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Anatolia, the region corresponding to the Asiatic part of modern Turkey, has been a
hotbed of urban life from as far back as 9,000 years ago and is where one of the earliest
cities of the world, Çatal Höyük, is located. However, literate urban societies did not
appear in Anatolia until the 18th century BCE with the rise of the Hittite Empire
centered at its capital of Hattusa.
The Hittites were one of the many nations that spoke the Anatolian branch of the Indo-
European family of languages. The Hittite language was related to Luwian and Palaic,
and possibly to later languages such as Lydian, Lycian, and Carian. Unlike Luwian,
which had an indigenous writing system, Hittite adopted the Akkadian cuneiform to
write their language. Approximately 375 cuneiform signs were adopted from Akkadian
cuneiform. As in Akkadian, signs can be roughly categorized into phonograms,
logograms, and determinatives.
Phonograms are signs used for their phonetic values. They can be a single vowel, a
consonant followed by a vowel, or a vowel followed by a consonant. The following is
the set of phonetic signs used in Hittite cuneiform.

Note that in the transliteration scheme, /z/ stands for the affricate sound [ts], where as /š/
can actually stand for both [s] and [š].
Hittite also adopted the spelling conventions that Akkadian employed in order to write
syllables ending in a consonant, which is to write the syllable as two signs, the first sign
a CV phonogram with the starting consonant and the vowel (or just a V phonogram if
the word starts with a vowel), followed by the second sign a VC phonogram with the
same vowel again followed by the ending consonant.
The following is an example of how isolated consonants are written. Note that the red
text is the Hittite transliteration, the purple text is the phonetic representation, and the
blue text is the English meaning.

To write consonant clusters, either a CV or VC sign is written used but its vowel is
"silent" so that only the consonantal value is pronounced. Depending on the structure of
the consonant cluster, the phonogram with the suppressed vowel can precede or follow
a fully pronounced phonogram containing the vowel of the syllable.

In addition to phonograms, Hittite also employed a number of logograms. Many

phonograms also serve as logograms, and many logograms have multiple meanings as
well. This phenomenon is known as polyvalence, and it existed in all cuneiform scripts
from as far back as Sumerian. Because the system is adopted from Akkadian, which in
turn was adopted from Sumerian, two types of logograms exist in
Hittite. Sumerograms are signs adopted from Sumerian, and in Akkadian they already
served as logograms. In constract, Akkadograms are signs that originally phonetically
spelled words in Akkadian but adopted into Hittite and treated as logograms. This
means that even though the signs can be "read" phonetically one way in Akkadian, they
are read as a word in Hittite.

Note: In the traditional transliteration scheme, logograms are written out in capital
Quite often logograms are accompanied by phonetic complements, phonograms that
serve to disambiguate the reading of logograms and/or to explicitly write out
inflectional ending of the word. The following are some examples:

The Hittite Empire flourished until the 12 century BCE when internal political turmoil
and external threats brought about its fragmentation and demise. The Hittite cuneiform
script died with the Hittite Empire. Neo-Hittite city states which arose in northern
modern-day Syria from fragments of the empire had rulers that were dynastically related

to the old Hittite aristocracy but were ethnically Luwian and left inscriptions in
the Hieroglyphic Luwian script. However, the Hittite language did not completely
disappear, and might have evolved into, or at least contributed to, a later tongue known
as Lycian.
Hittite and Historical Linguistics
Because of its great antiquity, Hittite and its close relative Luwian provided invaluable
aid to the study of Indo-European linguistics. In particular, they were the only languages
with evidence to support the laryngeal theory, which profoundly changed the
understanding of Proto-Indo-European, the supposed mother tongue of all Indo-
European languages.
A full treatment of the laryngeal theory would be too technical and too lengthy here, but
suffice to say that the laryngeal theory concluded that atypical Proto-Indo-European
roots (abstract, basic form of words) were actually typical Proto-Indo-European roots
that contained "laryngeal" consonants. Some of these laryngeal consonants "colored" or
modified the vowels they preceded or followed. All laryngeals eventually coalesced
with the vowels and disappeared, leaving no trace in most documented Indo-European
languages. It is still in intense debate how many laryngeals there were, but most
linguists agree on three:
 h1: neutral laryngeal, meaning it doesn't change the vowel
 h2: a-coloring, turning vowel into /a/
 h3: o-coloring, turning vowel into /o/
The original form of the theory was proposed in 1879 by Ferdinand de Saussure, but
because of its purely analytical arguments and lack of evidence, it remained highly
controversial. However, with the discovery of Hittite and its identification as an Indo-
European language, scholars started to notice cuneiform signs representing /h/-like
sounds appearing in places where the theory predicted laryngeals would appear. For
example, consider Latin pōtare and Sanskrit pā-, both meaning "to drink". Because of
the long vowel /ō/ (in Sanskrit /ō/ became /&\#x0101;/), the reconstructed PIE form
would be *peh3, and in Hittite scholars found the word pahs which meant "to drink, to
swallow". Similarly, we find the cognates Greek anti "against", Latin ante "in front of,
before", and Sanskrit anti "near, in presence of". Because of the short /a/ vowel, the
reconstructed PIE form would be *h2ent, which is quite similar to Hittite hants"front,
Eventually it became accepted that the /h/-like sounds in Hittite were in fact Proto-Indo-
European laryngeals. Later it was discovered that some laryngeals also survived in
Luwian. With two languages providing evidence, laryngeal theory became validated and
accepted by modern linguistics.


Even though a descendent of the Brahmi script, Devanagari has evolved into a highly
cursive script. Many languages in India, such as Hindi and Sanskrit, use Devanagari and
many more languages throughout India use local variants of this script.
Hindu scriptures are written in Devanagari, a fact illustrated by the etymology of the
name. "Devanagari" is a compound word with two roots: deva means "deity",
and nagari means "city". Together it implies a script that is both religious as well as
urbane or sophisticated.

As you look at the following alphabet please keep in mind the following special
symbols of transcription. I kept the traditional phonetic transcription for Sanskrit /
Devanagari, rather than using IPA or American phonetic symbols. Note that in order to
see the special letters, you'll need an Unicode font on your computer.
 ā, ī, ū are longer version of the /a/, /i/, and /u/.
 ṛ ḷ are called "syllabic liquids", and are like /r/ and /l/ but used like vowels. Once
again, a bar above each indicates a longer vowel.
 ạm: nasalized /a/.
 ạh: is pronounced with /a/ first followed by a puff of air.
 ṅ is really a velar nasal, like the end of the English word "sing".
 ñ is the same as it is in Spanish: a palatal nasal.
 ṭ ṭh ḍ ḍh are retroflex versions of /t th d dh/
 ṇ is a retroflex nasal.
 In fact, except for syllabic /r/ and /l/, any consonant with a dot underneath it is
 h following a consonant aspirates that consonant. So /th/ is a /t/ with a puff of air.
 v sometimes is [w], as in "war", and sometimes closer to [v].
 ś is a palatal 's', similar to /sh/ in the English word 'share'.
 ṣ is like /s/ but with your tongue curled back as if pronouncing /r/.
Also you can look at Phonetics for more information.
The following is the basic Devanagari alphabet:

A letter in Devanagari has the default vowel of /a/. To indicate the same consonant
followed by another vowel, additional strokes are added to the letter, like in the follwing

In addition, a few other "diacritics" are used at the end of words. To denote the nasal [-
am], a dot is placed above the letter, much like the /am/ letter. Similary, to write [-ah],
two dots are written to the right of the letter, like the /ah/ letter.

When a consonant ends a word, it is necessary to indicated that the last letter has no
vowel. To do so, a diagonal line, called virama, is drawn under the letter. Letters with
the virama are called halanta letters.

To indicate just the consonant clusters, the letters are fused together in a variety of ways,
a process called samyoga (meaning "yoked together" in Sanskrit). Sometimes the
individual letters can still be discerned, while other times the conjunction creates new
shapes. The range of possibilites is quite high, and I will only give brief examples to
illustrate the concept.


Avestan was an Iranian language in which the earliest Zoroastrian hymns were orally
transmitted since 1500 BCE. Due to lingusitic change, fluency in Avestan as spoken a
thousand years earlier was deteorating, and hence the need to write the language became
increasingly apparent. By the 3rd century CE an alphabet was created to write down the
ancient Avestan language.
The Avestan alphabet was modelled on the Pahlavi script, which in turn was derived
from Aramaic. Like Semitic scripts, the direction of writing in Avestan is right to left,
and the shape of the letters are cursive like those in contemporary Aramaic scripts.
However, there are several differences between Avestan, Pahlavi, and Semitic scripts.
First, Avestan has a large number of letters. The Avestan language has a lot of
consonants, and neither Pahlavi nor Aramaic had enough to represent all of them
unambiguously. As the ancient Avestan hymns were to be preserved, more care was
given to distinguish minute phonological differences.
It was probably due to this same reason that all vowels are written, and even vowel
length is taken into account.

Due to the age of orally Avestan text, it facilitated the study of Iranian and Indic
languages. In fact, the oldest Avestan is so similar to the oldest Sanskrit that you can
translate text in one language to another by applying few phonological changes. Like
Purple is Avestan, Red is Sanskrit. The ə symbol represents the mid central vowel
(schwa) like the "e"s in "taken".
təm amavantəm yazatəm
tam amavantam yajatam
surəm damohu scvistəm
suram dhamasu savistham
miθrəm yazai zaoθrabyo
mitram yajai hotrabhyah


The Armenian alphabet was created in the 5th century CE by Saint Mesrop under
influences from Greek (as reflected in the alphabetical order and the left-to-right
direction of writing). The alphabet's original 36 letters were well suited for the Old
Armenian language. Two additional letters, "o" and "fe", were added later during the
late Middle Ages to write loan words, bringing the total number of letters to 38.
The Old Armenian language was the only written form of the language from the 5th to
the 19th century, while in the intervening centuries, phonological changes have split the
Armenian language into two dialects, namely Eastern and Western. However, only the
Eastern dialect is taught as the written form at school nowadays as it is closer to the
historical Old Armenian form, even though the Western dialect is more widely spoken.
In the following chart, both the Eastern (EA) and Western (WA) phonetic values for
each letter are given. The name of the letters are given in the Eastern dialect, but you
can directly translate any name to its Western version by simply mapping all the Eastern
phonetic values to their Western counterparts.