In search for a decent “qaf” for this blog I found out that the Phoenician letter “qaph” is written exactly as the capital Latin Q. Several other Latin and Greek letters are believed to originate from the Phoenician alphabet. Letters like M, S, K still carry this resemblance.
If such small similarity between alphabets is sometimes clear, the differences are much clearer.
Other than being written from right to left, Semitic alphabets have no vowels. Vowel sounds are not usually depicted in a script even when a vowel changes the whole meaning of a word. Semitic nations considered vowels not worth of being written. Even though Hebrew and Arabic contain minor signs (not letters) to express vowels visually (nikkud and harakat), you may notice that these signs are usually ignored. In some words the constants written are not more than half of the real sound of the word. You have to know by heart how a word sounds or guess which vowel to supply for a given constant in it. Such writing systems are called “abjad” systems.
Russians say: east is a peculiar case. East cannot be understood. It should be accepted as it is. This may apply perfectly to Middle East where the expressed part of life is not more than half of what people experience. Political problems are half expressed. Solutions are half solutions and the easiest way to resolve a conflict is simply to hide its consequences, just like a vowel, while it actually does not seize to exist there wouldn’t be any-verbal reference to it.
A Tunisian girl raped by police last September is now facing jail for ‘INDECENT BEHAVIOR”. Tunisian justice seems trying to suppress any voice disturbing the newly-set order of things in this pioneering arab-spring state. The easiest way to do it is to hide vowels, to stop victims from appealing to courts rather than directly addressing the problem.
In Lebanon any discussion regarding the 15 long years of civil war is still a taboo. It is not that Lebanese people have already jettisoned sectarian animosity. It is only that no one wants to talk about it.
Examples of the “abjad system” applied in Middle East everyday life are plenty. Duality between what is said and what is seen, what things are and what they are officially called has become a part of the functioning system. Will Arab Spring change this pattern? The Tunisian example is not promising.