Iberian refers to two scripts found on the penninsula of Spain
dating from the second and first millennia BCE
. They were used to write several languages and dialects of the area which were pre Indo-European
. The one exception to this is a few late inscriptions in a proto-Celtic
language. The Iberian script is normally split into two subgroups; Northeastern Iberian and Southern Iberian. Northeastern Iberian was extensively used throughout Catalonia
, and areas of southern France
. Southern Iberian was more isolated, mostly found in Mongente
, and Andalusia
The script is worth note in several respects. By comparisons with bilingual texts, most of the values for its characters have been found. This has yielded the surprising discovery that Iberian was both a syllabic and alphabetic script. Characters for a, e, i, o, u, l, m, m', n, r, r', s, and s' all exist in individual form, however the stop series of p, b, k, g, t, and d all exist in syllabic form, with individual characters for each consonant-vowel pairing. Voicing contrasts were not made but are known to exist from dual transcriptions. The reasons for this odd mix of characteristics is unknown. Few attestments of the language exist for more than one or two words, so very little is known about the underlying grammar or phonology of the dialects for which it was used, but from what is known there aren't any feasible reasons to restrict syllabic signs to the stop series. Two theories offer explanations as to the oddity. The 'pro-Greek' hypothesis states that Iberian originally adapted from Phoenician, like Greek, and was in a transition period from syllabic to alphabetic similar to the one Greek had made earlier. The 'pro-Semitic' hypothesis counters that Iberian actually borrowed from both Greek and Semitic, one of which was more easily suited to alphabetic writing and the other better for syllabic writing.
The northeastern and southern subgroups of Iberian are distinguished mostly through their widely divergent symbols for a few letters such as s and e. Northeastern Iberian also had a tendancy to substitue Greek consonantal signs for the syllabic stops during its later stages that southern Iberian did not share.
Daniels, Peter T. Bright, William. The World's Writing Systems. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.