The Canaanite languages

Authored by: Aren M. Wilson-Wright

The Semitic Languages

Print publication date:  March  2019
Online publication date:  March  2019

Print ISBN: 9780415731959
eBook ISBN: 9780429025563
Adobe ISBN:


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The Canaanite languages include Ammonite, Amarna Canaanite, Edomite, Hebrew, Moabite, Phoenician and the language of the Deir ʕAllā plaster text (from here on, simply Deir ʕAllā) (Pat-El and Wilson-Wright 2015, 2016). Together with Aramaic, they form the Aramaeo-Canaanite subgroup of Northwest Semitic (Pat-El and Wilson-Wright, forthc.). As a family, the Canaanite languages are attested from roughly 1360 bce to 400 ce with Proto-Canaanite dating no earlier than 1550 bce (Wilson-Wright, forthc.). The Canaanite languages were originally attested in what is today Israel (Hebrew), Western Jordan (Ammonite, Deir ʕAllā, Edomite and Moabite) and the coast of Lebanon (Phoenician). Beginning around 1000 bce, Phoenician seafarers, traders and colonists spread their language across the Mediterranean basin, to sites in Cyprus, North Africa and Spain. With the exception of Phoenician, speakers of Canaanite languages never wielded much political power, and their languages only ever assumed regional importance. Phoenician, by contrast, was the language of the Carthaginian Empire and continued to serve as a lingua franca in North Africa after the fall of Carthage in 146 bce. Because Hebrew is treated separately in Chapters 21 and 22, this chapter will focus on the other six Canaanite languages with occasional references to Hebrew when necessary.

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