Phoenician was a language originally spoken in the coastal Mediterranean region then called "Canaan" in Phoenician, Arabic, Greek, and Aramaic. It was called "Phoenicia" in Greek and Latin. The ancient Egyptians called it "Pūt". Phoenician is a Semitic language of the Canaanite subgroup. It is related to the Hebrew language but was more developed. Phoenician is divided into three groups. Archaic Phoenician dates from the 10th to the 7th century BC. Middle Phoenician dates from 6th to the 4th century BC. Late Phoenician was dated from the 3rd to the 1st century BC. The purple cloth produced by the Phoenicians gave the ancient Greeks their name for the color; Phoenicia.
The area where Phoenician was spoken includes modern-day Lebanon, coastal Syria, Palestine, northern Israel and parts of Cyprus. In some adjacent areas of Anatolia it was spoken as a prestige language. It was also spoken in the area of Phoenician colonization along the coasts of the Southwestern Mediterranean. These include the area of modern Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. Also in Malta, the west of Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica and southernmost Spain. The Phoenicians were the first state-level society to make extensive use of the alphabet. The Phoenician alphabet is the oldest verified consonantal alphabet, or abjad.
- Glenn Markoe, Phoenicians (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), p. 108
- Thomas F. X. Noble; et al., Western Civilization: Beyond Boundaries, Volume A (Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2011), pp. 30–31
- The Cambridge Ancient History, Vol III Part 1, eds John Boardman; I. E. S. Edwards (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003), p. 819