The EGYPTIAN LANGUAGE was spoken in ancient
Its classical form is known as
Middle Egyptian , the vernacular of
Middle Kingdom of Egypt which remained the literary language of
* 1 Classification
* 2 History
* 3 Dialects * 4 Orthography
* 5 Phonology
* 5.1 Consonants * 5.2 Vowels * 5.3 Phonotactics * 5.4 Stress * 5.5 Egyptological pronunciation
* 6 Morphology
* 6.1 Nouns * 6.2 Pronouns * 6.3 Verbs * 6.4 Adjectives * 6.5 Prepositions * 6.6 Adverbs
* 13 Literature
* 13.1 Overviews * 13.2 Grammars * 13.3 Dictionaries * 13.4 Online dictionaries
* 14 External links
In Egyptian, the Proto-
Although Egyptian is the oldest
* Archaic Egyptian (before 2600 BC), the reconstructed language of the Early Dynastic Period , * Old Egyptian (c. 2600 – 2000 BC), the language of the Old Kingdom , * Middle Egyptian (c. 2000 – 1350 BC), the language of the Middle Kingdom to early New Kingdom ) and continuing on as a literary language into the 4th century, * Late Egyptian (c. 1350 – 700 BC), Amarna period to Third Intermediate Period , * Demotic (c. 700 BC – AD 400), the vernacular of the Late Period , Ptolemaic and early Roman Egypt , * Coptic (after c. 200 CE), the vernacular at the time of Christianisation , and liturgical language of Egyptian Christianity .
Old, Middle, and Late Egyptian were all written using both the hieroglyphic and hieratic scripts. Demotic is the name of the script derived from hieratic beginning in the 7th century BC. The Coptic alphabet is the use of the Greek alphabet adapted for Egyptian phonology, first developed in the Ptolemaic period , and gradually replacing the use of the Demotic script in about the 4th to 5th centuries CE.
Seal impression from the tomb of Seth-Peribsen , containing the oldest known complete sentence in Egyptian
The term "Archaic Egyptian" is sometimes reserved for the earliest use of hieroglyphs, during the late 4th to early 3rd millennia BC. At the earliest stage, around 3300 BC; hieroglyphs were not a fully developed writing system , being at a transitional stage of proto-writing ; over time the time leading up to the 27th century BC, grammatical features such as nisba formation can be seen to occur.
d(m)ḏ.n.f tꜣwj n zꜣ.f nsw.t-bj.t(j) pr-jb.sn(j)
unite.PRF.3SG land.DUAL .PREP son.3SG sedge-bee house -heart .3PL
"He has united the Two Lands for his son, Dual King Peribsen ."
Extensive texts appear from about 2600 BC. The Pyramid Texts are the largest body of literature written in this phase of the language. One of its distinguishing characteristics is the tripling of ideograms , phonograms, and determinatives to indicate the plural. Overall, it does not differ significantly from Middle Egyptian, the classical stage of the language, though it is based on a different dialect.
Middle Egyptian was spoken from about 2000 BC for a further 700 years, when Late Egyptian made its appearance. In writing, it makes use of around 900 hieroglyphs . Middle Egyptian is not descended directly from Old Egyptian, which was based on a different dialect.
Middle Egyptian stage is taken to have ended around the 14th
century BC, giving rise to
Late Egyptian . This transition was taking
place in the later period of the
Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt
As the classical variant of Egyptian, Middle Egyptian is the best-documented variety of the language, and has attracted the most attention by far from Egyptology . Whilst most Middle Egyptian is seen written on monuments by hieroglyphs, it is also written using a cursive variant , and the related hieratic .
Middle Egyptian first became available to modern scholarship with the decipherment of hieroglyphs in the early 19th century. The first grammar of Middle Egyptian was published by Adolf Erman 1894, surpassed in 1927 by Alan Gardiner 's work. Middle Egyptian has been well-understood since then, although certain points of the verbal inflection remained open to revision until the mid-20th century, notably due to Hans Jakob Polotsky .
Late Egyptian is represented by a large body of religious and secular
literature , comprising such examples as the
Story of Wenamun
The Bible contains some words, terms and names that are thought by scholars to be Egyptian in origin. An example of this is Zaphnath-Paaneah , the Egyptian name given to Joseph .
DEMOTIC AND COPTIC
Third-century Coptic inscription
Demotic is the name given to the Egyptian vernacular of the Late and Ptolemaic periods. It was written in the Demotic script , derived from a northern variety of hieratic writing.
Coptic is the name given to the stage of the language at the time of
Christianisation . It survived into the medieval period, but by the
16th century was dwindling rapidly due to the persecution of Coptic
Christians under the Mamluks . It probably survived in the Egyptian
countryside as a spoken language for several centuries after that.
Coptic survives as the liturgical language of the Coptic Orthodox
Church of Alexandria and the
Coptic Catholic Church
Pre-Coptic Egyptian does not show great dialectal differences in the written language because of the centralised nature of Egyptian society. However, differences must have existed in speech because a letter from c. 1200 BC complains that the language of a correspondent is as unintelligible as the speech of a northern Egyptian to a southerner.
Recently, some evidence of internal dialects has been found in pairs of similar words in Egyptian that, based on similarities with later dialects of Coptic, may be derived from northern and southern dialects of Egyptian. Written Coptic has five major dialects, which differ mainly in graphic conventions, most notably the southern Saidic dialect, the main classical dialect, and the northern Bohairic dialect, currently used in Coptic Church services.
Most surviving texts in the
Hieroglyphs are employed in two ways in Egyptian texts: as ideograms to represent the idea depicted by the pictures and, more commonly, as phonograms to represent their phonetic value.
As the phonetic realisation of Egyptian cannot be known with certainty, Egyptologists use a system of transliteration to denote each sound that could be represented by a uniliteral hieroglyph.
Further information: Transliteration of Ancient Egyptian
While the consonantal phonology of the
Phonologically, Egyptian contrasted labial, alveolar, palatal, velar,
uvular, pharyngeal, and glottal consonants in a distribution rather
similar to that of
Since vowels were not written until Coptic, reconstructions of the Egyptian vowel system are much more uncertain and rely mainly on evidence from Coptic and records of Egyptian words, especially proper nouns, in other languages/writing systems. Also, scribal errors provide evidence of changes in pronunciation over time.
The actual pronunciations reconstructed by such means are used only by a few specialists in the language. For all other purposes, the Egyptological pronunciation is used, but it often bears little resemblance to what is known of how Egyptian was pronounced.
The following consonants are reconstructed for Archaic (before 2600 BC) and Old Egyptian (2686–2181 BC), with IPA equivalents in square brackets if they differ from the usual transcription scheme:
EARLY EGYPTIAN CONSONANTS
LABIAL DENTAL POSTALVEOLAR PALATAL VELAR UVULAR PHARYNGEAL GLOTTAL
NASAL m n
STOP VOICELESS p t
ṯ k q *
VOICED b d *
ḏ* ɡ *
FRICATIVE VOICELESS f s š ẖ
ḫ ḥ h
ꜣ (ȝ) ꜥ (ʿ)
APPROXIMANT w l
*Possibly unvoiced ejectives .
/l / has no independent representation in the hieroglyphic orthography, and it is frequently written as if it were /n / or /r /. That is probably because the standard for written Egyptian is based on a dialect in which /l / had merged with other sonorants. Also, the rare cases of /ʔ / occurring are not represented. The phoneme /j / is written as ⟨j⟩ in initial position (⟨jt⟩ = */ˈjaːtVj/ 'father') and immediately after a stressed vowel (⟨bjn⟩ = */ˈbaːjin/ 'bad') and as ⟨jj⟩ word-medially immediately before a stressed vowel (⟨ḫꜥjjk⟩ = */χaʕˈjak/ 'you will appear') and are unmarked word-finally (⟨jt⟩ = /ˈjaːtvj/ 'father').
In Middle Egyptian (2055–1650 BC), a number of consonantal shifts take place. By the beginning of the Middle Kingdom period, /z / and /s / had merged, and the graphemes ⟨s⟩ and ⟨z⟩ are used interchangeably. In addition, /j / had become /ʔ / word-initially in an unstressed syllable (⟨jwn⟩ /jaˈwin/ > */ʔaˈwin/ "colour") and after a stressed vowel (⟨ḥjpw⟩ */ˈħujpvw/ > /ˈħeʔp(vw)/ ' Apis').
Late Egyptian (1069–700 BC), the phonemes d ḏ g gradually
merge with their counterparts t ṯ k (⟨dbn⟩ */ˈdiːban/ >
More changes occur in the 1st millennium BC and the first centuries CE, leading to Coptic (1st–17th centuries CE). In Sahidic ẖ ḫ ḥ had merged into ϣ š (most often from ḫ) and ϩ /h / (most often ẖ ḥ). Bohairic and Akhmimic are more conservative and have a velar fricative /x / (ϧ in Bohairic, ⳉ in Akhmimic). Pharyngeal *ꜥ had merged into glottal /ʔ / after it had affected the quality of the surrounding vowels. /ʔ / is not indicated orthographically unless it follows a stressed vowel; then, it is marked by doubling the vowel letter (except in Bohairic): Akhmimic ⳉⲟⲟⲡ /xoʔp/, Sahidic and Lycopolitan ϣⲟⲟⲡ šoʔp, Bohairic ϣⲟⲡ šoʔp 'to be' < ḫpr.w */ˈχapraw/ 'has become'. The phoneme ⲃ /b / was probably pronounced as a fricative , becoming ⲡ /p / after a stressed vowel in syllables that had been closed in earlier Egyptian (compare ⲛⲟⲩⲃ < */ˈnaːbaw/ 'gold' and ⲧⲁⲡ < */dib/ 'horn'). The phonemes /d g z/ occur only in Greek loanwords, with rare exceptions triggered by a nearby /n/: ⲁⲛⲍⲏⲃⲉ/ⲁⲛⲥⲏⲃⲉ < ꜥ.t n.t sbꜣ.w 'school'.
THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS COPTIC TEXT. Without proper rendering support , you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Coptic letters.
Earlier *d ḏ g q are preserved as ejective t' c' k' k' before vowels in Coptic. Although the same graphemes are used for the pulmonic stops (⟨ⲧ ϫ ⲕ⟩), the existence of the former may be inferred because the stops ⟨ⲡ ⲧ ϫ ⲕ⟩ /p t c k/ are allophonically aspirated before stressed vowels and sonorant consonants. In Bohairic, the allophones are written with the special graphemes ⟨ⲫ ⲑ ϭ ⲭ⟩, but other dialects did not mark aspiration: Sahidic ⲡⲣⲏ, Bohairic ⲫⲣⲏ 'the sun'.
Thus, Bohairic does not mark aspiration for reflexes of older *d ḏ g q: Sahidic and Bohairic ⲧⲁⲡ */dib/ 'horn'. Also, the definite article ⲡ is unaspirated when the next word begins with a glottal stop: Bohairic ⲡ + ⲱⲡ > ⲡⲱⲡ 'the account'.
The consonant system of Coptic is as follows:
LABIAL ALVEOLAR PALATAL VELAR GLOTTAL
NASAL ⲙ m ⲛ n
STOP VOICELESS ⲡ (ⲫ) p (pʰ ) ⲧ (ⲑ) t (tʰ ) ϫ (ϭ) c (cʰ ) ⲕ (ⲭ) k (kʰ ) * ʔ
ⲧ tʼ ϫ cʼ ⲕ kʼ
ⲇ d ⲅ ɡ
FRICATIVE VOICELESS ϥ f ⲥ s ϣ ʃ (ϧ, ⳉ) (x ) ϩ ħ
VOICED ⲃ β ⲍ z
APPROXIMANT (ⲟ)ⲩ w ⲗ l (ⲉ)ⲓ j
*Various orthographic representations; see above.
Here is the vowel system reconstructed for earlier Egyptian:
Earlier Egyptian vowel system
CLOSE i iː u uː
OPEN a aː
Vowels are always short in unstressed syllables (⟨tpj⟩ = */taˈpij/ 'first') and long in open stressed syllables (⟨rmṯ⟩ = */ˈraːmac/ 'man'), they but can be either short or long in closed stressed syllables (⟨jnn⟩ = */jaˈnan/ 'we', ⟨mn⟩ = */maːn/ 'to stay').
In the Late New Kingdom , after
In the Early New Kingdom, short stressed */ˈi/ changes to */ˈe/:
Menes " */maˈnij/ > */maˈneʔ/ (
Unstressed vowels, especially after a stress, become */ə/: ⟨nfr⟩
'good' */ˈnaːfir/ > */ˈnaːfə/ (
Egyptian vowel system c. 1000 BC
FRONT CENTRAL BACK
MID e eː ə oː
In Sahidic and Bohairic Coptic, Late Egyptian stressed */ˈa/ becomes */ˈo/ and */ˈe/ becomes /ˈa/, but are unchanged in the other dialects: ⟨sn⟩ */san/ 'brother' > Sahaidic and Bohairic ⟨son⟩, Akhminic, Lycopolitan and Fayyumic ⟨san⟩; ⟨rn⟩ 'name' */rin/ > */ren/ > Sahaidic and Bohairic ⟨ran⟩, Akhminic, Lycopolitan and Fayyumic ⟨ren⟩. However, Sahaidic and Bohairic preserve */ˈa/, and Fayyumic renders it as ⟨e⟩ in the presence of guttural fricatives: ⟨ḏbꜥ⟩ 'ten thousand' */ˈbaʕ/ > Sahaidic, Akhmimic and Lycopolitan ⟨tba⟩, Bohairic ⟨tʰba⟩, Fayyumic ⟨tbe⟩. In Akhmimic and Lycopolitan, */ˈa/ becomes /ˈo/ before etymological /ʕ, ʔ/: ⟨jtrw⟩ 'river' */ˈjatraw/ > */jaʔr(ə)/ > Sahaidic ⟨eioor(e)⟩, Bohairic ⟨ior⟩, Akhminic ⟨ioore, iôôre⟩, Fayyumic ⟨iaal, iaar⟩. Similarly, the diphthongs */ˈaj/, */ˈaw/, which normally have reflexes /ˈoj/, /ˈow/ in Sahidic and are preserved in other dialects, are in Bohairic ⟨ôi⟩ (in non-final position) and ⟨ôou⟩ respectively: "to me, to them" Sahidic ⟨eroi, eroou⟩, Akhminic and Lycopolitan ⟨arai, arau⟩, Fayyumic ⟨elai, elau⟩, Bohairic ⟨eroi, erôou⟩. Sahidic and Bohairic preserve */ˈe/ before /ʔ/ (etymological or from lenited /t r j/ or tonic-syllable coda /w/),: Sahidic and Bohairic ⟨ne⟩ /neʔ/ 'to you (fem.)' < */ˈnet/ < */ˈnic/. */e/ may also have different reflexes before sonants , near sibilants and in diphthongs.
Old */aː/ surfaces as /uː/ after nasals and occasionally other consonants: ⟨nṯr⟩ 'god' */ˈnaːcar/ > /ˈnuːte/ ⟨noute⟩ /uː/ has acquired phonemic status, as is evidenced by minimal pairs like 'to approach' ⟨hôn⟩ /hoːn/ < */ˈçaːnan/ ẖnn vs. 'inside' ⟨houn⟩ /huːn/ < */ˈçaːnaw/ ẖnw. An etymological */uː/ > */eː/ often surfaces as /iː/ next to /r/ and after etymological pharyngeals: ⟨hir⟩ < */χuːr/ 'street' (Semitic loan).
Most Coptic dialects have two phonemic vowels in unstressed position. Unstressed vowels generally became /ə/, written as ⟨e⟩ or null (⟨i⟩ in Bohairic and Fayyumic word-finally), but pretonic unstressed /a/ occurs as a reflex of earlier unstressed */e/ near an etymological pharyngeal, velar or sonorant ('to become many' ⟨ašai⟩ < ꜥšꜣ */ʕiˈʃiʀ/) or an unstressed */a/. Pretonic is underlyingly /əj/: Sahidic 'ibis' ⟨hibôi⟩ < h(j)bj.w */hijˈbaːj?w/.
Thus, the following is the Sahidic vowel system c. 400 CE:
Sahidic vowel system circa 400 AD
FRONT BACK CENTRAL
CLOSE iː uː
MID e eː o oː ə
Earlier Egyptian has the syllable structure CV(:)(C) in which V is long in open stressed syllables and short elsewhere. In addition, CV:C or CVCC can occur in word-final, stressed position. However, CV:C occurs only in the infinitive of biconsonantal verbal roots, CVCC only in some plurals.
In later Egyptian, stressed CV:C, CVCC, and CV become much more common because of the loss of final dentals and glides.
Earlier Egyptian stresses one of the last two syllables. According to some scholars, that is a development from a stage in Proto-Egyptian in which the third-last syllable could be stressed, which was lost as open posttonic syllables lost their vowels: */ˈχupiraw/ > */ˈχupraw/ 'transformation'.
This article may REQUIRE CLEANUP to meet's quality standards . The specific problem is: BY THE TEXT, TRANSLITERED EGYPTIAN Rꜥ-MS-SW WOULD GIVE ENGLISH TRANSCRIPTION RɑMɛSSU OR PUT SIMPLIER RAMESSU AND NOT RAMESSES. RAMESSES (PROBABLY) ISN\'T AN ENGLISH TRANSCRIPTION OF THE EGYPTIAN, BUT A NAME BORROWED FROM LATIN AND GREEK. THUS "TRANSCRIBED AS "RAMESSES"" DOESN\'T FIT. Please help improve this article if you can. (January 2018) (Learn how and when to remove this template message )
As a convention, Egyptologists make use of an "Egyptological pronunciation" in English: the consonants are given fixed values, and vowels are inserted according to essentially arbitrary rules. Two consonants, alef and ayin, are generally pronounced /ɑː/. Yodh is pronounced /iː/, w /uː/. Between other consonants, /ɛ/ is then inserted. Thus, for example, the name of an Egyptian king is most accurately transliterated as Rꜥ-ms-sw and transcribed as "Ramesses"; it means "Ra has Fashioned (literally, "Borne") Him".
In transcription , ⟨a⟩, ⟨i⟩, and ⟨u⟩ all represent consonants; for example, the name Tutankhamun (1341–1323 BC) was written in Egyptian as twt-ꜥnḫ-ı͗mn.
Experts have assigned generic sounds to these values as a matter of convenience, which is an artificial pronunciation and should not be mistaken for how Egyptian was ever pronounced at any time.
For example, the name twt-ꜥnḫ-ı͗mn is conventionally pronounced /tuːtən.ˈkɑːmən/ in English, but, in his lifetime, it was likely to be pronounced something like * .
Egyptian is fairly typical for an
Vowels and other consonants are added to the root to derive different
meanings, as Arabic, Hebrew, and other
Egyptian nouns can be masculine or feminine (the latter is indicated,
as with other
Articles , both definite and indefinite, do not occur until Late Egyptian but are used widely thereafter.
Egyptian has three different types of personal pronouns : suffix, enclitic (called "dependent" by Egyptologists) and independent pronouns. There are also a number of verbal endings added to the infinitive to form the stative and are regarded by some linguists as a "fourth" set of personal pronouns. They bear close resemblance to their Semitic counterparts. The three main sets of personal pronouns are as follows:
SUFFIX DEPENDENT INDEPENDENT
1ST SG. -ı͗ wı͗ ı͗nk
2ND SG. M. -k tw ntk
2ND SG. F. -t tn ntt
3RD SG. M. -f sw ntf
3RD SG. F. -s sy nts
1ST PL. -n n ı͗nn
2ND PL. -tn tn nttn
3RD PL. -sn sn ntsn
Demonstrative pronouns have separate masculine and feminine singular forms and common plural forms for both genders:
MAS. FEM. PLU. MEANING
pn tn nn this, that, these, those
pf tf nf that, those
pw tw nw this, that, these, those (archaic)
pꜣ tꜣ nꜣ this, that, these, those (colloquial & Late Egyptian)
Finally are interrogative pronouns.They bear a close resemblance to their Semitic and Berber counterparts:
PRONOUN MEANING DEPENDENCY
mı͗ who / what Dependent
ptr who / what Independent
iḫ what Dependent
ı͗šst what Independent
Independent and of course a number of terms and proper names
directly associated with
A number of words in
Ancient Egyptian literature
* ^ There is evidence of Bohairic having a phonemic glottal stop: Loprieno (1995 :44). * ^ In other dialects, the graphemes are used only for clusters of a stop followed by /h / and were not used for aspirates: see Loprieno (1995 :248).
* ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds.
(2017). "Egyptian (Ancient)".
Glottolog 3.0 . Jena, Germany: Max
Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
* ^ Allen, James Peter (2013). The Ancient Egyptian Language: An
Historical Study. Cambridge University Press. p. 2. ISBN
* ^ The language may have survived in isolated pockets in Upper
* Allen, James P. (2000). Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs. Cambridge University press. ISBN 0-521-65312-6 . * Callender, John B. (1975). Middle Egyptian. Undena Publications. ISBN 0-89003-006-5 . * Loprieno, Antonio (1995). Ancient Egyptian: A linguistic introduction. Cambridge University press. ISBN 0-521-44384-9 . * Satzinger, Helmut (2008). "What happened to the voiced consonants of Egyptian?" (PDF). 2. Acts of the X International Congress of Egyptologists. pp. 1537–1546.
* Loprieno, Antonio, Ancient Egyptian: A Linguistic Introduction, Cambridge University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-521-44384-9 (hbk) ISBN 0-521-44849-2 (pbk) * Peust, Carsten, Egyptian phonology : an introduction to the phonology of a dead language, Peust ;background:none transparent;border:none;-moz-box-shadow:none;-webkit-box-shadow:none;box-shadow:none;">v
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