How do I tell when to read from the right to the left or where to start?

This is perhaps the first obstacle to reading the script because the authors, at that time in history, had no solid agreement of which direction their symbols would be read or written. It appears that there is a preference for writing from right to left, opposite of what westerners are familiar with doing, and from bottom to top in the script associated with the Purgatory River area in Colorado. Another thing to keep in mind was that, quite often, the script is written in a deliberate and clever way so that the meaning of the phrase is more or less the same, no matter which direction it is read.

When it comes to the holy name of God, "Alef" or a circle is used to denote "Yah" or "El."

How do I tell when I have come to the end of one word and the beginning of the next word?

Ligatures are when two or more symbols are connected together to form a single shape. When grouped together like this, the entire ligature is usually a single word. Ordinarily, in old Negev script, the final letter of a word is repeated, signaling the end of the word. If there is more than one variant to any particular letter that terminates a word or phrase, the alternate sign is often placed next to the original sign. Another way that word breaks are indicated is in the deliberate rotation or enlargement of the last letter in a word string. It appears that each author had their own set of preferred rules but, with a little patience, the correct patter can usually be found with a little effort.

Many of the translations give me a collection of possible phrases -- how do I know which ones are correct?

Old Negev is a Hebrew dialect that was originally written without vowels. As variations in Hebrew dialects began to grow, vowel sounds were later added to standardize the exact sound of certain words and phrases. As a result, today there are several different words which have the same order and number of consonants but have different vowels. As a result, all of the possible words and meanings must be given equal weight. This may sound problematic but it is not. The different vowels that have been added to root words made of similar consonants all have similar root meanings so that the translation will usually be apparent regardless of the difference in vowels.

The order of concepts and grammar can vary as much as English. The subject, verb and object can be inverted (i.e. "I went to the store to buy bread," could also be written as "For bread I did go to the store," or "I go for bread to the store..."). It takes some practice and familiarity with the habits of the author(s) of the region in which the Negev script is found.

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