I would be very interested if someone could provide me with a useful link to read Zellig Harris's text on the origin of the alphabet. The reference is:

Harris, Zellig S. 1933. “Acrophony and vowellessness in the creation of the alphabet”. Journal of American Oriental Society 53.387. [Summary of 1932 Univ. of Pennsylvania M.A. thesis “Origin of the Alphabet”.]

I have not been able to find it, and since I am writing from Iberia at this moment, in site access to any US library is out of the question at this point in time for me.

  • Two copies are known to exist, at MIT and U. Penn; it is non-circulating at Penn.
    – user6726
    Commented May 4, 2018 at 14:58

2 Answers 2


The journal you are looking for can be easily read online on JSTOR. Here is the link to the page of your interest:


However, it's really just 4 lines abstract of Harris' paper. I don't think it's more useful than Wikipedia.

  • Thanks @Artemij Keidan. I will have a look at it. However, ist it possible to have access to the original long text by Harris? Commented May 4, 2018 at 8:48

1933 Acrophony and vowellessness in the creation of the alphabet. J. Am. Orient. Soc. 53:387.

This is the sum total of the notice in the JAOS. He does not seem to have published it as an article:

Mr. ZELLIG S. HARRIS, of the University of Pennsylvania: Acrophony and Vowellessness in the creation of the Alphabet. Remarks by Professor Albright.
The existence of the acrophonic principle in the alphabet is shown by the Serabit material. Vowellessness is explained from acrophony. In Semitic no word begins with a vowel: no sign therefore came to receive a vowel as its value.

  • Well, it was his master thesis, so I guess It must have amounted to 80-100 pages and I guess it should be stocked at some University Libraty, maybe at Penn..... Commented May 4, 2018 at 13:39
  • 2
    standing to his bibliography the thesis has never been published zelligharris.org/ZSHbibliography.html Commented May 4, 2018 at 20:06

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