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Nabataean script

Subject Linguistics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631214816.1999.x


An offshoot of the Aramaic alphabet which developed in the first century ce on the Sinai peninsula and in north Arabia. It differs conspicuously from other Aramaic varieties by making extensive use of ligatures. Stone inscriptions in the Nabataean script are found from Petra, the capital of the Nabataean kingdom ( c .150 bce to 100 ce ), to Damascus and Medina. The script is not attested in manuscripts, although its cursive character with letters frequently joined together indicates common use. The language of the inscriptions is Nabataean, a close cognate of Aramaic. Spread over a wide area, the script exhibits considerable variation with highly diverse letter shapes ( table 1 ). Its significance for the history of writing lies in its being the immediate forebear of the Arabic script. Certain features of the Arabic character, such as the existence of separate final forms for certain letters, are already foreshadowed in Nabataean writing. Its transformation into the Arabic script took place in the fourth and fifth centuries ce . See also arabic written language . Reading Driver 1976. Table 1 The Nabataean alphabet ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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