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All Alphabets not derived from one —


from the Phenician.

Alphabets derived

E cannot agree in opinion with those who have afferted that all alphabets are derived from one, because there are a variety of alphabets used in different parts of Afia, which differ from the Phenician, ancient Hebrew or Samaritan, in name, number, figure, order, and power. In feveral of these alphabets, there are marks for founds, peculiar to the language of the east, which are not necessary to be employed in the notation of the languages of Europe.

The characters and alphabets of all the countries east of Persia, have no connection with, or relation to, the Phenician or its derivatives, except only where the conquefts of the Mahommedans have introduced the use of the Arabic letters. The Shanfcrit characters (1) are the prototype of the letters used in India; namely, of the facred characters of Thibet, the Cashmirian, Bengalefe, Malabaric and Tamoul; the Singalefe, the Siamese, the Mabarattan, the Concanee, &c. The Tangutic or Tartar characters, and the Shanfcrit, feem to have proceeded from the fame fource, as they are fimilar in their great outlines; but whether the former is derived from the latter, or the latter from the former, is not easy to determine.

In the Sloanian library, N° 2836, and 2837, are eight rolls, faid to have been found by the Mufcovites beyond Siberia, in the fouth-east parts of Tartary, written in the facred characters of Thibet, or Tartary. They are written on blue paper, fome in letters of gold and fome of filver. N° 2838 in the fame library, is a roll of blue paper, found as above, written in common Tartar characters, of a gold colour; and No 2835, contains fix rolls of the fame kind; the paper is white, and the characters are black. It is obfervable, that the common Tartar is generally read from top to bottom.

(1) Shanfcrit or Sungfkrit, means fomething brought to perfection, in contradiftinction to Prakrit, or fomething vulgar and unpolifhed; hence the fine, learned, religious

language and characters of India, are termed Sungskrit, and the illiterate idioms of the common people Prakrit.


There are several alphabets used in different parts of Afia, which are intirely different not only from the Shanfcrit, and all thofe proceeding from that fource, but also from the Phenician, and all its derivatives: we shall point out some of them.

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There is in my library a M. S. in the Pegu language, on palm leaves, twenty-one inches long, and three and an half wide; the ground is of gold, richly ornamented; the letters are made of a glutinous substance, like black japan. In the Sloanian library, N° 4849, is a M. Ș. on the fame materials, and in fimilar characters. In the fame library, No 4726, is a M. S. on bark, written in perpendicular columns, in the Batta characters, which are used in the island of Sumatra : a M. S. written in fimilar characters, was in the library of the late Dr. FOTHERGILL. In the Sloanian library, N° 4098, is a fpecimen of the Barman or Boman characters, which are used in fome parts of Pegu; but they are very different from any of thofe above mentioned. More instances might be adduced, in proof of what hath been advanced on this head, which we presume is unneceffary. The names and powers of the letters, of which these alphabets are composed, are intirely different from the Phenician, or those derived from them, and to affimilate their forms is impoffible; indeed it is not eafy to conceive, that the fifty Shanfcrit letters, could be taken from the alphabet of the Phenicians, which originally confifted of thirteen characters. It is more liberal, as well as more rational, to suppose, that different men at different times thought of making marks for founds, instead of marks for things (2); but notwithstanding this opinion, it is certain, that by far the greater part of the alphabets, now used in different parts of the globe, are derived from the Phenician, ancient Hebrew, or Samaritan.

Having first found letters among the Phenicians, we shall, in the course of the prefent chapter, inquire what alphabets are derived from that fource. This inquiry will furnish our readers with several important facts, relative to the population and civilization of the most celebrated nations; and will give them an hiftorical account of the progress of learning, and of writing, in a more clear and concife manner than could have been done, if we had entered into the hiftory of writing, and the confideration of the forms of letters, at the same time.

(2) Univ. Hift. vol. i, p. 52. We shall illuftrate these obfervations in the course of

the next chapter, where we shall speak particu-
larly of the forms of letters.


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The following alphabets feem to be immediately derived from the Phenician; namely, the ancient Hebrew, or Samaritan, the Chaldaic, the Baftulan, the Punic, Carthaginian, or Sicilian, the Pelafgian Greek, and its derivatives, which are written in the eastern manner, from right to left, and the Ionic Greek, written from left to right. This last mentioned branch from the Pelafgic ftock, is the fource from whence, not only most of the alphabets of Europe are derived, but also of many others which have been adopted in different parts of Asia and Africa.

The Chaldaic may be divided into the square Hebrew, the round Hebrew, and the more modern, or running hand Hebrew of the Rabbins, The alphabets derived from the Chaldaic, are the Syriac, Eftrangelo, and Mendean (3), the ancient and the modern Arabic. From the ancient Arabic alphabet, are derived those of the Kufic, the Mauritanic, the African or Saracen, and the Moorish: the Persian and Turkish are generally allowed to have been derived from the modern Arabic, though authors are not intirely agreed as to the derivation of the former.

The Bastuli were one of those colonies of Phenicians or Canaanites (4), who settled themselves, in the most early ages, in that part of Spain now called Andalufia and Grenada; they first began to settle near the Streights of Gibraltar, and their principal port was Cadiz : this people were conquered by the Moors in the eighth century.

The Punic letters are called Tyrian, and are much the fame as the Carthaginian or Sicilian; they were an early branch from the Phenician stock: to make a complete Punic, Carthaginian, or Sicilian alphabet, we must admit several pure Phenician letters (5). The Pelafgi were of Phenician original; we learn from SANCONIATHO, that the fons of the Diofcuri and Cabiri wrote the first annals of the Phenician history,

(3) The Eftrangelo characters are defcended from the ancient Syriac; fome have fuppofed that the Bramin characters are derived from them, and that they were introduced into India in the time of JENGHIZ-KHAN; but letters were known in India long before the reign of that prince, and thefe fuppofitions are not supported by proofs.

(4) Whether we call them Phenicians or Canaanites, is of little confequence, as far as

concerns our fubject; they were the fame people. The Baftuli, were faid to have fled from JOSHUA.

(5) The Punic language was at first the fame with the Phenician, it is nearly allied to the Hebrew, and hath an affinity to the Chaldee and Syriac: there are fome remains of it in the present Maltese. Universal History, vol. xvii, p. 295.

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by the command of Taaut, the first inventor of letters. These men made fhips of burthen, and being caft upon the coaft near Mount Cafius, about forty miles from Pelufium, they built a temple (6): this. event happened in the fecond generation after the deluge recorded by


These Phenicians were called Pelafgi, from their paffing by fea, and wandering from one country to another (7). We learn from HERODOTUS, that the Pelafgi were the defcendants of the Phenician Cabiri, and that the Samothracians received and practifed the Cabiric myfteries from the: Pelafgi, who, in ancient times, inhabited Samothrace (8).

The Phenician Pelafgi fettled colonies in several islands of the geari fea; as Samothrace, Lemnos, Theffaly (9), all the old Hellas, Argolis, Arcadia, and also the sea coast of the Peloponnefe (10).

In the reign of DEUCALION, about eight hundred and twenty years after the deluge, and one thousand five hundred and twenty-nine beforethe christian æra, the Pelafgi were driven from Theffaly or Ænotria by Hellenes ; fome of them fettled at the mouth of the Po, and the rest at Croton, now Cortona, in Tufcany.

The Pelafgic alphabet, which prevailed in Grecce before the age of DEUCALION, confifted of fixteen letters. The Tyrrhenian alphabet, first brought into Italy, preceded the reign of that prince, and it consisted of thirteen letters only.

(6) This was the temple of Jupiter Cafius, and is perhaps the firft temple mentioned in hiftory. STRABO, PLINY, and STEPHENS, fpeak of it.

(7) Whence, as fome fay, the fea is called Pelagus from the Hebrew word Peleg, as dividing one country from another. The modern Greeks fancied they derived their name from PELASGUS, the pretended founder of the Arcadians; we think the name is not derived from PELEG, as fome have imagined, for his pofterity never went into Europe. The Pelafgi were fo called from the word πελάγιοι, wanderers by fea.

(8) HERODOT. (lib. ii, c. 51) and STRABO fay, the Cabiri, i, e. their defcendants, in

habited Samothrace. Geog. lib. x, p. 723,. 724.

(9) They made one of their first settlements in Theffaly, as all writers agree; one part of which was called Pelafgiotis from them, and alfo Pelafgia.

(10) The old Hellas was called from them Pelafgia, as STRABO informs us, lib. v, p. 237. The fame author fays, that a part of Theffaly was called Pelafgian Argos, and so HOMER calls it Iliad. ii. PLINY tells us, that Ænotria, which was the old name of Theffaly, was called Pelafgicum Argos. STRABO likewife relates, that the Pelafgi inhabited Argos in Peloponefus, and that the whole country was called Pelasgia from them. Georg. lib. v, p. 337, 8, and 9.


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