Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Oxford Classical Dictionary. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 24 June 2022

Spain and Portugal, pre-Roman scripts and languageslocked

Spain and Portugal, pre-Roman scripts and languageslocked

  • Joseph F. Eska


An archaic Ionian Greek alphabet was employed along the Mediterranean coast in the area of the modern provinces of Alicante and Murcia in the 4th century bce to engrave inscriptions in the Iberian language. It does not make use of the characters 〈ε μ π φ θ χ〉. While the phoneme /e/ is represented by 〈η〉, it seems clear that [m] existed only as an allophone of /n/ and that /p ph th kh/ did not exist in the language.1Much more widespread and attested in many more inscriptions are distinct variants of a paleohispanic script. There is general agreement that the script was developed, probably in the 8th or 7th century bce, in the Iberian Peninsula and that its principal, perhaps, indeed, entire source is the Phoenician abjad, though some believe that certain characters are derived from the Greek alphabet.2 The paleohispanic script is distinct among writing systems of the ancient Mediterranean in that it is semi-moraic and semi-segmental. Characters for plosive phonemes include an inherent vowel, thus there are five separate characters for each plosive—for example, 〈Ta, Te, Ti, To, Tu〉—while simple vowels, sonorants, and sibilants are represented with alphabetic characters.


  • Linguistics

Updated in this version

Text and bibliography expanded; "Primary Texts" section added.

You do not currently have access to this article


Please login to access the full content.


Access to the full content requires a subscription