Tifinagh and consonantal writing systems

Eugene Buckley


Gelb (1963) famously claimed that the seemingly consonantal West Semitic script is a syllabary with CV signs in which the vowel is unspecified (or zero). Others have argued for a more straightforward approach that assumes consonants directly, but both approaches are empirically adequate for Semitic. The Tifinagh script for Tuareg shows more definitively that individual signs in a script can truly denote just consonants, since an initial vowel is unwritten even when that vowel constitutes the entire syllable. The script is further sensitive to the contextual realization of a high vocoid as a vowel or glide.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.3765/exabs.v0i0.527