DAL;Lo;0;R;;;;;N;;;;;
1xx08;MUSNAD LETTER THAL;Lo;0;R;;;;;N;;;;;
1xx09;MUSNAD LETTER REH;Lo;0;R;;;;;N;;;;;
1xx0A;MUSNAD LETTER ZAIN;Lo;0;R;;;;;N;;;;;
1xx0B;MUSNAD LETTER SEEN;Lo;0;R;;;;;N;;;;;
1xx0C;MUSNAD LETTER SAMEKH;Lo;0;R;;;;;N;;;;;
1xx0D;MUSNAD LETTER SHEEN;Lo;0;R;;;;;N;;;;;
1xx0E;MUSNAD LETTER SAD;Lo;0;R;;;;;N;;;;;
1xx0F;MUSNAD LETTER DAD;Lo;0;R;;;;;N;;;;;
1xx10;MUSNAD LETTER TAH;Lo;0;R;;;;;N;;;;;
1xx11;MUSNAD LETTER ZAH;Lo;0;R;;;;;N;;;;;
1xx12;MUSNAD LETTER AIN;Lo;0;R;;;;;N;;;;;
1xx13;MUSNAD LETTER GHAIN;Lo;0;R;;;;;N;;;;;
1xx14;MUSNAD LETTER FEH;Lo;0;R;;;;;N;;;;;
1xx15;MUSNAD LETTER QAF;Lo;0;R;;;;;N;;;;;
1xx16;MUSNAD LETTER KAF;Lo;0;R;;;;;N;;;;;
1xx17;MUSNAD LETTER LAM;Lo;0;R;;;;;N;;;;;
1xx18;MUSNAD LETTER MEEM;Lo;0;R;;;;;N;;;;;
1xx19;MUSNAD LETTER NOON;Lo;0;R;;;;;N;;;;;
1xx1A;MUSNAD LETTER HEH;Lo;0;R;;;;;N;;;;;
1xx1B;MUSNAD LETTER WAW;Lo;0;R;;;;;N;;;;;
1xx1C;MUSNAD LETTER YEH;Lo;0;R;;;;;N;;;;;
1xx1D;MUSNAD WORD SEPARATOR;Po;0;ON;;;;;N;;;;;
1xx1E;MUSNAD NUMERIC INDICATOR;Po;0;ON;;;;;N;;;;;
1xx1F;MUSNAD NUMBER ONE;No;0;R;;;;1;N;;;;;
1xx20;MUSNAD NUMBER FIFTY;No;0;R;;;;50;N;;;;;

Line Breaking:

Similarly to Arabic script, lines of Musnad text are never broken in the middle of words.

References:

د. جواد علي، المفصل في تاريخ العرب قبل الإسلام ،دار العلم للملايين (10مجلدات) بيروت 1987م
Jawwad Ali. Detailed History of the Arabs before Islam. Dâr-il-‘Ilm lil-Malayîn. [10 volumes].
(in Arabic). Beirut, 1987.
G. van Beek & Albert Jamme. An Inscribed South Arabian Clay Stamp From Bethel. 1958.
A.F.L. Beeston. A descriptive grammar of epigraphic South Arabian. London, Luzac, 1962.
A.F.L. Beeston. Four Sabaean Texts in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. 1952.
Florian Coulmas. The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Writing Systems. Blackwell Publishers. 1996.
Peter T. Daniels. “Methods of Decipherment” in Peter T. Daniels & William Bright, eds. The
World’s Writing Systems. Oxford University Press, 1996.
Albert Jamme. Sabaean inscriptions from Ma·hram Bilqîs (Mârib) [with foreword by Wendell
Phillips]. 19??.
Norbert Nebes & Peter Stein. “Ancient South Arabian” in Roger D. Woodard, ed. The Cambridge
Encyclopedia of the World’s Ancient Languages. Cambridge University Press. 2004.
Wendell Philips. Qataban and Sheba. Victor Gollancz Ltd, London. 1955.
Museum of Yemeni History, Sanaa, Yemen
Smithsonian Institution. “Written in Stone: Inscriptions from the National Museum of Saudi
Arabic”. http://www.mnh.si.edu/epigraphy/figs-stones/x-large/color_xl_jpeg/fig02.jpg

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