Phoenician language

𐤃𐤁𐤓𐤉𐤌 𐤊𐤍𐤏𐤍𐤉𐤌
𐤃𐤁𐤓𐤉𐤌 𐤊𐤍𐤏𐤍𐤉𐤌
dabarīm Kanaʿanīm
Native toCanaan; later spoken in coastal outposts and islands throughout the Mediterranean.
Eracontinued in its Punic form perhaps as late as the ninth century AD
Phoenician alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3phn
phoe1239  Phoenician[1]
phoe1238  Phoenician–Punic[2]
Phoenician Language.png
Distribution of the Phoenician language
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Phoenician was a language originally spoken in the coastal (Mediterranean) region, then called "Pūt" (in Phoenician and Egyptian), "Canaan" (in Biblical Hebrew, Old Arabic, and Aramaic), "Phoenicia" (in Greek and Latin). It is a part of the Canaanite subgroup of the Northwest Semitic languages. Other members of the family are Hebrew, Ammonite, Moabite, and Edomite.[3][4]

The area in which Phoenician was spoken includes Greater Syria and, at least as a prestige language, Anatolia, specifically the areas now including Lebanon, coastal Syria, coastal northern Israel, parts of Cyprus and some adjacent areas of Turkey.[5] It was also spoken in the area of Phoenician colonization along the coasts of the southwestern Mediterranean Sea, including those of modern Tunisia, Morocco, Libya and Algeria as well as Malta, the west of Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, the Balearic Islands and southernmost Spain.


The Phoenicians were the first state-level society to make extensive use of the Semitic alphabet. The Phoenician alphabet is the oldest verified consonantal alphabet, or abjad.[6] It has become conventional to refer to the script as "Proto-Canaanite" until the mid-11th century BC, when it is first attested on inscribed bronze arrowheads, and as "Phoenician" only after 1050 BC.[7] The Phoenician phonetic alphabet is generally believed to be at least the partial ancestor of almost all modern alphabets.

The most important Phoenician trade routes and cities in the Mediterranean Basin

From a traditional linguistic perspective, Phoenician was composed of a variety of dialects.[3][4] However, the very slight differences in language and the insufficient records of the time make it unclear whether Phoenician formed a separate and united dialect or was merely a superficially-defined part of a broader language continuum. Through their maritime trade, the Phoenicians spread the use of the alphabet to Northwest Africa and Europe, where it was adopted by the Greeks. Later, the Etruscans adopted a modified version for their own use, which, in turn, was modified and adopted by the Romans and became the Latin alphabet.[8]

Punic colonisation spread Phoenician to the western Mediterranean, where the distinct Punic language developed. Punic also died out, but it seems to have survived far longer than Phoenician, perhaps into the 9th century AD.[9]