deriving from

Genealogy of scripts derived from Proto-Sinaitic

Nearly all the segmental scripts (loosely "alphabets", but see below for more precise terminology) used around the globe appear to have derived from the Proto-Sinaitic alphabet. These include the Latin alphabet — forms of which are used today to write numerous languages — but also such disparate cousins as the writing systems of Hebrew, Arabic, both runes, Ethiopic, Devanagari writing of India, the native scripts of the Philippines and Indonesia, and perhaps Cree "syllabics" and, to a limited degree, Korean Hangul. There are also syllabic systems derived superficially from these alphabets, such as Cherokee and the Japanese Sign Language syllabary.

Only a few alphabets are not graphically derived from this family of scripts, such as Ol Chiki (for Santali), Zhuyin (Chinese phonics), Tāna (Maldivian), and the extinct Ogham (Old Irish) and semi-alphabetic Old Persian cuneiform scripts. Some of the others were constructed, such as N'Ko (Bambara) and Braille, rather than deriving from an existing writing system.

The first Middle Bronze Age alphabets were adapted from Egyptian hieroglyphs. A possibly independent alphabet, Meroitic, was also adapted from Egyptian hieroglyphs, and therefore may be a cousin to the Proto-Sinaitic family.


Scripts that are still used are marked in bold


  • The dates are intended to show the approximate 'birthdate' of a script; however in many cases (marked by 'c.') they are widely approximate, and may be off even by centuries. In several cases, the development of one script into another was a gradual process over several centuries, that is difficult to pin down with precision. Following that, in parentheses, is the name of one or two modern countries corresponding to the region where the script was first widely used. In a few cases, a direct graphic letter-to-letter correspondence cannot be precisely established between a 'parent script' and its children, making the exact placement of some family members somewhat controversial, eg. in the case of the Georgian alphabet. Much of the information here was compiled from the "Ancient Scripts" and "Omniglot" websites, which do not always agree. Despite many of these scripts commonly being called "alphabets", the recent linguistic classifications of abugidas and semi-syllabaries are shown in Italic; the others are abjads or alphabets proper. Many of these scripts are no longer widely used for writing any language today, having been abandoned in favor of others; those that still are have been marked in bold.
  • Some scholars, including Gari Ledyard, believe that the core consonants of Hangul were taken from the earlier Phagspa script, with the other consonants derived from these. See Gari Ledyard for more complete information.

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