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In New Evidence on the Last Days of Ugarit (1965), Astour quotes a Ugaritic letter (RS 19.11) which seems to include a glyph "Ž":

quotation taken from Astour

However, I haven't been able to find any source talking about a "Ž" in Ugaritic: Pardee doesn't list it in his orthographic charts or in his overview of the phonology, for example, and there's no codepoint for a "Ž" character in the Unicode block.

Astour mentions it's unclear if the first glyph in the quoted name is Ž or Ġ ("ghain", 𐎙), if that's at all helpful. There's one glyph in the alphabet whose pronunciation and transcription are uncertain ("ssu", 𐎝, alternates with S in some words), but that looks nothing like ghain.

So: what is this "Ž"? Is it an outdated name for some other glyph, or part of a superseded theory? (And if so, what is its modern equivalent?) Or is it something else entirely, e.g. a special character used in transcribing foreign words?

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  • Also, if anyone knows where a modern transcription of RS 19.11 could be found, that could also be helpful. I haven't found anything more recent than 1965 on it.
    – Draconis
    Mar 2 '21 at 20:37
  • Is it not just /ʒ/? I don't know anything about Ugaritic but I do know in American usage <ž> can be IPA <ʒ> in the same way <š> is IPA <ʃ>.
    – Cairnarvon
    Mar 2 '21 at 21:13
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    @Cairnarvon Probably, but afaict Ugaritic isn't thought to have had a /ʒ/. (Like many other Semitic languages, there was a three-way distinction S Z Ṣ and then a separate Š that patterned differently, probably descending from something like /ts dz ts' s/.) In particular, though, the left column here seems to be a grapheme-by-grapheme transcription, and I'm not sure what Ugaritic grapheme "ž" is meant to correspond to.
    – Draconis
    Mar 2 '21 at 21:47
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    Given that it seems to be used in a name here, my immediate guess would be that it is indeed a foreign name with a foreign sound – perhaps written with an indigenous glyph being used with an alternative value, in much the same way that someone called Želinski might in English have their name written ‘Zelinski’, but still pronounced with a /ʒ/. Mar 3 '21 at 2:21
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    @Tristan Oh, I was looking at an alphabet chart where {ǵ} looks similar to {q}. Then {ẓ} is similar to {ǵ}, not to {z}. No idea why it deviates from the one in Wikipedia for example, I usually work with transcriptions :)
    – Keelan
    Mar 3 '21 at 10:11
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In the monograph Угаритский язык [1965, Сегерт С.] (“The Ugaritic Language”, 1965, by Stanislav Segert), page 22, section 3.14, the author states that in the latest stages of the existence of Ugaritic its interdental consonants changed their pronunciation: began to be pronounced as and as . A screenshot:

enter image description here

The chart is titled “Scheme of development of interdentals and ”, the columns from left to right are: Proto-Semitic; Ugaritic, subdivided into “classical”, “archaic”, and “vulgar”; Arabic; Classical Hebrew; Aramaic; Akkadian.

Note that the Soviet book is also from 1965, just like the article you gave a link to, and is also followed by a question mark.

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  • Very interesting! So if I understand right, the actual glyph would be <ḏ>, but some 1960s linguists called it <ž> in later periods (probably because of how names were transcribed into Hurrian or the like)?
    – Draconis
    Mar 3 '21 at 15:07
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    @Draconis The some 1960s linguist actually later became a professor at UCLA. Just in case you do not lke stuff published in Russian. He will probably also have some later writings and those are more likely to be in English.
    – Vladimir F
    Mar 3 '21 at 15:23
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    @Draconis Searching for "ž" at books.google.cz/… might be of help. It shows "The letter ḏ was probably used to indicate /ž/ in foreign words aḏdd /aždād/ (?) ... H. Ašdо̄d" and another part about the change explained above, again with a question-mark.
    – Vladimir F
    Mar 3 '21 at 15:29
  • @VladimirF Many thanks! As you surmised, I'm not good enough at Russian to understand linguistic works so I'm reliant on translations.
    – Draconis
    Mar 3 '21 at 15:38
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    @VladimirF - Thank you, that's a really great find! I didn't even think of looking for English-language works of Stanislav Segert or googling his name in the Latin alphabet.
    – Yellow Sky
    Mar 3 '21 at 18:43
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To add on to Yellow Sky's excellent answer, and based on suggestions by Vladimir F in the comments, here's an excerpt from Segert's later A Basic Grammar of Ugaritic Language (1985):

In some late, informal texts, a reduced inventory of phonemes is used. The original /ṯ/ merges with /š/; the result of the merger is transliterated Š (the Ugaritic sign is a circle); cf. 4.31:2=86.53 bŠŠ ʕŠr “for 16” (cf. ṯṯ 4.630:6=82.2). Pharyngeal /ḥ/ is supplanted by /ḫ/; the result is written with the /ḫ/ sign (sometimes transliterated ); cf. ypḫ 4.31:9 “witness” (cf. ypḥ 3.9:18=84.2). The letter was probably used to indicate /ž/ in foreign words: aḏdd /ʔaždād/(?) 4.709:2 GN (H. ʔAšdōd).

Emphasis mine. So this glyph is likely a dhal (𐎏), which looks similar enough to 𐎙 to be ambiguous if the scribe wasn't careful.

EDIT: Thanks to Alex B, here's another passage, from Sivan's Grammar of the Ugaritic Language:

It would appear that the shift > d took place in Ugaritic after the invention of the Ugaritic alphabet (in contrast to the shift > [cf. below] which has taken place prior to the use of that alphabet, since is not represented at all in Ugaritic writing). Once the shift > d occurred, the sign for was left devoid of meaning. Therefore, the Ugaritian scribes began to use it for representation of a foreign sound (particularly in Hurrian words and in foreign personal names). There are those who claim that the -sign was pronounced ž (cf. Garr 1986:47 n. 21), but there is no firm basis for this.

Sivan goes on to cite an instance where expected *šd is written ḏd, possibly indicating voicing assimilation, though there's not enough evidence to say anything conclusive about it.

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