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Ge‘ez Script Index for Herbs and Spices

H h   am ti tig byn
L l   am ti tig byn
HH   am ti tig byn
M m am ti tig byn
SZ ś   am ti
R r am ti tig byn
S s   am ti tig byn
SH š   am ti tig byn
Q ḳ,q   am ti tig byn
QW ḳʷ         ti byn
QH ḳʰ     ti byn
QHW ḳʰʷ         ti
B b   am ti tig byn
V v   am ti byn
T t   am ti tig byn
C č   am ti tig byn
X   am ti
XW ḫʷ        
N n   am ti tig byn
NY ñ   am ti byn
glott. ʾ   am ti tig byn
K k   am ti tig byn
KW         ti byn
KX x     am ti
KXW         am ti
W w   am ti tig byn
phar. ʿ     am ti tig byn
Z z   am ti tig byn
ZH ž   am ti tig byn
Y y   am ti tig byn
D d   am ti tig byn
J ǧ   am ti byn
G g   am ti tig byn
GW         ti byn
GG ŋ   tig byn
GGW ŋʷ           byn
TH   am ti tig byn
CH č̣   am ti byn
PH   am ti tig byn
TS   am ti tig byn
TZ ṣ́,ẓ   am ti
F f am ti tig byn
P p   am ti tig byn

The Ge‘ez script [ግዕዝ] derives from an ancient South Semitic alphabet and is thus a distant relative to the Arabic and Hebrew scripts. As a main difference, it is written from left to right.

While the oldest inscriptions show no trace of vowel writing, the script later developed a system of marking vowels by additional strokes or modifications of the base letter. In the end, these vowel modifications became firmly attached to the consonant bases, which thus became syllabic signs of the type consonant+vowel. The modern script is usually seen as a syllabary which constructs its signs rather regularly from a base element (coding the consonant) with vocalic modifications.

Thus, the modern writing system bears resemblance to Indian writing; yet a key difference is that there is no option of writing consonant clusters by conjunct characters. Instead, Ge‘ez uses the neutral vowel E (spoken ə) which has somewhat epenthic character. This is similar to the sound and the rôle of the implicit vowel in some Indic scripts, yet the neutral vowel has a distinct graphical representation, while the implicit vowel is indicated only by lack of other vowel signs.

The Unicode standard treats Ge‘ez as a syllabary, although it could also have been coded with consonants and diacritical vowel signs only. The syllables populate the code space quite regularly, similar to the way how Korean syllables are coded. The resulting two-dimensional array is often termed Ethiopic Matrix; but people from Eritrea usually object to this name, and I will thus prefer the more neutral term Ge‘ez Matrix.

The Ge‘ez Matrix has 26 rows for consonants in their basic forms, but the number rises to more than 40 if language-specific special characters are taken into account. The eight colums represent different vowels; the seven or eight forms of a consonant with different vowels are called orders. The Unicode standard has named both vowels and consonants rather randomly and unsystematically; the Unicode name, thus, cannot serve as a guide to pronunciation. The scientific transliteration performs better; for example, ejectives are consistently marked with an underdot. The matrix is almost full for the 26 basic consonants, but there are many gaps in the additional rows.

Syllables in the eighth column of the Ge‘ez Matrix have irregular names: For most consonants, the name of the syllable is formed with the suffix -WA (e. g., LWA ), yet those code points new in Unicode 4.0 end in -OA (e. g., HOA ); this is necessary to avoid name collisions, e. g., QOA (Q+WA) and QWA (QW+A). The surprising name GGWAA for GG+WA was chosen to distinguish it from the basic letter GGWA ) needed for the Bilin language, which is the labialized form of GGA and is located in the Ethiopic Extended range together with several other exotic characters. The new signs are often missing from the common Ge‘ez fonts; a complete set of syllables is contained in the Abyssinica SIL font (in fact, it is even over-complete, as it containes glyphs rare signs with temporary codepoints in the PUA).

A palatalized set of syllables does not really exist; the table on the right side has a YA column which contains only three syllables (RYA , MYA and FYA ). In traditional representations of the Ge‘ez script, these are considered standalone characters that do not belong to the Matrix.


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