The Proto-Semitic Origin of Tāw and its Meaning
From [image] and [image] to [image] and [image] (𐡕 < ת) to the letter name and its cultural background
Keywords:letter Tāw, letter names, early alphabet, (animal) marks, mark of Cain, cuneiform script, phonemic segmentation
This article is based on Gardiner’s “acrophonic” and Goldwasser’s “illiterate” hypotheses for the origins of the evolving Proto-Semitic alphabet. It demonstrates that the letter name Tāw originates from the custom of marking/branding animals, a non-linguistic system indicating rights of disposal attested from the 3rd millennium BCE in southern Mesopotamia and still extant with today’s Bedouins in the Levant. This custom is perceived as the point of departure for the evolving concept as an (alphabetical) letter in the 2nd millennium. It is further shown that the culturally determined ancestry of the letter Tāw is reflected also in the sources of the Hebrew Bible, thus providing important insights for Biblical exegetical research.
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