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The mediae (b g d) in Punic and in the futhark

Theo Vennemann

Pages 1 - 50

This article deals with certain aspects of the origination of the futhark, namely the adaptation of the Phoenician, specifically the Carthaginian or Punic, alphabet to the Proto-Germanic language, and how the Punic letters B G D were utilized in this process. Two hypotheses are discussed, one in which the g and d runes are derived from the Punic emphatic plosives, K! and T! , and another one, favored in this article, in which the late Punic development of b g d into fricatives and semivowels is considered. The following results are attained with the second theory: (1) B with its weakened sound value [w] is conflated with W in the w rune, which explains at once, and for the first time, the shape of the w rune, namely as Punic B, as well as the fact that the Punic letter B has no counterpart in position 2 of the futhark, the futhark reflecting the beginning of the Punic alphabet,? B G D H, imperfectly as f – u þ a. (2) The weakened sound values of G and D are [J] and [ð], which explains why G and D are integrated into the futhark as u and þ rather than as g and d. (3) Since the geminates of b g d, represented in Punic by the same single letters as the singletons (i.e. B G D), were not weakened in Punic but remained plosives, Proto-Germanic /b g d/ were represented by doubled representations of the w, u, and þ runes, which explains why w and b, u and g, þ and d stand in this graphic doubling relationship and also why they are the only pairs of runes in the futhark for which this peculiar kind of relationship holds in an explainable way. Thoughts about the time of, and the reason for, the application of the Punic alphabet to Proto-Germanic conclude the article.


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