Are there spaces or other marks between word in Ancient Semitic (i.e. Hebrew, Aramaic, Canaanite) epigraphs?

1 Answer 1


Usually there are marks, but in casual and unofficial texts they are often absent.

The oldest lengthy Old Phoenician text, on king Ahiram's sarcophagus, c. 850 BC, has its words divided with a short vertical stroke.

The Phoenician inscription on the stele of Kilamuwu king of Bit-Gabbadi (modern Zenjirli, Syria), 9th century BC, has words separated by a dot • at the middle of the line's height.

The Mesha Stele, also known as the Moabite Stone, around 840 BCE containing a significant Canaanite inscription in the name of King Mesha of Moab (a kingdom located in modern Jordan) has words separated by a dot on the line, just like our full stop.

Inscriptions in the Ancient South Arabian script have a vertical line | between words.

At the same time, lots of monumental and handwritten texts in Phonician, Canaanite, Punic, Hebrew have no word separators at all. Aramaic began to use spaces between words and later, when different varieties of Aramaic (e.g. Syriac) developed joining letters within a word, this tendency persisted.

Early History of the Alphabet. An Introduction to West Semitic Epigraphy and Palaeography, 1997–2005, Joseph Naveh.
The book of Hebrew script: history, palaeography, script styles, calligraphy & design, 1997, 2003, Ada Yardeni.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.