The Celtiberian script is a paleohispanic script that was the main means of written expression of the Celtiberian language, an extinct Continental Celtic language, also expressed in Latin alphabet. This script is a direct adaptation of the northeastern Iberian script the most frequently used of the Iberian scripts.
All the paleohispanic scripts, with the exception of the Greco-Iberian alphabet, share a common distinctive typological characteristic: they represent syllabic values for the occlusives, and monophonemic values for the rest of consonants and vowels. From the writing systems point of view they are neither alphabets nor syllabaries, rather, they are mixed scripts that are normally identified as semi-syllabaries. There is no agreement about how the paleohispanic semi-syllabaries originated; some researchers conclude that their origin is linked only to the Phoenician alphabet, while others believe the Greek alphabet was also involved.
The basic Celtiberian signary contains 26 signs, instead of the 28 signs of the original model, the northeastern Iberian script, because the Celtiberians exclude one of the two rhotic and one of the three nasals: 5 vowels, 15 syllabic signs and 8 consonants (one lateral, two sibilants, one rhotic and two nasals). Also, the Iberian sign “s” is transcribed as “z” in Celtiberian, because it is assumed that it sometimes expresses the fricative result of an ancient dental occlusive ("d"), while the Iberian sign “s´” is transcribed as “s”. As for the use of the nasal signs, there are two variants of the Celtiberian script: In the eastern variant, the excluded nasal sign was the Iberian sign “m´”; while in the western variant, the excluded nasal sign was the Iberian sign “m”. This is interpreted as evidence for a double origin of the Celtiberian script. And like the dual variant of the northeastern Iberian script, the western variant shows evidence of the use of the dual system. This system allows differentiation of the occlusive signs (those writing dental and velar sounds) between voiced and unvoiced by the use of an additional stroke, with the result that the simple sign represents the voiced value and the complex sign represents the unvoiced value.
The Celtiberian inscriptions have been found mainly in the Ebre valley and near the sources of the Tejo and Douro rivers, where the Roman and Greek sources locate the Celtiberian people. The Celtiberian inscriptions were made on different object types (silver and bronze coins, ceramic recipients, bronze plaques and tesseras, amphores, stones, spindle-whorls etc.). They are only almost two hundred surviving inscriptions, but one of them is exceptionally long: the third Botorrita bronze (Zaragoza) with more than three thousand signs containing a census of near 250 people. Almost always the direction of the writing is left to right. The fact that almost all the Celtiberian inscriptions were found out of archaeological context does not allow a precise chronology to be established, but it seem that the oldest inscriptions in Celtiberian script date to the 2nd century BCE and the recent ones date from the 1st century BCE.
Luzaga plaque (Guadalajara). Western signary.
First Botorrita plaque (Zaragoza). Eastern signary.
Another Botorrita plaque (Zaragoza). Eastern signary.
Fröhner tessera. Unknown procedence. Eastern signary.
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- Hoz, Javier de (2005): «La lengua y la escritura celtibéricas», Celtiberos. Tras la estela de Numancia, pp. 417–426.
- Jordán, Carlos (2004): Celtibérico, Zaragoza.
- Jordán, Carlos (2005): «¿Sistema dual de escritura en celtibérico?», Palaeohispanica 5, pp. 1013–1030.
- Rodríguez Ramos, Jesús (1997): «Sobre el origen de la escritura celtibérica», Kalathos 16, pp. 189–197.
- Untermann, Jürgen (1997): Monumenta Linguarum Hispanicarum. IV Die tartessischen, keltiberischen und lusitanischen Inschriften, Wiesbaden.
- Schmoll, Ulrich (1960) : «Die iberischen und keltiberischen Nasalzeichen», KZ 76, 280-295.
- Villar, Francisco (1993): «Las silbantes en celtibérico», Lengua y cultura en la Hispania prerromana, pp. 773–812.
- Villar, Francisco (1995): Estudios de celtibérico y toponimia prerromana, Salamanca.
- The letters of the Celtiberian script
- A transcription of a Botorrita plaque
- Detailed map of the Pre-Roman Peoples of Iberia (around 200 BCE)
- The Celtiberian script - Jesús Rodríguez Ramos
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