Make your own free website on
Cypriot Syllabary.
The island of Cyprus has been a focus of cultural gathering for many millenia. Its name is cognate with the English (as well as Latin and Greek) word of 'copper'. However, its ancient non-Greek, non-alphabetic inscriptions are of tremendous importance. While the earliest examples, which date from as early as 1500 BC, cannot be read, comparisons clearly show that the Cypriot syllabary seemed to have derived from Linear A, and so sort of like a sibling to Linear B. The first readable texts in this system came after the Greek settlers of the 12th century BC, and its use persisted into Classical times.

The script consists of 56 signs, denoting either a vowel, or a combination of consonant + vowel. That is why it is called a classical syllabary - each signs means a syllable. The origin from Linear A is doubtless, though scientists suppose there were some intermediate forms between Cretan Linear A and the Cypriot script. Such a script, some examples of which are found on Cyprus as well, is called Cypro-Minoan.

The widest use of the script continued from the 6 to the 4th centuries BC, and from this period the majority of documents were found. It is interesting that the Syllabary does not distinguish between long and short vowels (which was essential for Greeks which picked up the script), between voiced, unvoiced and aspirated consonants. No nasal consonants inside the word at its end are marked as either. If a syllable contained two consonants, Cypriots could not but write it in two syings, ie. two syllables, so the Greek word anthropos (a person) was written as a-to-ro-po-se, and ton khoron (a country) - to-ko-ro-ne.

No surprise that in the end Greeks got sick and tired of this discomfort, and the Syllabary was replaced by the Greek Alphabet. This happened after the Alexander's Hellenization in the 4th century BC.

Languages which used the script: Non-Indo-European (Eteo-Cypriot), Hellenic (Greek of the Arcado-Cypriot dialect).

Images: Cypriot Syllabary

More materials: