The Ancient South Arabian script (Old South Arabian ms3nd; modern Arabic: المُسنَد musnad) branched from the Proto-Sinaitic script in about the 9th century BC. It was used for writing the Old South Arabian languages of the Sabaic, Qatabanic, Hadramautic, Minaean, Hasaitic, and Ge'ez in Dʿmt. The earliest inscriptions in the script date to the 9th century BC in the Northern Red Sea Region, Eritrea. There are no letters for vowels, which are marked by matres lectionis.
Its mature form was reached around 500 BC, and its use continued until the 6th century AD, including Ancient North Arabian inscriptions in variants of the alphabet, when it was displaced by the Arabic alphabet. In Ethiopia and Eritrea it evolved later into the Ge'ez script, which, with added symbols throughout the centuries, has been used to write Amharic, Tigrinya and Tigre, as well as other languages (including various Semitic, Cushitic, and Nilo-Saharan languages).
|Transcription||IPA||Shape||Corresponding letter in|
|𐩦||shin||s² (ś, š)||/ɬ/||diagonal W||𐤔||ሠ||ש||ﺵ|
|𐩪||sat||s¹ (š, s)||/s/||Π||ሰ||ﺱ|
|𐩯||samekh||s³ (s, ś)||/s̪/||X||𐤎||ס||س|
|𐩷||teth||ṭ||/tˤ/||θ rotated one-eight-degrees||𐤈||ጠ||ט||ﻁ|
Six signs are used for numbers:
The sign for 50 was evidently created by removing the lower triangle from the sign for 100. The sign for 1 doubles as a word separator. The other four signs double as both letters and numbers. Interesting, each of these four signs is the first letter of the name of the corresponding numeral.
An additional sign (𐩿) is used to bracket numbers, setting them apart from surrounding text. For example, 𐩿𐩭𐩽𐩽𐩿
These signs are used in an additive system similar to Roman numerals to represent any number (excluding zero). Two examples:
Thousands are written two different ways:
Perhaps because of ambiguity, numerals, at least in monumental inscriptions, are always clarified with the numbers written out in words.
Zabūr is the name of the cursive form of the South Arabian script that was used by the ancient Yemenis (Sabaeans) in addition to their monumental script, or Musnad (see, e.g., Ryckmans, J., Müller, W. W., and ‛Abdallah, Yu., Textes du Yémen Antique inscrits sur bois. Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, 1994 (Publications de l'Institut Orientaliste de Louvain, 43)).
The cursive zabūr script—also known as "South Arabian minuscules"—was used by the ancient Yemenis to inscribe everyday documents on wooden sticks in addition to the rock-cut monumental Musnad letters displayed on the right. As yet only about one thousand such texts have been discovered, of which perhaps some 26 have been published; this is partly due to the difficulty of reading the minuscule script.
The South Arabian alphabet was added to the Unicode Standard in October, 2009 with the release of version 5.2.
The Unicode block, called Old South Arabian, is U+10A60–U+10A7F.
Note that U+10A7D OLD SOUTH ARABIAN NUMBER ONE (𐩽) represents both the numeral one and a word divider.
|Old South Arabian
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)