Language issues
Main home page   Amazon UK Store Amazon COM Store  
Translations Languages Language issues Writing Chronology Patriarchs Exodus Judges Google+1 Site access Mobile apps Resources Site map

Ancient languages and character sets

Here is a Java applet I wrote to show you what English characters look like when transliterated into various ancient scripts. The region below will load the applet (provided your browser and security settings allow this). When it has finished loading, type your name in the box at the top and after a short pause you will see the equivalent Ugaritic cuneiform characters appear. Up to 15 characters are allowed. To select a different background colour, or a different script, use the drop-down selection boxes at the bottom.

Note that not all English characters (especially vowels) have an equivalent character, so your cuneiform name may well be shorter than your English one. Also, of course, this is not a translation of your name - just a transliteration of the letters. Ancient scripts used other marks to indicate vocalisation and meaning as well as the characters themselves.

This applet requires Java to be installed and activated.

Other similarly-intentioned web pages, part of the University of Pennsylvania site are at:
http://home.korax.net/~websiter/cgi-bin/hieroglyphsreal.cgi for hieroglyphs, and
http://home.korax.net/~websiter/cgi-bin/cuneiform.cgi for Babylonian cuneiform.

Both of these take a limited number of characters but allow you to print out the results. Mine look like:
Richard in hieroglyphs RBA in Babylonian cuneiform Hieroglyph (Richard) and cuneiform (RBA) respectively.

Most of the ancient languages in the area of interest are branches of the Semitic group, a large family of languages still in use today (Hebrew, Arabic and some North African tongues). The spoken forms of these show a great family resemblance, but the written forms differ widely. Some of these differences can be explained by changes in writing materials - wedge marks and clay, or brush marks and papyrus, for example. Here you can see some examples of different scripts:

Akkadian cuneiform
Akkadian cuneiform
Old Persian cuneiform
Old Persian cuneiform
Ugaritic
Ugaritic
Egyptian Meroitic Demotic
Egyptian Meroitic Demotic
Egyptian Meroitic Hieroglyphic
Egyptian Meroitic Hieroglyphic
Hebrew
Hebrew
Greek
Greek

Most cuneiform scripts were written left-to-right. Canaanite texts may be written in either direction or indeed in vertical columns. Phoenician, Hebrew and Aramaic were written right-to-left. Some older texts alternate the direction of writing - termed boustrephedon by analogy to an ox ploughing.


Credit for the fonts displayed on this page is given to Reinhold Kainhofer. This link will take you to his web site, from where most of the fonts shown can be downloaded. Others used on this site may be found by following the obtaining fonts link.

Language issues