Egyptian language

Egyptian language

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Egyptian is the oldest known indigenous language
Indigenous language
An indigenous language or autochthonous language is a language that is native to a region and spoken by indigenous peoples but has been reduced to the status of a minority language. This language would be from a linguistically distinct community that has been settled in the area for many generations...

 of Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 and a branch of the Afroasiatic language family. Written records of the Egyptian language have been dated from about 3400 BC, making it one of the oldest recorded languages known. Egyptian was spoken until the late 17th century AD in the form of Coptic
Coptic language
Coptic or Coptic Egyptian is the current stage of the Egyptian language, a northern Afro-Asiatic language spoken in Egypt until at least the 17th century. Egyptian began to be written using the Greek alphabet in the 1st century...

. The national language
National language
A national language is a language which has some connection—de facto or de jure—with a people and perhaps by extension the territory they occupy. The term is used variously. A national language may for instance represent the national identity of a nation or country...

 of modern-day Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 is Egyptian Arabic
Egyptian Arabic
Egyptian Arabic is the language spoken by contemporary Egyptians.It is more commonly known locally as the Egyptian colloquial language or Egyptian dialect ....

, which gradually replaced Coptic as the language of daily life in the centuries after the Muslim conquest of Egypt
Muslim conquest of Egypt
At the commencement of the Muslims conquest of Egypt, Egypt was part of the Byzantine Empire with its capital in Constantinople. However, it had been occupied just a decade before by the Persian Empire under Khosrau II...

. Coptic is still used as the liturgical
Liturgy
Liturgy is either the customary public worship done by a specific religious group, according to its particular traditions or a more precise term that distinguishes between those religious groups who believe their ritual requires the "people" to do the "work" of responding to the priest, and those...

 language of the Coptic Church. It has a handful of fluent speakers today.

Classification


Egyptian belongs to the Afroasiatic language phylum, also known as the Hamito-Semitic or Semito-Hamitic phylum. Among the typological features of Egyptian that are typically Afroasiatic are: a fusional morphology, consonantal lexical roots
Nonconcatenative morphology
Nonconcatenative morphology, also called discontinuous morphology and introflection, is a form of word formation in which the root is modified and which does not involve stringing morphemes together...

, a series of emphatic consonant
Emphatic consonant
Emphatic consonant is a term widely used in Semitic linguistics to describe one of a series of obstruent consonants which originally contrasted with series of both voiced and voiceless obstruents. In specific Semitic languages, the members of this series may be realized as pharyngealized,...

s, a three-vowel system /a i u/, nominal feminine suffix *-at, nominal m-, adjectival *-ī, and characteristic personal verbal affixes. Of the language families included in the Afroasiatic phylum, Egyptian shows the most affinities to the Cushitic
Cushitic languages
The Cushitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family spoken in the Horn of Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Sudan and Egypt. They are named after the Biblical character Cush, who was identified as an ancestor of the speakers of these specific languages as early as AD 947...

, Semitic
Semitic languages
The Semitic languages are a group of related languages whose living representatives are spoken by more than 270 million people across much of the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa...

, and Berber
Berber languages
The Berber languages are a family of languages indigenous to North Africa, spoken from Siwa Oasis in Egypt to Morocco , and south to the countries of the Sahara Desert...

 families.

In Egyptian, the Proto-Afroasiatic voiced consonants */d z ð/ develop into pharyngeal <ꜥ> /ʕ/, e.g. Eg. ꜥr.t 'portal', Sem. *dalt 'door'. Afroasiatic */l/ merged with Egyptian , , <ꜣ>, and in the dialect on which the written language was based, while being preserved in other Egyptian varieties. Original */k g ḳ/ palatalize to <ṯ j ḏ> in some environments and are preserved as in others.

Egyptian has many biradical and perhaps monoradical roots, in contrast to the Semitic preference for triradical roots. Egyptian probably is more archaic in this regard, whereas Semitic likely underwent later regularizations converting roots into the triradical pattern.

Although Egyptian is the oldest Afroasiatic language documented in written form, its "morphological repertoire" is greatly different from that of the rest of the Afroasiatic phylum and Semitic in particular. This suggests that either Egyptian had already undergone radical changes from the common Afroasiatic stock before being recorded, that the Afroasiatic phylum has as of yet been studied with an excessively "semitocentric" approach, or that Afroasiatic is a typological rather than genetic grouping of languages.

History


Scholars group the Egyptian language into six major chronological divisions:
  • Archaic Egyptian
    Archaic Egyptian
    Archaic Egyptian is the stage of the Egyptian language spoken during the Early Dynastic Period, which lasted up to about 2600 BC. The first known inscriptions in Archaic Egyptian date from around 3400 BC....

     (before 2600 BC, the language of the Early Dynastic Period
    Early Dynastic Period of Egypt
    The Archaic or Early Dynastic Period of Egypt immediately follows the unification of Lower and Upper Egypt c. 3100 BC. It is generally taken to include the First and Second Dynasties, lasting from the Protodynastic Period of Egypt until about 2686 BC, or the beginning of the Old Kingdom...

    )
  • Old Egyptian
    Old Egyptian
    Old Egyptian is the stage of the Egyptian language spoken from 2600 BC to 2000 BC during the Old Kingdom and First Intermediate Period. The Pyramid Texts are the largest body of literature written in this phase of the language. Tomb walls of elite Egyptians from this period bear autobiographical...

     (2686 BC – 2181 BC, the language of the Old Kingdom
    Old Kingdom
    Old Kingdom is the name given to the period in the 3rd millennium BC when Egypt attained its first continuous peak of civilization in complexity and achievement – the first of three so-called "Kingdom" periods, which mark the high points of civilization in the lower Nile Valley .The term itself was...

    )
  • Middle Egyptian
    Middle Egyptian
    Middle Egyptian is the typical form of Egyptian written from 2000 BCE to 1300 BCE .Although evolving into Late Egyptian from the 14th century, Middle Egyptian remained in use as literary standard language until the 4th century AD. As such, it is the classical variant of Egyptian that historically...

     (2055 BC – 1650 BC), characterizing Middle Kingdom
    Middle Kingdom of Egypt
    The Middle Kingdom of Egypt is the period in the history of ancient Egypt stretching from the establishment of the Eleventh Dynasty to the end of the Fourteenth Dynasty, between 2055 BC and 1650 BC, although some writers include the Thirteenth and Fourteenth dynasties in the Second Intermediate...

     (2055 BC – 1650 BC, but enduring through the early 18th Dynasty until the Amarna Period (1353 BC), and continuing on as a literary language
    Literary language
    A literary language is a register of a language that is used in literary writing. This may also include liturgical writing. The difference between literary and non-literary forms is more marked in some languages than in others...

     into the 4th century AD).
  • Late Egyptian
    Late Egyptian
    Late Egyptian is the stage of the Egyptian language that was written by the time of the New Kingdom around 1350 BC – the Amarna period. Texts written wholly in Late Egyptian date to the Ramesside Period and later...

     (1069 BC – 700 BC, characterizing the Third Intermediate Period
    Third Intermediate Period of Egypt
    The Third Intermediate Period refers to the time in Ancient Egypt from the death of Pharaoh Ramesses XI in 1070 BC to the foundation of the Twenty-Sixth Dynasty by Psamtik I in 664 BC, following the expulsion of the Nubian rulers of the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty....

     (1069 BC – 700 BC), but starting earlier with the Amarna Period
    Amarna Period
    The Amarna Period was an era of Egyptian history during the latter half of the Eighteenth Dynasty when the royal residence of the pharaoh and his queen was shifted to Akhetaten in what is now modern-day Amarna...

     (1353 BC)).
  • Demotic (7th century BC – 5th century AD, Late Period
    Late Period of Ancient Egypt
    The Late Period of Ancient Egypt refers to the last flowering of native Egyptian rulers after the Third Intermediate Period from the 26th Saite Dynasty into Persian conquests and ended with the death of Alexander the Great...

     through Roman times)
  • Coptic
    Coptic language
    Coptic or Coptic Egyptian is the current stage of the Egyptian language, a northern Afro-Asiatic language spoken in Egypt until at least the 17th century. Egyptian began to be written using the Greek alphabet in the 1st century...

     (1st century AD – 17th century AD, early Roman times to early modern times
    Early modern period
    In history, the early modern period of modern history follows the late Middle Ages. Although the chronological limits of the period are open to debate, the timeframe spans the period after the late portion of the Middle Ages through the beginning of the Age of Revolutions...

    )


Egyptian writing in the form of labels and signs has been dated to 3200 BC. These early texts are generally lumped together under the general term "Archaic Egyptian."

In 1999, Archaeology Magazine
Archaeology (magazine)
Archaeology is a bimonthly mainstream magazine about archaeology, published by the Archaeological Institute of America. Its focus is both for archaeologists and non-specialists alike. The magazine was launched in 1948, and is published six times a year....

 reported that the earliest Egyptian glyphs date back to 3400 BC which "...challenge the commonly held belief that early logographs, pictographic symbols representing a specific place, object, or quantity, first evolved into more complex phonetic symbols in Mesopotamia."

Old Egyptian was spoken for some 500 years from 2600 BC onwards. Middle Egyptian was spoken from about 2000 BC for a further 700 years when Late Egyptian made its appearance; Middle Egyptian did, however, survive until the first few centuries AD as a written language, similar to the use of Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 during the Middle Ages and that of Classical Arabic
Classical Arabic
Classical Arabic , also known as Qur'anic or Koranic Arabic, is the form of the Arabic language used in literary texts from Umayyad and Abbasid times . It is based on the Medieval dialects of Arab tribes...

 today. Demotic Egyptian first appears about 650 BC and survived as a spoken language until the fifth century AD. Coptic Egyptian
Coptic language
Coptic or Coptic Egyptian is the current stage of the Egyptian language, a northern Afro-Asiatic language spoken in Egypt until at least the 17th century. Egyptian began to be written using the Greek alphabet in the 1st century...

 appeared in the fourth century AD and survived as a living language until the sixteenth century AD, when European scholars traveled to Egypt to learn it from native speakers during the Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

. It probably survived in the Egyptian countryside as a spoken language for several centuries after that. The Bohairic dialect of Coptic is still used by the Egyptian Christian Churches.

Old, Middle, and Late Egyptian were all written using hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs were a formal writing system used by the ancient Egyptians that combined logographic and alphabetic elements. Egyptians used cursive hieroglyphs for religious literature on papyrus and wood...

 and hieratic
Hieratic
Hieratic refers to a cursive writing system that was used in the provenance of the pharaohs in Egypt and Nubia that developed alongside the hieroglyphic system, to which it is intimately related...

. Demotic was written using a script derived from hieratic; its appearance is vaguely similar to modern Arabic script and is also written from right to left (although the two are not related). Coptic is written using the Coptic alphabet
Coptic alphabet
The Coptic alphabet is the script used for writing the Coptic language. The repertoire of glyphs is based on the Greek alphabet augmented by letters borrowed from the Demotic and is the first alphabetic script used for the Egyptian language...

, a modified form of the Greek alphabet
Greek alphabet
The Greek alphabet is the script that has been used to write the Greek language since at least 730 BC . The alphabet in its classical and modern form consists of 24 letters ordered in sequence from alpha to omega...

 with a number of symbols borrowed from Demotic for sounds that did not occur in Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

.

Arabic became the language of Egypt's political administration soon after the Arab conquest in the seventh century AD, and gradually replaced Coptic as the language spoken by the populace. Today, Coptic survives as the liturgical language of the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Coptic Catholic Church
Coptic Catholic Church
The Coptic Catholic Church is an Alexandrian Rite particular Church in full communion with the Pope of Rome. Historically, Coptic Catholics represent a schism from the Coptic Orthodox Church, leaving that church in order to come into full communion with the Bishop of Rome.The current Coptic...

.

The Bible contains some words, terms and names thought by scholars to be Egyptian in origin. An example of this is Zaphnath-Paaneah
Zaphnath-Paaneah
Zaphnath-Paaneah is the name stated by the Bible as given by Pharaoh to Joseph. It seems to be an Egyptian name, but its etymology is in doubt.-Etymology:...

, the Egyptian name given to Joseph.

Dialects


Pre-Coptic Egyptian does not show great dialectal differences in the written language due to the centralized nature of Egyptian society. However, they must have existed in speech; this is evidenced by a letter from c. 1200 BCE complaining that the language of a correspondent is as unintelligible as the speech of a northern Egyptian to a southerner. Written Coptic has five major dialects which differ mainly in graphic conventions, most notably the southern Saidic dialect which was the main classical dialect and the northern Bohairic dialect which is currently used in Coptic Church services.

Orthography


Most "surviving" texts in the Egyptian language are primarily written on stone in the hieroglyphic script
Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs were a formal writing system used by the ancient Egyptians that combined logographic and alphabetic elements. Egyptians used cursive hieroglyphs for religious literature on papyrus and wood...

. However, in antiquity, the majority of texts were written on perishable papyrus
Papyrus
Papyrus is a thick paper-like material produced from the pith of the papyrus plant, Cyperus papyrus, a wetland sedge that was once abundant in the Nile Delta of Egypt....

 in hieratic
Hieratic
Hieratic refers to a cursive writing system that was used in the provenance of the pharaohs in Egypt and Nubia that developed alongside the hieroglyphic system, to which it is intimately related...

 and (later) demotic
Demotic (Egyptian)
Demotic refers to either the ancient Egyptian script derived from northern forms of hieratic used in the Delta, or the stage of the Egyptian language following Late Egyptian and preceding Coptic. The term was first used by the Greek historian Herodotus to distinguish it from hieratic and...

, which are now lost. There was also a form of cursive hieroglyphic script
Cursive hieroglyphs
Cursive hieroglyphs are a variety of Egyptian hieroglyphs commonly used for religious documents written on papyrus, such as the Book of the Dead. It was particularly common during the Ramesside Period and many famous documents, such as the Papyrus of Ani, utilize it...

 used for religious documents on papyrus, such as the Book of the Dead in the Ramesside Period; this script was simpler to write than the hieroglyphs in stone inscriptions, but was not as cursive as hieratic, lacking the wide use of ligatures. Additionally, there was a variety of stone-cut hieratic known as lapidary
Lapidary
A lapidary is an artist or artisan who forms stone, mineral, gemstones, and other suitably durable materials into decorative items such as engraved gems, including cameos, or cabochons, and faceted designs...

 hieratic. In the language's final stage of development, the Coptic alphabet
Coptic alphabet
The Coptic alphabet is the script used for writing the Coptic language. The repertoire of glyphs is based on the Greek alphabet augmented by letters borrowed from the Demotic and is the first alphabetic script used for the Egyptian language...

 replaced the older writing system. The native name for Egyptian hieroglyphic writing is or "writing of the words of god." Hieroglyphs are employed in two ways in Egyptian texts: as ideogram
Ideogram
An ideogram or ideograph is a graphic symbol that represents an idea or concept. Some ideograms are comprehensible only by familiarity with prior convention; others convey their meaning through pictorial resemblance to a physical object, and thus may also be referred to as pictograms.Examples of...

s that represent the idea depicted by the pictures; and more commonly as phonograms denoting their phonetic
Phonetics
Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that comprises the study of the sounds of human speech, or—in the case of sign languages—the equivalent aspects of sign. It is concerned with the physical properties of speech sounds or signs : their physiological production, acoustic properties, auditory...

 value.

Due to the fact that the phonetic realization of Egyptian cannot be known with certainty, Egyptologists use a system of transliteration
Transliteration
Transliteration is a subset of the science of hermeneutics. It is a form of translation, and is the practice of converting a text from one script into another...

 to denote each sound which could be represented by a uniliteral hieroglyph. The two systems which are still in common use are the traditional system and the European system; in addition a third system is used for computer input.

Phonology



While the consonantal phonology
Phonology
Phonology is, broadly speaking, the subdiscipline of linguistics concerned with the sounds of language. That is, it is the systematic use of sound to encode meaning in any spoken human language, or the field of linguistics studying this use...

 of the Egyptian language may be reconstructed, its exact phonetics
Phonetics
Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that comprises the study of the sounds of human speech, or—in the case of sign languages—the equivalent aspects of sign. It is concerned with the physical properties of speech sounds or signs : their physiological production, acoustic properties, auditory...

 are unknown, and there are varying opinions on how to classify the individual phonemes. In addition, because Egyptian is also recorded over a full two millennia, the Archaic and Late stages being separated by the amount of time that separates Old Latin
Old Latin
Old Latin refers to the Latin language in the period before the age of Classical Latin; that is, all Latin before 75 BC...

 from modern Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

, it must be assumed that significant phonetic changes would have occurred over that time.

Phonologically
Phonology
Phonology is, broadly speaking, the subdiscipline of linguistics concerned with the sounds of language. That is, it is the systematic use of sound to encode meaning in any spoken human language, or the field of linguistics studying this use...

, Egyptian contrasted labial, alveolar, palatal, velar, uvular, pharyngeal, and glottal consonants, in a distribution rather similar to that of Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

. It also contrasted voiceless and emphatic consonants, as with other Afroasiatic languages, although exactly how the emphatic consonants were realized is not precisely known. Early research had assumed opposition in stops was one of voicing, but is now thought to either be one of tenuis
Tenuis consonant
In linguistics, a tenuis consonant is a stop or affricate which is unvoiced, unaspirated, and unglottalized. That is, it has a "plain" phonation like , with a voice onset time close to zero, as in Spanish p, t, ch, k, or as in English p, t, k after s .In transcription, tenuis consonants are not...

 and emphatic stops, as in many of the Semitic languages
Semitic languages
The Semitic languages are a group of related languages whose living representatives are spoken by more than 270 million people across much of the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa...

, or one of aspirated and ejective
Ejective consonant
In phonetics, ejective consonants are voiceless consonants that are pronounced with simultaneous closure of the glottis. In the phonology of a particular language, ejectives may contrast with aspirated or tenuis consonants...

 stops, as in many of the Cushitic languages
Cushitic languages
The Cushitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family spoken in the Horn of Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Sudan and Egypt. They are named after the Biblical character Cush, who was identified as an ancestor of the speakers of these specific languages as early as AD 947...

.

Since vowels were not written, reconstructions of the Egyptian vowel system are much more uncertain, relying mainly on the evidence from Coptic and foreign transcriptions of Egyptian personal and place names. The vocalization of Egyptian is partially known, largely on the basis of reconstruction from Coptic, in which the vowels are written. Recordings of Egyptian words in other languages provide an additional source of evidence. 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, which is, of course, artificial and often bears little resemblance to what is known of how Egyptian was spoken.

Consonants


The following consonant system is posited for Archaic (before 2600 BC) and Old Egyptian (2686 BC – 2181 BC):
Early Egyptian consonants
Labial
Labial consonant
Labial consonants are consonants in which one or both lips are the active articulator. This precludes linguolabials, in which the tip of the tongue reaches for the posterior side of the upper lip and which are considered coronals...

Dental Post-
alveolar
Postalveolar consonant
Postalveolar consonants are consonants articulated with the tongue near or touching the back of the alveolar ridge, further back in the mouth than the alveolar consonants, which are at the ridge itself, but not as far back as the hard palate...

Palatal
Palatal consonant
Palatal consonants are consonants articulated with the body of the tongue raised against the hard palate...

Velar
Velar consonant
Velars are consonants articulated with the back part of the tongue against the soft palate, the back part of the roof of the mouth, known also as the velum)....

Uvular
Uvular consonant
Uvulars are consonants articulated with the back of the tongue against or near the uvula, that is, further back in the mouth than velar consonants. Uvulars may be plosives, fricatives, nasal stops, trills, or approximants, though the IPA does not provide a separate symbol for the approximant, and...

Pharyn-
geal
Pharyngeal consonant
A pharyngeal consonant is a type of consonant which is articulated with the root of the tongue against the pharynx.-Pharyngeal consonants in the IPA:Pharyngeal consonants in the International Phonetic Alphabet :...

Glottal
Glottal consonant
Glottal consonants, also called laryngeal consonants, are consonants articulated with the glottis. Many phoneticians consider them, or at least the so-called fricative, to be transitional states of the glottis without a point of articulation as other consonants have; in fact, some do not consider...

Nasal
Nasal consonant
A nasal consonant is a type of consonant produced with a lowered velum in the mouth, allowing air to escape freely through the nose. Examples of nasal consonants in English are and , in words such as nose and mouth.- Definition :...

m n
Stop
Stop consonant
In phonetics, a plosive, also known as an occlusive or an oral stop, is a stop consonant in which the vocal tract is blocked so that all airflow ceases. The occlusion may be done with the tongue , lips , and &...

voiceless
Voiceless
In linguistics, voicelessness is the property of sounds being pronounced without the larynx vibrating. Phonologically, this is a type of phonation, which contrasts with other states of the larynx, but some object that the word "phonation" implies voicing, and that voicelessness is the lack of...

p t k q* ʔ
voiced
Voice (phonetics)
Voice or voicing is a term used in phonetics and phonology to characterize speech sounds, with sounds described as either voiceless or voiced. The term, however, is used to refer to two separate concepts. Voicing can refer to the articulatory process in which the vocal cords vibrate...

b d* ḏ* g*
Fricative
Fricative consonant
Fricatives are consonants produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two articulators close together. These may be the lower lip against the upper teeth, in the case of ; the back of the tongue against the soft palate, in the case of German , the final consonant of Bach; or...

voiceless
Voiceless
In linguistics, voicelessness is the property of sounds being pronounced without the larynx vibrating. Phonologically, this is a type of phonation, which contrasts with other states of the larynx, but some object that the word "phonation" implies voicing, and that voicelessness is the lack of...

f s š h
voiced
Voice (phonetics)
Voice or voicing is a term used in phonetics and phonology to characterize speech sounds, with sounds described as either voiceless or voiced. The term, however, is used to refer to two separate concepts. Voicing can refer to the articulatory process in which the vocal cords vibrate...

z* ꜣ (3) ꜥ (ʻ)
Approximant
Approximant consonant
Approximants are speech sounds that involve the articulators approaching each other but not narrowly enough or with enough articulatory precision to create turbulent airflow. Therefore, approximants fall between fricatives, which do produce a turbulent airstream, and vowels, which produce no...

w l j
Trill
Trill consonant
In phonetics, a trill is a consonantal sound produced by vibrations between the articulator and the place of articulation. Standard Spanish <rr> as in perro is an alveolar trill, while in Parisian French it is almost always uvular....

r

*possibly unvoiced ejectives

The phoneme /l/ did not have an independent representation in the hieroglyphic orthography, and was frequently written with the sign for /n/ or /r/. The probable explanation is that the standard for written Egyptian was based on a dialect in which former /l/ had merged with other sonorants. /ʔ/ was rare and also not indicated orthographically. The phoneme /j/ was written as in initial position ( = */'ja:tvj/ 'father') and immediately after a stressed vowel ( = */'ba:jin/ 'bad'), as word-medially immediately before a stressed vowel (<ḫꜥjjk> = */χaʕ'jak/ 'you will appear'), and as null word-finally ( = */'ja:tvj/ 'father').

In Middle Egyptian (2055 BC – 1650 BC), a number of consonantal shifts took place. By the beginning of the Middle Kingdom period, /z/ and /s/ had merged, and the graphemes and were used interchangeably. In addition, /j/ had become /ʔ/ word-initially in an unstressed syllable (e.g. */ja'win/ > */ʔa'win/ 'color) and following a stressed vowel (e.g. <ḥjpw> */'ħujpvw/ > /'ħeʔp(vw)/ '[the god] Apis').

In Late Egyptian (1069 BC – 700 BC), the following changes are present: the phonemes /d ḏ g/ gradually merge with their counterparts /t ṯ k/ ( */'di:ban/ > Akkadian transcription ti-ba-an 'dbn-weight'); /ṯ ḏ/ often become /t d/, though they are retained in many lexemes; /ꜣ/ becomes /ʔ/; and /t r j w/ become /ʔ/ at the end of a stressed syllable and eventually null word-finally (e.g. */'pi:ɟat/ > Akk. transcription -pi-ta 'bow').

More consonantal changes occurred in the first millennium BCE and the first centuries CE, leading to the Coptic language (1st century AD – 17th century AD). In Sahidic /ẖ ḫ ḥ/ merged into ϣ /š/ (most often from /ḫ/) and ϩ /h/ (most often /ẖ ḥ/). Bohairic and Akhmimic are more conservative, having also a velar fricative /x/ (ϧ in Bohairic, ⳉ in Akhmimic). Pharyngeal */ꜥ/ merged into glottal /ʔ/, after having affected the quality of surrounding vowels. /ʔ/ is only indicated orthographically when following a stressed vowel, in which case it is marked by doubling the vowel letter (except in Bohairic), e.g. Akhmimic ⳉⲟⲟⲡ /xoʔp/ Sahidic & Lycopolitan ϣⲟⲟⲡ /šoʔp/, Bohairic ϣⲟⲡ /šoʔp/ 'to be' < ḫpr.w */'χapraw/ 'has become'.There is still evidence that Bohairic had a phonemic glottal stop, see . The phoneme ⲃ /b/ probably was pronounced as a fricative [β], and became ⲡ /p/ after a stressed vowel in syllables which were closed in earlier Egyptian (compare ⲛⲟⲩⲃ < */'na:baw/ 'gold' and ⲧⲁⲡ < */dib/ 'horn'). The phonemes /d g z/ are only found in Greek borrowings, with rare exceptions triggered by a proximate /n/ (e.g. ⲁⲛⲍⲏⲃⲉ/ⲁⲛⲥⲏⲃⲉ < ꜥ.t n.t sbꜣ.w 'school').
Earlier */d ḏ g q/ were preserved as ejective /t' c' k' k'/ in prevocalic position in Coptic. Despite the fact that these were written using the same graphemes as for the pulmonic stops (ⲧ ϫ ⲕ), their existence may be inferred based on the following evidence: The stops ⲡ ⲧ ϫ ⲕ /p t c k/ were allophonically aspirated ([pʰ tʰ cʰ kʰ]) before stressed vowels and sonorant
Sonorant
In phonetics and phonology, a sonorant is a speech sound that is produced without turbulent airflow in the vocal tract; fricatives and plosives are not sonorants. Vowels are sonorants, as are consonants like and . Other consonants, like or , restrict the airflow enough to cause turbulence, and...

 consonants. In Bohairic these allophones were written with the special graphemes <ⲫ ⲑ ϭ ⲭ>, while other dialects did not mark aspiration, thus Sahidic ⲡⲣⲏ vs. Bohairic ⲫⲣⲏ 'the sun'.In the other dialects these graphemes were designated only for clusters of stop+/h/ and thus were not used for aspirates, see . It then may be observed that Bohairic does not mark aspiration for reflexes of older */d ḏ g q/, e.g. Sahidic & Bohairic ⲧⲁⲡ */dib/ 'horn'. Similarly, the definite article ⲡ is unaspirated when a word beginning with a glottal stop follows, e.g. Bohairic ⲡ + ⲱⲡ > ⲡⲱⲡ 'the account'.

The consonant system of Coptic is as follows:
Coptic consonants
Labial
Labial consonant
Labial consonants are consonants in which one or both lips are the active articulator. This precludes linguolabials, in which the tip of the tongue reaches for the posterior side of the upper lip and which are considered coronals...

Dental Palatal
Palatal consonant
Palatal consonants are consonants articulated with the body of the tongue raised against the hard palate...

Velar
Velar consonant
Velars are consonants articulated with the back part of the tongue against the soft palate, the back part of the roof of the mouth, known also as the velum)....

Glottal
Glottal consonant
Glottal consonants, also called laryngeal consonants, are consonants articulated with the glottis. Many phoneticians consider them, or at least the so-called fricative, to be transitional states of the glottis without a point of articulation as other consonants have; in fact, some do not consider...

Nasal
Nasal consonant
A nasal consonant is a type of consonant produced with a lowered velum in the mouth, allowing air to escape freely through the nose. Examples of nasal consonants in English are and , in words such as nose and mouth.- Definition :...

Stop
Stop consonant
In phonetics, a plosive, also known as an occlusive or an oral stop, is a stop consonant in which the vocal tract is blocked so that all airflow ceases. The occlusion may be done with the tongue , lips , and &...

voiceless
Voiceless
In linguistics, voicelessness is the property of sounds being pronounced without the larynx vibrating. Phonologically, this is a type of phonation, which contrasts with other states of the larynx, but some object that the word "phonation" implies voicing, and that voicelessness is the lack of...

ⲡ (ⲫ) ⲧ (ⲑ) ϫ (ϭ) ⲕ (ⲭ) *
ejective ϫ
voiced
Voice (phonetics)
Voice or voicing is a term used in phonetics and phonology to characterize speech sounds, with sounds described as either voiceless or voiced. The term, however, is used to refer to two separate concepts. Voicing can refer to the articulatory process in which the vocal cords vibrate...

Fricative
Fricative consonant
Fricatives are consonants produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two articulators close together. These may be the lower lip against the upper teeth, in the case of ; the back of the tongue against the soft palate, in the case of German , the final consonant of Bach; or...

voiceless
Voiceless
In linguistics, voicelessness is the property of sounds being pronounced without the larynx vibrating. Phonologically, this is a type of phonation, which contrasts with other states of the larynx, but some object that the word "phonation" implies voicing, and that voicelessness is the lack of...

ϥ ϣ (ϧ, ⳉ) ϩ
voiced
Voice (phonetics)
Voice or voicing is a term used in phonetics and phonology to characterize speech sounds, with sounds described as either voiceless or voiced. The term, however, is used to refer to two separate concepts. Voicing can refer to the articulatory process in which the vocal cords vibrate...

Approximant
Approximant consonant
Approximants are speech sounds that involve the articulators approaching each other but not narrowly enough or with enough articulatory precision to create turbulent airflow. Therefore, approximants fall between fricatives, which do produce a turbulent airstream, and vowels, which produce no...

(ⲟ)ⲩ (ⲉ)ⲓ
Trill
Trill consonant
In phonetics, a trill is a consonantal sound produced by vibrations between the articulator and the place of articulation. Standard Spanish <rr> as in perro is an alveolar trill, while in Parisian French it is almost always uvular....


*various orthographic representations; see above

Vowels


The following is the vowel system posited for earlier Egyptian:
Earlier Egyptian vowel system
Front
Front vowel
A front vowel is a type of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a front vowel is that the tongue is positioned as far in front as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant. Front vowels are sometimes also...

Back
Back vowel
A back vowel is a type of vowel sound used in spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a back vowel is that the tongue is positioned as far back as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant. Back vowels are sometimes also called dark...

Close
Close vowel
A close vowel is a type of vowel sound used in many spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a close vowel is that the tongue is positioned as close as possible to the roof of the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant.This term is prescribed by the...

i iː u uː
Open
Open vowel
An open vowel is defined as a vowel sound in which the tongue is positioned as far as possible from the roof of the mouth. Open vowels are sometimes also called low vowels in reference to the low position of the tongue...

a aː

Vowels were always short in unstressed syllables (e.g. tpj = */taˈpij/ 'first'), long in open stressed syllables (e.g. rmṯ = */ˈraːmac/ 'man'), and either short or long in closed stressed syllables (e.g. jnn = */jaˈnan/ 'we' vs. mn = */maːn/ 'to stay').

Late New Kingdom, after Ramses II i.e. c. 1200 BCE: */ˈaː/ > */ˈoː/ (parallel to Canaanite vowel shift), e.g. ḥrw '(the god) Horus' */ħaːruw/ > */ħoːrə/ (Akkadian transcription: -ḫuru). This provoked */uː/ > */eː/, e.g. šnj 'tree' */ʃuːn?j/ > */ʃeːnə/ (Akkadian transcription: -sini).

Early new Kingdom: short stressed */ˈi/ > */ˈe/, e.g. mnj 'Menes' */maˈnij/ > */maˈneʔ/ (Akkadian transcription: ma-né-e). Later, probably circa 1000-800 BCE, short stressed */ˈu/ > */ˈe/, e.g. ḏꜥn.t 'Tanis
Tanis
Tanis was the capital of the 21st and 22nd dynasties of ancient Egypt, and is now an archaeological temple site. The word Tanis can also refer to:*Tanis, a little girl mummy in Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School...

' */ˈɟuʕnat/ was borrowed into Hebrew as *ṣuʕn but later transcribed as ṣe-e'-nu/ṣa-a'-nu in the Neo-Assyrian period.

Unstressed vowels, especially after the stress, became */ə/, e.g. nfr 'good' */ˈnaːfir/ > */ˈnaːfə/ (Akkadian transcription -na-a-pa). */iː/ > */eː/ next to /ʕ/ and /j/, e.g. wꜥw 'soldier' */wiːʕiw/ > */weːʕə/ (earlier Akkadian transcription: ú-i-ú, later: ú-e-eḫ).
Egyptian vowel system circa 1000 BCE
Front
Front vowel
A front vowel is a type of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a front vowel is that the tongue is positioned as far in front as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant. Front vowels are sometimes also...

Central
Central vowel
A central vowel is a type of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a central vowel is that the tongue is positioned halfway between a front vowel and a back vowel...

Back
Back vowel
A back vowel is a type of vowel sound used in spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a back vowel is that the tongue is positioned as far back as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant. Back vowels are sometimes also called dark...

Close
Close vowel
A close vowel is a type of vowel sound used in many spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a close vowel is that the tongue is positioned as close as possible to the roof of the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant.This term is prescribed by the...

Mid
Mid vowel
A mid vowel is a vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a mid vowel is that the tongue is positioned mid-way between an open vowel and a close vowel...

e eː ə
Open
Open vowel
An open vowel is defined as a vowel sound in which the tongue is positioned as far as possible from the roof of the mouth. Open vowels are sometimes also called low vowels in reference to the low position of the tongue...

a


In Sahidic and Bohairic Coptic, Late Egyptian stressed */ˈa/ becomes */ˈo/ and */ˈe/ becomes /ˈa/, while in the other dialects these are preserved, e.g. sn */san/ 'brother' > SB , ALF ; rn 'name' */rin/ > */ren/ > SB , ALF . However, SB preserve */ˈa/ and Fayyimic renders it as < e > in the presence of guttural fricatives, e.g. ḏbꜥ '10000' */ˈbaʕ/ > SAL B F . In Akhmimic and Lycopolitan, */ˈa/ becomes /ˈo/ before etymological /ʕ ʔ/, e.g. jtrw 'river' */ˈjatraw/ > */jaʔr(ə)/ > S B A F . Similarly the diphthongs */ˈaj/, */ˈaw/, which normally have reflexes /ˈoj/, /ˈow/ in Sahidic and are preserved in other dialects, in Bohairic are written <ôi> (in non-final position) and <ôou> respectively, e.g. "to me, to them" S AL , F , B . Sahidic and Bohairic preserve */ˈe/ before /ʔ/ (either etymological or from lenited /t r j/ or tonic-syllable coda /w/), e.g. SB /neʔ/ 'to you (fem.)' < */ˈnet/ < */ˈnic/. */e/ may also have different reflexes before sonants, in proximity of similants, and in diphthongs.

Old */aː/ surfaces as /uː/ after nasals and occasionally other consonants, e.g. nṯr 'god' */ˈnaːcar/ > /ˈnuːte/ /uː/ has acquired phonemic status, as evidenced by minimal pairs like 'to approach' /hoːn/ < */ˈçaːnan/ ẖnn vs. 'inside' /huːn/ < */ˈçaːnaw/ ẖnw. Etymological */uː/ > */eː/ often surfaces as /iː/ next to /r/ and after etymological pharyngeals, e.g. SL < */χuːr/ 'street' (Semitic loan).

Most Coptic dialect have two phonemic vowels in unstressed position. Unstressed vowels generally became /ə/, written as or null (< i > in Bohairic and Fayyumic word-finally), but pretonic unstressed /a/ occurs as a reflex of earlier unstressed */e/ in proximity to an etymological pharyngeal, velar, or sonant (e.g. 'to become many' < ꜥšꜣ */ʕiˈʃiʀ/), or unstressed */a/. Pretonic [i] is underlyingly /əj/, e.g. S 'ibis' < h(j)bj.w */hijˈbaːj?w/.

Thus the following is the Sahidic vowel system c. 400 CE:
Sahidic vowel system circa 400 CE
Stressed Unstressed
Front
Front vowel
A front vowel is a type of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a front vowel is that the tongue is positioned as far in front as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant. Front vowels are sometimes also...

Back
Back vowel
A back vowel is a type of vowel sound used in spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a back vowel is that the tongue is positioned as far back as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant. Back vowels are sometimes also called dark...

Central
Central vowel
A central vowel is a type of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a central vowel is that the tongue is positioned halfway between a front vowel and a back vowel...

Close
Close vowel
A close vowel is a type of vowel sound used in many spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a close vowel is that the tongue is positioned as close as possible to the roof of the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant.This term is prescribed by the...

Mid
Mid vowel
A mid vowel is a vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a mid vowel is that the tongue is positioned mid-way between an open vowel and a close vowel...

e eː o oː ə
Open
Open vowel
An open vowel is defined as a vowel sound in which the tongue is positioned as far as possible from the roof of the mouth. Open vowels are sometimes also called low vowels in reference to the low position of the tongue...

a

Phonotactics


Earlier Egyptian had syllable structure CV(:)(C), where V was long in open, stressed syllables and short elsewhere. In addition, syllables of the type CV:C or CVCC could occur in in word-final, stressed position. However CV:C only occurred in the infinitive of biconsonantal verbal roots, and CVCC only in some plurals. In later Egyptian stressed CV:C, CVCC, and CV became much more common because of the loss of final dentals and glides.

Stress


Earlier Egyptian: penultimate or ultimate. According to some scholars this is a development from a stage in proto-Egyptian where the antipenult could be stressed; this was lost as open posttonic syllables lost their vowels, e.g. **/'χupiraw/ > */'χupraw/ 'transformation'.

Egyptological pronunciation


As a convention, Egyptologists make use of an "Egyptological pronunciation" in English, in which the consonants are given fixed values and vowels are inserted in accordance with essentially arbitrary rules. Two consonants, alef and the ayin, are generally pronounced /ɑː/. The yodh is pronounced /iː/, and w /uː/. Between other consonants, /ɛ/ is then inserted. Thus, for example, the Egyptian king whose name is most accurately transliterated as Rꜥ-ms-sw is transcribed as "Ramesses", meaning "Ra
Ra
Ra is the ancient Egyptian sun god. By the Fifth Dynasty he had become a major deity in ancient Egyptian religion, identified primarily with the mid-day sun...

 has Fashioned (lit., "Borne") Him". In transcription
Transcription (linguistics)
Transcription in the linguistic sense is the systematic representation of language in written form. The source can either be utterances or preexisting text in another writing system, although some linguists only consider the former as transcription.Transcription should not be confused with...

, ⟨a⟩, ⟨i⟩, and ⟨u⟩ all represent consonants; for example, the name Tutankhamen (1341 BC – 1323 BC) was written in Egyptian . Experts have assigned generic sounds to these values as a matter of convenience, but this artificial pronunciation should not be mistaken for how Egyptian was actually pronounced at any point in time. For example, is conventionally pronounced tuːtən.ˈkɑːmən in English, but in his time was likely realized as something like *tawaːt ʕaːnax ʔaˈmaːn.

Morphology


Egyptian is a fairly typical Afroasiatic language. At the heart of Egyptian vocabulary is a root of three consonants
Triliteral
The roots of verbs and most nouns in the Semitic languages are characterized as a sequence of consonants or "radicals"...

. Sometimes there were only two, for example riːʕ "sun" (where the [ʕ] is thought to have been something like a voiced pharyngeal fricative
Voiced pharyngeal fricative
The voiced pharyngeal approximant or fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents it is , and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is ?\....

), but larger roots are also common some being as large as five "be upside-down". Vowels and other consonants were then inserted into the consonantal skeleton in order to derive different meanings, in the same way as Arabic, Hebrew, and other Afroasiatic languages do today. However, because vowels (and sometimes glides) were not written in any Egyptian script except Coptic, it can be difficult to reconstruct the actual forms of words; hence orthographic "to choose", for example, could represent the stative (as the stative endings can be left unexpressed) or imperfective verb forms or even a verbal noun
Verbal noun
In linguistics, the verbal noun turns a verb into a noun and corresponds to the infinitive in English language usage. In English the infinitive form of the verb is formed when preceded by to, e.g...

 (i. e., "a choosing").

Nouns


Egyptian noun
Noun
In linguistics, a noun is a member of a large, open lexical category whose members can occur as the main word in the subject of a clause, the object of a verb, or the object of a preposition .Lexical categories are defined in terms of how their members combine with other kinds of...

s can be either masculine or feminine (indicated as with other Afroasiatic languages by adding a -t), and singular, plural (-w / -wt), or dual (-wy / -ty).

Article
Article (grammar)
An article is a word that combines with a noun to indicate the type of reference being made by the noun. Articles specify the grammatical definiteness of the noun, in some languages extending to volume or numerical scope. The articles in the English language are the and a/an, and some...

s (both definite and indefinite) did not develop until Late Egyptian
Late Egyptian
Late Egyptian is the stage of the Egyptian language that was written by the time of the New Kingdom around 1350 BC – the Amarna period. Texts written wholly in Late Egyptian date to the Ramesside Period and later...

, but are used widely thereafter.

Pronouns


Egyptian has three different types of personal pronoun
Personal pronoun
Personal pronouns are pronouns used as substitutes for proper or common nouns. All known languages contain personal pronouns.- English personal pronouns :English in common use today has seven personal pronouns:*first-person singular...

s: suffix, enclitic
Clitic
In morphology and syntax, a clitic is a morpheme that is grammatically independent, but phonologically dependent on another word or phrase. It is pronounced like an affix, but works at the phrase level...

 (called "dependent" by Egyptologists) and independent pronouns. It also has a number of verbal endings added to the infinitive to form the stative, which are regarded by some linguists as a "fourth" set of personal pronouns. They bear close resemblance to their Semitic and Berber counterparts. The three main sets of personal pronouns are as follows:
Suffix Dependent Independent
1st s.
wı͗ ı͗nk
2nd s.m.
tw ntk
2nd s.f.
tn ntt
3rd s.m.
sw ntf
3rd s.f.
sy nts
1st p.
n ı͗nn
2nd p.
tn nttn
3rd p.
sn ntsn


It also has demonstrative pronouns (this, that, these and those), in masculine, feminine, and common plural:
Mas. Fem. Plu.
pn tn nn "this, that, these, those"
pf tf nf "that, those"
pw tw nw "this, that, these, those" (archaic)
"this, that, these, those" (colloquial [earlier] and Late Egyptian)


Finally there are interrogative pronouns (what, who, etc.)
mı͗ "who? what?" (dependent)
ptr "who? what?" (independent)
"what?" (dependent)
ı͗šst "what?" (independent)
zı͗ "which?" (independent and dependent)

Verbs


The verbal morphology Egyptian can be divided into finite and non-finite forms. Finite verbs convey person
Grammatical person
Grammatical person, in linguistics, is deictic reference to a participant in an event; such as the speaker, the addressee, or others. Grammatical person typically defines a language's set of personal pronouns...

, tense/aspect
Aktionsart
The lexical aspect or aktionsart of a verb is a part of the way in which that verb is structured in relation to time. Any event, state, process, or action which a verb expresses—collectively, any eventuality—may also be said to have the same lexical aspect...

, mood
Grammatical mood
In linguistics, grammatical mood is a grammatical feature of verbs, used to signal modality. That is, it is the use of verbal inflections that allow speakers to express their attitude toward what they are saying...

, and voice. Each is indicated by a set of affix
Affix
An affix is a morpheme that is attached to a word stem to form a new word. Affixes may be derivational, like English -ness and pre-, or inflectional, like English plural -s and past tense -ed. They are bound morphemes by definition; prefixes and suffixes may be separable affixes...

al morphemes attached to the verb — the basic conjugation is 'he hears'. The non-finite forms occur without a subject and they are the infinitive
Infinitive
In grammar, infinitive is the name for certain verb forms that exist in many languages. In the usual description of English, the infinitive of a verb is its basic form with or without the particle to: therefore, do and to do, be and to be, and so on are infinitives...

, the participle
Participle
In linguistics, a participle is a word that shares some characteristics of both verbs and adjectives. It can be used in compound verb tenses or voices , or as a modifier...

s and the negative infinitive, which Gardiner
Egyptian Grammar: Being an Introduction to the Study of Hieroglyphs
Egyptian Grammar: Being an Introduction to the Study of Hieroglyphs was written by Alan Gardiner and first published in 1927 in London by the Clarendon Press. It has been reprinted several times since. The third edition published in 1957 is the most widely-used version for the subject...

 calls "negatival complement". There are two main tenses/aspects in Egyptian: past
Past tense
The past tense is a grammatical tense that places an action or situation in the past of the current moment , or prior to some specified time that may be in the speaker's past, present, or future...

 and temporally unmarked imperfective
Imperfective aspect
The imperfective is a grammatical aspect used to describe a situation viewed with internal structure, such as ongoing, habitual, repeated, and similar semantic roles, whether that situation occurs in the past, present, or future...

 and aorist
Aorist
Aorist is a philological term originally from Indo-European studies, referring to verb forms of various languages that are not necessarily related or similar in meaning...

 forms. The latter are determined from their syntactic
Syntax
In linguistics, syntax is the study of the principles and rules for constructing phrases and sentences in natural languages....

 context.

Adjectives


Adjective
Adjective
In grammar, an adjective is a 'describing' word; the main syntactic role of which is to qualify a noun or noun phrase, giving more information about the object signified....

s agree in gender
Grammatical gender
Grammatical gender is defined linguistically as a system of classes of nouns which trigger specific types of inflections in associated words, such as adjectives, verbs and others. For a system of noun classes to be a gender system, every noun must belong to one of the classes and there should be...

 and number with their nouns, for example: s nfr "(the) good man" and st nfrt "(the) good woman".

Attributive adjectives used in phrases fall after the noun they are modifying, such as in "(the) great god" . However, when used independently as a predicate
Predicate (grammar)
There are two competing notions of the predicate in theories of grammar. Traditional grammar tends to view a predicate as one of two main parts of a sentence, the other being the subject, which the predicate modifies. The other understanding of predicates is inspired from work in predicate calculus...

 in an adjectival phrase
Adjectival phrase
The term adjectival phrase, adjective phrase, or sometimes phrasal adjective may refer to any one of three types of grammatical phrase....

, such "(the) god (is) great" (lit., "great (is the) god"), the adjective precedes the noun.

Prepositions


Egyptian adposition
Adposition
Prepositions are a grammatically distinct class of words whose most central members characteristically express spatial relations or serve to mark various syntactic functions and semantic roles...

s come before the noun.
m "in, as, with, from"
n "to, for"
r "to, at"
ı͗n "by"
"with"
mı͗ "like"
"on, upon"
"behind, around"
"under"
tp "atop"
"since"

Adverbs


Adverbs are words such as "here" or "where?". In Egyptian, they come at the end of a sentence, e.g.,
zı͗.n nṯr ı͗m "the god went there", "there" (ı͗m) is the adverb.

Some common Egyptian adverbs:
"here"
ı͗m "there"
"where"
zy-nw "when" (lit. "what moment")
"how" (lit. "like-what")
r-mı͗ "why" (lit. "for what")
"before"

Syntax


Classical Egyptian's basic word order
Linguistic typology
Linguistic typology is a subfield of linguistics that studies and classifies languages according to their structural features. Its aim is to describe and explain the common properties and the structural diversity of the world's languages...

 is verb–subject–object; the equivalent to "the man opens the door", would be a sentence corresponding to "opens the man the door" . It uses the so-called status constructus
Status constructus
The construct state or status constructus is a noun form occurring in Afro-Asiatic languages. It is particularly common in Semitic languages , Berber languages, and in the extinct Egyptian language...

 to combine two or more nouns to express the genitive, similar to Semitic
Semitic languages
The Semitic languages are a group of related languages whose living representatives are spoken by more than 270 million people across much of the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa...

 and Berber languages
Berber languages
The Berber languages are a family of languages indigenous to North Africa, spoken from Siwa Oasis in Egypt to Morocco , and south to the countries of the Sahara Desert...

. The early stages of Egyptian possessed no articles, no words for "the" or "a"; later forms used the words , and for this purpose. Like other Afroasiatic languages, Egyptian uses two grammatical gender
Grammatical gender
Grammatical gender is defined linguistically as a system of classes of nouns which trigger specific types of inflections in associated words, such as adjectives, verbs and others. For a system of noun classes to be a gender system, every noun must belong to one of the classes and there should be...

s, masculine and feminine, similarly to Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

, Tamasheq
Tuareg languages
Tuareg is a Berber language or family of very closely related languages and dialects spoken by the Tuareg Berbers, in large parts of Mali, Niger, Algeria, Libya and Burkina Faso, with a few speakers, the Kinnin, in Chad.- Description :Other Berber languages and Tamashaq are quite mutually...

 and Somali
Somali language
The Somali language is a member of the East Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. Its nearest relatives are Afar and Oromo. Somali is the best documented of the Cushitic languages, with academic studies beginning before 1900....

. It also uses three grammatical numbers, contrasting singular, dual, and plural forms, although there is a tendency for the loss of the dual as a productive form in later Egyptian.

Like most other Afroasiatic languages, Old
Old Egyptian
Old Egyptian is the stage of the Egyptian language spoken from 2600 BC to 2000 BC during the Old Kingdom and First Intermediate Period. The Pyramid Texts are the largest body of literature written in this phase of the language. Tomb walls of elite Egyptians from this period bear autobiographical...

 and Middle Egyptian
Middle Egyptian
Middle Egyptian is the typical form of Egyptian written from 2000 BCE to 1300 BCE .Although evolving into Late Egyptian from the 14th century, Middle Egyptian remained in use as literary standard language until the 4th century AD. As such, it is the classical variant of Egyptian that historically...

 have a verb–subject–object word order. This does not hold true for Late Egyptian
Late Egyptian
Late Egyptian is the stage of the Egyptian language that was written by the time of the New Kingdom around 1350 BC – the Amarna period. Texts written wholly in Late Egyptian date to the Ramesside Period and later...

, Demotic
Demotic (Egyptian)
Demotic refers to either the ancient Egyptian script derived from northern forms of hieratic used in the Delta, or the stage of the Egyptian language following Late Egyptian and preceding Coptic. The term was first used by the Greek historian Herodotus to distinguish it from hieratic and...

, and Coptic
Coptic language
Coptic or Coptic Egyptian is the current stage of the Egyptian language, a northern Afro-Asiatic language spoken in Egypt until at least the 17th century. Egyptian began to be written using the Greek alphabet in the 1st century...

.

Vocabulary


While Egyptian culture is one of the influences of Western civilization
Western culture
Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...

, few words of Egyptian origin are found in English. Even those associated with ancient Egypt were usually transmitted in Greek forms. Some examples of Egyptian words that have survived in English include ebony (Egyptian , via Greek and then Latin), ivory (Egyptian abw / abu, literally 'ivory; elephant'), pharaoh (Egyptian , literally "great house"; transmitted through Hebrew), as well as the proper names Phinehas (Egyptian, , used as a generic term for Nubian foreigners) and Susan (Egyptian, , literally "lily flower"; probably transmitted first from Egyptian into Hebrew Shoshanah).

See also

  • Ancient Egyptian literature
    Ancient Egyptian literature
    Ancient Egyptian literature was written in the Egyptian language from Ancient Egypt's pharaonic period until the end of Roman domination. It represents the oldest corpus of Egyptian literature...

  • Coptic language
    Coptic language
    Coptic or Coptic Egyptian is the current stage of the Egyptian language, a northern Afro-Asiatic language spoken in Egypt until at least the 17th century. Egyptian began to be written using the Greek alphabet in the 1st century...

  • Demotic
  • Egyptian hieroglyphs
    Egyptian hieroglyphs
    Egyptian hieroglyphs were a formal writing system used by the ancient Egyptians that combined logographic and alphabetic elements. Egyptians used cursive hieroglyphs for religious literature on papyrus and wood...

  • Egyptian numerals
    Egyptian numerals
    The system of Ancient Egyptian numerals was used in Ancient Egypt until the early first millennium AD. It was a decimal system, often rounded off to the higher power, written in hieroglyphs. The hieratic form of numerals stressed an exact finite series notation, ciphered one to one onto the...

  • Hieratic
    Hieratic
    Hieratic refers to a cursive writing system that was used in the provenance of the pharaohs in Egypt and Nubia that developed alongside the hieroglyphic system, to which it is intimately related...

  • Transliteration of ancient Egyptian
    Transliteration of ancient Egyptian
    In the field of Egyptology, transliteration is the process of converting texts written in the Egyptian language to alphabetic symbols representing uniliteral hieroglyphs or their hieratic and demotic counterparts...

  • Egyptian Arabic
    Egyptian Arabic
    Egyptian Arabic is the language spoken by contemporary Egyptians.It is more commonly known locally as the Egyptian colloquial language or Egyptian dialect ....


Overviews

  • 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 & Gutschmidt, 1999. ISBN 3-933043-02-6 PDF

Grammars

  • Allen, James P., Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs, first edition, Cambridge University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-521-65312-6 (hbk) ISBN 0-521-77483-7 (pbk)
  • Collier, Mark, and Manley, Bill, How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs : A Step-by-Step Guide to Teach Yourself, British Museum Press (ISBN 0-7141-1910-5) and University of California Press (ISBN 0-520-21597-4), both in 1998.
  • Gardiner, Sir Alan H.
    Alan Gardiner
    Sir Alan Henderson Gardiner was one of the premier British Egyptologists of the early and mid-20th century...

    , Egyptian Grammar: Being an Introduction to the Study of Hieroglyphs
    Egyptian Grammar: Being an Introduction to the Study of Hieroglyphs
    Egyptian Grammar: Being an Introduction to the Study of Hieroglyphs was written by Alan Gardiner and first published in 1927 in London by the Clarendon Press. It has been reprinted several times since. The third edition published in 1957 is the most widely-used version for the subject...

    , Griffith Institute, Oxford, 3rd ed. 1957. ISBN 0-900416-35-1
  • Hoch, James E., Middle Egyptian Grammar, Benben Publications, Mississauga, 1997. ISBN 0-920168-12-4

Dictionaries

  • Faulkner, Raymond O.
    Raymond O. Faulkner
    Dr Raymond Oliver Faulkner, FSA, was an English Egyptologist and philologist of the ancient Egyptian language....

    , A Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian, Griffith Institute, Oxford, 1962. ISBN 0-900416-32-7 (hardback)
  • Lesko, Leonard H.
    Leonard H. Lesko
    Leonard H. Lesko was the Chairman of the Department of Egyptology at Brown University and held the Charles Edwin Wilbour Professorship. In 1961, he received a B.A. in Classics from Loyola University Chicago, and his masters in 1964. In 1969, he received a Ph.D. in " Near Eastern Languages and...

    , A Dictionary of Late Egyptian, 2nd ed., 2 Vols., B.C. Scribe Publications, Providence
    Providence, Rhode Island
    Providence is the capital and most populous city of Rhode Island and was one of the first cities established in the United States. Located in Providence County, it is the third largest city in the New England region...

    , 2002 et 2004. ISBN 0-930548-14-0 (vol.1), ISBN 0-930548-15-9 (vol. 2).
  • Shennum, *, English-Egyptian Index of Faulkner's Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian, Undena Publications, 1977. ISBN 0-89003-054-5
  • Bonnamy, Yvonne et Sadek, Ashraf-Alexandre, Dictionnaire des Hiérogriphes, Actes-sud:fr(www.actes-sud.fr), Arles, 2010. ISBN 978-2-7427-8922-1

Online dictionaries

  • Online Translator – Translates English words, sentences, and phrases into ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic
  • The Beinlich Wordlist, an online searchable dictionary of ancient Egyptian words (translations are in German
    German language
    German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

    )
  • Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae, an online service available from October 2004 which is associated with various German Egyptological projects, including the monumental Altägyptisches Wörterbuch of the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Brandenburg Academy of Sciences, Berlin
    Berlin
    Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

    , Germany
    Germany
    Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

    ).


Important Note: the old grammars and dictionaries of E. A. Wallis Budge
E. A. Wallis Budge
Sir Ernest Alfred Thompson Wallis Budge was an English Egyptologist, Orientalist, and philologist who worked for the British Museum and published numerous works on the ancient Near East.-Earlier life:...

have long been considered obsolete by Egyptologists, even though these books are still available for purchase.

More book information is available at Glyphs and Grammars

External links