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date: 08 March 2021

Punic languagelocked

  • Benjamin Fortson

Extract

The Punic language was the variety of the Northwest Semitic language Phoenician spoken in Carthage and its colonies in the western Mediterranean basin (see Phoenicians). Remains of the language have been found primarily in North Africa but also in France, Spain, Sicily, Malta, Sardinia, and the Balearic Islands, and date from the 6th centurybce to the 5th centuryce. There is possible evidence that Punic continued to be spoken in North Africa as late as the Arab conquest in the 7th century. Until the fall of Carthage in 146bce, Punic was not distinct from a kind of standard Phoenician in use elsewhere, but after this time, when Carthage’s ties to the Phoenician homeland were severed, it diverged more noticeably, especially in its writing system but also in its phonology and lexicon, the latter affected by loanwords from other North African languages (in particular, Berber) and Latin. Inscriptions up to the fall of Carthage are written in the Phoenician alphabet, after which a cursive form, called Neo-Punic, is generally used instead. A collection of late inscriptions (4th–5th centuryce) from interior Tripolitania are written in the Latin alphabet, sometimes with admixture of Latin; and in a few cases the Greek alphabet was used as well.

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